Family holidays are what some of the fondest memories made of for Kiwis – get your kids in the car and give them a proper New Zealand family holiday! With its dramatic scenery, famous adventure activities, cultural attractions and easy transport options, it’s an ideal destination for your next family adventure. When you’re packing up the whole gang, however, an extra level of organisation is required. We’ve done the homework on four great family destinations in the land of the long cloud, so the entire family can jump straight into holiday mode from the get-go.
More than just a lakeside town, Rotorua is a natural wonderland that offers you the chance to play in its geothermal springs, magical lakes and verdant forests. And don’t forget about the plethora of adventure parks. There’s no room for boredom here! Whether you want to camp or luxe out in a resort, there’s plenty of hotel accommodation options too.
Where to stay: Sitting at the edge of the Redwoods Forest and overlooking the dramatic scenery of the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Reserve, the charming Holiday Inn Rotorua welcomes families of all sizes. Kids under the age of 12 even eat and stay for free. Chill out in their heated pool or explore the area by hiring one of their mountain bikes. The generous buffet-style dinner is perfect for even the pickiest of eaters.
What to eat: Located in the centre of Rotorua, the Fat Dog Café is more than a source of sustenance, it’s a beloved landmark in its own right with a loyal following of local fans. Grab breakfast and a coffee when the doors open at 7am or drop in any time after that for salads, burgers and dinner mains. They have an extensive kids menu featuring classic favourites like spaghetti bolognaise and chicken nuggets.
It’s worth braving the windy, narrow road on the Coromandel peninsula to witness the secluded paradise that is Cathedral Cove. An hour long walking track, beginning at the north end of Hahei Beach, leads you to a white sandy cove and the namesake cathedral-like archway. This natural wonder provides a delightful Robinson Crusoe adventure as it’s only accessible by foot or boat. Don’t forget to pack a picnic, swimmers and comfy shoes, and be sure to check the tides before you begin your trek – the cove is only accessible at low tide.
Cathedral Cove Kayaking Tours offer a speciality tour to this hidden paradise. You’ll explore beaches, islands and rock gardens along the way, interacting with marine life before being rewarded with a cappuccino or hot chocolate at the Cove. Early risers rejoice, if you head out for the morning tour you’ll experience the calmest sea conditions.
If you venture under the rolling hills of Waitomo, you will find yourself immersed in a dark, limestone labyrinth. The name ‘Waitomo’ comes from the Maori words wai (water) and tomo (hole) and it’s a good description. There are more than 300 caves in the Waitomo region, but the Glowworm cave attracts the most visitors. Accessible by both foot and boat, the caves are mesmerising and worth visiting with kids of all ages. The boat ride is a smooth, fun ride, but if you’re an adventure seeker, you might rather enter by blackwater raft, abseil or zip line.
Where to stay: Just 13-minutes away from the Caves, Redwood Lodge has a beautiful and quiet setting. The large comfortable rooms are the perfect place to stay during a family visit to the Waitomo Caves. Bliss out with a dip in the outdoor Jacuzzi and a night in the cloud-like beds. Fuel your family for the day ahead with your choice of delicious continental or cooked breakfast.
What to eat: About 30-minutes south of the caves lies the inviting Fat Pigeon Café. Perfect for breakfast or lunch, it serves a bounty of delicious home-made produce, with a dedicated menu for the kids. The popular pigeon pack comes with a sandwich, fruit, drink and puzzle pack. Enjoy your artisan coffee on one of the outside tables, while watching the littlies run around the playground or sandpit.
With a dramatic setting against the Southern Alps, sitting right on the reflective banks of the Wakatipu, Queenstown is a must visit on your trip to New Zealand. With a plethora of extreme sports activities, it’s the country’s premier adventure destination; take your pick from skiing, speed boating, go-karting and more. Once the adrenaline is pumping, calm the pace down with a day at the historical gold-rush town of Arrowtown.
Got an active but not adrenalin-seeking family? You can’t go past cycling the Queenstown Trail. Set your own pace and choose which parts of the 120 kilometre route you want to see. At the end of the day, there’s a bike taxi service to pick up you and take you back to wherever you’re staying. Be sure to pack a lunch to enjoy on the banks of either of the two lakes you pass, Wakatipu or Hayes.
What to eat: Located in the heart of Lake Hayes Estate in Queenstown, Graze is a local gem offering quality food and wine in the form of homemade breads, pies, chutneys, preserves and ice creams. There’s a playground and sandpit for kids to run off any leftover energy while you sip on one of their homebrewed beers or local wines. Opt for a children’s lunch box and keep them entertained while they eat with colouring-in materials, also provided by Graze.
If your tastes turn to a more highbrow affair, you can’t go past Sasso. Built in 1882, the historic cottage that houses this Italian-inspired restaurant is worth a visit in its own right. Spoil the whole family with one of Executive Chef Rob Essenberg’s three or five course set menus which shine a light on the very best local and seasonal produce. Bellissimo!