Few countries in the world pack more into as compact an area as New Zealand. From Jurassic Park rainforests to 12,000ft mountains, neon-blue lakes to white-sand beaches — all within a day’s drive of each other — it’s hard to find a place with more varied landscapes or easier spots to explore, a place that lets you can squeeze every last drop of adventure out of the day.
Here are a few of the awesome family friendly activities, and why New Zealand is the ultimate destination for the family.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
1. Hike the Tongariro Crossing.
If you only do one hike in New Zealand, let it be this one. Considered one of the best day hikes in the world, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing stretches across 12 miles of incredibly scenic volcanic terrain, most notably a series of green crater lakes simmering with steam. Tongariro is right in the middle of the North Island and is one of the most easily accessible hikes in the country. Plus the transport to and from runs like clockwork.
2. Swim with dolphins or whale watch at Kaikoura.
In Kaikoura, one of many places in New Zealand where mountains run right into the sea, you can jump off a boat into a pod of wild dolphins with just a camera, a wetsuit, and a snorkel. You’ll also see whales, splash around with seals, and catch your own crayfish for dinner.
And at Akaroa.
Akaroa Dolphins – Harbour Nature CruisesAkaroa, New ZealandCruise two hours and see dolphins 🐬, seals, penguins 🐧, birdlive and the great seaside. Was one of my highlights so far. #kidslearning #activekids #funforteens #cruise #dolphins #animals #penguins
3. Explore Milford Sound.
Milford Sound Scenic FlightsMilford Sound, New ZealandFly over the Wakatipu Basin, toward Glenorchy and the Southern Alps. Cross the divide into Fiordland and see the scenery completely change. Land at the world’s most scenic airport looking directly out to the famous Mitre Peak, Milford Sound.
Tucked away at the bottom of the South Island, Milford Sound is one of the last true wildernesses in New Zealand. A palatial fiord lined with vertical cliffs, glaciers peeking through in the distance, it’s one of those rare spots that looks incredible rain or shine. Depending on recent rain levels, those cliffs may be covered with hundreds of waterfalls. Get on the water and explore by boat or, better yet, a kayak.
4. If they have a stomach for it, bungy jump in Queenstown.
I’m pretty sure New Zealand’s unofficial national sport is jumping off tall things. Bungy jumping was invented here, and on the road to Queenstown you’ll find the Kawarau Bridge, site of the world’s first commercial bungy jump. If you’re going to hop on the adrenaline-sports bandwagon in New Zealand, do it here. You can even opt for extra slack and get dunked in the river below.
Skyline QueenstownQueenstown, New ZealandGondola, Luge, Stargazing, Mountain Biking, Stratosfare Buffet Restaurant, Market Kitchen Cafe, Jelly Belly Store, Souvenir Store. Also access The Ledge Bungy and Swing and Paragliding from up there.
5. Surf or bodyboard at Ninety Mile Beach…
If you are headed up north of Auckland go to Ninety Mile Beach. At this stretch of Northland coast, you can zoom down the massive Te Paki Sand Dunes and then go for a swim and a surf.
or at Mangawhai Heads…
at Hahei Beach or one of many other surf spots.
6. Go rafting in Waitomo.
And now for something completely different. The caves at Waitomo are beautiful in their own right, but covering the walls and ceiling are hundreds of glow worms. They light your way like tiny blue stars, and you can experience this labyrinth of subterranean trippiness however you want: on foot, by boat, black-water rafting, or as an introduction to caving.
7. Kayak at Abel Tasman.
The Abel Tasman, located across the Tasman Bay from Nelson, is one of the best stretches of coast in New Zealand — clear blue bays, sandy white beaches, big rock formations, old-growth forest. There are so many great swimming spots, but the area’s best explored by kayak or by hiking the track. It has some of the sunniest, warmest weather in the country, so if you’re looking for quality beach and bathing-suit time, head here.
8. Escape Auckland and picnic at Piha.
9. Get lost in the redwoods in Rotorua.
10. And while you’re there learn about Maori history and culture.
The people of New Zealand are some of the friendliest and most welcoming in the world. Once you get here, you’re in safe hands. Don’t miss out on a chance to experience the indigenous Maori culture firsthand. Around the Te Whakarewarewa Valley in Rotorua, you can visit Te Puia, a geothermal park that’s also the home of the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Insitute. Here you may get invited into a show at the Marae — a very special experience.
11. Punt down the water in Christchurch.
12. Walk to the edge at Auckland Sky Tower.
There’s adventure to be had right in the heart of the city as well. At Auckland’s Sky Tower, New Zealand’s tallest building, you can walk around the outside of the observation area on a narrow ledge — 192 meters above the ground — or throw yourself off the top…attached to ropes, of course.
13. Wrap up and visit one of the many glaciers of the South Island.
14. Check out Hobbiton.
Hobbiton Movie SetMatamata, New ZealandEven if you don’t like Lord of the Rings, the Hobbiton move set is enchanting to walk around. The views from Bag End overlooking the hills is amazing. The price is definitely worth it.
Sitting amid rolling farmland on the North Island is Hobbiton, the set where parts of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed, and it’s one of the only ones where things were left intact for tourists to visit and enjoy. Whether you’re hopping fences and reenacting scenes from the movie or just wandering around wishing you could move into one of the hobbit holes, it’s a very cool place.