6 Classic Kiwi Roadtrip Ideas with Kids

Hobbiton Movie Set at Dusk

As the days get shorter, I begin to wonder how much longer we can sit out on our deck enjoying the sunshine. There’s so much of New Zealand to enjoy before we head into winter. Here’s 6 classic kiwi roadtrip ideas with kids to get you thinking about it too.

With both the Easter break and a 2 week school holiday coming up there’s plenty of opportunity for a lot of us to head out for an extended roadtrip. And perhaps explore a slice of New Zealand we haven’t been to before.

But working out what activities you want to do when travelling as a family can be tricky. Especially if you have to juggle different likes, ages and fitness levels.

Thankfully, New Zealand has an array of great options that all kids, big and small, are sure to love. And, as all parents know, happy children make for a happy holiday!

Here’s a selection of just some of the cool things to do with your kids on your travels around New Zealand these upcoming holidays.

6 Classic Kiwi Roadtrip Ideas with Kids

1. Nocturnal Kiwi Walk

Take the kids on an intrepid torch-lit adventure to see our national bird. There are a number of national parks that host guided kiwi walks, the most well-known being Traunson Kauri Park in Northland.

Kiwi spotting New Zealand

Some other classic kiwi-spotting destinations include Aroha Island, in the Bay of Islands, Tawharanui Regional Park in Warkworth, Kapiti Island just North of Wellington, Okarito just North of Franz Josef, and Stewart Island, perhaps hiking the Rakiura trail where you can even see kiwi in daylight!

2. Collecting shellfish for dinner

You may not have access to a boat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t collect an array of seafood yourself. Mussels, pipi, clams, cockles and paua are all there for the taking. And all you need is a bucket, and some local knowledge as to where to find them.

Digging for pipi in New Zealand

There’s nothing more fun for kids than digging in the sand with your feet for pipi! Just make sure you check out the rules and regulations on quota and size, and you’re aware of marine reserves, before you go.

3. Hobbit Hunting

With the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit being filmed exclusively in New Zealand, it’s easy to visit the actual locations used during filming. A visit to Hobbiton in the central North Island is a must if you’re a Peter Jackson or J.R.R Tolkein fan.

This is the exact set used in the films, complete with the Green Dragon pub where you can finish your tour of Middle Earth with a traditional hobbit ale (or ginger beer for the kids!).

Hobbiton-The Green Dragon Inn

In Wellington, visit Weta Workshop and take a studio tour to see where the special effects for the characters, such as the Hobbits, Orcs, Elves and Wizards were created. And who knows, perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to spot a real Hobbit!

4. Glowworms

New Zealand has a series of extraordinary underground caves. Many of these are home to impressive limestone formations that cradle tiny glowworms.

Roadtrip ideas with kids-Waitomo Caves

True to their name, these tiny larvae literally glow in the dark, creating a canvas on the cave’s ceiling like that of the outdoor night sky. Glowworm grottos can be found throughout New Zealand, but the most famous are to be found at Waitomo in the central North Island.

To view these amazing critters, you can either be guided through the cave labyrinth on board a small boat. Or, for people aged 12 and over, you can experience it as you float down the river in a rubber tube – an activity pioneered here in New Zealand known as Black Water Rafting.

5. Whale and dolphin watching

The best way to get up close and personal with some of the many different species of whale and dolphin we have in New Zealand is to head out on a whale or dolphin watching cruise. And April is a great time to do this with Orca and migrating whales in our waters along with numerous species of dolphins.

Whale watching-Kaikoura

The Bay of Islands, Auckland and Christchurch all have a number of dolphin watching cruises, and you can even get in the water and swim with these gentle sea mammals. Whale Watch Kaikoura, in the South Island, is the place to go to see sperm whale and dusky dolphin along with fur seals and a proliferation of seabirds.

6. Thermal hot springs

New Zealand has numerous underground hot springs caused by volcanic activity and many of these springs can be found in areas with free access to the public, either at beaches or forest streams.

Two great beaches where you can dig your own thermal pool are Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula and Kawhia in the Waikato district. While places like Spa Park in Taupo and the Mangatutu hot springs just out of Napier, are free and offer a spa with an amazing bush view.

Mangatutu Hot Springs

Of course, these are just a handful of cool things you can experience while travelling around New Zealand as a family.

We are blessed to live in a country that’s safe, family-friendly and ripe for exploring. It doesn’t matter what age your kids are, what your collective interests are, or what your fitness levels are, there’s something awesome here for everyone.

I’m booked in to do the Tongariro Circuit with my family over Easter so fingers crossed for good weather. Happy holidaying!

For even more classic kiwi roadtrip ideas with Kids check out 5 great tips for family roadtrips, and for more expert advice check out our Family travel section.

Fiona Rouse

Fiona Rouse has visited more than 30 countries with her family, including a trip to Samoa when her newborn was jut 5 months old. She's now Director of Adventure Together, a self-guided tour booking service for families who want to travel a little further off the beaten track.

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