When I first shared I was planning to go to New Zealand with a four year old and a two year old many people were surprised. Well, actually they were astonished and tried to hide their astonishment with a response like “Really? That’s a long flight.” That’s true, but we hadn’t taken a vacation in a long time and we decided to brave it anyway. I plan to write a blog on trips for long distance plane travel, but on another day. Today I want to share the highlights of my New Zealand vacation and give tips on what was (and was not) child-friendly.
Overall, New Zealand was a remarkably child friendly country. There were very few activities that we could not bring children on, and in some special cases, the activities even specifically catered to children.
North Island Highlights
Redwood Treewalk (Rotorua): The redwoods forest in Rotorua is quite amazing. It’s 100% planted by man and has a number of beautiful hiking and tramping trails. Some of the trails are even stroller friendly and I highly recommend these trails (they are free). The treewalk is a suspended wooden path that runs through the mid-level of the forest. While it gives a new perspective to a short portion of the forest, it’s pricey ($25 adult/$15 child/$69 family) and not necessarily worth it. I’d stick with the free, stroller workable trails. Child Rating: C for the treewalks, B for the trails
Duck Tour (Rotorua): We took the evening duck tour that visited a number of beautiful lakes in the area. The guides were friendly and tolerated the occasional noise and singing from our toddler even though it interfered a little bit with the guide. The kids loved the idea that we were in a military vehicle that could move between land and water. They provided blankets to keep us warm, but it was still quite cold. They even found storage for our stroller in the back. The only complaint I had about the tour was the guardrails/ low windows on the duck – they gave us a few scares as our two year old wanted to lean out or stick her head and arms out further than they should go. Prices are not low, but the tour is fun. ($85 adult/ $50 child/ $205 family) Child Rating: B
Blackwater Rafting (Waitomo): This is a unique experience that’s only in Waitomo. The chance to explore, wander through, and float through caves studded with magical (bioluminescent) glowworms that mimic the night sky. This is a “must do” experience, but no children allowed (12 years+ only). Child Rating: F, but this one is worth finding a babysitter for.
Glowworm Caves Boat Tour (Waitomo): While absolutely worthwhile for adults, I’d steer clear of this with children under age 10. There is a lot of information focused on the geology of the area and various geological formations in the caves (stalagmites) and the portion of the tour that actually shows the glowworms is at the very end and it’s only about ten minutes. Furthermore, you need to be quiet during the tour so the worms glow more brightly. This is tough for kids. Child Rating: C-
Hamilton Gardens (Hamilton): This was truly the highlight of my visit to the North Island. Hamilton Gardens are expansive and beautiful. There are plenty of lawns to run on, flowers to admire, and unique, curated and manicured gardens to explore. They have a playground with play structure and a duck pond as well. Don’t miss this if you have kids! Or even if you don’t. By the way, it’s free. Child Rating: A+
Hamilton Zoo (Hamilton): There are no kiwis at this zoo. (Kiwis are nocturnal and need very specialized conditions to live in captivity) But there are plenty of other amazing animals and birds to explore. If you’re in Hamilton with kids, this is a great half day activity. They also have a great play structure. It’s also reasonably priced. ($22 adult/ $10 child/ $60 family) It’s a miss if you don’t have kids unless you’re zoo obsessed. Child Rating: A+
In part 2, I’ll share the same info on the fabulous South Island places we visited.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Have Kids, Will Work