The Classic Kiwi Family Holiday Bucket List

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There’s absolutely no doubt that Kiwis love their holidays and living in the best country in the world (we’re not at all biased) means that we have access to spectacular sights and attractions that can fill a family holiday with memories.

So what makes a classic Kiwi family holiday? Throughout New Zealand there are wonderful things to see and do, so wherever you choose to base yourself for your holiday you’re going to have plenty of options for your bucket list. To help you choose where to go (and what you can do when you get there), we’ve picked out our classic Kiwi holiday essentials from some of our favourite regions.

Make it a classic Kiwi holiday

For decades Kiwis have been heading away to a bach, holiday home, or beach house for their family getaways. Staying in a holiday home adds to the laidback vibe of a classic Kiwi holiday by giving you a central base for your exploration with all the comforts of home – and possibly a few added extras (put me down for a pool and a spa!). There are lots of holiday homes to choose from around the country from beach havens to rural retreats and city apartments. Whether you return to a favourite destination or explore somewhere new, you’ll be making memories together.

Northland

Often referred to as the Winterless North, Northland’s temperate climate is ideal for family getaways. It’s stunning coastlines that stretch for miles (though not quite 90!), diverse marine life, towering kauri forests, waterfalls, and cultural heritage combine to create an unmissable destination.

Northland bucket list

  • Pose for a photo under the signpost at Cape Reinga
  • Slide down the sand dunes at Te Paki on Ninety Mile Beach
  • Stand under the mighty Tāne Mahuta in Waipoua Forest
  • Cruise to the Hole in the Rock in the Bay of Islands
  • Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
  • Head to the golden sands of Matapouri Bay on the Tutukaka Coast
  • See Whangārei Falls or Kerikeri’s Rainbow Falls

Waikato

From bush-covered mountains and rolling green hills to awesome surf beaches, the Waikato has amazing attractions for families to enjoy. Whether you’re exploring underground caves or Hobbit holes, visiting the city of Hamilton, or meeting some furry friends, there’s something for everyone.

Waikato bucket list

  • Dine at the Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton Movie Set
  • Float under a glowing sky at Waitomo Glowworm Caves
  • See a kiwi at the Otorohanga Kiwi House
  • See over 600 native and exotic animals at Hamilton Zoo
  • Cycle or walk along the Waikato River trails and paths
  • Join the locals by making a splash from the Te Kopua estuary footbridge in Raglan
  • See two amazing waterfalls – Marokopa Falls and Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls

Bay of Plenty & The Coromandel

The Coromandel has long been a favourite destination for Kiwis wanting a laidback holiday with a beautiful coastline, historic sites, and fun family activities. The peninsula swoops round to the Bay of Plenty with it’s stunning beaches and the geothermal and cultural attractions of Rotorua.

Bay of Plenty & The Coromandel bucket list

  • Dig your own hot pool at Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel
  • Be ‘world famous’ and take a snap with the giant L&P botttle in Paeroa
  • Walk to the summit of Mauao (Mount Maunganui)
  • View the Inferno Crater at Waimangu Volcanic Valley near Rotorua
  • See the world-famous Pōhutu Geyser at Te Puia in Rotorua
  • Watch the sun set in a mineral hot pool at Rotorua’s Polynesian Spa

Taupō & Tongariro

Magnificent Lake Taupō is the hub for all sorts of adventures including sailing trips, fishing, kayaking, and more. Further south, you can have a family snow day in season at Mt Ruapehu or explore Tongariro National Park.

Taupō & Tongariro bucket list

  • Hear the thunder of Huka Falls near Taupō
  • Kayak to Mine Bay Māori rock carvings on Lake Taupō
  • Bike or walk the Great Lake Pathway and get your photo taken at the #LOVETAUPO sign
  • See the volcanoes from the Desert Road
  • Ski, snowboard or sled at Whakapapa on Mt Ruapehu
  • Take high tea in the Chateau Tongariro
  • Get your photo taken with the Ohakune carrot

Wellington

Known as the coolest little capital in the world, Wellington is bursting with activities and attractions to entertain the whole family. The busy waterfront is where the locals hang out with harbour views, rollerblading, kayaking and ice-creams!

Wellington bucket list

  • Ride the Wellington Cable Car
  • Explore the Wellington Botanic Garden
  • Get an out of this world experience at Carter Observatory’s Space Place
  • See the harbour view from Mt Victoria
  • Take a Weta Workshop Tour for movie magic in Wellywood
  • Explore the waterfront on a shared bike from The Enormous Crocodile
  • Look for tuatara, see the kākā feeding and ride the lake boat at ZEALANDIA
  • Hand-feed the friendly giraffes at Wellington Zoo

Tasman & Marlborough

The top of the South Island is an awesome place for a family holiday. The great weather and amazing scenery mix with diverse activities and a relaxed vibe for a great place to visit again and again.

Tasman & Marlborough bucket list

  • Cross the Cook Strait by ferry through the Marlborough Sounds
  • Walk to the ‘Centre of New Zealand’ on Nelson’s Botanical Hill
  • Try out the world’s longest flying fox at Cable Bay Adventure Park near Nelson
  • Kayak in Abel Tasman National Park
  • Visit one of NZ’s best beaches, Kaiteriteri Beach
  • Go whale watching in Kaikōura
  • See seals at the Ohau Point Lookout north of Kaikōura

West Coast

The two most famous features of the dramatic West Coast of the South Island are its rugged natural beauty and its friendly locals. The unique geography of the 600km long and narrow coast and soaring mountains is not to be missed.

West Coast bucket list

  • See the blowholes in action at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
  • Step back in time to the goldrush days at Shanty Town Heritage Park
  • Get your photo taken at the Hokitika driftwood sign on the beach
  • Walk across a swingbridge through the Hokitika Gorge
  • View glaciers at Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
  • See the beautiful Fantail Falls in the Haast Pass
  • Gaze into the Blue Pools from a swingbridge in the Haast Pass

Canterbury

Canterbury’s varied landscape from Christchurch (the South Island’s biggest city) to the vast Canterbury Plains and the skifields at Mt Hutt makes it a great destination for a family holiday full of activities.

Canterbury bucket list

  • Zoom down the zipline at Christchurch Adventure Park
  • Ride the heritage tramcars in Christchurch
  • Go punting on Christchurch’s Avon River
  • Explore the boutique shops and galleries in Akaroa
  • Go stargazing in the Dark Sky Reserve at Lake Tekapo
  • Enjoy a soak with a view at Tekapo Springs
  • Dine at The Hermitage with views of Aoraki Mount Cook
  • Ride the waterslides at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa

Southern Lakes

The Southern Lakes region takes in some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in New Zealand – and it gives a good kick of adrenaline to boot! The resort towns of Queenstown and Wānaka both feature picturesque lakes for lots of water sports and fun activities. While Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, there’s a more sedate pace to be experienced in Fiordland.

Southern Lakes bucket list

  • Get your photo of “that Wānaka tree”
  • Complete the Puzzling World maze in Wānaka
  • Cruise Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw
  • Ride the luge track from Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola
  • Take a jet boat ride on the Shotover River
  • Have your photo taken at Glenorchy wharf
  • See the amazing Glenorchy scenery from horseback
  • Spot dolphins and seals as well as towering Mitre Peak on a cruise through Milford Sound

Looking for a holiday home, bach or apartment for your next family holiday? Bookabach has a range of properties around New Zealand in locations with great activities and attractions. Visit bookabach.co.nz for more inspiration.

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her world julieWritten by Julie Scanlon

Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire. 

Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”

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