Northland’s long summers and mild winters are ideal for family getaways. Jaw-dropping coastlines, stunning marine life, towering kauri forests, beautiful waterfalls, and stories of New Zealand’s history combine to create an unforgettable holiday destination.
Whether you’re planning to head away for a holiday or just want to escape on a mini-break, we’ve put together some of our favourite places to stay, eat and play so you can create some lasting memories with your family.
Please note: Venue information was correct at the time of publication. Please check with individual venues for the latest opening dates, times, prices, etc, before making plans. Regions and venues may have travel and access restrictions due to the Covid-19 Protection Framework.
Fun family experiences
Whether you’re looking for stunning scenery, amazing history, or fun activities, Northland has you covered.
Explore the two new contemporary museums, the carving studio, the Treaty House, Te Whare Rūnanga (Carved Meeting House), and traditional Māori waka taua (war canoes) at New Zealand’s most important historic site. Guided tours and cultural performances complete your experience.
There’s so much to discover at this award-winning museum and a surprise at every turn! The extensive collection tells the story of New Zealand’s iconic kauri tree and the people that harvested the timber and kauri gum (juvenile amber).
Home to Whangārei Museum, Kiwi House, and Heritage Park. The extensive museum features stories of tangata whenua, early settlers, and natural history. You can also see kiwi in a nocturnal habitat, plus tuatara and native geckoes. Then explore the Heritage Park’s Victorian buildings including a jail, a school, and an 1886 homestead.
For the ultimate Bay of Islands experience, jump aboard this 3.5 hour cruise to see the famous Hole in the Rock and view dolphins and other marine life. An onboard nature guide provides insights and answers your questions. The trip includes a 1.5 hour stop at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island where you can explore, swim, or just relax!
What better way to discover the laidback lifestyle and natural beauty of Northland than on horseback. Less than two hours north of Auckland, Waipu Horse Adventures welcomes riders of all levels including beginners. Riding your gentle four-legged companion, trek through bushland and on to the unspoilt shoreline of Bream Bay with spectacular scenery.
You could drive yourself up to Cape Reinga but why not let someone else take the wheel while you have all the fun! This exciting tour has multiple pickup points around the Far North, takes you right on to 90 mile beach, stops off at the Te Paki sand dunes for sandboarding (boards provided), Tapotupotu Bay for lunch (included), and then on to Cape Reinga, the most northern point in NZ.
Free family activities
Even if you’re travelling on a budget, there are still so many experiences you can enjoy with your family. Northland boasts a lot of amazing beaches to be explored and we’ve picked the spots that you can visit for no charge.
Just five minutes drive from the city centre, this scenic waterfall is 26 metres high and can be viewed from platforms above the falls, or a 30 minute loop track takes you through bush to the pool at the bottom.
Northland has so many great waterfalls that we just had to squeeze in another! The short, easy walk to view the Rainbow Falls near Kerikeri is accessible by wheelchair. There are viewing platforms at the top, or wander along the riverbank to the base where there’s a popular swimming hole among the native bush.
You will be truly astonished by the sheer size of New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree. Tāne Mahuta (God of the Forest) can be seen in the Waipoua Forest via an easy short walk that’s suitable for strollers.
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This awesome walkway around the Whangārei Town Basin is fully accessible and features lots of interesting stops in an easy one hour loop. Along the way you will cross two unique bridges and see heritage panels and artistic sculptures. Set along the picturesque Hātea River there are cafes, shops, playgrounds, parks, a picturesque marina and even a clock museum to distract and amuse you. You can also cycle the loop!
A spectacular cross-country journey from the Bay of Islands to Hokianga Harbour, the Twin Coast Cycle Trail features relaxed riding and significant heritage sites and stories. Following a smooth rail trail, cycle paths, wetland boardwalk, suspension bridges and country roads, it can be ridden in either direction or broken into smaller day trips.
The one hour boardwalk loop track is easy for children and leads through a kauri forest. Learn about NZ’s native flora with many native plants named along the way. There’s also a chance to see glow-worms in the evening. The Puketi Forest is around a 20 minute drive from Kerikeri.
Food really is an experience in Northland! Fill those rumbling tummies from a fantastic selection of places to eat. Here’s our top picks.
Locally caught fish and seafood are on the menu at this famous fish shop on the Mangonui Wharf in Doubtless Bay. Enjoy the freshest fish and chips and seafood snacks with the most amazing sea view.
Catch the ferry from Paihia and in around half an hour you can be enjoying a weekend lunch at this cafe on the beautiful Urupukapuka Island. Chill out on the bean bags or under the shady umbrellas and take in the amazing views.
Book a table at this restaurant that is in a unique fale style building on the edge of the Tutukaka Harbour . The fish of the day is line caught locally and there’s a range of other main dishes, bar snacks and kids meals.
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This quirky little cafe in Kaeo is a treat for Alice in Wonderland fans. Stop in to for a big breakfast or a delicious tea-time treat and don’t forget to get a photo on the oversized rainbow-coloured chair. Open for breakfast and lunch every day.
This waterfront restaurant in Paihia has a unique attraction – a huge 66,000 litre aquarium with lots of underwater inhabitants for the kids to discover. All day dining is available overlooking the water for the ultimate Bay of Islands vibe.
You will be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular location to enjoy breakfast or lunch! There’s also excellent coffee and delicious sweets at this tranquil stream-side café in Whangārei Quarry Gardens. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 9am to 3pm.
For families who like Thai food, you can’t go wrong with this award-winning Whangārei restaurant. The great food is complemented by the enchanting surroundings.
This family café has a fantastic breakfast and lunch menu, plus cabinet food, locally-recommended coffee, and great options for kids. The kids will also love the large garden and play area, while you relax. Open 7 days a week, 8am to 3pm.
Where to stay
For family-friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below. Or search for more accommodation options at Northlandnz.com.
This spacious campground is bordered by a native NZ forest reserve and has access to riverside and bush walks, but is just 2 kms from the city centre. The kids will love the playground and games room and there’s great kitchen and BBQ facilities. Choose from self-contained units, cabins that sleep up to six, and powered and nonpowered campsites.
Located right on the stunning white sand beach at Bream Bay, you can watch the sunrise, swim, play, surf, and fish. There’s also a multi-purpose sports surface, playground, and games room. Accommodation includes a bunkhouse, powered and unpowered campsites, as well as basic and self-contained cabins that sleep up to six.
Superb waterfront location, surrounded by subtropical gardens and adjacent to the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Onsite facilities include a tennis court, spectacular free-form rock swimming pool, and restaurant. The guest rooms have individual patios or balconies with idyllic views and sleep up to four.
An immaculate resort-style motel in central Kerikeri with daily serviced units and free Wi-Fi. Enjoy a swim in the pool or just relax in the park-like grounds and BBQ area. There’s a range of studio rooms for up to three people and a two bedroom apartment that sleeps up to six – all with access to a patio and subtropical gardens.
How traditional NZ family camping holidays should be! Situated on the beautiful Houhora Harbour in the Far North, this pet-friendly holiday park features full camping amenities with a pool, plus kayaks, fishing gear, bikes, sand and body boards, and golf clubs for hire. A variety of cabins sleep up to six and there are powered and non-powered camping sites.