Created in partnership with Tourism New Zealand
The days are getting longer and the best weather is ahead of us, so take the opportunity to experience and share some of New Zealand’s most iconic spots and hidden gems with the family.
Spring is a fantastic time of year to be exploring Aotearoa. Before the busyness of summer, spring welcomes you with milder temperatures, few queues, and quieter roads. And the beautiful clear light and spring flowers and growth make for some really special Insta-worthy photos!
We’ve picked some top iconic spots for you to visit this spring – and also shared some of our favourite “don’t miss” hidden spots – from all over our beautiful country. So no matter where you are headed, you can create wonderful family memories.
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.
The Bay of Islands are renowned for their beauty and a great way to explore this subtropical paradise is with The Rock Adventure Cruise. Departing from Paihia, a day trip is perfect for families as there’s an abundance of activities on offer including snorkelling, gathering mussels and kina, kayaking, paddleboarding, exploring islands, and relaxing on remote beaches.
While you are in Northland, don’t miss Kiwi North in Whangārei. Browse the extensive museum to discover stories of tangata whenua and early settlers, see taonga (treasures), natural history, and more. You can also see kiwi in a nocturnal habitat, the “prehistoric” tuatara and watch geckoes feeding. The Heritage Park includes various Victorian heritage buildings including a jail, school, and the fascinating 1886 Clarke homestead.
Billowing steam, plopping mud pools, a heated waterfall, and land coral all feature at Hell’s Gate. Explore above ground on a guided or self-guided interactive tour and then give the kids permission to get really, really muddy in New Zealand’s only mud spa, followed by a lovely soak in the sulphur spas and cool plunge pool.
Rotorua is also home to the beautiful Redwoods Treewalk experience. Don’t miss this walk along a suspended trail high above the forest floor amongst majestic Redwoods. At night the trees are lit and create a truly magical experience.
Waikato’s natural adventures
Waitomo is synonymous with caves so if you’re heading in that direction ensure you make time to go on a cave adventure with Waitomo Adventures. Abseil (with an instructor!) down 100m into a surreal world, explore underground passages, be entranced by glowworms, stalactites and stalagmites, go rafting underground, or escape from the troll cave! You can choose your activity based on level of difficulty (and age restrictions) – there’s a mind-blowing caving adventure waiting for everyone.
While you’re in the area, don’t miss a visit with our New Zealand native bird at the Otorohanga Kiwi House. There are three species of kiwi on site and watching the kiwi feeding is an eye-opener into this curious and unique bird. There are lots of other native birds to see and the free-flight aviary is the largest in NZ. Keeper talks are included in the entry fee and there are opportunities to hand-feed the kākāriki.
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is one of Aotearoa’s most iconic destinations. On any given day there is so much for your family to see and do including visiting a marae, enjoying an exhibition, joining in the activities and events, taking a guided tour, and visiting the colossal squid. The exceptional Gallipoli exhibition runs through to 25 April 2022.
While you’re in Wellington, don’t miss a trip to Staglands Wildlife Reserve & Cafe. You can get up close and personal with a range of native and introduced wildlife including birds, trout, eel, deer, goats, emu, turkey, peacocks, rabbits and even enjoy off-road trailer rides behind a tractor. The on-site cafe helps make this an easy day out for the whole family.
Top of the south
The top of the South Island enjoys some of New Zealand’s most temperate weather and spring is a fantastic time to visit. Visit the northernmost point of the South Island, and explore the bird sanctuary and wetland that is the Farewell Spit Nature Reserve. Farewell Spit Tours take you on a journey right along the 35km spit through areas not open to the public. Find fossils, visit an operating historic lighthouse, see dramatic cliffs, and look for fur seals.
Over in Nelson, don’t miss the Cable Bay Adventure Park. Here you can go on the world’s longest flying fox, take a quad bike tour or do some mountain biking. There’s also paintball and archery and you can even feed tame eels.
Explore Christchurch on a picturesque and historic tram ride with Christchurch Trams. The all day hop-on hop-off tickets allow you to visit the central city sights at your own pace.
While you’re in Ōtautahi, don’t miss a visit to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve where you can visit a range of farmyard and other animals, plus there’s a kiwi house. Also in Canterbury, you have a chance to see whales with Whale Watch Kaikōura. Using underwater microphones they listen for the eco-location sounds that the giant sperm whales make as they feed, and then cruise nearby so you can enjoy these magnificent creatures.
Just under three hours by road from Christchurch, or on the way from Queenstown/Wānaka to Christchurch is lovely Tekapo. With it’s turquoise lake and stunning landscape, Tekapo is stunning by day – but at night the sky is equally striking. Tekapo Star Gazing introduces you to Tekapo’s amazing night skies with a unique combination of astronomy and storytelling. Afterwards, don’t miss a soak in the warm waters of Tekapo Springs as you explore the wonder of the night skies. Also open during the day, Tekapo Springs has a range of outdoor pools plus great inflatable fun in the warmer months.
The West Coast of the South Island has dramatic scenery from the mountains to the sea. Just 20 minutes south of Hokitika, you can view the rainforest from 20 metres above the ground on the West Coast Treetop Walk. In Greymouth, don’t miss the history of goldminers brought to life at Shantytown Heritage Park where you can do some gold panning, take a ride on a steam train, and visit a colonial village.
While you’re on the West Coast, head further south to Franz Josef and explore the glacier with Franz Josef Glacier Guides, then don’t miss the chance to relax in the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools. Did you know that you can get to Franz Josef from the West Coast but also from Wanaka through the picturesque Haast Pass?
The 100 year old coal-fired TSS Earnslaw, heading out across Lake Wakatipu with steam puffing from it’s red funnel, is an iconic Queenstown sight. Head across the lake to Walter Peak or take a sightseeing cruise around the lake. The kids will especially love viewing the engine room.
While you’re in Queenstown explore with Segway on Q. Don’t miss some of the great sights while having heaps of fun too!
Down the road, take in some spectacular remote wilderness on a Doubtful Sound Cruise. Starting with a bus trip in Manapouri, this two night adventure takes in the stunning views, lush rainforest, and wildlife (look out for the enormous Royal Albatross). Enjoy the freshly caught crayfish and other seafood. For a faster trip on the water, Fiordland Jet in Te Anau is the ‘don’t miss‘ ticket! Across the lake or up a river, it’s an exhilarating ride!
- Find more fun family adventure ideas
- Plan a trip to Rotorua with our destination guide
- Plan a trip to Queenstown with our destination guide
- Nature experiences around New Zealand that are made to share
Written by Kidspot New Zealand in partnership with Tourism New Zealand.