Where to go in New Zealand
Both the North and South Islands boast an embarrassment of riches when it comes to planning a New Zealand family holiday. If you’re flying into Auckland be sure to earmark at least a day trip to Waiheke Island, 18 kilometres east of the city and easily accessed by regular ferry services. With more than 30 vineyards, dozens of secluded bays and beaches and a charming central high street, it’s a must. Along the same coastline further north, The Bay of Islands, a spotless cluster of over 150 isles is also among the country’s top drawcards.
Without much of a rail or public transport infrastructure in New Zealand, many families and couples will opt to hire a car or campervan to traverse the country. Using Auckland as the gateway, most will travel south to the capital Wellington before hopping a ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton in the South Island.
The top sights between the two cities include the Wai-O-tapu Thermal Wonderland with its bubbling sulphuric geysers, Lake Taupo and the mighty Huka Falls, Tongariro National Park with its significant Maori cultural sights and the Waitomo glow worm caves. Once in Wellington, spend a few days enjoying the arts capital of New Zealand; peruse the offbeat shops of Cuba Street, the Cable Car Museum, and Wellington Museum as well as the Space Place at Carter Observatory, a massive hit with kids.
On the South Island, travellers generally either fly into Christchurch (slowly rebuilding after the multiple earthquakes) or adventure capital Queenstown, or take the ferry from the Wellington to Picton to embark on a road trip south, again towards Queenstown. If you’re choosing the latter, there are a variety of scenic drives, the South Island is home to 10 of the country’s 14 national parks and the landscape shifts dramatically, and rapidly. It’s worth considering taking one of the 10 themed highway routes, from the Inland Scenic 72 Route to the Great Alpine Highway or West Coast Touring Route, they all mind-blowingly spectacular.
Must-see attractions on the South Island include The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers on the west coast, Mount Cook National Park, the towering fjords of Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound and of course the adventure playground of Queenstown and nearby Lake Wanaka. While the latter is most popular for skiing and snowboarding between June and October, there are tons of activities during summer too, from downhill mountain biking and bungy jumping to jet-boat rides and kayaking excursions. See newzealand.com.au for inspiration.