Stuck for a unique family holiday experience? Sarah Pollok has some ideas
The tickets are booked, the accommodation arranged, now there's only one question left to answer for your upcoming family holiday; how do you spend the days in ways everyone will enjoy? Thankfully, New Zealand's latest attractions and activities have your whole whanau covered.
With white sand beaches and rolling farmland, dramatic mountains and charming villages, there are few ways better to explore Mangawhai than by bike. Perfect for older families who love getting outdoors, the family-owned Coastal E-Bikes has a range of trendy wheels you can use to explore their list of top cafes, local shops and more.
Curious about Aotearoa's rich cultural history but can't coax the family to a museum? Then gather the kids and head to a brand new cultural and education centre in Ōpononi, in the Hokianga, where you don't simply learn about New Zealand's discovery but experience the story for yourself. Using a fascinating mix of digital platforms and art, taonga and performance, Manea Footprints of Kupe is a multi-sensory adventure the whole family will love.
Step behind the scenes and into the magical worlds made by Weta Workshop with their brand new "Unleashed" tour at SkyCity. From monsters to giants, jaw-dropping set-pieces and interactive gizmos, the 90-minute guided experience pulls back the curtain to reveal just how the talented team bring these world-class stories to life. Hungry for more? Check out their creative workshops to try your hand at special effects makeup or leather-work.
For sports-mad families, don't miss the All Blacks Experience, also at SkyCity. Exclusive to Auckland, the fully-guided tour uses state-of-the-art technology to take you through Aotearoa's rugby heritage, epic successes and sporting culture. Learn the origin and importance of the haka, test your own rugby skills in an interactive zone and treat yourself to a personalised jersey at the All Blacks' very first retail store.
If your family love their travel with a side of adrenaline then head to Ride Coromandel, a recently created network of free-to-use bike trails. Boasting one of the country's four Velosolutions pump tracks as well flow trails, gravity jumps and easy tracks, just a stone's throw from Coromandel's stunning beaches, it's the perfect spot to burn off some energy.
It may seem obvious that the sun is the centre of the universe, but it wasn't always common knowledge. In fact, we have Italian philosopher astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei to thank for that. Now, through exciting interactive exhibits at the newly opened Galileo - Scientist, Astronomer, Visionary exhibition at Waikato Museum, you and the family can learn about the life of a genius and how his discoveries changed our world.
As a hungry hobbit once said, "what about second breakfast?!" Well, the Hobbiton Movie Set now has an answer with their latest tour. Beginning at rural Hinuera, guests are guided through exclusive filming locations used in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, treated to a specially brewed ale or ginger at the Green Dragon Inn before finishing the three-hour journey at Millhouse; a converted mill complete with a crackling log fire and an impressive breakfast spread.
Get hands-on at
Tamaki Maori Village
with their latest daytime experience, Hui e! Kai e! A beautiful way to connect with Aotearoa's culture and people through food and storytelling, you'll get to make your own fried bread and burgers infused with traditional Māori flavours, before exploring the Tamaki Māori Village along with your host.
Magic never sleeps at Te Puia's world-famous geothermal valley and now you can explore the natural wonderland of Pōhutu with Rotorua's new experience, Geyser By Night - Te Puia Light Trails. Led by an experienced guide, this unique tour shares the dramatic geysers and beautiful native bush illuminated by the moon, the stars and the sacred stories about the land.
Grab a paddle and explore Lake Rotomahana in Waimangu Volcanic Valley on Rotorua's fun new Steaming Cliffs Kayak Tour. Hosted by a passionate team of adventurers, the three hour-exploration will get your family up close and personal with the world's youngest geothermal system; an adventure you won't quickly forget.
A brand new addition to Taupō's impressive stable of family friendly activities is Taupō Pedal Boats. With a mix of pedal boats and aqua trikes available for hire it is yet another family friendly way to get out on the great lake this year. They have also partnered with the local Good Graze Co so you can arrange for a delicious platter to take with you as you paddle out on the beautiful lake.
This cool experience has rental options starting from only $25 for 30 minutes, so it is also extremely friendly on the wallet.
Reconnect with nature (and each other!) when you get away and stay at Pukeiti's rainforest treehouse Piwakawaka Hut. High in the treetops of Mt Taranaki, where reception and electricity can't reach, it's the perfect spot from which to explore a lush network of walking trails, or simply enjoy the silence and solitude beside the log fire. However word is getting out quick, so book in advance.
For families with a competitive streak, look no further than the old school bowling alley, Bowlarama. Decked out with arcade games, ten-pin bowling, blacklight mini putt and a brand new laser tag arena this May, the New Plymouth gem is perfect for some light-hearted rivalry.
If you want to experience the rugged back country in luxurious style, it doesn't get better than the aptly named Posh Pioneers. Off the grid and accessed by private jet boat, Taumarunui's new riverside accommodation boasts deluxe lodging, full catering and a range of wilderness activities like knife-making, campfire cooking, nature walks and more.
Pre-Covid, Archie's Bunker was a beloved backpackers. However, as borders closed, the innovative company decided to make the best of a tough season, turning several of their rooms into Enigma Escape Rooms. Perfect for all ages, the thrilling mix of riddles, puzzles, magic and mystery will keep the whole family entertained as you work together to escape.
To the delight of locals and tourists alike, Wellington Chocolate Factory has relaunched its Saturday public tours. Get a sweet hit of education as you learn about their bean-to-bar process of making chocolate, with tastings along the way and a bar of your favourite flavour to take home.
Wellington Zoo may be as old as the Wellington hills, but its latest tour is worth a visit no matter how many times you've been. That's right, you can now get up close and meet the charismatic Sasa the Sun Bear as part of the Zoo's latest Behind the Scenes experience. Even better? Your tickets help support Free The Bears, a Southeast Asian bear sanctuary.
For skate-savvy families, don't miss Nelson City's Riverside Youth Pop-up Park. It's packed with pump tracks, basketball courts, table tennis and 105 massive foam blocks you can use to build their very own playground. And while the latter seems designed for kids, you'll see more than a few parents flexing their playful streak and getting involved.
For a mini-golf course with a twist, check out The Sounds Mini Golf just 30 minutes outside Picton in Malborough Sounds. Set at the foot of Mount Cullen near Anakiwa, this quirky, creative 18-hole course is a perfect spot for some fun between day walks and biking trails.
Hanmer Springs Animal Park has moved to a brand new home and their menagerie of friendly animals are keen to show it off. Home to an impressive mixture of animals, from yaks and emus to chinchillas and deer, the park offers a range of interactive activities from wallaby feeding to pony rides, that animal lovers of any age will enjoy.
If you've got a young one ready to try mountain biking, check out the latest trails at Christchurch Adventure Park. Designed last year, Bridging the Gap is a free, introductory biking loop trail that is perfect for little riders. Still have some energy left over? Then tighten those laces and explore their newly extended Forest Loop Trail; a 40-minute track that starts and finishes at the park cafe.
It doesn't get more picturesque than frolicking through a lush lavender field. So if you find yourself in Wānaka, be sure to stop by the breathtaking Lavender Farm. Take a guided tour through the 20-acre fields, snapping some pictures of the kids along the way, before indulging in a scoop of fresh lavender ice cream or locally-made products from their cafe and shop.
Test your limits with a thrilling canyoning expedition through the spectacular Gibbston Valley. Available to those aged 10 and over, the new half-day adventure from Canyoning New Zealand has expert guides who equip you with the gear and skills needed to clamber through massive stone walls and down rushing waterfalls.
Take your exploration of Glenorchy's scenic surrounds to the next level when you go for a trek with Lighthorse Adventures. With several options or tailored packages to suit different abilities and budgets, you'll have a chance to meet and bond with your horses before embarking on a gentle ride through the fields and river systems of Dart Valley.
Want the family fishing experience but have no gear and no idea? Then head to High Country Salmon, a boutique family-owned salmon farm just outside of Twizel. On their floating deck, have a go at feeding the glacial mountain fish, try catching your own wild salmon to take home, or simply tuck into some salmon-inspired delicacies at their on-site eatery.
Take the whānau off the beaten track and explore the very best the South Island has to offer with the new Central Otago Touring Route. Winding 341km from Queenstown to Dunedin, the scenic highway cuts through the rugged heart of Central Otago, stopping at charming settlements, natural wonders and delicious eateries along the way.
From a humble 1984 Bedford truck to a bricks and mortar shop in Mornington, Patti's and Cream Scoop Shop is one destination the whole family will love. Made "Philadelphia-style" in small batches using natural and local ingredients, it's no small challenge to choose between flavours like Apple Pie, Salted Caramel, Birthday Cake or Hazelnut Praline.
Get in on the bumper-to-bumper action at Dunedin's Ice Stadium with their ice-rink dodgem cars. Launched after popular demand, it's impossible not to enjoy racing, sliding and colliding with friends and family in New Zealand's second set of ice bumper cars.