The arrival of junior travelers doesn't necessarily have to end one's peripatetic ways, but it does tend to focus attention on destinations of the 'family friendly' variety, whatever you deem those to be. So it won't come as a terrible shock that New Zealand suddenly became very appealing to us. On any criteria, it could not be more family friendly - plus once we discovered that there are direct flights from Perth to Auckland on Air New Zealand's fabulous service - we were sold.
We visited at the end of October - which seemed to be an excellent choice - relatively crowd free and only a couple of miserablish days. An added bonus was that we managed to introduce our 18 month old daughter to snow on Mt Ruapehu as it was one of the last days of the ski season as we made our way south.
NZ is expensive so we tried a combination of good value hotels and AirBnB - the latter delivered some unexpected gems and our hosts were, without exception, generous and helpful. An added bonus was that some of our hosts had young children and/or animals, which was great for our daughter.
17 Nights in New Zealand - Family Friendly Frolics Itinerary at a Glance Auckland - 1 night Rotorua - 1 night Taupo - 2 nights Farmstay near Raetihi - 1 night Wellington - 2 nights Mapua - 2 nights Kaikoura - 2 nights Christchurch - 1 night Fairlie - 1 night Wanaka - 1 night Queenstown - 2 nights
Highlights - Visiting the ski fields on Mt Ruapehu - an active volcano, this is such a spectacular place just to visit, but we had the added bonus of tobogganing and making a snow man. - An amazing farmstay near Raetihi - With only one guest cottage, this was a personal stay with home cooked meals lots of great activities - our daughter fed the pet lamb which also wandered around with us and we joined in at feeding time for the calves. - Hot springs around the thermal areas of Rotorua and Taupo - Kaikoura's amazing sea-meets-mountain setting and seal nursery where you can see seal pups playing under their waterfall. - Cheese. I long to find the equivalent of a Canterbury Cheesemonger or Kaikoura Cheesemonger at the end of my street! - Beautiful Wanaka - not only a stunning place, it has great playgrounds on the lake!
Spots we missed As this was our first trip to NZ, we packed in a lot for our 17 days, driving from Auckland to Queenstown - but we still missed what many would consider highlights, such as the glow-worm caves, glaciers and Milford Sound. This was essentially because we weighed up the travel time v the attraction it would hold for our toddler and these things ended up in the too hard basket for another trip. I'm not sure why I thought we could get away with one day only in Rotorua - there is heaps to do there and I would happily go back for more.
Planning a successful holiday to New Zealand 1. North, South or Both Islands? It all depends of course, on the time you have to spend. Our driving holiday started in Auckland and ended 17 days and about 2000km of driving later in Queenstown - we felt it was a comfortable enough journey in that timeframe, but If we'd had any less time than that I think we would have stuck to one island, and explored in greater detail. Also, it helps that Alok likes driving on windy, country roads - if you like less driving and more relaxing - a more localised itinerary would be more enjoyable. I honestly couldn't say which island we liked more - they both had equal appeal and unique attractions. In the North Island, it was the thermal areas - with hot springs, snow covered volcanoes and green hilly farmland so inspiring of Hobbiton were our highlights. In the South Island, the sunny bays, amazing food and laid back hamlets of the Abel Tasman and Marlborough regions were just what we needed after a few days of average weather and I needn't bore you with superlatives about the beauty of the mountains of the Canterbury and Central Otago districts. 2. Family fun New Zealand is great for family travel, particularly for outdoor pursuits. There is plenty for older kids and teenagers to love, and in our experience, probably few better places to travel with toddlers. Highlights for our toddler included -
A terrific farmstay, and farm visits like Lilliput Farm in Taupo;
A visit to the snow on Mt Ruapehu;
Hot springs at Waikite Valley;
Riding the luge at Skyline in Rotorua;
Storyplace at the wonderful Te Papa Museum in Wellington
...and simply going for walks and to great playgrounds in new and pretty spots.