Auckland is all about embracing the great outdoors, with stunning black and white sand beaches, sprawling parklands, bushwalking, rafting, mountain bike trails and an abundance of adventure activities for every age and ability. As New Zealand‘s largest city, Auckalnd is a great place for families to start exploring the ‘land of the great white cloud’.
One Tree Hill, a 182-metre volcanic peak and The Domain are two favourite spots for families, while more adventurous kids can take on harbour jet boating, Auckland’s Sky Walk, Sky Jump or The Auckland Bridge Climb and Bungy, which will see them dangling over the harbour. Or take a 35-minute ferry ride out of town to zip line on gorgeous Waiheke Island.
You’ll find a huge variety of attractions from incredible animal parks and zoos to theme parks, mini golf and entertainment complexes boasting fun zones designed specifically with kids in mind. You’ll also find dozens of great kid friendly cafes and dozens of fantastic state-of-the-art playgrounds and parks with activities for kids of every age.
Things to do in Auckland with kids when it’s raining.
If you need to head inside, Auckland boasts an incredible collection of museums and galleries that offer excellent learning opportunities, and specially curated children’s exhibitions with easily accessible parents’ rooms.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum, The Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Museum and MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) are a few favourites, with special programmes and interactive exhibits to keep the kids entertained. Shoot for the stars at the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium, where you will find planetarium shows, telescope viewing and awesome astronomical exhibits.
Families can even ski, snowboard or snow tube at an indoor ski slope, whatever the weather. And if skiing’s your thing, here are Our favourite New Zealand family ski fields.
Top things to do in Auckland
Auckland has a fantastic range of family activities for every age and every budget. Here are ten of our favourites.
Things to do in Auckland with…
There is no shortage of parks and playgrounds in Auckland. In fact, the toughest thing is choosing which one kids will love the most. Tahaki Reserve has an excellent playground with swings, a flying fox, monkey bars and tic tac toe, as well as a toddler playground. Owairaka Park has an awesome flying fox, hexagonal climbing wall, swings and roundabouts as well as a junior bike track with speed bumps. The Barry Curtis Wetland Playground includes climbing equipment and wet play areas and even a skate park. And at One Tree Hill, you’ll find a small train track with a push-along train as well swings, a rope climbing structure and an accessible liberty swing. The pyramid towers of Tui Glen Park in Henderson are popular as is Rocket Park with its rocket-shaped climbing structure and awesome roundabout, and Snakes and Ladders Park, where there’s a giant snakes and ladders game set on a hillside.
Auckland offers plenty of opportunities for learning fun. At Auckland War Memorial Museum, there’s a great interactive area for children and where the can try out musical instruments, dress up and role playing and tackle plenty of hands-on activities as well as a Spitfire plane and full-size trenches to explore.
And the Auckland Museum, housed in one of New Zealand’s most beautiful heritage buildings, will thrill kids with its Weird and Wonderful Discovery Centre.
And animal loving kids should make the trip to the awesome Auckland Zoo, home to the largest collection of native and exotic animals in New Zealand. Kids will love exploring the beautifully recreated natural habitats of the Primate Walk, Elephant Clearing, Pridelands and African savannah. For something extra special, Safari Nights offer the chance to explore the Zoo after dark and the school holidays Junior Keeper programme allows kids first-hand experience of being a zookeeper.
If you like wheels and engines then head to MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology), New Zealand’s largest transport and technology museum, to explore New Zealand’s history of transport, technology and ingenuity through exhibits of trams, vehicles and more.
Prefer boats to buses and trams? Torpedo Bay Navy Museum is the official museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy, housed in a 19th Century submarine mining station overlooking the harbor. The museum traces New Zealand’s naval history and the Navy’s contribution to the development of New Zealand’s identity, and there are excellent school holiday activities for kids. If you’d rather fly, head to Waiheke Island, just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, to zip through the forest on EcoZip’s 200-metre long dual ziplines. Or head to Snowplanet to ski, snowboard or snow tube your way down Auckland’s only indoor ski slope.
There are plenty of adrenalin pumping activities to be found in around the city.
If you’re not afraid of heights, Auckland’s Sky Walk is the spot to start. Here, thrill-seeking teens, strapped into harnesses, can inch their way along a narrow walkway around the Sky Tower, 192 metres above the city, with no handrail. If that’s not thrilling enough for you then go jump. Literally. Plummet off the tower at 85 km an hour with Sky Jump, a guided base jump that has you securely attached to a bungee-like wire.
The Auckland Bridge Climb and Bungy is another option for adventure-seekers. Take in the 360-degree views of the city from the top of the bridge before, fitted with a state-of-the-art bungee cord and guided by experts, you can jump straight from the bridge. And if you prefer your thrills lower to the ground, speed around Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour on a white-knuckle jet boat ride.
Best time to visit Auckland as a family
Though there are four distinct seasons, Auckland’s climate can best be described as unpredictable. Summer in Auckland, from December to February, is an outdoor lover’s paradise with consistently bright and sunny weather that is perfect for visiting its glorious beaches, as well as hiking or biking on the cities many purpose-built trails. But you’ll need to book ahead to procure family-friendly accommodation and campsites, lakes and beaches will be crowded.
Between May and September, things get a lot chillier. During peak season, from November to March and school holidays, be prepared for inflated prices and you’ll need to be prepared to contend with a lot of other tourists. However, if you are seeking a bargain, along with pleasant weather, the shoulder months of May and September offer both warm days and a lack of crowds without the higher peak season costs.
Family-friendly places to eat in Auckland
The food of New Zealand is influenced not only by British, Maori, Mediterranean and Pacific Rim cuisines, but is also driven by its abundance of local seasonal ingredients, fresh from the land and New Zealand’s 15,000 kilometres of coastline.
The modern food scene caters to every taste and budget with a variety of cuisines from Asian and Mediterranean and you will find no shortage of restaurants and cafes that welcome kids with open arms. Many offer special menus and even entertainment and play areas for the kids. Local favourites include a big bag of good old-fashioned fish and chips, luscious lamb and irresistible honeycomb studded Hokey Pokey ice cream. And for a cultural cuisine experience head to Waiheke Island to enjoy the smoky flavour of a traditional Maori hangi, a feast cooked in an underground oven, an essential culinary experience for families.
Things to do for free in Auckland
- Pack the sunscreen, swimming costumes and towels for a day of swimming, sailing and sandcastle making on one Auckland’s many black and white sand beaches.
- Head to Cornwall Park, an oasis in the centre of the city, and hike up to the obelisk on One Tree Hill, a 182-metre volcanic peak, for incredible views. If you prefer your parklands without hills, The Domain is the oldest park in Auckland and with its ancient trees and pretty waterfalls it is the perfect spot for a family picnic or walk. The kids will especially love exploring the Children’s Potter Garden.
- If it is culture you seek, The Auckland Art Gallery offers free entry to view its permanent collection of 15,000 works. And if you’re after a bit of adventure, take your torch to North Head to explore the tunnels and learn about New Zealand’s military history.
Family-friendly fun outside Auckland
If you’ve got some extra time, head out of the city and explore more of the North Island. We love:
- Rotorua, Hobbiton and the other fun places in the central North Island
- Waiheke Island for its beaches and wineries
- The less crowded ski fields of the North Island (here’s 14 things you didn’t know about NZ North Island ski)
- Wellington. The New Zealand capital is a great place for families to learn about Maori culture
- The stars seem to shine brighter in New Zealand. Once you leave the big city behind, here are our picks of the Top NZ stargazing spots
And if you’re keen to explore even further afield in New Zealand, here are 10 places you need to see in NZ with the kids.
Here are 6 amazing, family-friendly experiences in New Zealand’s Central North Island (and yes, the list includes Hobbiton)
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Janeece Keller is the founder and editor of Family Travel. She mostly travels with her husband and two young kids. She has a large blended family that lives in Australia and Europe. She has visited 52 countries and lived on 3 continents. From camping to luxury resorts Janeece tries to make sure her family has diverse holiday experiences each year. She is an avid hiker and ocean swimmer who loves good food, margaritas and heading off the beaten path.