Commonly known as ‘The Winterless North’, New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is made up of over 140 subtropical atolls. Renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life and idyllic beaches, nothing says family vacation like sun, sand and surf. A must-do with the whole family is a dolphin tour, going through the iconic ‘hole in the rock’ formation in Piercy Island.
Wander the streets of Russell, New Zealand’s first capital and have a drink at the first licensed hotel In NZ, The Duke of Marlborough, while the kids check out the original canons across the road. Head further north to the pristine Cape Reinga, home to Ninety Mile Beach, known for its swimming, sunsets and sand boarding.
Perched on the edge of a large natural harbour, New Zealand's ‘City of Sails’ offers the best of both worlds. Sandy beaches, native bush and lush rainforests give way to a vibrant urban culture. Spend time in the Viaduct Harbour — try your hand at sailing an America’s Cup yacht — or take the ferry to nearby Waiheke Island for a fun family adventure.
Walk (if you can convince the kids it's a good idea) to the top of Auckland's highest volcano, Mt Eden, and take in soaring views of the gulf. Pack a picnic lunch and head out to one of the 800 regional national parks on offer. Heading the Sky Tower is sure to be a hit, standing at just over 300m tall (about 1,000 feet) it provides spectacular views of the city. Other great activities include MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) and the Auckland Zoo.
The Central North Island is a great place to visit with a family, due to the huge variety of attractions on offer. Visit the Coromandel Peninsula for a chance to dig your own spa at Hot Water Beach, kayak to Cathedral Cove or bike through the Karangahake Gorge. Head inland to Hobbiton in Matamata, the fully intact set from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.
Make your way to Rotorua, a volcanic playground with natural hot springs, geothermal mud baths and a host of adventure activities. Visit Kerosene Creek to soak in the hot waterfall, or wander the paths around Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland, one of the world's most colourful geothermal attractions.
Visit Agrodome to hand-feed the animals and experience how a real farm works or for something a little more adventurous, head to Agroventures park to Zorb, Jet boat, swoop or bungy. Rotorua is also known as the culture capital of New Zealand, so be sure to visit Mitai Maori Village to learn about this fascinating indigenous culture.
Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs. Located, in the middle of the Canterbury Plains, this ‘Garden City’ is New Zealand’s newest and an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.
The kids will love going punting on the Avon, taking a take a historic tram ride through the city, or catching a gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano. Visit the International Antarctic Centre to experience polar life, or take a day to go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. Take the winding Port Hills road to the french settlement of Akaroa and go on a dolphin spotting cruise for a chance to see some of New Zealand’s rarest dolphins, The Hector’s.
Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, Queenstown is known as New Zealand’ adventure capital. Head up the Skyline Gondola to go luging, paragliding, or just for the epic views. Take a cruise on the steamship TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station, or venture further afield to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.
The Queenstown Lakes District is where many of the Lord of the Rings scenes were shot, and a dedicated Lord of the Rings tour is well worth doing. You can also choose between the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski among many others.