Want to give the kids a real kiwi road trip experience? We’ve got just the itinerary for you. This family road trip itinerary captures some of the best family activities in the North Island, and has minimal drive times between stops.
With a rich history from the gold mining era, Karangahake Gorge has a host of tunnels and walkways to explore, the Windows Walk is a firm favourite with families. If you’ve got your bikes, ride a section of the Hauraki Rail Trail, the Owhararoa Falls are easily accessed from the trail, or if you’re on foot, they are just a short walk from the road.
For an easy overnight adventure, a tramp to Daley’s Clearing Hut is a great introduction to staying in a Department of Conservation Hut.
Matamata is famously known as the home of Hobbiton Movie Set, this is a must do experience if you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings. Even if you’re not a super-fan, the attention to detail and stories behind the movie set make this a really enjoyable day out, and a visit to the iconic Green Dragon pub is definitely a highlight!
Wairere Falls is a great adventure for kids to clamber up the steep rocky steps to a great view of the falls. If you’ve got the energy, you can carry on right up to the top of the waterfall, the effort rewarded with a great view over the Waikato and a spot to lean over and watch the water tumble off the edge!
Also in the area is Te Waihou Blue Spring at Putaruru, where you’ll see some of the clearest water bubbling out of the ground. The walkway along the stream is spectacular, and it’s easy and flat, so ideal for little adventurers and suitable for pushchairs.
Rotorua is so well set up for family holidays, with heaps of free things to do, and some of the most unique adventure activities, geothermal attractions and cultural experiences. Whakarewarewa Forest (aka the Redwoods) and surrounding lakes offer endless opportunities to walk, hike, bike, swim and boat, so you might want to pack your toys!
There’s so much in fact, that we’ve written a separate blog about things to do with the family, part of our family guide to Rotorua including more tips on where to stay and what to eat with some new family foodie treats.
Rotorua to Taupo
Waikite Valley Thermal Pools sits between Rotorua and Taupo, off State Highway 5. We have a campground adjoining our pool complex, so if you’re in a campervan or have a tent, treat yourself to a night out in the country with unlimited hot pool access.
Otherwise, a stop off on the way to Taupo is a great option for a soak in our 100% pure geothermal waters in our family friendly hot pool complex.
Also in the area, you’ll find Waimangu Volcanic Valley, a geothermal attraction that is home to the world’s largest hot spring, Frying Pan Lake. The set up there is perfect for families, the walk is mostly downhill to Lake Rotomahana and there’s a free internal shuttle bus to take you back to the top, or to make your walk shorter. There’s also a boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana. We have a great value combo with Waimangu Volcanic Valley – check that out if you’re planning to visit us both!
Another local favourite on our doorstep is Rainbow Mountain, with walking and biking trails. Check out our blog on that too.
There’s plenty of free things to do in Taupo, like visiting the Huka Falls, or watching the dam release at Aratiatia Dam. Kids will love getting out on the largest lake in New Zealand. There are lots of options for cruises, and many will visit the Maori rock carvings. Older kids may like to hire kayaks, or get out on the bikes. The Great Lake Trail is one of New Zealand’s Great Rides, and many of the sections are suitable for a family day ride. Huka Prawn Park is a huge family favourite, or if you’re looking for a thrill, how about a jet boat ride?
Next up is Waitomo, best known for the glowworm caves, but there’s also lots of other great natural attractions to explore in the area.
The Mangapohue Natural Bridge is a hidden gem, and an ideal place for little legs to explore. Giant limestone arches tower overhead, the remnants of an old cave system, and the walk to the viewing platform is suitable for pushchairs.
You can see glow worms even if you don’t visit the caves. The Ruakuri Bush Walk has it all, native bush, tunnels, cave and if you head out after dark (don’t forget to take a torch), you’ll find a display of glowworms near the main bridge.
The impressive 35m Marokopa Falls can be found 40 minutes from Waitomo Caves, and is even more spectacular after rain. The walk to the viewing platform takes around 15 minutes as you meander through native Tawa and Nikau forest.
No kiwi road trip is complete without a trip to the beach! Raglan offers a west-coast classic black sandy beach (the sand can get pretty hot in summer). Grab an ice cream and stroll over the footbridge from town to Te Kopua Beach, or a short drive out to Ocean Beach is the spot if you want to have a go at bodyboarding.
If the weather’s not great but the surf is pumping, you can drive around to Manu Bay and watch surfers as they ride a point break wave, thought to be one of the longest in the world.
Another great opportunity to see a huge waterfall without a massive walk is Bridal Veil Falls. The upper viewing platform looks down on the falls, and a set of stairs takes you down to another viewing area with a shelter at the base, a great spot to take in the scale of these impressive falls.