It’s always enjoyable to spend your days off on action packed day trips complete with good food, fun activities, and of course, great company. For the best places for your own mini fun-packed vacation with your family check out the list below.
If your family is fit and adventurous, then Waipu Coastal Trail has various walks from 45min to 1½ hour which offer large Pohutukawa forests perched over steep limestone cliffs and impressive sea views. After sweating up a storm, head to the wild waters of Mangawhai Heads beach for a spot of surfing, or the harbour/estuary for calmer swimming or fishing. The Museum is also worth a visit with its stingray-shaped roof, and meticulously restored photographs and documents showcasing the history of area. For a souvenir from your funtastic day, head to the Smashed Pipi Gallery for a wide selection of New Zealand artworks, including gorgeous ceramics, glass, jewellery, wood, textiles and floral art containers.
A day of discovery at Aotearoa’s most popular marine reserve will conjure up some good levels of excitement winter or summer. In summer, you’ll need your snorkel gear to follow schools of silvery fish as they swim through large forests of kelp and seaweed. If you’re lucky, you may even see a stingray or two gliding effortlessly through the crystal clear water.
Otherwise, if your children are less comfortable in the water, the Glass Bottom Boat Tour (running November to April) provides a similar experience. There is also kayaking all year round for those who feel at home on top of the water, and the Marine Discovery Centre gives you an (warm and undercover) insight of the ecosystems, including a cool touch-tank for the kids to pick up starfish and urchins.
Take walking gear and trek the Goat Island Coastal Walkway (45 minutes each way) for some spectacular views. Afterwards, round up the troops and enjoy a picnic and a wander around the rock pools, or head out to one of Leigh’s delicious eateries. Leigh Sawmill Café has a large pizza menu perfect for families.
Escape the hustle bustle of city life and let the fresh country air relax you into holiday mode at Matakana Village. Start your day right with fresh food and award-winning coffees at the Matakana Market (on every Saturday 8am-1pm in the Market Square.) But don’t forget to bring your baskets and bags when you stock up as this market has a zero-waste policy!
After brekkie, head to Matakana Country Park for an exciting range of kid-friendly activities. Your kids will be transported to another world at the playground, as it is surrounded by beautifully constructed wooden playhouses, including a buzzy bee, fire truck and castle. If your tikes have an animal obsession, then buy a bag of grain and watch your kids giggle as slobbery animal tongues lick it from their hands.
Then end the day in style with a pony ride, cart ride, mini train ride or scenic bike ride. If the weather is wet and windy, make time to browse around the beautiful stores, including Artform Gallery, which contains many colourful ceramics, glass, and sculptures made by New Zealand artists. To continue on the art journey, a short trip down the road will bring you to The Sculptureum. This is a gallery of hundreds of unique, inspiring, and imaginative pieces displayed within lush gardens and beautiful galleries. You can then finish the day off with a movie at Matakana Cinemas.
To begin the day, head to Wenderholm Regional Park and choose from a selection of walks (between 15mins and 2 1/2 hours) that could see your family observing native birds in their natural habitat or capturing breathtaking views of the sandspit headland from the beach.
Next head to The Puhoi Cheese Shop, Puhoi’s own slice of heaven, with indulgent treats such as double cream brie and goat feta. Just a short drive from Puhoi’s Cheese Shop is the Puhoi Pub, which character and charm will take you back in time to 1879, when the pub was established. You and your kids will marvel at the thousands of knick-knacks and pictures decorating the walls and will have full stomachs after a freshly-made meal.
Afterwards, have a wander down the road and peek into The French Shed, which specialises in beautiful French antiques such as armoires, french farmhouse tables, french beds, designer clothing, jewellery, and more. Before the car ride home be sure to visit Jamie Hanson Playground or Moana Reserve, for a quick run around, which will hopefully see your kids sleeping through the car ride home.
Make your fantasy a reality and visit the film set that put New Zealand on the map! Bag End is situated on top of a hill overlooking rolling pastures and a towering pine tree known as “the party tree.” Walk around the glassy lake and watch your kids marvel at colourfully painted round doors and stunning gardens with delicate flowers. Don’t forget to take plenty of hilarious pictures with your hobbit family!
When little tummies begin to rumble head to The Shire’s Rest Café for hot food, or if there’s two or more adults, let one play babysitter while the other heads to The Green Dragon Inn for a traditional ale and old-timey food. In true hobbit style eat a large feast, but perhaps leave those shoes on!
Slip, slop, slap and wrap and don’t forget the jandals because black sand is beautiful to look at but not so nice to walk across! This is the perfect day trip for older children as the rough waters are ideal for strong swimmers or surfers. A walk up Takapu Refuge Walk brings you close to our white and gold friends, the gannets, and when the smell gets too much, head further along for a beautiful birds-eye view of rolling waves and rocky islands submerged in the sea.
Otherwise, if your kids are adrenaline junkies, Woodhill Forest is perfect year-round (but with different opening/closing times, depending on the season) for extreme activities such as mountain biking, paintball, Tree Adventures, motorcycling or horse riding.
Watch eager faces peer over the side of the ferry, and feel the wind and sea salt on your face as you embark on your Waiheke adventure! There is easy transport around this island via bikes, taxis or the bus. If you or your kids have ever dreamed of flying, then the Waiheke Zipline lets you fly across a canopy of beautiful native New Zealand bush. Following this, head to Little Frog Café for a delicious food. This café also caters for our vegetarian and vegan friends with food such as vegetarian lasagne, Buddha bowls, detox salad, smoothie bowls and vegan treats.
A short walk from this café is the Waiheke Community Art Gallery, your cultural fix of fascinating exhibits and sculptures. Then soak up some sun and burn off some energy at Palm Beach and playground or Little Oneroa Beach and playground. For a sweet end to the day, stop by Island Gelato company (open from spring until the end of April) for award winning ice cream. Or if it’s closed, then Palm Beach Ice cream will curve that ice cream craving.
Start your day like royalty by relaxing in the thermally heated, fresh mineral water at Miranda Hot Springs. There are hotter pools for the adults to sink into and cooler pools for the kids to splash around in. When your kids become restless, direct their attention to the playground for a quick run around. After the pools, treat yourself and your kids to flaky fish and crispy chips at the famous Kaiaua Fish & Chip shop.
Next door is an old-style pub with evening food if you don’t feel like getting your hands greasy. For award-winning cheeses, head to the Mercer Cheese shop, a quaint Dutch establishment with huge rounds of cheeses. Then on your way home, stop off at the Original Pokeno Ice Cream & Coffee Shop and choose from a large selection of Tip Top flavours for a cheap and fully stacked ice cream.
Due to COVID – 19, some of our NZ tourist attractions are closed either temporarily or indefinitely. Please make sure you email or ring ahead to double check their availability before you go.
Written by Lauren Middleton
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