Attractions to inspire your family vacation to New Zealand

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·Lifestyle Editor
·5-min read
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Behind every successful man or woman, is a supportive other half.

Take it from Mr. Clarke Gayford, partner of New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. The couple has been engaged since early 2019, but has postponed any physical celebrations due to the pandemic. They also share a three-year-old daughter.

Recently, Ms. Ardern came over to Singapore to unveil a newly gifted Māori Kūwaha carving at Gardens by the Bay.

Unveiling of the Māori Kūwaha carving at Gardens By The Bay (Photo: Stephanie Zheng)
Unveiling of the Māori Kūwaha carving at Gardens By The Bay (Photo: Stephanie Zheng)

With Ms. Ardern undoubtedly busy with her numerous commitments to her country as well as family, it could fall onto her partner to hold the fort back in New Zealand. As a family man, Gayford is also well-positioned to come out with a list of recommendations for family-friendly attractions in New Zealand.

Perfect timing for the school holidays!

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1. Auckland Zoo

Auckland Zoo is a not-for-profit and wildlife conservation organization dedicated to building a future for wildlife. The zoo is also a winner of national and international awards and is at the leading edge of wildlife research, conservation work and innovative zoo design.

Everything that is done at Auckland Zoo directly contributes to their conservation efforts – how they care for the wildlife at the Zoo, their Wild Work and Conservation Fund, environmental impact, and how the zoos connect people with wildlife conservation science.

2. Kaikōura

Kaikōura (Photo: Tourism New Zealand)
Kaikōura (Photo: Tourism New Zealand)

Kaikōura is the northernmost district within the Canterbury region and is easily accessible with a 2.5-hour drive from Christchurch. To the North is the port of Picton, where you can catch the ferry across to Wellington.

Tourists can look forward to whale watching, dolphin swimming and even a mouth-watering Crayfish meal. Self-drive visitors can explore the North Canterbury region by following the Alpine Pacific touring route, which links Kaikōura with Hanmer Springs and the Waipara wine region, just 45 minutes north of Christchurch.

4. Orakei Korako, White Thermal Caves

Situated between Taupo & Rotorua on the banks of the Waikato River (Lake Ohakuri) lies The Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park. Off the beaten tourist track, it is at once breathtaking in its beauty, yet spine-chilling in the might of its unbridled subterranean power. Orakei Korako is reached by a short ferry trip over the tranquil Lake Ohakuri.

A leisurely 45-minute drive south of Rotorua or 25-minute drive north of Taupo is all that is required. The Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park is open from 8am till 4pm every day of the year. Access to Orakei Korako is by boat. The average sightseeing time is about 1 hour. The tour is self-guided, boats do not run on a timetable, but on demand.

5. Waitomo, Waikato, Glow Worm Cave

Black Water Rafting, Waitomo (Photo: Tourism New Zealand)
Black Water Rafting, Waitomo (Photo: Tourism New Zealand)

The Glow Worm Caves are the most famous of the Waitomo caves, having been a tourist attraction for over 130 years. Wander through the cave and marvel at its tallest chamber, the Cathedral, before embarking on a boat ride through the glow worm grotto. On the boat ride, you’ll sit in silence (glow worms don’t like noise) and be able to take in the magical creatures lighting up the cave above.

6. Winterless North, Sand Dunes

Renowned for its picturesque bays, hidden hotspots, and fantastic local fish n’ chips, the Northland’s arguably one of NZ’s best regions. Packed with waterfalls, volcanic hot springs, and the largest sand dunes, everyone is welcome to join in on this epic journey.

7. Skyline Luge

Skyline Luge (Photo: Tourism New Zealand)
Skyline Luge (Photo: Tourism New Zealand)

Located an easy five-minute walk from central Queenstown and exclusively accessed by scenic Gondola, Skyline Queenstown is a ‘must-see’ attraction during your visit to Queenstown. Enjoy the spectacular 220-degree panorama views before getting your adrenaline fix on the Luge.

Jump on your specialised Luge cart and take control as you zoom down the Luge. Then catch the Luge chairlift back to the start zone and do it all over again – once is never enough.

The Blue Track is a leisurely ride with a gentle gradient, easy bends, tunnels and dips. The Green Track has a steeper gradient and is a more adventurous ride with the thrill of banked corners, tunnels, dippers and cuttings.

8. Polynesian Spa, Rotorua

Relax and unwind on the tranquil shores of Lake Rotorua at Polynesian Spa – a world-leading, natural mineral bathing and luxury spa retreat. Channelling geothermal marvels in its backyard, the 28 mineral pools are fed from two natural springs (one Alkaline and one Acidic) for a combination that both nourishes the skin and relieves tired muscles, aches and pains.

Specialising in a range of health and wellness treatments, Polynesian Spa has a decadent spa therapy menu. From Aix spa therapies to body wraps, massages and facials, Polynesian Spa is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature’s gift.

Combining ancient healing practices with modern techniques, Polynesian Spa is frequently recognised as one of the top 10 spas in the world.

9. Surat Bay, Catlins

Surat Bay (Photo: Tourism New Zealand)
Surat Bay (Photo: Tourism New Zealand)

Formerly known as Forsyth’s Bay, the bay is now named after the sailing ship “Surat” which became shipwrecked on New Year's Day in 1874. The ship was carrying emigrants and cargo from England to Dunedin, all passengers and crew survived.

The Catlins coast is frequented by sea lions, other marine mammals and vulnerable birdlife. New Zealand sea lions come ashore to rest and socialise.

10. Stingray Feeding, Dive Tatapouri

Join a trip with Dive Tatapouri, which is located just 10 minutes north of Gisborne, to learn about the ecology of the region and to see the variety of marine species that can be found in the shallows of the reef. Immerse yourself in the local culture and stunning maritime surroundings of New Zealand’s East Coast – a unique experience.

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