ANGELA SAURINE reveals the best things to do on a family holiday to New Zealand’s North Island
1. Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings
Kayak beside the magnificent 14-metre-high Māori rock carvings on Lake Taupō at Mine Bay. The carvings were made in the 1970s by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell and a team of artists. The main carving takes the face of Matahi’s ancestor, Ngātoroirangi, the visionary Māori navigator who guided the Tūwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to Taupō 1,000 years ago.
2. Hamilton Zoo
This 25ha zoo is home to more than 600 native and exotic animals and boasts the largest walk-through aviary in New Zealand. You can go behind the scenes on a Face2Face encounter or catch a “meet the keeper” talk highlighting the characters and personalities of animals, their feeding and enrichment. There’s an onsite cafe and scenic picnic areas to have lunch.
3. Waikato Museum, Hamilton
On the banks of the Waikato River in Hamilton’s south-end cultural precinct, this museum offers an insight into the area’s rich history of arts and culture. Highlights include the majestic war waka, Te Winika, and the hands-on science galleries for children.
4. Redwoods Treewalk, Rotorua
See 75-metre-tall Coastal Redwoods as you walk across eco-suspended bridges and platforms at this Rotorua attraction. The award-winning eco-tourism operator’s new night-time experience – illuminated with lantern creations – is truly special. Purpose-built baby strollers are available for guests to use.
5. Hot Water Beach, The Coromandel
Kids will love digging their own hot pool at this appropriately named beach in The Coromandel, on the North Island’s east coast. A natural spring runs deep beneath the surface, bubbling up to emerge through the golden sand. The best time to visit is two hours either side of low tide.
6. Dolphin Seafaris, Bay of Plenty
Swim with wild dolphins on a tour with Dolphin Seafaris in the Bay of Plenty. As well as common dolphins, you are also likely to encounter orcas (aka killer whales), humpback whales, pilot whales, little penguins and New Zealand fur seals. Dolphin Seafaris eco-tours depart daily during the summer season, from November to April, and on weekends and during school holidays the rest of the year. The company has a 95 per cent success rate of seeing dolphins in summer, and guests get to swim with them 85 per cent of the time.
7. Bullswool Farm Heritage Park, The Coromandel
Children can feed the animals at this working farm, a 1.5-hour drive south of Auckland, in the southern part of The Coromandel. The farm’s sheep shed, stables, toolshed and milking shed have all been restored and set up as fun and interactive museums, telling the story of New Zealand’s early farming life. Visitors also have access to the Farm’s Native Bird Reserve, an award-winning conservation project that provides information about the country’s Indigenous birds, plants and aquatic animals.
8. Wellington Cable Car
Take the five-minute ride from the heart of the city and up through the hillside terraced houses of Kelburn, to the lookout perched high above. From there you can visit the Botanic Garden, Cable Car Museum, Space Place (at Carter Observatory) and ZEALANDIA (via free shuttle).
9. Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park
Admire the power of Mother Nature in the geysers, hot springs, bubbling mud pools and colourful silica terraces at Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park. The attraction, between Taupo and Rotorua on the banks of the Waikato River, can be reached via a short ferry ride over Lake Ohakuri.
10. ZEALANDIA, Wellington
Walk amongst rare birds like hihi, kākāriki and takahē and spot prehistoric reptiles, such as the tuatara, bathing in the sun at this urban eco-sanctuary, which is home to more than 40 rare species of native wildlife. See how the sanctuary transforms after dark on a guided tour and search for thousands of glow worms and more than 150 kiwi roaming free at the site.