Auckland for families: things to do that won't bust the holiday budget
The City of Sails is packed with all sorts of fun (and inexpensive) activities for the kids.
- February 2019
- Updated November 2021
It can be tough to keep the kids occupied on holidays but Auckland makes it easy with everything from beaches to snow slopes and museums. Local mum and parenting expert Marilee Aldrich-Wall shares her insider tips on the best things to do to keep the whole tribe entertained in this cosmopolitan playground.
A great way to start or end any family trip to Auckland is to head up Sky Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere. You'll have fun taking in the 360-degree view, whether you’re planning adventures for the next day or pointing out the places you've just been. There are two viewing platforms so kids can bravely tip-toe out onto the glass deck to peer down at the city below their feet or stand on solid ground and look out through angled windows. Children under five enter free of charge.
Just 30 kilometres north of the city centre is Snowplanet and it’s where I got my kids acclimatised to snow sports before committing to a full snow holiday. Children of all ages can take ski lessons or get rugged up to go tubing. If your kids are on the timid side, watch the slopes from the café’s window.
Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium
Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s is home to jellyfish, stingrays, seahorses and sub-Antarctic penguins. The kids will love seeing the marine life up close, walking through Captain Robert Falcon Scott's replica Antarctic hut at Scott Base or splashing around on a playground designed like a shipwreck. There’s also a colouring station where kids design their own fish and watch them “swim” across a screen. Of course, the biggest hit is always the shark tunnel.
Kids love the interactive Weird and Wonderful gallery at the Auckland Museum, where they can check out dinosaur skulls, examine specimens through microscopes or curl up in the quiet “nest”. There’s plenty to keep older kids engaged, too. They’ll be fascinated by the Origins exhibit, which explores New Zealand’s history and why some birds get around on foot despite having wings. Another highlight is learning about the history of Maoridom – the museum holds over 1000 taonga (treasures). If you visit on a sunny day – and the three floors of galleries haven't worn everyone out – check out the surrounding park, Auckland Domain. It sits on a crater and has plenty of space to roam.
Cornwall Park Café
Eating out with kids can be tricky but Cornwall Park Café has an excellent adult menu, plus child-sized options including a toastie, eggs and smoothies. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming but the best part is the setting. When you’ve finished eating, send the kids out into one of Auckland’s best parks to spot (and count) around 600 sheep, 60 cows and 30 species of birds.
Auckland is filled with beautiful outdoor destinations and one of the best for a family trip is Orewa Beach. Boasting three kilometres of sand, the beach is a short 30-minute drive north of the CBD. When you’re done building sandcastles, hit the 7.5-kilometre Te Ara Tahuna paved pathway behind the beach. Whether you’re on foot, with a pram or cycling, it’s the perfect place to get in your fitness while showing young explorers some of Auckland’s native flora and fauna.