6 places to visit on a North Island road trip for the whole family

Get ready to take the family on the perfect road trip across New Zealand's stunning North Island. From Lake Taupo and Rotorua’s amazing nature landscapes to cultural activities in Wellington, these six road trip stops are guaranteed to be a hit for the whole family. Because yes, there's both wine and playgrounds involved.

1. Enjoy wine tasting on Waiheke Island

Known as the “Island of Wine”, Waiheke Island is only a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland and is a dream for wine lovers. With award-winning estates like Stonyridge and Tantalus on Waiheke, it’s perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon of great wine-tasting, complete with freshly baked bread and delicious organic produce. The kids will also be happy with the large open spaces for chasing birds and playing.

Tip: Waiheke Island is big, especially for the little feet. Your best bet is to make a plan of which wine estates you’d like to visit and use the island’s public buses to reach them. 

Alternatively, stay on Waiheke Island for the weekend and book one of these gorgeous holiday rentals with ocean views.

2. Wow your kids with Middle Earth magic in Waikato

A two-hour drive from Auckland, the main highlight of Waikato is without a doubt a visit to the Hobbiton movie set. The half-day fully guided tour will get both parents and children excited, with Instagram-worthy Hobbit homes, rolling hills and lush green pastures that keep the Middle-Earth magic and spirit alive. 

Kids will also love the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, where they can take a meandering boat ride to an ancient world 30 million years in the making, or a visit to the Cornerstone Alpacas, a family-run alpaca farm where they can pet and feed these lovely animals. Just don’t annoy them or they will spit!

Find a quaint farmhouse stay for a real rural adventure with plenty of room for everyone. 

3. Introduce Maori culture to your kids in Rotorua

An hour away from Hamilton, Rotorua is renowned for its geothermal activity and Maori culture. Visit a living Maori village like the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village and gain insight into the resident’s daily lives and how they use natural boiling hot geothermal pools for their everyday needs. A daily Cultural Performance that pays tribute to the Maori ancestors is a must-watch and a favourite with the kids, certain to leave a lasting memory.

Another fun activity is the Skyline Rotorua with gondola rides and luge tracks of varying difficulty. If your child is aged under six, don’t worry — they can be accompanied by an adult on the gentle luge track. This will still create lots of squeals and thrills, and more importantly, a great bonding moment for the whole family.

The region is also a haven for those who love a lakeside getaway, and there are plenty of relaxing homes with water views to choose from.

4. Enjoy outdoor family adventure in Taupo

A stunning natural beauty with a sparkling lake, trout-filled rivers and ancient forests, Taupo is perfect for an outdoor family adventure.

There are many things to do in Taupo with kids. Families can take a gentle walking or cycling trail along the Huka Falls (New Zealand’s most-visited natural attraction), kayak across Lake Taupo or revel in a jet boat ride across the Waikato River. For an adults-only adrenaline rush, leave the kids (who will be secretly happy with a break) in your holiday home with the grandparents, and choose between white-water rafting or skydiving at 18,000 feet.   

Tip: Taupo is a great place for “cele-cations” with the whole family. Choose an accommodation by Lake Taupo that has all the entertaining space you need, and celebrate whatever occasion in your own special way. Your Taupo adventure awaits!

5. Embark on a winery tour of Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay is well known for its delicious food and organic wine, with wineries and vineyards dotted throughout the region. For a leisurely lunch, choose one of the many estates with excellent and fresh local produce, such as Elephant Hill, and enjoy a meal with your family over stunning valley views. Alternatively, ditch the car and take a guided winery bike tour across Hawke’s Bay.

Tip: Visit Hawke’s Bay over the weekend and make a visit to its farmers’ market — one of the oldest in New Zealand. The bustling atmosphere with tastings of the region’s finest produce and live local music will guarantee to delight the entire family.  

6. Explore the vibrant creative culture of family-friendly Wellington

End your road trip in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.

The National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington is a must-visit. With free entry and six floors of engaging, interactive displays, it’s a joy for everyone. The kids will love the 3D interactive collections and the jaw-dropping colossal squid, while the adults will be intrigued by the history, art heritage and Maori culture on display. 

There are many other things to do in Wellington with kids, including visiting the Zealandia sanctuary (home to New Zealand’s rarest wildlife) or taking a tour of the renowned Weta Studio, which has been instrumental to New Zealand’s film industry.

Family Road Trip Tips:

  • Keep every drive to about 2 hours with mini “sanity” breaks in-between.

  • Set aside plenty of snacks and drinks for the kids and drivers. Pick up fresh fruits at farms along the way for a quick boost.  

  • Extra blankets are always handy on a drive – for a comfy nap-time for the kids, or as a much-needed shade from the scorching sun.

  • Always get travel insurance (car included). 

  • Enjoy yourself! The unplanned moments are always the most unforgettable.

Written by Charlene Tan, PR Manager at Stayz