New Zealand is famous for it’s great outdoors. Dense rainforest, majestic plains, towering peaks… it’s what draws 2.5 million tourists to this little country every year. How much of New Zealand’s outdoors is accessible with smaller children? Surprisingly, quite a lot. Here are a few suggestions of how to get back to nature in New Zealand with little kids in tow.
Hiking, walking or “tramping” (as it’s known down under) doesn’t have to be a ten-hour uphill trek with you carrying everything but the kitchen sink on your back. There are plenty of short bush walks that even the youngest of children will be able to participate in. Tracks are well signposted with the expected duration of the walk in minutes and often difficulty of the walk. The walk to Franz Josef glacier, around Lake Matheson or around the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki are all perfectly walkable for children aged two and above. Smaller children can be carried in packs by parents. If in doubt, ask a local for advice before setting out and always carry a few supplies – water, snacks and suitable outdoor wear for your walk.
Camping is an ever popular family past-time amongst Kiwi families. A summer camping trip at a beach-front campground is a must. The Department of Conservation website has a complete list of campsites for family campers. If tents aren’t your thing, many campsites will have cabins available for rent. There are plenty of places to free camp in New Zealand if you’ve got your own campervan.
New Zealand has an abundance of wildlife a lot of which are native only to it’s islands. Flightless birds like the Kiwi and Weka, cheeky alpine parrot the Kea and the many penguins and seals that are spotted up and down the coastline. Kiwi can really only be observed in captivity as they are an endangered nocturnal species but pretty much everything else can be witnessed in the wild. If you’ve got the cash, whale watching and dolphin swimming are excellent.
Although the water is often too cold for all but the bravest swimmers, New Zealand’s beaches and coastline are a great place to play. Collect driftwood and build structures, spot the wildlife and play in the sand. If it’s swimming you’re after, the East Coast beaches in the North Island are the nicest options in the summer. Make sure you only swim at patrolled beaches between the flags as riptides are common. For a really special beach experience try out Hot Water beach in the Coromandel where you can dig your own hot water spring on the beach at high tide.