Auckland, NZ, for families with kids – the guide
Auckland is a big city, as many others, with so many entertainment options for everyone it gets hard to choose what to do.
In this post, I’ll try to list the activities (free and paid) we have tried and the ones we would’ve liked to.
There are beaches everywhere, so I won’t list all of them, just our favorites and a few others that are highly rated by families we know.
- Cornwallis Beach: this is our favorite spot EVER. No waves, shallow waters, nearly always empty, great even in low tide. There is a toilet (a very dirty one), shower, barbecue, a few tables, car park and lots of trees for shade.
- Mission Bay Beach: Shallow waters, almost no waves, toilet and many restaurants and cafés across the street. There is a playground, a fountain, showers and car park. It’s almost always full.
- Bethells Beach: Sand dunes, a lake, caves, little streams of water that are awesome for the little ones to play. Crowded. Not too good for swimming because of its strong currents. The lifeguards are pretty strict and they keep everyone constrained in the same area – which is good because it’s safer, but bad because it gets really crowded.
- Sandy Beach, Blockhouse Bay: Highly recommended for children, with toilet, car park, and calm waters.
- Piha Beach: black sand makes this beach pretty cool. It’s a surf beach, so maybe not great for little kids to swim but it’s a beautiful place. If you’re lucky, you might get to see seals!
- Muriwai Beach: another surf beach, but it’s so beautiful! It has a playground by the car park where kids can play when they get tired of the beach.
- Titirangi Beach: shallow waters, dark sand and the most amazing swing ever in a pretty cool playground. Must visit, even if it’s cold.
- The very new favorite is Goat Island Marine Reserve Beach. Amazingly clear waters, trees, the Glass Bottom Boat, the Marine Reserve Discovery Centre (paid). There is rental for wetsuits and snorkeling gear.
As with the beaches, I won’t list all the parks around, but just a few favorites.
- One Tree Hill and Cornwall are neighbors and they form one huge park. One Tree Hill also has the planetarium and an awesome playground, sheep, and cows. Cornwall has the most beautiful trees in Auckland.
- The Domain has the War Museum (paid for visitors, free for Auckland residents), the Winter Garden, sports fields, ponds, goose and the greatest tree of all times for children to play, just behind the winter garden – which is free and pretty amazing.
- Western Park is a fun park in Ponsonby that has half-buried buildings (not real ruins). My kids love them and they provide great photo opportunities. It is surrounded by restaurants, shops, and everything you need.
- Western Springs Park: Between the Zoo and MOTAT, huge park with a great playground for little ones. It also has ponds, geese, ducks and loads of green area.
- The volcanoes (Mount Eden, One Tree Hill, and Three Kings) are another great thing to see. Enjoy your day at one of them: take lunch, sunscreen, a jumper and enjoy!
- Victoria Park is a great park nearby Auckland Harbor. It has the playground, sports fields, and skate ramps. Very close to all the amenity one can have!
- Auckland War Museum – the children area (Weird & Wonderful) is great. My kids can spend hours there every time we go. It is free for residents but is paid for visitors.
- MOTAT – Museum of Transport and Technology, it is made for children. Grown-ups can have fun, too. It is interactive, with workshops, play areas, mirror maze, a historic village. A great option for rainy days. It costs $40 per family of 2 adults and 4 kids. (2015)
- Auckland Art Gallery – the gallery itself is not made for children, but the Todd Foundation Creative Learning Centre always have some hands-on activities that are awesome. On Saturdays, there are free activities for families. Close to Albert Park and Queen Street.
- Maritime Museum – we were there in May 2016. There’s a cool area with pretty neat games, but other than that, it’s a hands-off museum. The kids didn’t like it, we had a hard time reminding Coral not to touch.
- Studio One Toi Tū – we haven’t been there either but it’s very close to Western Springs Park, so worth checking out if you’re near.
OTHER PAID ACTIVITIES
There are many places to take your kids to, so I will write down only what we have tried:
- Rainbows End: NZ’s only amusement park. It is small, with few attractions (and most of them are really old) and pricey but it’s fun – maybe because it’s the only one…
- Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World: Auckland’s aquarium. It’s small but well kept. The children area is fun. It’s a bit expensive but keeping animals is costly, so it’s expected.
- Zoo: Auckland Zoo is one of my kids’ favorite spots in Auckland. We can go every week and still spend the whole day there. Not cheap, but again, it’s animals.
- Sky Tower: We went only once when Coral was turning 1 (2013). We spent 3 hours there, but we really took our time running around, trying to find our house and the spots in Auckland we knew and looking at people sky jumping. It has a hotel, a casino, cafés, and restaurants, but we only climbed the tower and looked through the glass walls and floors. There’s really not much to do once up there unless you’re going to the casino or the restaurants.
- Fish Market: the best fish & chips in Auckland. Right across the street, there’s the Wynyard Quarter playground, which is pretty great (but really crowded on weekends). Even with my kids complaining about the fish smell, we spent quite a while looking around.
- Snow Planet: we have never been there, but it is the only snow sports place in Auckland.
- Paradice Ice Skating: During winter, they put a rink in Aotea Square and it’s fun. On other times, there are the fixed rinks. Public session times are on the website.
- Rock Climbing: we’ve never gone to any of them, but there are quite a few different ones around.
- Xtreme: arcade, bumper car, bowling, laser tag, laser maze and a kiddy playground, all in one place. It is fun for a rainy day. Be sure to check the website before you go to know the deals.
- Movies: Reading Cinemas, Event Cinemas, Hoyts Cinemas, Rialto cinemas, and many others…. The prices vary a lot so check before you buy it. Tuesdays are cheaper! By the way, Reading is our favorite: cheaper and better seats.
- Escape (must be 14 or older, or be accompanied by an adult): we’ve been to Great Escape in April 2016 and we had a lot of fun! Coral didn’t really get what was going on but she enjoyed touching and turning things upside down anyway. We couldn’t finish in time (we took 5~10 minutes longer than the 60 minutes) but they gave us time to find the way out anyway. Our kids were all under the recommended age but they still had loads of fun and they were very engaged.
- Trampoline: there are many trampoline “parks” around Auckland. If your kid has some energy to waste, why not jump it out!
- City / Country
- Minimun Stay
- $ ~ $$$
- Best local transport option
- Do we recommend it?
- Auckland / NZ
- A week
- Car, but there are buses and trains, they’re just not too affordable
Are we missing something? Leave a comment and tell us your favorite place in Auckland for kids!