Our little insiders guide of New Zealand for families with kids
New Zealand, or Aotearoa, is a country near Australia. A tiny country composed of two main islands (Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu – North and South Islands, respectively) and a few other little ones.
Most people know New Zealand because it’s the land of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the kiwifruit and that’s that.
I’ll talk a little about this amazing country today.
Aotearoa is the Māori name for New Zealand, and it means The Land of the Long White Cloud. It couldn’t be more spot on than this.
It rains a lot, at least here in the North Island. I mean, really. Probably more than half of the days of the year see some kind of precipitation. It doesn’t rain as much during the summer months but during the 3 other seasons…. Bring your raincoat – umbrellas are kind of useless because it is also very windy.
The temperature varies a lot throughout the country, so be sure to check on specific data about where you’re going. If you plan to see it all, well, unless you’re doing so during summer, you’ll need to bring lots and lots of layers to cover all your needs. Just don’t despair. You can find whatever you need here, most anywhere.
It is a shaky country. There are earthquakes every day. Most of them we don’t even feel, but hey, they are here. At least, GeoNet says so.
New Zealanders are called (and call themselves) kiwis. After the bird, not the fruit – which is called kiwifruit. The kiwi is a flightless brown (sometimes white) bird with this long and peculiar beak. Its nostrils are located on the tip of the beak, opposed to most other birds.
They’re in danger of extinction and protected, so in many areas where kiwis dwell, dogs aren’t allowed.
You’ll find beaches, walkways, cycleway, parks, and playgrounds everywhere. Kiwis are outdoor people (mostly) so there’s a lot to do, especially if you’re an adventurer kind of people. I’m not but I still have fun. I mean, I can lie down on the grass while the kids do their thing, right? There’s a huge amount of radical sports here. They are a bit pricey, though. (Sand flies are a thing, so bring on your favorite insect repellent).
We use the New Zealand Dollar. It’s a bit cheaper than the Australian dollar.
Everything here’s expensive. Food, transport, accommodation, leisure health care, The Internet, everything. Consider this before coming. This isn’t a cheap place to visit, but if you’re happy with nature, you ‘ll spend just what you need, really. Beaches, mountains, parks, they’re all free to visit and there are so many of them around, you’ll see!
There are trains and buses mostly everywhere. You can book a tourist pass here (Intercity) or you can drive (if your license is in English or you have an official translation of it- read more about it on NZTA).
The traffic isn’t bad and the buses and trains are well kept. They’re a bit pricey, but well, quality does cost.
There’s this website with information on routes, times, and fares for Auckland, which we use a lot.
If you’re driving, avoid rush hours (around 8 am, 3 pm and 5 pm). Other than that, unless you plan to move at the beginning or end of a long weekend (or holiday), you should be fine. Find holiday calendar here.
Domestic flights are cheap, you can find them for NZ$ 30 (sometimes less). You can also rent a motorhome and see whatever you feel like seeing when you want it. NZ is an amazing place for camping. It’s very organized and accessible, although not very cheap.
We have never really used hostels so I can’t tell you how good they are. Hotels and short term rentals are usually cheaper for us, with our 4 kids.
We rented a campervan to drive through Northland in 2013 and it was more expensive than we had expected (considering the rental, gas, campground fees) but it was a lot of fun! The kids had a blast.
You really don’t have to pay to camp in NZ. There are many places that are free for camping, though check before you camp to see where camping is permitted. The only downside of this is that you don’t get to fill your water or charge the batteries, but if you don’t need it so often….
The site of the Department of Conservation is a really good place to start.
You can eat at Night Markets in Auckland, in food stalls at festivals to budget.
What we do – when we have somewhere to cook – is buy food from the supermarkets, farmers markets, and local dairy stores. When we don’t, like when we stay in hotels, we accept our fate and open our wallets. Fast food here, the same chain restaurants everywhere, offers dinner deals, which let us pay around NZ$ 40/meal (for 6). It is the same if we have fish & chips. If we do a nice place, we spend NZ$ 150+. It is a lot pricey if you have to pay for 6 people as we do. You don’t really pay gratuity here, thankfully, so that’s a bonus.
We can easily find supermarket pies for a total of NZ$ 12, or get bread and cheese and some salad and make it a meal for under NZ$ 20.
You can drink tap water, so it’s one less thing to buy, but drinks (be that soft drinks, beer or spirit) are expensive if you eat out. You also don’t find alcoholic drinks at some supermarkets, so you might need to find a liquor store somewhere else.
There’s the green kiwifruit and the golden kiwifruit. If you haven’t tried it, try! It is not as acidic as the green one and is a lot sweeter.
There’s also the marvelous Manuka honey. It has tons of medicinal properties and it’s just delicious. I adore it. If you’re not allergic, try it.
You can buy USB 3G/4G modems for using the internet, which is a fast and easy way of having the internet with you anytime you want, even though it’s not cheap – as the internet in NZ. But there are other ways.
You can use the internet from cafés and fast food chains. There are many that offer free wi-fi for customers. Some even have it open, so if you sit close enough, you can get some signal. There are the libraries, many of them all around NZ and you can use the internet there. Some libraries used to charge a one-time $2 fee, so you pay once and use it anytime the library is working. I even saw some people using the internet after closing time from a bench in front of it.
If you buy a plan from SPARK you can use free Wi-Fi (2Gb/day) in specified places.
New Zealand is a great place to visit, as it’s safe, beautiful, and full of opportunities. Although it’s a bit pricey, there are many free activities for everyone in all seasons.
We love our home country to bits and we do believe it’s one of the greatest countries in the world!
It’s a family friendly destination, it’s educational, it’s full of culture, and it’s pure love.
Please comment if you have any other question or advice for those planning to come!