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Preparing for a family vacation in Auckland, New Zealand? Here is our list of the top 8 things to do in Auckland with kids!
Can I just say that children in New Zealand are the luckiest. (You should know I don’t say that lightly, having spent years raising my son around the United States and various cities around the world.) They have so many options! The most creative and fun playgrounds we’ve ever seen, a different beautiful beach around every corner, protected nature trails and parks at the end of every street, and some of the most fun, educational activities ever.
We spent one month traveling through both islands, then settled for two months just north of Auckland City in Matakana Village. Our son enrolled in a local school and we went out to explore our region nearly every afternoon and weekend. We saw so much of the greater Auckland area, and there are things to do in Auckland with kids which we will dearly miss when our final days are over.
Spending three months in New Zealand as a family has been an absolute joy, and I feel incredibly lucky to have given my son even a brief taste of the Kiwi life!
Bare feet and all.
Here is our list of the best activities in Auckland for Kids
There are too many wonderful things to do in Auckland with kids to mention, so I’ve chosen my very top not-to-miss activities. I hope this list helps you and that you and your kids love these things to do as much as we have!
1. Auckland Zoo with Animal Experience
We’re usually skeptical of zoos based on their general miscare of animals, but the Auckland Zoo is different. The zoo is separated into sections based on regions of the world, and it’s easy to see that the staff have taken great pains in ensuring each exhibit resembles the animals’ original habitat as closely as possible.
The zoo is a phenomenal learning opportunity for kids in Auckland. Not only will children be exposed to new animals, plants, and birds, they will also learn about the various cultures and landscapes each animal is from. Each exhibit is an immersive experience for visitors as well as animals, and your children will love feeling as if they are actually wandering around Africa or through the various regions of New Zealand! Not only does the Auckland Zoo bring these places to life, information placards are found throughout the zoo to teach your children about the region and animals they are visiting as you walk through.
Our son is a hands on learner, and we especially loved the opportunities to see the animals up close and personal. We met quite a few animals while walking through various exhibits, and appreciated the many, many animal caretakers wandering around who took the time to teach us and answer our questions.
There really is no substitute for seeing something new and exciting up close!
Learn more about the Auckland Zoo here
More about the Auckland Zoo:
- Located on Motions Road in downtown Auckland, next to MOTAT.
- Auckland Zoo is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily
- Admission tickets are $24 for adults and $13 for children, with special rates available for those interested in buying an annual pass
- They have multiple opportunities for members of the community to volunteer at the zoo! How cool is that?
To be honest, I wasn’t expected to enjoy SheepWorld as much as I did. I knew it was a petting zoo with a daily sheep show, and I assumed it would be the same sort of experience we’ve had at petting zoos in other countries.
While the petting zoo portion is somewhat ordinary, (rabbits, pigs, horses, emus, goats, deer, and alpacas are all individually penned and trained to calmly eat pellets out of your hand) the value in SheepWorld is in the sheepdog and sheep show.
Twice a day a professional sheep herder will teach a crowd about the different types of sheep dogs, a brief history of the sheep industry in New Zealand, and display how SheepWorld’s different sheep dogs each round up the borrowed lambs. You stand penside as a small herd of lambs come from an adjacent field herded perfectly into the display pen. From there you hear more about life on a sheep farm before the piece de reistance- getting to watch and then help shear a sheep!!!
From what I can gather (and after input from people all over the world), this is one of the few sheep shows in the world that will show you how to shear a sheep and then invite you to try it for yourself. Our 6-year-old was a little hesitant at first, but he was calmed by our guide’s professionalism and explanation of the process. It was so amazing to watch our little boy do something so unique!
We all learned more about sheep and life the cycle of sheep farming than I expected, and it was much more interesting than I thought it would be. We had a truly great time and I feel so much smarter.
Learn more about SheepWorld here
More about SheepWorld:
- Located at State Highway 1, 65 kms from central Auckland. The drive takes around 40 minutes from the Auckland bridge, but the scenic pastoral views make the commute worth it!
- Admission costs $34.50 for adults and $12 for children and includes a bag of animal feed
- Sheep and Dog shows are daily at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
- SheepWorld also features a cafe on the grounds which you don’t need admission to enter. The restaurant is delicious, with freshly made sausage and ice cream. Yum!
3. Morris and James Pottery Co. Factory Tour
This sounds like a strange thing to do with kids, I know, but I told you nothing on this list is accidental.
If you’re planning an afternoon away from Auckland City to visit SheepWorld you may as well stop in to Morris and James Pottery Company on your way. It’s located in Matakana, and one of the best ways to learn the history and impact of the local landscape.
Morris and James Pottery Company has been an Auckland institution for decades, and they now offer free daily tours to allow the public a thorough glimpse into the various stages of the pottery process- from clay collection to glazing and firing. The tour begins with a video and live explanation in one of their show rooms then moves into the various production rooms. The tour lasts one hour and gives fascinating details on the pottery process. It even includes a pot-making demonstration!
We adults weren’t the only ones in love with the tour, which is why it makes our list. Our 6-year-old was wide-eyed the whole time. He couldn’t believe that clay was dug right here, turned into powder, re-hydrated into clay, and then turned into these gorgeous works of art. He loved seeing the huge firing kilns, the custom built pottery trolleys, and how the glaze changes color when heated.
If you find yourself in the villages north of Auckland (and you absolutely should!) this stop should be a no-brainer.
More about Morris and James Potter Co.
- Located north of Auckland in Matakana Village
- Free pottery factory tours begin at 11:00 a.m. daily
- Morris and James Pottery Co. also includes a gift shop and restaurant on site
4. North Head Military Park
There are a lot of reasons to love North Head Military Park. It’s located on a hill with incredible views of the bay and downtown Auckland, leftover battery stations teach you about New Zealand’s involvement in World War II, there’s lots of space to run around, and it’s free!
North Head comprises a hill formed by volcano activity near the Auckland suburb of Devonport. The hill was originally used by local Maori tribes, but was set aside in 1878 for use by the New Zealand Army should military defense of Auckland be needed.
It was first used as a military settlement in 1885 against Russia. Original observation posts, tunnels, weapons batteries, and fortifications were strengthened and modernized in coming decades until it’s final use as Auckland’s administrative center during World War II. The ground was returned to National Reserve status after troops officially left in 1950, though the New Zealand Navy maintains a training school near the North Head Summit.
Today the park is a beautiful combination of nature and military history. Visitors can park near the peak and enjoy a short walk up to the hill’s manicured summit for incredible views of the Hauraki Gulf or wander around the park to find the interactive leftover battery compartments and bunker tunnels.
Our son wasn’t the only one who loved this outdoor learning experience. As a family we wandered through the leftover base and had an amazing time in the maze underground. We learned about New Zealand’s military history for the first time, and saw the scale of weapons stored and used at North Head. It may sound strange, but the park was incredibly fun and one of our best family memories in Auckland!
More about North Head Military Park:
- Located in the Auckland suburb of Devonport just across the Auckland bridge
- Features a free military museum at the foot of the hill
- Free to access
5. CBD Viaduct Harbor
The Auckland marina is a fascinating place!
Auckland is a city which takes advantage of every available inch of the narrow land mass surrounded by the Hauraki Gulf. Water plays an important part in the culture of Auckland, and today that history can be best found downtown at the CBD Viaduct Harbor.
Wander the downtown grounds surrounding the CBD Viaduct Harbour for the New Zealand Maritime Museum, Silo Park playground, and an incredible, active drawbridge. At different times of year you may even be lucky enough to find some city-sponsored events going on around the harbour!
There is so much to do around the waterfront and harbour that we went back on three seperate occasions. Our son loved watching the tall sailboats glide under the drawbridge, playing at Silo Park, and walking around the various boats. We loved getting the exercise of walking around, staying outside, and having so much to learn about the impact of water on Auckland!
More about CBD Viaduct Harbour:
- Located just south of the Auckland Harbour Bridge
- Points of interest: Silo Park, NZ Maritime Museum, Whale and Dolphin Tour, Downtown Ferry Terminal, Events Center, Fish Market
- Note: there is a CBD Viaduct Harbour parking area, but it is small. Parking is otherwise limited, so be patient when looking for a space!
6. Muriwai Beach and Gannet Colony
Muriwai is one of the coolest beaches in Auckland!
The parking lot leads you to a beach that’s perfect for sunbathing, surfing, and swimming, but it’s the Gannet colony that makes Muriwai Beach really special.
The Muriwai Beach Gannet colony is one of only 3 in New Zealand. Gannets mate for life, and it’s here that couples commit to making nests and hatching eggs from August to March. At the Muriwai Beach observation stations you’ll be able to watch these interesting birds fly, interact with each other, and labor over their nests and eggs. Towards the end of mating season you’ll also see the gray-feathered young stretching their wings and preparing for life as adults.
We’d never seen Gannets before and found the Muriwai Beach colony fascinating. The birds seemed to show affection, competition, and friendliness just as humans do, and we loved observing their quirky behavior. Our son loved the information placards about the birds and their behaviors, and it was a great exercise to point out how their behavior mirrors humans’.
A place with rare, live animals that teaches about humanity in a beautiful natural setting? We’re in.
More about Muriwai Beach and Gannet Colony:
- Located on the west coast of the Auckland region
- Visit for a day on the beach, light hiking, and the Gannet Colony
- Grounds include parking lot and public changing rooms
8. See a Show at the Civic Theater
The Civic Theater in downtown Auckland is an incredible sight and historical landmark. A restored concert hall from 1929, the Civic was the first theater built specifically for talking pictures in New Zealand. It features a “floating” soft domed roof, opulent golden statues, and decor with an Asian theme. It’s the best place to experience traveling international shows due to the acoustics and seating design and gorgeous, dramatic interior.
Children, especially, will love seeing the outrageous design. Take them on a self-guided tour of the building during a show’s intermission to see gilded elephants and Buddhas, which are sure to transport them to another world.
The Civic Theater is home to a variety of local and international dance and music performances, as well traveling Broadway shows. Just seeing the historic interior makes a trip to the Civic one of the best things to do in Auckland with kids, but with many weekend and matinee times available, you’re sure to find a show which will excited your kids and allow them to get to bed on time!
Learn more about the Civic Theater here
More about the Civic Theater:
- Located at 269-287 Queen St. in downtown Auckland
- Box office opens 90 minutes prior to performances, and employees may allow you to enter for a quick peek without a ticket!
Auckland sometimes gets a bad rap for being one of the more boring areas in New Zealand. Well, that can’t be further from the truth! Auckland is a big city with a ton to offer. This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but a great way to start! We encourage you to get out and see as much as possible in this amazing place.
Any children visiting to Auckland will love exploring the many beaches, playgrounds, museums, public art, live animals, and interesting architecture. Parents will love the culture and history of the area and all of the free things to do.
I’m telling you… if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to Auckland with kids take it! You won’t regret one minute in this vibrant city!
Planning a visit to Auckland with kids? Pin this article on our top things to do for later!
*Portions of this article was funded by the Auckland Tourism, Events, and Economic Development administration. All opinions are my own.*