Harper Reid, a native New Zealander, is guest posting for us today to give you inspiration and tips for your next family vacation!
Planning a family holiday to New Zealand? Good choice! New Zealand has gained an international reputation for stunning scenery, including a diverse array of incredible beaches. It’s difficult to find a disappointing beach in New Zealand, but if you’re traveling with children, it’s best to have an idea before your journey of which places they’ll be most likely to enjoy. The following family-friendly beaches to travel with kids are sure to impress even the most critical of children:
Located just north of Dunedin in the South Island, the incredible Moeraki boulders of Koekohe Beach will appeal to adults and children alike. Kids might like to play hide-and-seek among the multi-tonne giants and listen to the Maori legend of the boulders – that they are the only remains of cargo that washed ashore after the wreck of a massive fabled canoe Araiteuru. The combination of history and unique natural beauty makes this beach a must-see for anyone visiting New Zealand. You can reach Koekohe beach from the north or south via State Highway 1. Koekohe beach is open all year round, with paid parking (2 NZD) options directly in front of the beach and free public parking on Moeraki Boulders Rd, just a ten-minute walk away.
Hot Water Beach
Discover Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, the North Island. Your kids will love renting shovels, choosing a spot on the beach, and digging your very own spa in the sand to bathe in the warm spring water. Parents and children can enjoy the natural hot water and ocean views and meet other vacationing families before having a meal at one of the nearby cafes – and the popular Cathedral Cove is only a 5-minute drive away. You can only reach the hot springs at low tide, so check the tides and plan your trip so you can visit between the 2 hours on either side of low tide. Find free parking at The Main Beach carpark and Te Waiwai carpark, and paid parking at the Main Store carpark.
Located just outside Auckland’s city centre, Mission Bay is picturesque and full of entertainment for the little ones. The beach features grassy areas shaded by trees, plenty of soft sand, and a kid’s playground. The suburb is home to plenty of restaurants, cafes, and ice cream shops – the perfect place to have a stroll and a swim before a child-friendly meal. Just around the corner is Auckland’s underground aquarium, packed with an array of sea life to captivate the whole family. If you’re visiting Mission Bay on the weekend, plan your trip as early as you can to secure parking at this popular beach. If you spend money at one of the cafes or shops along the Promenade, your parking ticket will be free!
Ninety km north of Auckland lies Pakiri, a small town known for its idyllic white sand beach. Your family can view the gorgeous, pristine scenery either by walking or taking a horse ride along the sand. The renowned Pakiri Beach Horse Rides have a range of child-friendly ride options catering to all ages and experience levels, including 1-hour, 2-hour, half-day, full-day, and multi-day treks. After all, what better way to explore nature than on horseback? On the beach, your kids can spot endangered birds like gannets and fairy terns or visit cultural sites such as the historic home of a Maori paramount chief. Most of the beaches on the Matakana Coast, including Pakiri Beach, are not patrolled by lifeguards – so keep a close eye on the weather and don’t swim or surf by yourself. You can find free parking and public toilets at the Pakiri Beach entrance, with 24-hour pedestrian access to the Pakiri regional park.
It’s hard to find a child who doesn’t love animals – and what better place to see them than in their natural habitat? If you’re up for a walk, give Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula a go. The easy 1.5-hour trek along the coast offers visitors the opportunity to see New Zealand fur seals, sea lions and yellow-eyed penguins lingering on the beach and nearby sand dunes. Just don’t get too close, no matter how cute they may look! Kids will love to go dune riding using a boogie board or cardboard box. At the public parking lot, always remember to lock your car and take your valuables with you.
The windswept Piha beach – part of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park – is one of the black sand gems of Auckland’s west coast. If your kids want to get in the water, make sure you always swim between the flags where lifeguards patrol – but remember that Piha is also one of Auckland’s best beaches for taking a family stroll to admire the scenery and the surfers who brave the waves in all four seasons. If you feel particularly daring, trek up Lion Rock with the family: the views are worth it! Free parking is available just outside this popular beach, and pedestrians can access Piha at all times. During the summer, the gates open from 8am to 9pm; during the winter, 8am to 7pm.
New Zealand is lauded worldwide for its beaches for a good reason. When you visit New Zealand, you’ll be spoiled for choice, and your kids are sure to appreciate the diverse beaches they’ll be lucky enough to see on their travels!
Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand who is passionate about travel and adventure. When not writing, she spends her weekends on the beach with friends or going on impromptu road trips. Find more of her work here.