Happy Campers: The Ultimate Family Holiday in New Zealand | Holiday Getaway
If you like nature, fresh air and spectacular views, New Zealand should be your next travel destination! Yes, Australia is wonderful and we love the beach of Bali and the temples of Angkor Wat, but the South Island of New Zealand is just a must-do if you have the opportunity. Read on for the ultimate itinerary for your family holiday in New Zealand!
We love this country, with its scenic views like eye candy and relaxed atmosphere. There is plenty to enjoy for all your family members and even if you’re not camping, the road trip makes it one big adventure.
Best activities on the South Island: planning your trip
When you start planning this family holiday to New Zealand, make sure you spend some time on your preferred route. Depending on the season you can pre-book hotels/camping spots. Don’t underestimate the number of kilometers you need to make if you are doing a full round, only go for it if you have at least 2.5 weeks. Especially since there are some places we’d recommend you to stay a bit longer. Bare also in mind that most kids are not made for driving long hours. At least not ours, so we kept it at a maximum of 4 hours. Most days we drove 2-4 hours.
Christchurch is not one of our recommendations; it’s just not very exciting. But it is often a necessary step to get your camper, so if you can, stock the van full of groceries and drive on. And it’s a good starting point to drive to Lake Tekapo, which is really stunning. It also has thé perfect camping spot right next to the lake. High five!
Highlights of your family trip to New Zealand
Queenstown is a definite highlight of the South Island and a place to spend a few days. A charming town by a lake, with some nice coffee bars, restaurants and playgrounds for the kids. But Queenstown is also known for its extreme sports, from alpine skiing in the winter to bungee jumping in one of the canyons, so if it’s on your bucket list, this is the time to go for it! From Queenstown, you can visit the Milford Sounds, a spectacular national park. Check out the weather before you do, it can be very foggy and then there’s not much to see.
Fox Glacier, on the west side of NZ, is situated in a national park. With small kids, you can do a simulation of a hike, which is still fun. Otherwise, go for it. There’s an Edmund Hillary in everyone.
Lakes, whale watching and dolphin spotting on the South Island
When your planning your family holiday in New Zealand, make sure to book in the Marlborough Sounds– a beautiful area to stay a while. Hop on the boat that takes care of the mail delivery here, be the hero parent that points out the seals to the kids and get dropped at the Abel Tasman Park for a lovely hike and pick-nick. You can visit some wine estates nearby, like the lovely Cloudy Bay (at last!) and the kids will enjoy the aquarium in the sleepy town of Picton. Also nice: rent a boat and enjoy the lakes. If you want more livelihood or do some serious shopping, visit Nelson, a medium sized town.
Kaikoura is famous for its whale watching and to be honest, that’s about all there is to do. Note that the sea can be rough and the smaller kids can’t join. But we saw 3 whales and were happy all day.
Hanmer Springs is good for a pit stop to enjoy the thermal pools. Great for kids as well, they can splash around and have some proper water fun.
Our last stop on this awesome family holiday to New Zealand, was another highlight; the gorgeous town of Akaroa. After dropping our camper van, we stayed in an rental apartment at the waterfront. Lovely to stroll around, and relax at one of the cute restaurants. If you are lucky, you can spot some dolphins right from your terrace. Have time? Stay a few days.
How to get there & around in New Zealand
To start this family holiday in New Zealand, it’s best to fly to Christchurch or Auckland, depending on your route. From there, you can rent a car and pre-book hotels or go happy camper style. No worries, the kids will love it and, even if you are not a camper lover by nature, you will now! Best to book your camper-van well in advance and go big. We rented a 6–Berth (camper language for ‘beds’) for our family of 4 (a 3-year old and a baby) and were glad to have some space. Not in the least because the country seems to be designed for it: the roads are almost empty and most camping sites are clean and awesome for the kids.
Where to stay on the South Island
There are several camper-van rentals. Have insurance with it, not every driver in NZ is insured and in the case of a bump you have to pay. Note that it can be cold at night in your camper, so pack your flannels! You can also rent a car and book some nice rooms along the way.
When to go on this family holiday to New Zealand
Best time to visit the South Island is October to May, so the Christmas holidays are perfect! During New Zealand’s summer (December-February) it’s warm, but also peak season, so be sure to book ahead.