South Island vs North Island
Both islands of New Zealand offer something different for families. The North Island has stunning beaches, bush, volcanoes and thermal activities unique to the country. You will also have the chance to delve into the fascinating Maori culture and discover everything from seeing a live haka (Maori war-dance) and to learning how to hongi (traditional Maori greeting).
Dominated by the Southern Alps which run down the spine, the South Island has impressive mountains, glaciers, lakes, plains, forests and fjords. The variety of landscapes is endless as well as the outdoor activities to match.
But We're Hungry Now!
What to eat
There are a host of eating options where the kids are welcome and food is fresh and tasty. There is a strong cafe culture in New Zealand and kids are more than welcome with most cafe’s having toys and menus for the little ones. Sometimes there is a dedicated space for them to play while you relax over a coffee. If you sidestep the upmarket restaurants, children are generally welcome. Cafes are very child-friendly, and you’ll see families getting in early for dinner in pub dining rooms. Most places can supply high chairs. Dedicated kids' menus are common, but selections are usually uninspiring (pizza, fish fingers, chicken nuggets etc). If a restaurant doesn’t have a kids' menu, find something on the regular menu and ask the kitchen to downsize it. It’s usually fine to bring toddler food in with you. If the sun is shining, hit the farmers markets and find a picnic spot.
Special Dietary Requirements: We are like everywhere else in the world so New Zealand's restaurants are decent at catering for gluten-free and dairy-free diners – one less thing to worry about if kids follow a special diet.
- Takeaways - you must try kiwi fish and chips - always fresh and good quality. Best eaten at the beach, sampling some local Sauvignon Blanc.
- Asian food - with it’s proximity to Asia, New Zealand has an abundance of cheap and authentic asian restaurants. Even small towns will have a requisite Indian and Chinese restaurant and you are also likely to find Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese or Korean food joints as well. Family friendly, they welcome children and are accommodating to their tastes if they want to hold the chilli.
- Sushi is widely available which is healthy and popular for kids. It also is a good cheap option when on the road as it travels well.
- Hangi - A traditional Maori oven in the ground which meat and vegetables are cooked by heated rocks buried in a pit. The food is then sealed with earth and left for several hours to cook. This can be experienced at a Maori cultural show which includes a meal and performance.
- Hokey Pokey ice cream - being a nation of cows and dairy, New Zealand makes delicious ice cream. Hokey Pokey is a classic kiwi flavour in which pieces of honeycomb candy is mixed in vanilla ice cream. Best tried on a hot day!
Cool Places to eat with Kids
- Wellington: Mt Vic Chippery, Exceptional fish and (five kinds of!) chips.
- West Coast: Sweet Alice's Fudge Kitchen, Hokitika Candies, ice cream and fudge.
- Hawkes Bay: Hastings Farmers Market - Fill a basket and have a picnic.
- Gisborne: Farmers Market Macadamia nuts, oranges, pastries...and all of it local.
- Motueka: (Nelson Tasman District): Kiwifruit, Pick up a ripe bag at harvest time at the Sunday market.
- Greytown: Schoc Chocolates, Otherworldly chocs in the Wairarapa.