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Which island is best for New Zealand travel with kids?

If you are planning a family holiday to New Zealand, you are likely wondering which island is best for New Zealand travel with kids.

This depends on the ages of your children, and whether there are any specific activities on their must-do list.

Both islands are packed full of options to suit all travelers. However, the North and South Island are extremely different despite belonging to the same country. The pace and activities available on your family holiday will depend on which island you choose.

The North Island is best for young families, Lord of the Rings fans, and families looking for a beach getaway.

Meanwhile, the South Island is best for active families, outdoor lovers, and travelers who want to spend a week exploring from one base.

Read on for more details about how you can decide which island is best for your family’s New Zealand travel with kids.

Choosing the Best Island for New Zealand Travel with Kids

The North Island

coromandel-new-zealand

The North Island is defined by its peaceful, rolling farmland, with enticing beaches lining the coast and unusual highlight such as volcanoes and glowworm caves in the center.

Families interested in Maori culture, relaxing beach getaways, cave exploration, hobbits, volcanoes, geysers, and sulphur springs should head straight to the North Island.

maori village rotorua New Zealand travel with kids
Te Puia Rotorua

Choose the North Island for your family holiday if:

  • You have young children and don’t want to spend too much time driving
  • Your children are too young for most adventure sports but love participating in fun activities
  • Your kids are fans of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies (don’t miss the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour)
  • You want to introduce your children to Maori culture
  • Your family wants to relax on the beach and sample a few water sports

If you want to see the best of New Zealand’s North Island with kids, these are our top holiday package suggestions:

  1. 7 Day North Island Family Hobbits Holiday Package
  2. 10 Day North Island Family Holiday Package
  3. 14 Day North Island Family Holiday Package

The South Island

tss earnslaw dinner cruise New Zealand travel with kids
The TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship Cruise

The South Island is shaped by its spine of mountains–the great Southern Alps.

With breathtaking mountain vistas around every corner, the South Island is the place for your family to discover glaciers, braided rivers, turquoise lakes, and New Zealand’s famous fiords.

The South Island is also New Zealand’s adventure hub, with options ranging from outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and skiing to adrenaline sports like skydiving and jet-boating.

Active teens will love the variety on offer on the South Island, and with a hundred different options to choose from in places like Queenstown, they’ll never grow bored.

Family Friendly Holidays New Zealand travel with kids
The Shotover Jet in Queenstown

Choose the South Island for your family holiday if:

  • You have teenagers who are eager to do as many adventure/adrenaline activities as possible
  • Your family wants to escape the city and spend time seeing nature at a slower pace
  • Your children are big fans of marine wildlife (penguins, whales, dolphins, seals)
  • You enjoy hiking as a family, whether on short trails or longer tracks
  • You want to base yourselves in one location for a week or longer and take day trips from there (stay in Queenstown to see the surrounding areas, which include Arrowtown, Wanaka, Glenorchy, Cromwell, and Fiordland National Park)

If you want to see the best of New Zealand’s South Island with kids, these are our top holiday package suggestions:

  1. 7 Day Essential South Island Family Package
  2. 10 Day Jet & Heli South Island Family Holiday Package
  3. 14 Day South Island Family Package

Planning New Zealand Travel with Kids

Generally, the North Island makes a good introduction to the country for families with young children (toddlers and up), while the South Island is packed with enough exciting activities and jaw-dropping nature to entertain even the most difficult teens.

Finally, whichever island you choose, plan to return to New Zealand someday to visit the other island. Both are extremely different and equally rewarding, and your children will appreciate different highlights as they grow older.

For more information on family travel, you may wish to read the following posts:

Browse our full range of New Zealand family holiday packages here.

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