Last year, my sister and I along with our partners and our kids all decided to move to New Zealand from the Philippines. Migrating is a huge adventure in itself and we’ve learned many things along the way. One of the biggest benefits of moving to New Zealand was exposing our kids to the love for adventure. New Zealand is rich in untouched nature with rivers, beaches, white water rapids, mountains, trekking paths and numerous land and water sports for both kids and adults.
So, how do you enjoy the adventure capital of the world with toddlers in tow? Take them with you! Here are 10 insane adventures our family of four adults and two four-year-old cousins survived in the last 12 months:
1. Luge down a mountain – A tiny plastic cart careening down a mountain path sound cool to you? It was! Our four-year-olds rode along with their dads and loved it. There’s really nothing to fear except pulling the brakes too fast and flying off the cart – and the ski lift going back up if you have a fear of heights. The gravity-fueled ride has been in Rotorua around since 1985. The Skyline Luge track has three levels winding through a beautiful redwood forest.
- Roll down a hill in a giant plastic ball. This is one of those amazing things invented in New Zealand. Since the country is rich in rolling hills, someone thought it would be a good idea to roll down one in a giant plastic ball. And we thought it was a genius idea, too! There are three levels that go from mild to wild. The fast track, the zigzag and the drop.
- Jetboat – Here’s another New Zealand original that requires skill to pilot and guts to survive. The high-octane sprint course goes as fast as 100 kph (62 mph) and is perfect for kids over 3 years. The one in Agroventures Adventure Park in Rotorua is the world’s first-ever jet-sprint which weaves through islands and finishes with a full 360 degree spin.
- Swing towards the earth – We decided to let the kids sit this one out while the adults try it. If the thrill of bungee doesn’t quite do it for you, why not double the fun pendulum-style? Kids 6+ can already do this and we’ve seen some of them trying it that day. Agroventures calls this ride the Swoop. You will be elevated to a height of 40 meters (141 feet) where you will release the rip-cord that will send you plummeting down at a speed of 130 kph (80 mph) just before the cable catches you and swings you back and forth in the air.
- Trek in a redwood forest – For kids who were raised in the city, bush walks and forest trails are a must-try adventure. Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest is just five minutes from downtown. It’s a sprawling 5,600-hectare haven for trekkers, hikers, horse riders and mountain bikers. The view is amazing from the ground where magnificent towering native and exotic trees surround you. This is also where Disney’s Pete’s Dragon was shot – which was a plus for our tiny adventurers. For a different experience, you can also try the Redwood Treewalk – a series of suspension bridges traversing between 22 Californian coastal redwoods giving walkers a view of the native undergrowth from 12 meters above ground.
- Sledding in the snow at Mt. Ruapehu – If you lived in a tropical country all your life, snow will definitely have a special appeal to you. So, we took the kids to see snow for the first time. While we were at it, why not get them to sled? They really enjoyed the speed in the slopes. We went sledding in Whakapapa ski fields of Mt. Ruapehu – the largest active volcano in New Zealand.
- River Kayaking in Bay of Islands – One adult plus a preschooler in a river kayak near waterfalls sound like a crazy idea? It’s actually pretty safe! Plus kids get to practice their balance and team work (if they choose to help with the rowing). We kayaked to Haruru Falls, a horseshoe-shaped waterfall in Bay of Islands. The water on the Waitangi river is cool and calm, but I recommend going before low tide hits as kayaking becomes more difficult in shallow water.
- Parasailing in Paihia – This is a great starter adventure for pre-teens. They have height limits so the little ones couldn’t join the fun but they can ride the speedboat and be spectators. There are several operators in the area, but we went with Flying Kiwi Parasail because they offer the highest parasail in New Zealand with a tow line of 1,200 feet.
- Walking through steaming earth – You would think parents of little ones would veer away from steaming earth and hot bubbling pools? Not us! Thousands of years in the making, Wai-O-Tapu is a stunning geothermal wonderland with colourful volcanic areas such as the world-famous Champagne Pool. Before stepping through the path make sure that kids are properly oriented. No running and be careful when they go through the paths that meander through pools reaching over 100 degrees.
- Sand surfing Lake Wainamu’s black sand dunes – Just 40 minutes west of central Auckland is a hidden gem that just begs to be explored. This is one of the best activities to do for free with kids. Load up the car with a boogie board, an airbed or even just a scrap of cardboard and start enjoying the rolling black sand dunes that sit right beside the lake. The sand here is luxuriously soft and rich in titanomagnetite from the volcanic rocks of Taranaki, which gives it the dark colour.
What family adventures have you tried in New Zealand? We’d love to know. Tell us in the comments below.