It’s a long way from North America, but New Zealand is an easy place to travel with a baby once you’re there. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s a fabulous destination if you’re keen to change seasons altogether. Kiwis are naturally friendly and helpful, and you’ll fall in love with the diverse and idyllic scenery.
Note: This guide is by no means comprehensive! It is based purely on my own experience. This guide focuses mainly on travel with a baby, and only provides information about the locations we actually visited. There is far more to do in New Zealand, so be sure to visit the link at the bottom for more information.
When to Go
This is a year-round destination, and when you go depends on which season you’re after. Try to go outside the high season (December to February) if you want to avoid summer crowds and higher prices. We went from February 21 to March 21 and experienced beautiful temperatures and a lovely transition to Fall.
Everything here requires driving, whether it’s getting from one town to another or accessing a trailhead. Also, even if places look close on a map, the windy roads add lots of extra driving time. Since flexibility is key when you’re travelling with a baby, I highly recommend you rent a car and book a car seat if you aren’t bringing your own. Motorhomes are extremely popular in New Zealand, but do your research if you’re going that route. Make sure you’ve got somewhere safe and comfortable for the baby to sleep, and also consider where you’ll put a car seat. Often the only safe place for a car seat is in the very rear of the motorhome, so unless you’re willing to ride in the back, you might not have easy access to the baby while you’re in motion.
Where to Stay/What to Eat
You’ll find options of all kinds throughout New Zealand, but most popular amongst families are campgrounds and holiday parks (the two big chains are Top 10 and Kiwi Holiday Parks). Holiday parks offer numerous accommodation styles, from parking for motorhomes and RVs, to tent plots and small cabins. We opted for the small cabins as they cost just a little bit more than a campsite and included bedding, a fridge, kettle, and access to the communal kitchen (unless you book a self-catered cabin, which includes a two-burner stove).
For all meals, you’ll have no problem finding a restaurant, café or well-stocked grocery store that suits your needs. Just be sure to check the map to see if there is food available at to your destination or if you need to get it en route. Breakfast we sometimes ate out as a family, while lunch was often done as a picnic outside or snacks in the car. For dinners we self-catered so that we could save money and be close to the baby when she needed to go down for the night. Be sure to bring a travel high chair (check out this carrier with a built-in chair harness!).
What to Do
New Zealand is known for its world-class, multi-day trekking, but there are plenty of short hikes you can do with your baby. I recommend bringing along a soft-structured baby carrier for hiking. Look for tracks under an hour and a half long, such as Iron Mountain, Haast Pass Lookout, and Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island, and Cathedral Cove on the North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula.
Beaches are fun places to take babies and you’ll find many in New Zealand, particularly on the North Island. Our favourite was Hahei Beach on the Coromandel. It is wonderfully scenic and offers ample shade for keeping the baby out of the sun.
You’ll also find natural hot pools on the North Island, particularly in or near Rotorua. We particularly enjoyed visiting Kerosene Creek. This naturally heated creek has sections that are cool enough for the baby to splash around in (if you head downstream). Otherwise just be sure to test the waters first because they can be quite hot!
Last but not least, there are wonderful grassy parks throughout New Zealand where you can let the baby loose. We particularly enjoyed the waterfront in Wanaka, on the South Island, where we’d take a picnic lunch and enjoy the views.
What to See
There is plenty you can see from the car or roadside, making it easy to sightsee with a baby. Our highlights on the South Island included the Summit Road on the Akaroa Peninsula, viewing Mt. Cook from the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center, the drive from Wanaka to Haast through Mount Aspiring National Park, Jackson Bay and the drive up The Coast Road to Punakaiki. North Island highlights included the artsy city of Wellington, Mt. Taranaki, the Forgotten World Highway, and Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula.
For more information, visit newzealand.com.
I’m more than happy to answer specific questions if you have any. Fire away in the comments below!