Featured writer: Cindy Tanudjaja
Travelling with kids, especially really young kids, is a challenge in itself. You have to make sure the places you visit are kids-friendly and will fill their little hearts with joy. When they are having fun, kids tend to be less cranky, thus meaning less stress for you.
Pick activities that you can enjoy as a family. Visiting the art gallery may not be a good idea if you have more than two kids age five and above who loves running and touching things. Take them to the beach instead or go to the park and feed the ducks.
There are many places in Auckland you can enjoy with your young kids. Below are a few ideas to help you get started on your itinerary.
Take advantage of the many parks Auckland has to offer
Park is a great place for kids. It’s free. It’s filled with grasses your kids can roll on or run or catch each other or play soccer. Turn it into a picnic and let your kids have their fun while you kick back with a good book. Bring breads or crackers with you as most parks are filled with ducks and pigeons who would love to be fed. Here are two of my favourite parks in Auckland:
This is my favourite park. When you’re in it, it feels like a sanctuary. It has a beautiful lake with wooden chairs and tables around it for summer picnic, a huge lawn area where you can play sports or lounge with a blanket. There are so many ducks and birds to be fed. They love breads. My friends and I used to go here and feed them all the time. It’s fun to see them interact with each other. The bigger birds are not considerate to the little ones, taking all of the food we throw at them. We have to save a few crumbs just for the little birds. Your kids will love it here.
The Auckland Domain is much like a mini version of the New York Central Park, minus the zoo and the park rangers. It measures to 75 hectare and housed numerous century-old trees, picnic spots, duck ponds, and a large playing field which is often use to host games like cricket, rugby, soccer, and near Christmas time, the famous Auckland Christmas in The Park. Take a walk around the garden and enjoy the clean air and the beautiful surrounding. Visit the Wintergardens and let your kids learn a thing or two about glasshouses and take pictures amidst the exotic flowers.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum
This is one of my favourite places to visit. The museum is home to over millions of objects, providing education as well as entertainment to 60,000 school children annually. Learn about the history of Auckland, acquire in-depth knowledge about the Maori culture, and admire the many, unique object and species (including those extinct) on show. Take the kids to the Stevenson Discovery Centre, where they can get up close and personal with all kinds of living creatures. Smell the cockroaches as they buzz and roam around their aquarium, which is purposefully kept dirty. Examine bones and different types of fossils. Admire the museum’s butterfly collection. Touch a real elephant’s tooth. A visit to the museum will entertain both you and your kids for a good half day.
The museum is situated on the highest point of The Auckland Domain, overlooking the city. I’ve never done this, but I’d love to do it someday – to sit on the steps with snacks and drinks and just enjoy the beautiful view in front of me. I think it’ll be a great picnic site. There are also a few statues and old war cannons on the front lawn, which may interest kids.
Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World
This will surely excite the kids. Take a journey down the underwater tunnel and enjoy a view of over 80 different species, including huge sharks and stingrays. Kelly Tarlton’s is also the house of the only colony of New Zealand Antartic penguins. Take a ride through a replica of New Zealand’s voyager Captain Robert Falcon Scott and experience a glimpse of what it was like to live in the Antartic 1oo years ago. The ride will also take you through the penguins living area.
There are live animal exhibits throughout the day. Your child can touch a real stingray and you can try one of the underwater world’s extreme adventures, diving in the shark tank. Also, don’t miss the feeding time. This is the only time where you can see all the fishes together in a spectacular view.
This zoo is not as big as the one in Sydney (or even the one in Indonesia) and clearly is not as nice as Central Park Zoo in New York, but still, Auckland Zoo provides many entertainment and adventure for your young ones. Take note of the daily schedule of animal encounters. Don’t miss it because it’s a great time for the kids to get close and personal with the animals and get some infos about the species. I particularly enjoy the giraffe encounter. The keeper will give you carrots or fruits to feed to the giraffe.
If you have more bucks on you, the Zoom (Behind The Scene) Tour is a great activity. Choose from the many experiences on offer, like the African experience, where you get behind the cages and meet the lions, giraffe, elephants (and many more animals) face to face. It can be quite exhilarating. It only runs during warmer months, though, so if you want to get on the Zoom Tour, schedule your visit during these times only.
Sky Tower is an Auckland’s landmark (if not New Zealand’s) and at 328 metres, the tallest landmark in the Southern hemisphere. Visitors can travel up to one of its three viewing platforms and enjoy breathtaking views for up to 80 kilometres in every direction. It is an excellent photo-taking opportunity. Your kids will enjoy looking down from the glass floors while they walk around the viewing platform. Caution: it’s not for the faint at heart. I’ve stood there many times and still feel anxious about looking down. There are also seating areas around the platform, so you can sit back and enjoy the view with more ease.
Sky Tower is home to Auckland’s only 360-degree revolving restaurant, the Orbit, which offers a relaxed casual dining during the day and a more romantic atmosphere at night. If you like a challenge, try the Sky Walk and walk around the tower’s pergola (just outside the viewing platform), 192 metre above ground. For the more adventurous, the Sky Jump awaits you. It’s like bungee jumping, but you’re not landing head first. It still looks pretty terrifying though.
Mission Bay is famous for its beach and its dining scene, The Promenade. During summer, the beach is filled with families with young kids playing by the beach. There are numerous restaurants to choose from. Most are pricey, though there is a Burger King and a fish and chip place that’s quite nice. If you visit during the warmer months, swim with the kids or take a walk on the beach. A visit during the cooler months is nice as well, but I recommend visiting in the afternoon. Mornings and evenings are very cold and windy.
Pictures copyright Auckland Zoo, Auckland City Government, Mission Bay, Kelly Tarlton’s.
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