School holiday breaks for the family

The July school holidays are just around the corner – and Queenstown, Auckland, Wellington, Taupo and Wanaka are the most searched destinations by New Zealanders looking to book trips in July and August according to data released by Booking.com.

But what if you are looking to get off the beaten track and avoid the crowds? Booking.com presents a list of the top family friendly spots to get away from it all and enjoy some quality time as a family these winter holidays.


Head north

The winterless North offers a plethora of wild, unspoiled beaches, big-game fishing and Māori cultural artefacts. Head for the Bay of Islands and get out on a cruise for the chance to spot marine wildlife including dolphins. Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, one of the most historic sites in New Zealand. A day pass to the grounds includes entry to the Museum of Waitangi, colonial house, guided tours, bush walks, and the Waka House, as well as the recently opened Te Rau Aroha, a museum dedicated to the work of the Māori Battalion in the World Wars.

For those looking to get active, kayaking or walking to Haruru Falls is a must-do. Check out the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park for downhill blasts and heaps of features to play around on. Alternatively, take the 85km journey of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail taking you through old railway tunnels and through some stunning rural countryside.

Where to stay

The 19th century Duke of Marlborough hotel in Russell is located on the waterfront, overlooking the stunning Bay of Islands and just 4 minutes’ walk from Russell Museum and the historic Pompallier House. It features a guest lounge, restaurant and bar and garden bar. The rooms feature modern decor with a traditional twist and some offer a private balcony and bay views. Families love the location which has been rated 9.8 on Booking.com for stays with kids!

Go wild in the West

Fly to Hokitika and explore the South Island’s rugged West Coast. To the south are the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, while sunset on Hokitika beach is not to be missed. Beautifully restored Reefton was the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to have a public supply of electricity and is steeped in mining history with replica hut the Bearded Miners well worth a visit. There are a series of beautiful walks in the Victoria Forest Park with short and long options available to cater for all levels. Parents might also wish to check out the Reefton Distilling Co to try locally produced Little Biddy Gin, which is named after a gin-toting cigar smoking four-foot-tall gold prospector who came to the town to make her fortune.

Where to stay

The picturesque Harold House has been restored to ensure the original and historic features shine, while also updated perfectly to offer a comfortable stay for the whole family. The three bedroom villa provides ample room for the whole family, with a full kitchen making meal times an easy affair with the kids after a day of exploring the local area. Famed for its comfy beds and supplied breakfast, this holiday home is popular with families.

Let it snow

With the ski season opening at fields across New Zealand ahead of the July holidays, many kiwis will be making for the snow. Head for St Arnaud in the Tasman District for an off the beaten track alpine adventure. The picturesque village of St Arnaud sits at the edge of Lake Rotoiti and is popular with skiers and trampers.

Nearby Rainbow Ski Area celebrates their 40th winter season this year so why not join them to commemorate the occasion. The wide uncrowded slopes and well groomed trails provide superb terrain for beginners and intermediates while advanced skiers can challenge themselves in the high powder runs and chutes. Snowboarders love the varied terrain, jumps, bumps and drops. A terrain park has been developed, offering more thrills and spills for adventurous boarders and skiers.

Where to stay

Family owned for more than 20 years, the Alpine Lodge is situated at 640 metres above sea level nestled amongst the impressive St Arnaud Range. The scenery is breath-taking and the activities available are unlimited. Boasting an exceptional range of apartments, rooms, and backpacker accommodation, as well as a full bar and restaurant and playground for the kids, Alpine Lodge offers everything you need to settle in for your Winter school holiday escape.

Island hopping

Take the car ferry over to Waiheke Island, a little utopia just 40 minutes from Auckland CBD. The white sand beaches of the island’s northern shores are a hit with children and adults alike year round. The island’s 30+ vineyards are well versed in catering to the needs of younger family members with Wild on Waiheke particularly well set up for smaller patrons with a playground, giant trampoline and games such as chess and petanque. EcoZip Adventures offer a unique way to immerse yourself in nature with flying fox ziplines through the trees and forest walks, and a tour of the historic Stoneybatter Reserve is well worth the drive out to the furthest end of the island.

Where to stay

Nestled high on a ridge above the ocean is Sol Spa Oasis, a two bedroom holiday home located in Surfdale. With views to die for, the outdoor fireplace and spa will ensure you’re able to make the most of the vistas even on particularly chilly days. The property offers private parking, making it easy for getting out to explore everything Waiheke has to offer, knowing you have a home away from home to relax in too.

Stay at the Castle

From edgy urban street art to adorable penguins, Dunedin is a region full of surprises. On the Otago Peninsula, you can spot little blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals and sea lions. You can also visit the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross.

Otago Museum has shared world-class collections for 150 years. With over 1.5 million objects, the museum tells stories of nature, culture, and science. Home to the biggest science centre in New Zealand and the only bicultural science centre in the world, there is a three-story slide, a bike-riding skeleton, and best of all an indoor Tropical Forest where you can walk amongst a thousand rain forest butterflies. 

Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere with gorgeous heritage buildings everywhere you look. Nowadays, these are filled with quirky cafes, boutiques and other attractions that will fill days of exploration. A visit wouldn’t be complete without a trip to New Zealand’s only castle!

Where to stay

Situated within the grounds of the impressive Larnach Castle, Larnach Lodge offers individually decorated rooms with free Wi-Fi and panoramic views of the harbour and the Otago Peninsula. Offering access to shared bathroom facilities, some rooms are located in the historic stables originally built by the Lanarch family. Other rooms feature a private bathroom and are located in the lodge itself.

Accommodation includes entry to Larnach Castle, breakfast the following morning served in the historic stables, and access to the Castle Gardens. Breakfast is served in the historic stables, while guests can reserve a traditional New Zealand style dinner in the castle’s dining room.

Jump across the ditch

Banish those Winter blues with a trip to the Gold Coast, Queensland – the most searched destination for a Winter holiday outside of New Zealand this year. Head to Surfers Paradise, one of Australia’s most iconic holiday destinations and a firm family favourite with its 2km stretch of golden sand and incredible surf.

Surfing is at the top of many bucket lists and is made easy with the hire boards and surf lessons available and beach breaks extending the full length of the beach. Hit the foreshore and enjoy the magnificent 360 views from the SkyPoint Observation Deck, compete for family glory with the ultimate mini-golf challenge at King Tutt’s Putt Puttor shop ‘til you drop at the 90 stores located in the Paradise Centre.

Where to stay

Paradise Resort Gold Coast offers the ultimate family-friendly spot and is located just minutes from the heart of Surfers Paradise. It features a water-park, lagoon pool and spa, kids club, ice-skating rink, and a range of free activities and live entertainment including a magician, trivia night and character shows. The resort is surrounded by lush gardens and is close to the beaches and attractions of Surfers Paradise. And best of all, children under 12 stay for free.