School holidays are a time to embrace or sometimes escape from children. Either way, we have concocted the best winter adventures to experience with your loved ones or in complete solitude.
Kiss the kids
Hot pool paradise
Taupō is home to New Zealand’s only bar and cafe with a hot pool. It is called Lusty’s Lagoon and its water is warmer than what you will find in Rarotonga.
The huge lagoon has a swim-up bar serving cocktails, as well as plenty of options for the little ones. The lagoon also has a cave the kids will love, as well as a colossal cinema that shows evening movies while you soak.
It’s located at the Lake Taupō Holiday Resort, which offers everything from campsites to motel rooms, and you get free access to the hot pools during your stay.
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One of the best free attractions in the country is about to start charging for admission – so go while it still doesn’t cost a dime.
Hamilton Gardens is a bit of a New Zealand version of Alice in Wonderland, with over 20 meticulously organized gardens, along the edge of the Waikato River near the city center.
But it’s much more than an elaborate version of Maggie’s Garden Show. The surreal garden is a fantasy land of huge trees in mechanical motion, while the Italian garden transports you to 16th-century Florence – and all are connected by a maze of alleys.
The plan is to start charging a $ 10 entry fee from 2023. It will be worth it, especially if used to improve the garden – but until then, the best things in life remain free.
Sequoias night lights
If you have children who still believe in fairies, a night excursion to the popular Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua is a must.
The Redwoods Treewalk is a superb series of 28 suspension bridges, entirely suitable for families; there are safety gates on either side, and you can even take strollers.
But the best experience is at night – when the forest turns into a fairy tale lit by lanterns thanks to an elaborate array of lights. The whole forest is silent except for the bridges which creak as people make their way around the catwalk. Best of all, it’s completely different to visit during the day.
The Tree Walk has a special offer where night access is free if you pay for day entry, which saves $ 35.
Children go free promotions
Some of New Zealand’s most iconic trips have “kids free” deals for school vacations. A two-hour cruise around Milford Sound is ideal for children; it’s like a huge adventure playground. They will see peaks rise out of the water and into the clouds, spot seals soaked in the sun and the boat will even pass under a huge waterfall.
Real Journeys offers free offers for children on its Milford and Doubtful Sound cruises.
Children also go these school vacations for free to whale watching in Kaikōura. The coast is home to a resident population of sperm whales, and they are generally easy to find. After leaving the port, an underwater microphone will be used to locate the whales, with a success rate of 95%. Be careful, children can get seasick if they are not used to the open sea.
New Zealand’s steepest slide
Hanmer Springs is one of those must-see places in the winter; there is nothing like warming the soul surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
While the adults are relaxing, children can jump on the slides. Nearly $ 5 million has been spent to give the resort a facelift, with a giant new slide and a series of cascading pools amid the rocks of the river.
The last slide is called the Conical Thrill, which you descend into a tube for two people. The first part of the slide winds around a few bends, but it’s at the end that it gets interesting. Suddenly the slides give way to a steep drop that gives you enough speed to throw a nearly vertical wall.
Escape from children
One of the country’s newest adults-only retreats is perched on a secluded Wellington cliff, with incredible views across the Cook Strait to the South Island.
Pipinui Point is an adults-only two-bedroom hideaway, with a spectacular outdoor tub that can be filled with the push of a button in the living room.
Inside the contemporary minimalist cabin is a roaring log fire to keep the place cozy, alongside chocolate treats, a great sound system, Netflix, and breakfast provisions.
With most international borders closed, Bali is banned in the short term. However, a new secluded West Coast retreat aims to take you to Bali without the need for your passport.
IndoKiwi is an off-grid glamping getaway, with stunning views of the rugged coastline surrounded by Jurassic forest.
Enter the glamping site through a massive Balinese-style gate to reveal a largely landscaped oasis, complemented by a heated cabin where you can fall asleep to the sound of the beating sea. This escape leans towards the intrepid end of the spectrum in winter, with an outhouse shower and toilet; but it’s all part of the experience. There is also an outdoor bath, best enjoyed under a blanket of stars.
Secret place Rotorua
Kiwis love hot tubs, and in Rotorua, some budding entrepreneurs have taken it to the next level. What makes this series of pools, known as the Secret Spot, so special is the big button right next to the tubs. Push it up and the drinks are brought to you in the tub.
It’s a hot tub bar, and there’s nothing better than soaking up with a few friends over a drink.
Hot springs of Maruia
If you need a vacation that involves logging off phones and immersing yourself in nature, head to Maruia Hot Springs, tucked away on the Lewis Pass. At this secluded wellness retreat, you won’t find a cell phone reception, just a series of idyllic mountain hot water pools alongside tranquil accommodation.
The resort also has relaxation rooms and yoga classes as well as a restaurant specializing in hearty and nutritious dishes.
Bay of many coves
Bay of Many Coves is the undisputed gem of the Marlborough Sounds. The five-star retreat is nestled in its own bay and is only accessible by boat, or if your bank balance allows, you can get there by helicopter.
The spacious apartments all have stunning sea views with a “honeymoon style” ambience. There’s a communal pool and hot tub, although when they’re not lounging in their rooms, most people spend their time at the waterfront restaurant and bar.
Taup Lake Holiday Resort ranges from $ 40 a night for camping to $ 690 a night for a six person villa. See: laketauporesort.co.nz
Redwood Trees Walk is $ 35 per adult, $ 20 per child – and gives you free access to the Night Walk (savings of $ 35). See: treewalk.co.nz
Hanmer Sources starting at $ 35 for adults and $ 20 for children, includes admission to the slides. See: hanmersprings.co.nz
Pipinui Point from $ 575. See: pipinuipoint.co.nz
IndoKiwi starting at $ 290 per night. See: canopycamping.co.nz / indo-kiwi
Secret Spot Hot Tubs from $ 35 per person. See: secretspot.nz
Maruia hot springs from $ 65; glamping pods starting at $ 199; hotel from $ 269; day retreats start from $ 69 per adult. See: maruiahotsprings.nz
Bay of many coves starting at $ 900 per night. See: bayofmanycoves.co.nz