Image: Auckland City
As a reasonably new mum, with 2 kids under 5 and a third on the way, you very quickly learn that managing little children on holiday is not that easy and finding activities that suit both a 4yr old and an 18 month simultaneously are worth sharing.
As a passionate Auckland mum, I thought I'd share a quick alternative guide to my home city. The guide that won't be found amongst the traditional tourism rack.
#1 Tip: Hire a car and choose accommodation outside the CBD with free parking.
Auckland is a very spread out city. If you have small kids, it will save you a lot of money and travel angst to hire a car. It also has the advantage of increasing the available activities 10 fold. The next step is to ditch the accommodation in the central city. Not that Auckland CBD is not worth a wander, it's just it's better suited to students and businessmen, not stressed, pram welding parents hoping for a car park.
Great alternative locations to stay include Takapuna, Mt Eden, Greenlane/ Epsom. (Click the links for accommodation options in each of suburbs, which are both close to motorway and central enough to most activities).
Image: Takapuna Beach
5 Great Free Activities with little children
1. Cornwall Park, Epsom
Awesome park with loads of trees and places to play. The playground is one side and the park is on the other. The playground has a flying fox and a little train that you push that kids love. You can then go up One Tree Hill for great views, stopping to look for sheep (that roam the mountain) on the way.
2. North Head, Devonport
Devonport is just a lovely place to visit, but North Head is one of two mountains. It's a favourite with kids as full of old navy war tunnels to explore, plus the views back to Auckland and the harbour are fantastic. Try to bring a torch.
3. Mission Bay
There is the beach, a great kids playground and a large water fountain, plus a string of cafes across the road for a coffee or lunch. If you have more time or need to get a child to sleep you can keep walking around the bays along Tamaki Drive. It's flat and wide and follows the coast.
4. Takapuna Beach & Ice creams
The north shore is very suburban, but Takapuna beach is a favourite with locals and kids. It's a walking beach and good for pushchairs, plus there is a fantastic cafe withe takeaway coffee and ice-creams at the far end. Nice for a sunny day. If the kids are ok with walking over the rocks, you can carry on around the headland a bit, over volcanic rocks, there's a little private beach, which has fresh water ponds and a big stone chair along the way. Not pram friendly.
5. CBD walk through the Viaduct to the Wynyard Quarter Tram and Playground
This is a reasonably new area and still developing. The best way to get the most out of the trip is to start from the ferry building and walk along, through the Viaduct stopping to admire the superyachts, then on to the bridge (really cool if it happens to be going up), follow the path along until you get to the fish markets and the playground. From here there is a tram, which does a loop, but at $10 a person it's extremely expensive for a short tram ride. Alternatively take the red city bus (50c) back into the city to the ferry building again.
From there, if it's a nice day wander through Britomart (the train station) and out the other side. There are some nice shops and restaurants to explore, not particularly child friendly, but my kids love playing on the water fountain in the square that shoots water up at random intervals. Russian roulette with water.
5 Great Paid Activities with little children
1. Butterfly Creek
Out by the airport, this is an odd but fun combination of activities. There is a petting zoo, a kids train ride and a butterfly and crocodile exhibit. Each activity can be bought separately or a single ticket for everything. For older kids there is a high ropes course and a cool mini golf course next door. There is a great playground and a ok cafe in the middle of this. So if you have time between flights, this is also a great place to head to kill an hour or so.
2. Auckland Zoo
Like zoos across the world, the Auckland Zoo has slowly been converting cages into open areas for the animals. It's a zoo like most, but the kids still love it cause it's new and different.
3. Kelly Tarltons
This aquarium was groundbreaking in its day, as you walk underneath the fish, sharks and stingrays. It's a little bit rough around the edges for the price tag, but with the penguin ride and the walking under the sharks, most kids love it. There is a free 'shark' bus to get here from the city.
4. Glenbrook Steam Train or the Whangapora Narrow Gauge Railway or the Rainforest Express
3 very different, but unique train rides for kids. All of them are a long way out and on the far reaches of Auckland. They also operate variable schedules, so check the websites first. Glenbrook is a full on steam train ride, Whangaporoa is a small 5 minute kids train ride and the Rainforest express is a several hour tour, including a twilight ride to see glow worms.
5. Ferry ride Devonport to the CBD
Simple but entertaining. Devonport is a lovely place to visit, nice views, good playground and cafes and if you can leave the kids with your husband, a quick wander of the shops is nice. Auckland is a city based off the harbour, so whilst longer trips might not work, this at least gets you onto the water, although briefly.
6 Great Cafes to visit with little children
Our pick of some of the kid friendly cafes to visit.
1. Windsor Park Cafe (North Shore)
2. Auckland Fish Market, Freemans Bay
3. Rabbit Hole, Jervois Road
4. Frolic, Royal Oak (Cornwall Park)
5. Mecca Stonehouse (Mission Bay)
6. Fernlea Cafe, Coatesville
2 things to do if it's raining in Auckland when you visit
1. Auckland Museum and Winter Gardens
The Auckland Museum has a few kids areas but they are a touch cramped and difficult with a pram. However if it's rainy day, this is good option. Although actually managing to find a park and get into the building without getting soaked is harder.
The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) has a large number of its exhibits in halls, which makes it reasonable to visit when the weather is dicey. Although really aimed at bigger kids, there is enough buttons to press, trains to climb on and trams to ride that my littlies find it exciting.
Inspired to visit Auckland? Visit fossick for independent travel reviews of Auckland accommodation.
Genevieve is the founder of www.fossick.com, a niche travel site for Australia and New Zealand. A mum to two kids, she blogs about travel, customer reviews and the science behind user generated content.