There really is no shortage of family-friendly fun in Taranaki.
If you prefer the outdoors, we have endless tracks and trails, suitable for all types of legs (long and short, young and the young-at-heart) and abilities, with fresh-air galore and plenty of interesting things to look at or interact with along the way.
Or if its indoor activities you’re seeking, there are ample attractions to entice you inside and keep you and the family entertained – maybe even a little family challenge is on the cards to see who can get the highest score or solve the puzzle the fastest.
Stretch your legs along the award-winning New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, a promenade that extends along the picture-perfect New Plymouth coastline. Ideal for walking, running, cycling, e-scootering, rollerblading, or skating, the 12.7km sea-edge walkway has many access points along the way. Don’t worry if you’ve not brought your bike; you can hire them from Chaddy’s Charters or Cycle Inn. Count how much public art you see along the way, including Len Lye’s Wind Wand, Mothers and Daughters stone sculpture, and the iconic Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. Keep your camera handy as there are numerous Taranaki Maunga photo ops along the walkway, including the chance to grab a perfectly framed maunga through the centre of Te Rewa Rewa Bridge.
If you’re in the mood for speed and competition, get yourself out to Hillsborough Hideaway to take on the downhill luge course or Bathurst-themed mini putt. There’s also a café on site to satisfy hungry bellies.
On ‘yer bike
If you are visiting with bicycles in tow, or you’ve hired some from around town, other great locations to pedal push are the Bell Block Bike Track, which includes an awesome kids’ road circuit, complete with traffic lights, give way signs, and roundabouts. The Children’s Bike Park in Stratford is another brilliant location for kids to feel the wind in their hair as they zoom around the pump track or past the miniature glockenspiel on the road circuit.
For a more adventurous challenge, take your bikes to Lake Mangamahoe to tackle the mountain bike terrain. Trails include and easy 6km loop, an intermediate 1-hour loop, and an advanced 1.5-hour track.
Explore the wonders of Taranaki Maunga
The picture-perfect ancestral Taranaki Maunga offers nature’s playground for families. Kids will be enchanted by the magical Goblin Forest on the Kamahi Loop Track, and delighted with the crystal-clear waters of Wilkies Pools, a series of natural plunge pools sculpted by lava flow over 20,000 years ago. Take your togs, because you can go for a dip in the pools – but be prepared for your breath to be taken away – the water is straight off the maunga and can be icy. The loop track is a 1 hour 20-minute return trip, departing from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre.
The Dawson Falls waterfall walk is a quick and easy 10-minute walk to an epic lookout with stunning views as reward, or if you’re looking for a harder challenge for the family to tackle, try the 2–3-hour trek to the Pouākai Tarn.
In winter, Taranaki Maunga is also a special place to introduce kids to snow but be sure you’re properly prepared as mountain weather can be unpredictable.
With ample green, wide-open spaces to explore around Taranaki, the whole family will be content. A popular family-friendly leg-stretcher is the 6km loop track that wends itself around the shores of Lake Mangamahoe, equipped with a prime lookout spot that overlooks the lake and the maunga – the perfect place for a holiday family snap.
Pukeiti Gardens is on the lower slopes of northern Taranaki Maunga and boasts phenomenal mountain-to-sea views, and multiple trails to wander along. A real highlight for children is the Kids Treehouse Trail – grab an activity satchel from the Rainforest Centre and follow the instructions.
Don’t let the fun stop there! Sleep above the treetops in the Pīwakakwaka Family Hut. Only a short one-hour walk from the Pukeiti entrance, this extremely accessible hut can sleep 12 people. Booking is essential via the Taranaki Regional Council website.
In the heart of New Plymouth, Pukekura Park is one of New Zealand’s best-loved botanical gardens. With a fernery, fountains, bridges, formal gardens, walking paths, and playgrounds, there’s plenty to explore and discover. A special experience is row-boating on the lake followed by a well-deserved ice cream at the historic Teahouse on the Lake. Also in the grounds, Brooklands Zoo is home to everything from monkeys to meerkats to reptiles, and best of all, admission is free.
Te Popo Gardens is a truly hidden gem that will thrill kids of all ages. Look out for the 40 life-sized exotic animal sculptures scattered around the gardens, as well as the detailed and interactive fairy garden.
Treat the family to the exhilarating wildlife boat tour with Chaddy’s Charters to NZ’s most northern fur seal colony, as well as bike, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard hire and lessons.
Stoney Oaks Wildlife Park is a tranquil family-friendly experience where petting rabbits and grooming a llama are just some of the highlights.
Peak to Peak
Get some perspective and climb Paritutu Rock, part of the Sugar Loaf Islands that extend out to sea beyond the port. At 156m tall, it takes 20 minutes of vigorous climbing to reach the top where you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping panoramic views, including Taranaki Maunga, New Plymouth city, and the Taranaki coastline. Or how about a race to the top of Hāwera’s 55m water tower? There are 215 steps (count them as you climb) but the views from the top are worth the effort. Collect the key to access the water tower from the South Taranaki i-SITE at the tower's base.
There’s no shortage of sunny days in Taranaki – having been announced the sunniest region in New Zealand for 2021. But it’s always a good idea to have a plan B up your sleeve for the days you need to be inside. Indoor options for the whole family include Bowlarama, offering traditional ten-pin bowling, laser tag, arcade games, and an 18-hole black light mini putt course. Escape Masters is ideal for competitive family-fun, where you need to search for hidden clues to solve puzzles and escape the room before time runs out! Or grab your togs and head to either Todd Energy Aquatic Centre for indoor and outdoor pools, a hydro slide and spa pool, located on New Plymouth’s coastline, or Hāwera Aquatic Centre for indoor and outdoor pools, a thermal pool and hydro slide, located in South Taranaki.
Inglewood is only 15 minutes south of New Plymouth and is home to Fun Ho! Toy Museum. Once New Zealand’s biggest toy manufacturer with a staff of over 200, Fun Ho! opened in 1939, and you can still watch toys being made there today.
When it’s time to grab a bite, dine in one of the friendly cafés and restaurants around the maunga, including buffets, American-style dining, vegan cafes, pizzerias and so much more!
Surprise the kids by doing a playground tour of Taranaki as you’ll be spoilt for choice and the kids will have a great time whichever playground you go to.
In New Plymouth, the playground at Brooklands Zoo is a family favourite. Access to Brookands Zoo is free and there is easy parking just outside the gates. After the zoo, wander through Pukekura Park to a large playground where kids can crawl through tunnels, slide down a tubular slide, swing on the swings and so much more. Also staying within Pukekura Park you don’t have far to stroll to the playground at Rogan Street on the way to TSB Stadium.
There are many playgrounds along New Plymouth’s Coastal Walkway, including playgrounds at Ngāmotu Beach, Kawaroa Park, East End Reserve and Fitzroy Seaside Park. Go that little bit further to Bell Block for a ride at the Bike Park and a play in the Hickford Park playground.
Other playgrounds to enjoy around New Plymouth are at Sutherland Park, Wallace Place Reserve and Drake Street Reserve. In addition, Marine Park at Marine Parade in Waitara is right next to the Waitara River and beach so there is plenty to keep the kids busy!
Head out around the maunga and you will find playgrounds by the sea at Ōakura, Ōpunake, and Waverley, and playgrounds among the trees at Hollard Gardens or Victoria Park in Stratford and King Edward Park in Hāwera.
Regardless of where you end up, the kids will be happy and tuckered out after enjoying some of our region’s fabulous playgrounds!
Families will take delight in discovering the stories, history, and culture at our numerous museums. Puke Ariki tells the stories of the Taranaki region using interactive media and hands-on exhibits to explore deeper. Conveniently you’ll find the i-SITE and library at Puke Ariki also.
Head out to Hāwera, where Tawhiti Museum is considered the country’s top privately owned museum. Kids will love to see the past revealed through the Traders & Whalers exhibit. There’s also a bush railway and an impressive underground canal boat ride, inclusive of firing cannons.
For more settler fun, Pioneer Village in Stratford is a lively outdoor heritage museum where kids have the option to complete a ‘scavenger hunt’ for a reward, as well as a looped train ride through the village.
A visit to Taranaki isn’t complete without experiencing the impressive Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre – a museum of contemporary art that’s also home to the Len Lye collection. Kids’ minds will be blown by the works of Lye, the renowned filmmaker and kinetic artist.
Stratford’s Glockenspiel Clock Tower performs excerpts from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm daily. Then head across the road to Percy Thomson Gallery for some family art education and inspiration.