Located on the coast of the North Island in New Zealand, Napier is a diverse city that’s popular for family trips. Along with its renowned wine-making and art deco architecture, Napier offers rich attractions for kids and adults of all ages such as farm parks and petting zoos, child-focused museums, water parks, quiet beaches and beautiful natural areas to explore. From petting and feeding alpacas and goats to hiking to waterfalls and learning about life in the past through interactive exhibits, you’ll have endless opportunities for a memorable family trip with the top 14 things to do in Napier for families with children.
1. Explore the underwater world at the National Aquarium of New Zealand
Fun for all ages, the National Aquarium of New Zealand is a hub of vibrant sea life in a walk-through environment. When you visit, you can see sharks, stingrays, tropical reefs, octopuses and other marine life living in a naturalistic habitat. Along with the underwater exhibits, the aquarium also features exhibits highlighting some of New Zealand’s native wildlife, such as the tuatara reptile and the little blue penguin. The Penguin Enclosure offers opportunities to hand feed the penguins and learn more about them.
2. See the views from Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers is a dramatic headland on Hawke’s Bay that offers some of the most beautiful views on the North Island. You can drive to the cape until the road stops and hike the coast to see ships, whales and other sea life frolicking in the water. The cape is also popular for birding and is recognized as an Important Bird Area due to its native colony of breeding Australasian gannets.
3. Learn about Maori heritage at Otatara Pa
Otatara Pa is a treasured archaeological site in New Zealand. The 40-hectare Maori fortified village was once home to the Maori chief Turauwha and now stands as a historic preserve. Everything in the pa has been carefully excavated and maintained, so you can see remnants of dwellings and food pits. After learning about Maori culture, you can climb the hill to the top to take in the panoramic views of Cape Kidnappers and Napier.
4. Find adventure at Te Mata Peak
Te Mata Peak is a towering summit that rises 339 metres above the countryside in Havelock North. The summit is one of the top spots for sweeping views of the area and the tranquil countryside. In addition to seeing the views from the top, you can explore the native forest of gum trees, redwood and eucalyptus by hiking or biking. If you have young children or prefer not to walk, the road leads to the summit and you’ll find several viewing areas along the way. If you prefer more adventure, you can hang glide from the summit for a truly unique way to experience the scenery.
5. Enjoy a relaxing day at Napier Botanical Gardens
Dating back as early as the town, the Napier Botanical Gardens is an expansive garden space that’s perfect for a family day out. You can walk along paths through clusters of century-old trees and alongside ponds and waterfalls. The garden also has a duck pond and a budgerigar aviary to see local birdlife. Before you leave, take the old Military Track that passes a historic cemetery to see historic sites and take in the views of the gardens.
6. Teach kids about history and more at the Hawke’s Bay Museum of Technology
Located in the Faraday Centre, the Hawke’s Bay Museum of Technology is a fascinating museum that offers fun and learning for all ages. Unlike other museums that focus on static displays with artefacts and photographs, the Hawke’s Bay Museum of Technology focuses on teaching children through experiences such as touching things, pulling levers and operating antique equipment. You’ll find a range of exhibits at the museum, from engines and motors to communications equipment and home appliances. Through experiential learning, kids can see how things operate and imagine what it was like to live in the past.
7. Park-hop on Marine Parade
Located along the waterfront, Marine Parade is a long promenade that has an array of family-friendly features. You’ll find a children’s playground with slides, tunnels, swings and splash areas for both toddlers and big kids. The Sunken Gardens are also located on Marine Parade and offer stroller-friendly walkways among the garden displays and shallow water features that kids can wade in. You’ll also find a mini-golf course and a junior bike track if you want to see the area by bike.
8. Pet adorable farm animals at Funky Farm
Animal attractions are fun for all ages, and Napier has one of the best around. Funky Farm is a petting zoo that’s geared toward toddlers and young children, but anyone can join in the fun. You’ll have a chance to hold, pet and feed a variety of animals, including alpacas, goats, guinea pigs, emu, deer, mini cows, chickens, lizards and ponies. The farm has numerous attractions and amenities as well, such as a children’s playground with swings, kids’ cars and a trampoline, grill areas, snacks and refreshments, changing areas and an off-road car park.
9. Cool off at Splash Planet
If you want to give the kids a day that’s all about them, Splash Planet is one of the best Napier kids’ activities. The amusement and water park has an abundance of fun water slides and speed slides for older kids, as well as splash areas for toddlers and young children. Kids of all ages can have fun thanks to amusements like go-karts, a lazy river, bumper boats, a mini-train ride, mini-golf, kayaking and more. Young children will also enjoy Tiny Town, a miniature town play area that’s designed for little ones.
10. Sample sweet treats at Silky Oak Chocolates
One of the top things to do in Napier for families is a tour and tasting at Silky Oak Chocolates. You can visit Silky Oak Chocolates to take a tour of the chocolate factory and see how chocolates and other sweet treats are made, followed by tastings of some of the best products. You’ll also see the chocolate museum, which covers 3,000 years of chocolate history through illustrated texts, chocolate paraphernalia and a scale tableau. One of the highlights is a millennia-old Maya chocolate pot. After the tour, try some of the drinks in the cafe, such as the Extreme Chocolate drink.
11. Build sandcastles with the kids at Ahuriri Beach
Ahuriri Beach is a wonderful beach for families that offers calm, safe swimming and soft sand. The wide beach has plenty of space to sunbathe, play volleyball and build sandcastles. You’ll also find the Spriggs Park Playground nearby for kids to enjoy some playtime on slides and swings. Another fun activity is walking along the boardwalk to reach the rock pools near Spriggs Park that reveal fascinating marine life for kids to see at low tide.
12. Hike to waterfalls at Tangoio Falls Scenic Reserve
Tangoio Falls Scenic Reserve is a must-visit destination on a family trip to Napier. The reserve has 2 family-friendly tracks near waterfalls. The Te Ana Falls have a shorter track, while the Tangoio Falls have a longer track with an area for kids to splash around at the waterfall’s base. If you want a little more adventure, the Tangoio Walkway is the ideal choice for families with older kids and travels through more rugged terrain with hills, streams and wildlife.
13. Learn about honey harvesting at Arataki Honey Visitor Centre
The Arataki Honey Visitor Centre is a child-friendly food-tasting experience that’s focused entirely on honeybees and honey. The centre has displays and demonstrations to learn about honeybees, their role in the ecosystem and how they pollinate and produce honey. Children can see the bees through observation hives and taste different types of honey for an appreciation of the environment and our food cycles.
14. Get up close to animals at the Hawkes Bay Farmyard Zoo
The Hawkes Bay Farmyard Zoo offers up-close encounters with animals and an educational opportunity for kids and adults alike. The zoo is home to a variety of livestock including sheep, pigs, ostriches and alpacas, as well as peacocks and turtles. During spring, the zoo has many baby animals that are born, and you can attend feedings of lambs, baby pigs and bunnies. Other attractions include mini-train rides and pony rides. After spending time with the animals, you can have a picnic in the shaded picnic areas at the zoo and let the kids play at the playground.