The Best Kid-Friendly Bush Walks around New Zealand

Do your kids need to burn off some energy and get a dose of nature and fresh air at the same time? Get the inside knowledge! We've teamed up with our panel of expert outdoor mama's around NZ to bring you the BEST kid-friendly bushwalks from all over Aotearoa! 

From short simple walks for littlies through to some more adventurous ones for the big kids. Including personal recommendations and reviews from kiwi mums!

Have we missed one that you love? Email us at hello@therm.co.nz, we would love to add it to the list!

Meet our Expert Mamas

Auckland Local: Michelle from Outdoorsy NZ 

"I’m a kiwi mum to two energetic little boys, and I understand how easy it can be to put self-care on the back burner, especially after having kids. Outdoorsy NZ started as a blog, blossomed into a rapidly growing online community, then took on an identity of its own as we created events and connected people outdoors ‘in real life’. This is my passion! I love helping people get outdoors more, and to see them recalibrate as a result." 

Discover more at www.outdoorsy.co.nz

Canterbury Local: Jen from Backyard Travel Family

Jennifer is based in Canterbury and is passionate about helping other families enjoying the outdoors and being active.  She created Backyard Travel Family, a resource for other families exploring New Zealand, after becoming frustrated about not having enough information about the suitability of tracks and adventures, specific to kids.

You can find out more about kid friendly adventures on her website Backyard Travel Family

Waikato Local: Ceana Priest from Outdoor Kid

 

Ceana Priest from Outdoor Kid is a Hamilton mum and former journalist who has written guidebooks covering kid-friendly walks throughout the Waikato and Auckland. Discover more on her website www.outdoorkid.co.nz

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Northland

Haruru Falls Track

Recommended by Michelle from Outdoorsy NZ www.outdoorsy.co.nz

Haruru

Location: Bay of Islands
Nearest Town: Paihia
Time Needed: 2.5 hours one way (or just go as far as you like then turn back)
Difficulty: Easy

This track runs from the scenic Haruru Falls through regenerating bush to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Haruru means ‘big noise’ in Te Reo Maori, and the crashing water certainly lives up to its name! It pays to go after a big rainfall to see these falls at their thundering best. Keep an eye out for tui and kereru along the trail.

Matapouri Coastal Track

Recommended by Michelle from Outdoorsy NZ www.outdoorsy.co.nz

Matapouri

Location: Tutukaka Coast
Nearest Town: Whangarei
Time Needed: From 1 hour to all day
Difficulty: Moderate

This stunning coastal track runs between the northern end of Matapouri beach, and the Whale Bay carpark on Matapouri Rd. There are a few sets of stairs, and some high cliff drop offs, so keep the kids close and don’t let them run on too far ahead. The views are spectacular, with the Poor Knights Islands just offshore. Take the 15 minute detour down to Whale Bay and enjoy a picnic under the Pohutukawa trees on a pristine white sand beach. 

Smuggler’s Bay/Busby Head Loop

Recommended by Michelle from Outdoorsy NZ www.outdoorsy.co.nz

Smuggler's Bay

Location: Whangarei Heads
Nearest Town: Whangarei
Time Needed: From 30 minutes to all day
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

This is a track the whole family will love, from the green growing roof on the eco-toilets at the Urquhart’s Bay carpark, to the historic gun emplacements, and of course, the glorious beach. From the carpark, you can take the quick option of veering left after the gate for a quick 15 minute walk to the beach, or else head right and experience the full loop (approx. 1.5 hours with kids). There is a Kiwi Guardians post to find along the way!

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Auckland

Karamatura Falls Loop

Recommended by Michelle from Outdoorsy NZ www.outdoorsy.co.nz

Karamatua

Location: Karamatura, Huia
Nearest Town: Auckland
Time Needed: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy

This newly re-opened trail is a well graded loop up to a pretty waterfall, so you can explore it in any weather! There are some steps, so it is not buggy friendly, but the views across the valley to ancient towering kahikatea and rimu trees is truly impressive. Enjoy the lush nikau and punga, and look out for the volcanic rock ‘grotto’ by the boardwalk near the top!

Kitekite Falls

Recommended by Michelle from Outdoorsy NZ www.outdoorsy.co.nz

Kitekite

Location: Glen Esk Rd, Piha
Nearest Town: Auckland
Time Needed: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy

This track has recently been upgraded, and makes for a lovely half day of family fun. Wend your way up the lush green track alongside a little river, until you get to the magnificent falls. It’s fun to splash, rock-hop and play in the pool at the bottom. You can then continue on up to the top of the falls, but keep the kids within reach as there are some steep drop offs! Another pool at the top gives lovely views across the valley.

Rangitoto Island Adventure

Recommended by Michelle from Outdoorsy NZ www.outdoorsy.co.nz

Rangitoto

Location: Hauraki Gulf
Nearest Town: Auckland
Time Needed: Full day trip
Difficulty: Fairly Easy

Take the Fuller’s ferry from downtown Auckland and have a volcanic adventure on Rangitoto island. The rocky trail to the summit ascends gently from the wharf, and will take about an hour each way with kids. Take a picnic to devour at the top, with 360 views spreading out around you. Marvel at the shadowy crater, and be sure to take the detour to the lava caves on the way back down (you will need a torch!) Take plenty of water as the black rocks get very hot on sunny days.

Shakespeare Regional Park

Shakespeare

Location: North Island NZ
Nearest Town: Whangaparaoa
Nearest City: Auckland city
Time Needed: 1 Hour 30 Minutes to all Day
Difficulty: Very Easy

40 minutes from Auckland City, Shakespeare Regional Park is a sanctuary with magnificent views of the Hauraki Gulf on a clear day you can just make out Auckland City. Shakespeare Regional Park is working farm, so will have the opportunity to walk around the sheep and cattle. The native birds you might see are the White-faced herons, stilts, dotterels, tui and our native pigeons.

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Waikato

Port Waikato Sand Dunes

Recommended by Ceana at Outdoor Kid www.outdoorkid.co.nz

Location: North Island NZ
Nearest Town: Tuakau
Nearest City: Auckland
Time Needed: From 10 minutes to a few hours
Difficulty: Easy

Are the kids looking for vast dunes to clamber up and roll down before heading home exhausted with sand between their toes? Don’t miss exploring these towering black dunes just one hour from Auckland. Choose from acres of rolling dunes beside the Waikato River before it exits into the wild Tasman Sea.  A great place to start your adventure is from Maraetai Bay Reserve before reaching Port Waikato; keep an eye out for the sign on your right. There are picnic spots galore near the car park, or grab a blanket and head into the dunes.

Yarndley’s Bush

Recommended by Ceana at Outdoor Kid www.outdoorkid.co.nz

Location: North Island NZ
Nearest Town: Te Awamutu
Nearest City: Hamilton
Time Needed: Allow 30 to 45 minutes to complete the loop
Difficulty: Easy

Step back in time to when vast swamps covered the region and flying dinosaurs swooped down to nibble on the fleshy seeds of kahikatea trees during the Jurassic period. Let the kids race along the boardwalk beneath towering kahikatea trees – some more than 35 metres tall. Approximately halfway along the loop, a viewing platform pokes through the treetops. Clamber up the stairs for a bird’s-eye view of the ancient trees – the swaying trees are mesmerising on windy days. The small seating area allows younger kids a chance to relax and soak up the views. This walk is suitable for dogs and buggies, although you may need to negotiate a tight entrance gate.

Arapuni Suspension Bridge

Recommended by Ceana at Outdoor Kid www.outdoorkid.co.nz

Location: North Island NZ
Nearest Town: Arapuni
Nearest City: Hamilton
Time Needed: Allow 30 minutes for the loop
Difficulty: Easy

This short loop highlights the small hydro township of Arapuni and its mammoth suspension bridge dangling over a dramatic gorge. The wobbly bridge is perfect for kids to peer down at a working hydroelectric dam, although the height may test out everyone’s nerves! If you look downstream, you can see exposed volcanic cliffs on the right. At the end of the bridge, turn right, then there’s a short road section on the quiet Powerhouse Road before you connect with the trail on your right – all well signposted - to pass under towering pines en route to the Village where there’s also a café. This walk is suitable for bikes, dogs and buggies.

Wairēinga | Bridal Veil Falls

Recommended by Ceana at Outdoor Kid www.outdoorkid.co.nz

Location: North Island NZ
Nearest Town: Raglan
Nearest City: Hamilton
Time Needed: Allow 60 minutes return
Difficulty: Easy  

Surrounded by lush farmland, this island forest has an idyllic waterfall in its midst – and is home to mystical fairies! There’s a leisurely stroll beside mature nīkau trees and the meandering Pakoka River to the top of the falls from the car park. But don’t just loiter at the top two viewing platforms. Make the trek down because the view from the bottom of the falls is worth it. Be prepared for the steps! 135 steps to the midway point and 261 in total to the bottom. Along the way, look out for pīwakawaka/fantails and take a breather at the midway viewing platform. Māori legends say patupaiarehe/Māori fairies are kaitiaki/guardians of the surrounding landscape. Allow 10 minutes one-way to the buggy-accessible upper viewing platforms and 20 minutes to the bottom of the stairs. No dogs or bikes allowed.

Wairere Falls Lower Lookout

Recommended by Ceana at Outdoor Kid www.outdoorkid.co.nz

Location: North Island NZ
Nearest Town: Matamata / Te Aroha
Nearest City: Hamilton
Time Needed: Allow 80 minutes return
Difficulty: Medium

Walk past mammoth moss-covered boulders tossed down an ancient river and clamber up steep stairways into gorges where you wander through groves of nīkau and pūriri. This walk is not for the faint-hearted; it can be slippery on the rocks, steps, and exposed roots, so allow extra time for kids and enjoy a few snack breaks on the way up. It’s worth it. The trail climbs steadily from the car park to the tiered waterfall that drops 153 metres off a steep escarpment formed by the Okauia fault line. Along the way, there are bridges over water holes that would be perfect for exploring in summer. Only suitable for walking and no dogs are allowed.

Aratiatia Dam

Aratiatia Dam

Location: Central North Island, Taupo
Nearest City: Taupo
Length of Walk: 1.20kms
Time Needed: 55 minutes
Difficulty: Very Easy

Aratiatia Power Station was the first hydroelectric power station on the Waikato River it was built in the 1960. From the Aratiatia dam the Waikato River drops 28 metres over one kilometre and is a sight to see when the spillway gates are opened four time a day during summer from, 1000h,1200h,1400h1600h. The Aratiatia Rapids were also featured in Peter Jackson’s latest movie The Hobbit where Bilbo Baggins rescues the dwarfs from elves by hiding them in barrels which float down river. 

http://www.freewalks.nz/taupo-walking-tracks/aratiatia-dam

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Bay of Plenty

Glow Worms Night Walk - Katikati

Glow Worms

Location: North Island NZ
Nearest City: Tauranga
Length of Walk: 0.50kms
Time Needed: 1Hour
Difficulty: Very Easy

Hot spring Road is just a 30 minute drive north of Tauranga. followed by another 10 minutes to the Tauhu carpark. The first lot of glow worms are just 10 minutes into the walk. But the best patches of glow worms are just past the turnoff to the Tuahu kauri tree, about another 15 minute walk with out the kids.

Karangahake Gorge, Window Walk

Karangahake

Location: North Island NZ
Nearest Town: Waihi
Nearest City: Tauranga BOP
Length of Walk: 2.00kms
Time Needed: 1 Hour
Difficulty: Easy

Walking through Karangahake George is an explorer’s delight. Where ever you look will you can see the remains of all the train tracks that carried the quarts out to the old noisy batteries. Steam boilers, no longer producing steam but rust. Tunnels dug deep in to mount Karangahake. With pick shovel and dynamite.

Mt Maunganui Base Walk

Mt Maunganui

Location: Mt Maunganui North Island
Nearest Town: Mt Maunganui
Nearest City: Tauranga
Length of Walk: 3.50kms
Time Needed: 40 Minutes
Difficulty: Very Easy

This is the easiest walk at the Mount. A gentle walk on a light gravel surface. After a leisurely walk around the Mt call in at one of the many cafes to top up the energy with a coffee and cake. Or on a cool day, warm up with a swim in the hot pools.

http://www.freewalks.nz/tauranga-tramping/mt-maunganui-base-track

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Wellington

Sinclair Heads Seal Colony Walk

Sinclair Heads

Location: Southern end of the North Island - Wellington
Nearest Town: Wellington (8.8 Ks)
Nearest City: Wellington (8.8 Ks)
Length of Walk: 3.70kms
Time Needed: 50 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Fur Seals and lovely ocean views.

http://www.freewalks.nz/wellington-walks/sinclair-heads-seal-colony-walk

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South Island

Pelorus Bridge Walk

Pelorus Bridge

Location: Marlborough
Nearest Town: Nelson 55k
Nearest City: Blenheim 51k
Length of Walk: 0.50kms
Time Needed: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Very Easy

http://www.freewalks.nz/nelson-tramping-walks/pelorus-bridge-walk

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Canterbury

Hooker Valley Track, Mt Cook

Recommended by Jen at Backyard Travel Family  

Location: Mt Cook, South Island
Nearest Town: Mt Cook Village (tiny) / Twizel (closest small town)
Nearest City: Queenstown
Length of Walk: 10kms
Time Needed: 3-4 hours walking plus stops
Difficulty: Easy

The Hooker Valley Track in Mt Cook National Park is easily the most stunning, yet easy walk for families.  It is 10kms return, which can be lengthy for young kids, but the track is flat and there are lots of fun things to do along the way.

 It is the perfect introduction to longer family walks with the kids and its a whole lot of fun.  Highlights include 3 epic swing bridges (big ones), sighting kea, views of Aoraki Mt Cook, deep blue glacier sightings on the mountain range and the Hooker Lake at your destination.  In winter, this track may have snow, and the lake may be frozen, which makes for a fun adventure.  Do be aware as this is alpine country, that layers and jackets are particularly important.

Washpen Falls, Canterbury

Recommended by Jen from Backyard Travel Family 

Location: Canterbury, South Island
Nearest Town: Methven
Nearest City: Christchurch
Time Needed: About 2 hours 
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate 

The Washpen Falls track is a privately owned trail, so there is a small charge to enter.  But it is well worth it. (and even includes walking poles to borrow)  This 2 hour track is a loop trail, climbing through the forest to a vast viewpoint over the Canterbury Plains, then down through the bush to Washpen Falls, following the stream back to the start.  There are some great swimming holes for the summer, even a row boat on the little lake and plenty of picnic spots.  It is very well maintained by the owners and is such an interesting track (complete with map)

This Canterbury walk is not difficult, but there is a decent uphill climb near the beginning.  A great introductory walk for kids who are learning to hike and you want to keep interested and on their feet. A good forest trail, which may be a bit muddy after rain - but that's part of the fun.

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West Coast

Punakaiki (Pancake) Rocks Walk

Punakaiki

Location: South Island
Nearest City: Westport
Length of Walk: 0.40kms
Time Needed: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy

Punakaiki pancake Rocks and just down the road is the Punakaiki Caves. The blowholes are fantastic if the wind is blowing in from the sea at Gail force 10. Best seen at high tide.

http://www.freewalks.nz/west-coast-walks/punakaiki-pancake-rocks-walk

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Otago

St Bathans Gold Mining Village

St Bathans

Location: South Island NZ
Nearest City: Dunedin
Length of Walk: 2.00kms
Time Needed: 3Hours
Difficulty: Very Easy

Gold was discovered in St Bathans in 1860s. Walk around the historic town then drive down to the blue Lake and take a look at the old gold miners working which is now a great lake for swimming and boating. The whole St Bathans town is a registered historic place.

http://www.freewalks.nz/central-otago/st-bathans-gold-mining-village