Are you counting down the days until school starts back in February like me? Looking for things to keep your little darlings busy, and to distract them from fighting every single minute of the day? I’m here to help! I’ve come up with a list of the 8 best kids activities in Wellington to do over the school holidays. You’re welcome!
H2O XTREAM, Kids Activities Wellington
Location: Cnr of Blenheim & Brown Streets, Upper Hutt
If your kids are like mine, and love anything to do with water, then swimming at H2O Xtream is a no-brainer. This is one of my favourite activities to do with the kids. H2O Xtream is the place to swim. With facilities that include a toddler pool, three hydro-slides, a wave pool, a Rapid River Ride, and lots of huge inflatable pool toys, there’s something that will appeal to every member of your family, no matter what their age.
The pool rules and safety regulations are easy to follow. All children under 5 years old must have a swimming adult with them at all times. The ratio of adults to children is one to two for under 5s and one to four for 5- to 8-year-olds. When using the Darkness Falls and Ice Blue hydro-slides, children under 8 years old are required to either have an adult with them or waiting at the bottom of the slide chutes. There’s a minimum height restriction of 1.2 metres on the Xtream Speed hydro-slide.
The slides, wave pool and River Ride operate from 2pm on weekdays, and from 11am on weekends, public holidays and during school holidays. Fees are reasonable and there are options to purchase single passes, 10 trip passes and family passes.
After tiring yourselves out with all that swimming, waterplay and kids activities Wellington, you can grab a coffee or sit down for a bite to eat at the H2O Xtream Café, where there’s a good range of food and beverages available including kids’ meals.
STAGLANDS WILDLIFE RESERVE
Location: Akatarawa Road, Akatarawa Valley, Upper Hutt
This is another of my absolute favourite kids activities Wellington. If you and the kids love getting up close and personal with wildlife, then Staglands is a brilliant choice for an exciting day out. There are numerous animals you’ll want to feed as you make your way around the Reserve, so my tip is to buy some animal food at the entrance.
There are so many attractions in this unique environment including the Forest Wetlands, the Toe Toe Aviary, the Old Bush Settlement, the Deer Park and Croft, and there’s even a Secret Garden with lots of very friendly and inquisitive animals that will come to be fed if you are quiet and patient. The Stables house various baby animals and it’s here the kids (and you!) can cuddle guinea pigs and rabbits. A picturesque pool is home to trout and eels, and you can feed them from a special platform – this is a great family activity and something you can’t do at most wildlife reserves. Circumstances permitting, there is even a tractor and trailer ride, which normally runs on weekends, public holidays and during school holidays.
By the time you’ve had a good look around this beautiful reserve, you’ll be ready for a coffee and perhaps something to eat at the café. It’s fully licensed so you can even treat yourself to a well-deserved beer or wine if the fancy takes you!
Entry prices are reasonable and children under 3 years old are free. You’ll easily be able to spend a few hours or more here so it’s definitely worth the money. Tickets are available to buy online and are valid for 3 years. If you love Staglands as much as I do, a Staglander Annual Pass might be worth considering, as you’ll be able to visit as many times as you want throughout the year at no extra cost.
CAPITAL E, Kids Activities Wellington
Location: Queens Wharf, Te Aro, Wellington
If your kids are under 5 years old and enjoy creative activities, Capital E is well worth a visit. I love the aim of Capital E, which is to “ignite and fuel the creative spark in children and young people, equipping them with skills to be confident, capable, creative citizens in a world of possibilities.”
For under five-year-olds, PlayHQ is the place to be! This is a safe and fun environment for kids to explore, discover and create their own masterpieces. Kids can let their minds run wild and free in this creative and interactive space. All activities in PlayHQ are specifically designed for children under 5 years old, and there is always a staff member on hand to assist with any of the activities. Open from Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 3.30pm, admission to PlayHQ is free.
Capital E is part of Experience Wellington, established by Wellington City Council to develop and manage Wellington’s cultural and arts assets. Capital E is home to the National Theatre for Children, which produces creative, immersive and inclusive shows that tours across the country and performs to thousands of children and young people. So, if you enjoy arts kids activities to do with the kids, be sure to snap up tickets for their next performance, or check out the biennial National Arts Festival Schools Programme, which runs biennially.
Location: Salamanca Road, Kelburn, Wellington
If you are looking for educational kids activities Wellington, Space Place at Carter Observatory could be just right for you. At Space Place, you can discover the stories of the New Zealand skies through multimedia exhibits, interactive galleries, the historic Thomas Cooke telescope and the digital, full dome planetarium. Here you can learn all about planets, stars, constellations and galaxies as well as New Zealand’s contribution to astronomy and space sciences.
In the interactive galleries you can explore a do-it-yourself Black Hole, pick up an asteroid, and experience what it feels like to be inside a spaceship. In the planetarium, become mesmerised by a range of different planetarium movies suitable for every age. The majority of planetarium films also have a 15-minute live Night’s Sky presentation to you can get to know the night skies of New Zealand.
Come along on a clear night and you can even enjoy telescope viewings. Roaming the spectacular southern skies, this is stargazing at its absolute finest. Telescope viewings are available on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, starting approximately one hour after sunset, and are obviously dependent on the weather.
Admission prices are very reasonable and children under three-year-olds are free. Friends of Museums Wellington are also free. Note that all children under fourteen years old must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
KĀPITI ISLAND NATURE RESERVE (with Kāpiti Island Eco)
Location: Kāpiti Island (meet at Paraparaumu Beach)
For a day trip to remember, how about spending a spectacular day on predator-free Kāpiti Island? Kāpiti Island Eco promise outdoor fun, family adventures and an escape to nature so, if you are looking to get out in nature for walking and bird spotting kids activities Wellington, this may well interest you.
Kāpiti Island Eco will take you on an exciting 20-minute boat ride from Paraparaumu through the Kāpiti Marine Sanctuary and on to Kāpiti Island, watching out for whales and dolphins on the way. Once on the island, you can walk the tracks, picnic on the beach, swim in the bay and relax in nature.
There are two walking options available. If you are feeling energetic, you can choose to head towards the summit at Rangatira or meander through the stunning loops of the lowland tracks. With most birds found below 250 metres, you can walk and watch the birds at your own pace in this nature reserve sanctuary.
If you are keen to learn more about the natural environment and how to hear and spot the individual birds as you tour the island, you can add a small group, one hour guided walk with an eco-expert guide to your trip. There are also options to add a basic cut lunch, if you’d rather not provide your own, and snorkel hire (with mask and fins) to explore the amazing sea life in the marine reserve.
Prices are reasonable and well worth it for a memorable day out that’s a bit different to the norm. Online booking is available. It’s worth mentioning that gift vouchers are available so perhaps you could drop a hint to those people who like to give the gift of an “experience” rather than something material!
Other companies also offer nature tours and accommodation on Kapiti Island. For example, if you are interested in an overnight Kiwi spotting tour, check out Kapiti Island Nature Tours at www.kapitiisland.com/tours-activities/overnight-kiwi-spotting-tour
ZEALANDIA, Kids Activities Wellington
Location: Waiapu Road, Karori, Wellington
Zealandia is another ecosanctuary, but this time in the heart of Wellington. Named by Time magazine as one of the 100 greatest places in the world, Zealandia must be worth a visit. If you are looking for unique and unforgettable activities to do with the kids, this is the ultimate way to experience New Zealand’s rare and amazing wildlife.
Here you can explore the outdoors at your own pace or be led by a guide. Guides use their knowledge of birdsong, habitats and local flora to track down even the rarest of animals. During the day you can walk amongst rare birds and spot prehistoric reptiles like the tuatara bathing in the sun. You can see how the sanctuary transforms after dark on a guided tour and search for thousands of glow worms and over 150 free roaming kiwis.
Open every day (except Christmas Day), from 8am to 5pm, with last entry at 4pm. Admission prices are quite high and vary according to the type of tour e.g. day tour, twilight tour, night tour, etc. The kid’s night walk is described as a fun and adventurous experience for families with children between 5 and 12 years old. They are available between April and September and seems to be the most reasonably priced tour.
TE PAPA MUSEUM
Location: Cable Street, Te Aro, Wellington
An oldie but a goodie! You can’t beat Te Papa if you are looking for educational kids activities Wellington! Here you can discover (and re-discover) the treasures and unique stories of New Zealand on six floors of fascinating displays. If it’s your first time, or even if it’s not, you can get the most out of your visit by joining a guided tour.
For kids up to twelve years old, head for the Discovery Centres where they can enjoy play time while getting hands-on with educational exhibits, games and books. There’s the Nature exhibition zone with interactive exhibitions about our weird and wonderful wildlife, and the Art Studio, another hands-on family-friendly space where visitors of all ages to get creative with art.
After all that culture, why not enjoy a coffee and a bite to eat in one of the cafes and, of course, round your visit off with a browse around the gift shop.
Open every day (except Christmas Day), from 10am to 6pm. While there is free entry for everyone, charges apply to some short-term exhibitions and activities.
It’s definitely worth checking out the Te Papa website to find out about current exhibitions as well as interesting articles and information about previous exhibitions. There are also some activities you can do at home with the children including an activity book to print out, some videos to watch, and some creative whānau challenges, which are connected to Te Papa collections or expertise.
WELLINGTON ZOO, Kids Activities
Location: Daniell Street, Newtown, Wellington
Wellington Zoo is another old favourite of mine (and the kids!), and what’s not to love about it? Every time we visit, we enjoy seeing our “old” favourites but there’s also always something new to look at too. So, for activities to do with the kids, Wellington Zoo is a MUST DO on my list.
Spread across 13-hectares, Wellington Zoo, which opened in 1906, was New Zealand’s first zoo and describe themselves as a “creative, innovative and progressive zoo”. Nowadays, conservation is key, and Wellington Zoo lead the way in caring for the environment. Their Green Zoo, Green You campaign demonstrates their commitment to being a “Green” zoo and in helping the rest of us to be a little “Greener” too. Having worked really hard to make some big changes to reduce their environmental impact, Wellington Zoo is the world’s first carboNZero certified zoo. How impressive is that?!
There is an estimated total of 500 animals to investigate at Wellington Zoo and you can learn more about them by joining zookeepers for a series of talks held throughout the day in front of various animal enclosures. If you are looking for more of an intimate meeting with the animals, you can sign up for a Close Encounter with a variety of different species, or for a Behind the Scenes experience.
Wellington Zoo is open all year (except Christmas Day), from 9.30am to 5pm. Admission prices are reasonable and children under 3 years old are free. Tickets can be purchased online and are valid for 6 months from the date of purchase. Annual memberships are also available so if you like to visit often, this can be a great money saving option.