New Zealand is full of wonder for its youngest visitors. Whether it’s a stroll through a unique world of bubbling mud and towering geysers or hunting evil trolls lurking in dark underground caves.
How about letting the mind be tricked by some astonishing optical illusions or dive behind the scenes of Wellywood’s movie magic. There’s no shortage for adventures for the little ones.
Go on a troll hunt in a cave in Waitomo!
With its extensive underground caves filled with myriads of glowworms, Waitomo is a magical place. Adults and children alike are fascinated by the dark canopy covered with living lights. But for youngsters seeking thrills, there's the Troll Cave.
Located close to the famous glowworm grottos and the multitude of adventure options for grown ups and older children (including blackwater rafting and caving), there’s one cavern which is the home of something big, ugly and mean - Tom the troll.
“Children help us to look after and manage Tom by going on Troll Patrol,” says Waitomo Adventures director Nick Andreef.
The young adventurers take an elevator down into the purpose built artificial cave to find Tom. “There’s lots of weird stuff down there for the kids - rooms flood, walls collapse and basically anything terrible that a child could imagine happening in a cave,” Andreef explains.
He says that the experience can be a bit scary. “Kids feel the fear but take on the mission anyway and push their own personal boundaries.” Many children find themselves outside their comfort zone, but once they draw on support from their family and friends they accomplish their quest.
The Troll Cave experience is interactive and the guides help to dial the fear factor up or down depending on how the children react.
- $35.00 Adults, $20.00 Kids. Family Pass (up to 2A 3C) $120.00
- Open Weds – Sunday.
Be baffled at Wanaka Puzzling World
The Puzzling World in Wanaka has been messing with people’s heads since 1973. Children love to get lost in the great maze, solve problems in the puzzle centre and enjoy optical illusions that appear to defy gravity, physics and common sense.
The smallest members of the family suddenly seem to be taller than 'dad' when they go into a room which uses a technique featured in The Lord of The Rings to create both tall and tiny people. This Alice in Wonderland type experience is a magical family favourite.
Puzzling World’s countless holograms, puzzles and illusions provide an unforgettable combination of education and entertainment.
“It’s an attraction that promotes teamwork within family and friends,” says Operations manager Duncan Spear. “It’s a movement away from devices and back towards communication in problem solving, strategies and seeking a common goal.”
Even the cafe and the toilets are filled with games and discoveries. In the Illusion Roman Toilets, visitors are told “Don't be shy, take a seat alongside our 'Romans' and snap yourself within the scene - pants on please!”
Bubbling mud and fearsome warriors at Rotorua’s Te Puia
A stroll around Rotorua's Te Whakarewarewa Valley in Te Puia is almost as bewildering as a trip to the moon. Children can watch the world-famous Pōhutu Geyser catapult water 30 metres into the air. A little further along there are bubbling mud pools, steam rising from the ground and the distinctive smell of rotten eggs fills the air.
Te Puia is also the home to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute which houses the national schools of wood carving, weaving and stone and bone carving. Tamariki (children) can watch master carvers and weavers at work, and hear the guides share stories passed down from their ancestors.
In the evening visitors are invited to a feast which begins with a traditional welcoming ceremony (pōwhiri) by fierce warriors followed by a rousing concert, where kids can join the performers on stage to learn the haka (Māori dance) or poi performance, where a ball of flax is swung rhythmically on a string.
The unique combination of geothermal wonders, live kiwi, native bush and Māori art, craft and culture make Te Puia a very special place to visit.
Parents don’t have to worry while the family explores Te Puia. Geothermal areas are sectioned off using wooden barriers and there are plenty of signs giving visitors reminders to stay behind fences.
- There are a range of different experiences starting at $54.00 per adult and $27 for children. Family passes start at $146.
Go behind the scenes in Wellywood’s Weta Cave
Wellington’s Weta Cave is the stuff of big dreams for small kids. Tiny film fans can go on a journey from Middle-earth to Thunderbird’s Tracy Island and beyond. Guests can snap a photo with life-sized statues and find souvenirs to take home. But the movie magic doesn’t end there!
The Weta Workshop studio tour reveals secrets behind the making of much loved films such as The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. The tour allows visitors to get up close to the artistry behind 20 years of Weta creativity, whilst learning about the processes that turn imaginary worlds into reality.
“Weta tours reveal the creativity that lies behind movie magic and are a great opportunity for kids to get dressed up. We quite often see Thunderbirds costumes on our Miniatures Stage Tour,” Weta’s Lauren McCafferty says.
The Thunderbirds tour is an interactive adventure filled with colourful props, miniatures and models, which is a lot of fun for children as young as three years old. Kids and parents can enjoy the rare opportunity of a photo in a purpose-built Thunderbirds Are Go set, made by Weta Workshop exclusively for the tour.
The Weta Cave Workshop tour is a cool opportunity for creative kids of any age (recommended age 6+) to see costumes, creatures, and handle props.
“There is an added photo-op bonus with cave trolls Tom, Bert and William outside, who are no strangers to selfies,” McCafferty says.
- The Weta Cave is free and open daily from 9am to 5.30pm
- The Combo deal includes both the Thunderbirds tour and the Weta Workshop Tour: $45 adult, $20 Child, Family (2 adults + 2 children) $120
- One Tour: Weta Cave Workshop Tour, OR Miniatures Stage Tour: Thunderbirds Are Go: Family (2 adults + 2 children) $72, Adult $28, Child $13
- There are frequent tours throughout the day from 9.30am - 5pm
- Weta Cave is open everyday of the year except Christmas Day.