Moving to Auckland was a pretty big life event for me. I had left behind some pretty turbulent relationships in Canada and pretty much run away to the other side of the world, with little to no savings to my name. Everything about Auckland, and New Zealand as a whole was a positive experience for me. Even though I didn’t spend much time in Auckland (and I probably enjoyed living in Wellington better), it still represents to me just what doors can open for you when you take a big (and sometimes scary) step to make a positive change in your life.
That was almost six years ago. Since my early morning arrival at Auckland International Airport, I have only returned to Canada once, for a short visit. And now I have my little Jacob in tow when ever I set off on adventures.
I havn’t been back to New Zealand since I left it when my working holiday visa expired. Going back now meant a lot. Auckland was the place where it all started for me, and going back there with my little boy was a wonderful experience. Not only did I get to re live my first experiences of exploring life in New Zealand, but I got to explore it through the eyes of my little Jacob.
If you are like me, and live on the East coast of Australia, then Auckland is a very good candidate for an international weekend getaway. Only a three hour flight from Sydney, Auckland is closer by plane than Perth, and the exchange rate also gives the Aussies a bit of an advantage.
If you are visiting Auckland with little ones in tow, then you will find no shortage of activities to keep them happy and engaged all weekend (and more).
Kelly Tarltons Aquarium
Aquariums are always a hit. It doesn’t matter what age you are – I think almost everyone is fascinated by the under water world which is such a big part of life on earth but which we as humans know hardly anything about. Aquariums are great even with very little children as well. We took Jake to his first aquarium when he was 5 months old and he sat there enthralled with watching the colourful fish for ages. We could have stayed all day!
Kelly Tarltons in Auckland is actually quite unique as far as aquariums go. When you first start your visit, you enter a world which has not a fish tank in site. In fact, the first exhibition is about Robert Scott’s Antarctic expeditions and feature a recreation of his cabin which you can walk through. It’s a good lead up to the first animal exhibit which you will encounter – penguins! Now I have seen penguins at several other aquariums but this was easily the best. There is a large viewing area where you can see penguins both on the ice, and swimming below the water. And let me tell you, those swimming birds were putting on one hell of a show.
Another interesting exhibit is the elephant sharks, which is not actually a shark but more closely related to a ray (which is also related to a shark, but let’s not get caught up here). These weird looking creatures are fairly gentle, but definitely look pretty odd. They only live around New Zealand and parts of the colder oceans around Australia, so this is probably one of your best chances to see one.
Book online in advance to pay $31 per adult in stead of $39.
The Maritime Museum is one of those places that I would never visit if I didn’t have Jacob, but now I seem to end up there at least once a month. We are members at the Sydney Maritime Museum so we decided to check out the one in Auckland. Like the Sydney museum, the Auckland location also runs special kids activities, but we arrived after it had already finished.
The museum is split into a couple sections; the first has traditional boats of the Maori people and from near by Pacific Islands. The second is about European exploration of the area and the eventual immigration of people to New Zealand, and the third is about New Zealand’s racing yachts.
The content of the museum was probably a little advanced for a 3 year old (although he loved the wooden boats in the first section), but attendance at the kids program would probably change that.
Cost of admission is $20 per adult.
I didn’t have time to visit the museum when I had Jacob with me, but I have visited on my own and absolutely love this museum. My favourite are of course the Maori galleries and the Pacific galleries, as I am fascinated by the culture and history of Pacific Island peoples. The museum has a large variety of kids programs and kids gallery trails as well, so make sure to check out their listings to see whats on.
Cost of admission if 25$ per adult – or book through Wotif and get your admission for 10$
Piha Black Sand Beach
Just an hour or so drive from Auckland are two fantastic black sand beaches; Murawai and Piha. Murawai is a surf beach with a nearby lookout and impressive gannet colony. Piha is more sheltered with interesting rock formations. Both are great for families with children, depending on what you are after.
It was a bit of a windy day, and Jacob is still young, so we decided to visit Piha. Piha is more sheltered given the rock formations which surround the cove, and the water is calmer here. Although it was a little too cold for us to go into the water anyway, Jacob had tons of fun playing in the soft black sand.
This is one place we havn’t yet visited. It was raining when we were thinking of going, so it just didn’t happen. But zoo’s are a pretty safe bet when your travelling with kids, so I thought I better mention it at least. The Auckland zoo is home to 138 species of animals, so I’m pretty sure there will be something special to delight both you and your little one.
Cost of admission is $28 per adult.