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TSS Earnslaw

Wondering where the best places are to go on holiday with your grandkids in New Zealand? From jetboating down the Dart River, to riding a vintage tram at MOTAT in Auckland, revisiting farming days gone by in Queenstown, and visiting Weta Workshops in Wellington, this story celebrates the joy of a ‘classic NZ holiday’ with grandchildren. Even better, these activities offer value for money and enjoyment for everyone, not just the kids.

Wine tasting on a four person bike in Martinborough

Haven’t ridden a bike since you were a kid?  No problem. Green Jersey Explorer Tours offer a choice of bikes ranging from retro cruisers and electric bicycles to four seaters or a cycle rickshaw pedalled by a guide. Hire a bike and go as you please along Martinborough’s wide country roads or take a kid-friendly tour around the vineyards. More than 20 family-friendly wineries are within easy cycling distance of Martinborough so you won’t have to go far to enjoy a glass of New Zealand’s best pinot noir or a refreshing cold drink and a snack. Book a farm tour at Martinborough Manor and your grandkids will get to meet the animals and also feed them before you head back to the hotel. 

Green Jersey cycling
Green Jersey Explorer Tours

Jet boating in Queenstown

The Shotover Jet is arguably Queenstown’s most iconic and wildest jetboat. However, if you would prefer a little less excitement, the Wilderness Jet offers a more leisurely ride along the Dart River through the stunning Te Waipounamu World Heritage area. The drivers are still keen to prove jet boats can travel in 10 centimetres of water and there are plenty of squeal-inducing spins but beautiful scenery instead of a rocky canyon wall rushes past everyone on this trip. A stroll through ancient beech forests gives you time to catch your breath before an exhilarating ride back to the jet boat wharf. Return transfers from Queenstown to Glenorchy are included in the trip.

Jetboating on the thrilling Shotover River

Weta Workshop tour in Wellington

You don’t need to be a fan of Middle Earth to enjoy Weta Workshops. If you’ve ever seen a movie and wondered ‘How do they do that?’ the Weta Cave Workshop Tour answers all your questions and more. From how to make realistic looking armour and chain mail (it’s harder than you think) to creating creepy creatures with moving eyes and faces, this entertaining tour is packed with movie magic. There is also a Miniature Effects Tour which celebrates the original Thunderbirds are Go and shows how the recent remake of this classic series was created using monumental miniatures.

Weta Studio Tour
Weta Studio Tour

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Visit a high country farm by ship in Queenstown

The TSS Earnslaw, a historic coal-fired steamship based in Queenstown, was built to serve the remote farming communities around Lake Wakatipu. The ship carried up to 1500 sheep on her wooden decks in the early 1900s when she was known as the ‘Lady of the Lake’. These days she works up to 14 hours a day taking tourists on scenic cruises. Not bad for a ‘Lady’ who is more than 100 years old. If you can tear your eyes away from the scenery, head inside and watch the burly engineers shovelling coal to power the boilers in the engine room. If you book the barbeque lunch cruise with Real Journeys, you’ll enjoy an entertaining farm demonstration and a superb meal overlooking the mountains. Whether you’re travelling with tots or teens, this entertaining half-day tour is a hit. 

TSS Earnslaw at Walter Peak Farm
TSS Earnslaw at Walter Peak Farm

Swoop in Rotorua

Daredevils of any age can experience the Swoop, a 40 metre high swing that sends up to three people flying through the air, provided they’re at least one metre tall. Each rider is suspended in a full body sling which makes this ride less scary than other adventure activities. Anticipation builds during the slow winch to the top, especially if you’re not the one holding the release cord. Swooping is a great choice for adventurous youngsters who don’t meet the height and/or weight requirements for other adrenalin activities. If you want to give your grandkids the ultimate thrill, put them in charge of pulling the rip cord.

Swoop in Rotorua
Swoop in Rotorua

Wellington Cable Car

Wellington Cable Car has been operating for more than 100 years and travels from the CBD to the Wellington Botanic Gardens with views over the harbour and beyond. This trip is best enjoyed when the weather is good so you can make the most of the views and walk back to the CBD via the gardens which are filled with gracious old trees and pretty flower gardens. When you get off the cable car, don’t miss the excellent children’s play area on your left near the hydrangeas, half-way down the walking path which leads back to the city.

Wellington Cable Car
Wellington Cable Car

Ride a vintage tram at MOTAT in Auckland

Auckland’s Museum of Transport, Aviation and Technology – better known as MOTAT – covers 40 acres and is spread across two sites. Highlights include an aviation hall packed with historic aircraft, a fully operational circa 1877 pumphouse, and a retro gaming area where you can introduce your grandchildren to Pacman and Galaga. The Kiwi sense of humour throughout this museum is an added highlight. Entry includes a ride from one site to the other on one of MOTAT’s heritage trams which comes complete with a dapper conductor and stamped souvenir ticket.

Want to travel smarter and save money? Check out our tips for flying a low cost airline, keeping your luggage safe, visiting Europe in peak season, getting a great car hire deal, avoiding travel scams, saving money at the airport, staying at an Airbnb, finding cheap five star hotel deals, catching public transport overseas, staying safe in a big city, getting the best round-the-world airfares, making the most of a five star hotel stay, travelling during low season, visiting a theme park in peak season, packing a carry on bag, visiting a wine region, planning a romantic getaway, early morning flights, visiting the Great Barrier Reef, multigenerational travel, travelling in a motorhome, buying the best souvenirs, going on safari, visiting the Eiffel Tower, travelling with pets, holidaying with adult children, travelling with teens, and sleeping on a plane.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.