These school holidays I took my little monkeys on a short holiday to Napier. My husband had a hectic work schedule so during the day it was just me and the kids. I found travelling with a 5-year-old and 6-year-old so much easier this time. I drove them solo and found that they in fact, have better bladder control than I do! I swear the toilet stops were mostly for me… It took me 5 ½ hours from Wellington which wasn’t too bad really. I didn’t have a very big budget, so you’ll find most of the things we got up to were free! So, here is the list you have been waiting for:
The 10 best things to do in Napier with kids…
1. Junior Bike Track – Marine Parade
The Junior Bike Track is perfect for younger kids to ride around on their scooters and bikes. They can pretend to drive on real roads, with traffic lights and zebra crossings. The little kids don’t take much notice of the road rules though – so on a busy day, there are quite a few near misses! A coffee truck is parked opposite, so you can grab a coffee and sit in the shade (ready to administer the first aid) while the kids have fun.
2. Kids Playground – Marine Parade
This playground is totally fenced and fantastic for kids from 0-12 years. It is awesome if you have pre-schoolers because the littlies are fenced off from the bigger kids and there is sand and water play, swings, tunnels and toddler slides. If your toddler is a runner you don’t have to worry about them running into the sea and if they are good at falling off things – then they should just bounce! My kids loved the climbing walls and monkey bars the most (surprise, surprise!). The public toilets are clean and accessible and easy if you’ve got a buggy.
3. Sunken Gardens – Marine Parade
The gardens are further along marine parade (closer to the i-site and soundshell) but situated just below street level. This gives you a sense that you are away from the urban surrounds, it’s more peaceful and you can enjoy the beautiful flowers and a little bit of shade. It is easy to approach if you have a buggy or wheelchair. I had a rest while the boys paddled about in the water. They found a number of Hawkes Bay Rocks which they hid for others to find!
4. Water Fountains & Walkway – Marine Parade
My boys love playing in the water. One of the highlights for them was enjoying all the water fountains and pools along Marine Parade. They spent hours running in and out of the water jets and playing in the pools. The pools were very shallow, only coming up to their knees (perfect if you have little ones too). There are plenty of benches to sit on and in summer the pohutukawa trees will look beautiful. My 6-year-old particularly enjoyed pressing the buttons to activate the fountains as we walked along.
5. National Aquarium – Napier
You need to have something up your sleeve if it is raining! It’s a cute little aquarium, but it’s embarrassing that it is called the ‘National Aquarium’ by international standards. Despite it having a 50m travelator which allows you to move through an underwater viewing tunnel, the whole place does feel very small. We whizzed around and the kids had seen everything they wanted to see in about an hour and a half! The highlight for my little monkeys were the blue penguins. They were in an enclosure outside and the kids got to get up really close. They also enjoyed watching them dive and viewing them underwater. There is a plan to expand and improve the aquarium with construction planned to start in 2020. It’s worth a visit if you have little kids – but it’s definitely starting to look a little tired. It’s open daily from 9.00am -5.00pm, check out the prices.
6. MTG Hawkes Bay (otherwise known as Napier Museum)
Entry to the museum is free and it’s open every day from 9.30am-5.00pm. The kids loved the exhibition by George Nuku called Bottled Ocean 2118 which is a response to the build-up of plastic in our oceans. It’s free and on until the end of March. The kids were entertained for nearly 2-hours with a treasure hunt and a craft room filled with activities. Check it out.
7. Bluff Hill Lookout – Napier
You’ll need a car for this one! My 6-year-old is fascinated with machines and how things work so I drove to the top of Bluff Hill and we got out of the car to look at the view. It was stunning and we had great visibility right across the bay and down onto Napier Port. The boys loved watching the forklift trucks, logging trucks and trains in action. My 6-year-old loved it, my 5-year-old not so much! I drove the car down the hill to Ahuriri and around the port so that they could see how enormous the trucks and containers were on the ground.
8. Ahuriri Beach – Harding Road – Napier
No kiwi holiday is complete without a visit to the beach. Is it? This is the best beach for young families in Napier. It’s only a 5-minute drive from the city centre and it’s easy to park. It has changing rooms, toilets and outdoor showers. The volcanic sand is grey, but it’s nice to walk on and there are rocks to climb in and pebbles to build things with. The sea gets deep gradually, so there is no steep drop off into the sea or a dumping wave that will wipe your children out (like at Marine Parade Beach which isn’t safe for swimming). The Boardwalk has a great menu and you can get chicken and chips and Ice-Cream at Hot Chick. Next-door to the beach is a kids playground which is great for kids from 0-12 years. There is a shady picnic area and there is plenty of room to kick a ball or throw a frisbee. It’s a short walk to Ahuriri shops from the beach where you can get fish and chips or go to the local dairy. It’s also easy to push a buggy and walk along the boardwalk to the marina.
9. Anderson Park Playground – Greenmeadows, Napier
This playground is definitely the best in Napier for school-aged children and it’s in the suburbs. It has totally been redesigned and was re-opened this year. It has a flying fox, trampolines, climbing walls and ropes, and high slides. It’s great for families with babies and toddlers as there is plenty of water to play in, musical instruments and swings for everyone. It was great to see a twin swing and swing for disabled children too. There are plenty of old oak trees that provide shade, picnic tables and there are new toilet facilities.
10. Funky Farm (State Highway 2, Mangateretere)
Technically this isn’t in Napier. It is a quick drive on SH2 from Napier to Hastings, and well worth the trip. It is reasonably priced and you can take a picnic with you and stay all day if you want! It’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 10.00am – 3.00pm. Check before you go! My boys absolutely loved it, especially as they are city kids and don’t get up close to animals. You can buy maize and hand feed most of the animals while they enjoy having a pat. My kids especially loved the rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, lambs, sheep, cows and alpacas. Funky Farm also has ride-on toys for little ones, and plenty of playhouses to keep them entertained. My boys were a little bit big but still managed to find a tricycle each to ride around on. Find out more.
Of course, there are heaps of other things you can do, but these are our 10 faves. Napier and the Hawkes Bay is a great place for families with kids of all ages. With the hot climate, you’ll spend most of your time outside and have a wonderful holiday.
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