Plan out your next family getaway – there are so many amazing things to do in Napier with kids!
Located on the eastern side of New Zealand’s North Island, the Hawke’s Bay is a beautiful part of the country.
Perhaps the best-known city in the region, Napier is an art-deco-lover’s dream. This city was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1931. As a result, the city now features countless art deco landmarks, attracting a variety of visitors.
What though is there to attract a family to this seaside city?
Surprisingly, there are a number of fantastic things to do in Napier with kids!
Join us as we share 12 of the best family-friendly attractions in this beautiful city.
From freebies to world-class attractions, we suggest you use this guide to plan your whānau’s next visit to the Hawke’s Bay.
COVID-19 has come with its fair share of challenges for New Zealand businesses. Though we do our best to share accurate information, this can change quickly as some businesses make the decision to operate under reduced hours or hibernate. We suggest you double-check they are open before finalising your plans.
The Best Things to Do in Napier with Kids
Free Things to do in Napier with Kids
1. Let Your Kids Loose on the Pump Track
If your family has access to scooters or bikes, head along to the Napier Pump Track.
At 500 metres long, this is one of the largest pump tracks in New Zealand! You’ll find it along Marine Parade – about a kilometre further along than the National Aquarium (heading south).
A pump track is a circuit of rollers, banked turns and features designed to be ridden completely by riders “pumping”—generating momentum by up and down body movements, instead of pedaling or pushing.Wikipedia
2. Enjoy Marine Parade
Marine Parade is the scenic 3km stretch of coastline that connects Napier with the Pacific Ocean.
It includes a seaside path running the length of Marine Parade (and extending further north and south) which is perfect for families to walk/cycle/scooter on.
Did you know? Marine Parade connects up a number of the activities mentioned in this article – the pump track, aquarium, playgrounds, skate park, junior bike track and mini-golf.
3. Let Off Some Steam at the Marine Parade Playground
Built in 2002, this extensive playground is divided into a number of different zones. Each of these spaces is appropriate for children of different ages (and this is clearly marked as you enter).
Each part of the playground is fully fenced, so parents can sit back and relax, knowing that their little ones are safe within the complex. In addition, shade sails provide year-round protection from the elements.
With incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and out to Cape Kidnappers, this is the best outlook of any playground in the Hawke’s Bay.
4. Make Use of the Junior Bike Track
If your kids have their bikes and scooters with them, we recommend swinging past the junior bike track on Marine Parade.
This popular bike track is a mini-replica of a genuine roading system. It even comes complete with a roundabout, traffic lights and road signs.
Designed for children up to 10 years of age, it provides a safe place to develop road-safe cycle skills.
Did you know? There’s a permanent coffee cart on-site and an ice cream shop nearby. With lots of shade and seating, this is a great place for parents to relax whilst the kids practise their cycle safety skills.
Fun (Paid) Activities for Kids
5. Check Out the National Aquarium of New Zealand
Located on Marine Parade, the National Aquarium hosts a range of native and exotic sealife.
Visit Penguin Cove and watch the famous little penguins (from the Good and Naughty Penguin of the Month social media fame) feed and play. Each of these little guys was rescued and given a safe new home in the aquarium. They’re a real highlight of any visit!
You’ll also see sharks, stingrays and fish swimming over you in the 1.5 million litre oceanarium tunnel and have the chance to spot New Zealand’s native wildlife – including tuatara, kiwi and eels.
Discover an exciting world both above and below the water at the National Aquarium of New Zealand.
Pro Tip: Try to time your visit to coincide with daily feeding times. 10.00 am for the reef fish, 2 pm for the sharks and the little penguins at 9.30 am, 1.30 pm and 3.30 pm.
6. Take a Step Back in Time at the Faraday Centre
Centrally located in Napier, the Faraday Centre is Hawke’s Bay’s Museum of Technology.
It’s a place of discovery where history comes alive through hands-on experience. Rather than reading and looking at pieces of history, they encourage visitors to touch and hold items, pull levers and truly discover how things would’ve been in days gone by.
The Faraday Centre is an amazing place to experience the evolution of technology in a hands-on, meaningful way.
With interactive displays and surprising exhibits, this is one museum that’s sure to hook the kids!
7. Lock Yourselves up at the Napier Prison
If you’re looking for a unique family-friendly experience in Napier, head along to the old prison.
The Napier Prison was the oldest penal complex in Aotearoa, having opened in 1862. It was eventually shut in 1993, but affordable self-guided tours (using a map and audio device) are now available through the facility.
Best of all, there’s a ‘prison kids tour’ option that can be enjoyed by younger family members (all of the fun – none of the gore). More mature family members can also listen to the normal guided tour at the same time.
Throughout the experience you’ll learn unforgettable stories and be transported back in time. Walk through undulating corridors (which managed to survive the massive earthquake of 1931), get dressed up in prison gear, have a mugshot snapped, take your fingerprints and much more.
This informative tour is fun for everyone.
8. Visit Bay Skate
Bay Skate is the ultimate skate park! Conveniently located on Marine Parade, this world-class, multi-use skate park is serious fun.
Best of all, it’s also incredibly affordable and offers a range of rental gear – so even if you’ve come from out of town and are without your equipment, your kids can get involved.
Whether your children skateboard, scooter, ride BMX, rollerblade or play inline hockey, they’ll find something to get their wheels spinning here.
Pro tip: Parents, you can enjoy an ice cream or coffee from the on-site cafes or can sit and watch from tiered seating.
9. Play a Round of Mini Golf
Again, located on Marine Parade, Par2 MiniGolf is an affordable thing to do in Napier with kids.
This classic mini golf course includes 18 holes and a special for people wanting to play a second round.
Check it out whilst you’re in town.
10. Warm Up at the Ocean Spa Complex
The Ocean Spa is Napier’s premier hot pool complex.
It has a range of pools, allowing adults to unwind whilst the kids burn off some energy.
The pools are part of an open-air complex and feature heated, chlorinated water, allowing visitors to enjoy facilities year-round.
For peace of mind too, you’ll feel confident knowing they have qualified lifeguards on patrol at all times.
Family-Friendly Activities Near Napier
Located in the Hawke’s Bay, Napier is incredibly close to both Havelock North and Hawke’s Bay. As both are such an easy drive, we recommend checking out these additional activities whilst you’re in the region.
11. Visit the Gannets
Only 25 minutes from central Napier, you’ll find the largest largest mainland gannet colony in the world!
To visit the colony you have two options – both of which require joining a guided tour.
- Option 1: Hop on the back of a tractor trailer and ride along the shoreline to the gannet colony. Upon arriving at the end, you’ll climb up the side of the cliff to the gannet colony. This is a great option for those looking for an adventure, but is tide-dependent and requires a reasonable level of fitness.
- Option 2: Join a guided tour and travel over two local stations to access the gannet colony by land. This tour runs regardless of the tides and gives much better protection to guests in poor weather. They get you nice and close to the gannets so next-to-no walking is required. This is the tour we joined when visiting and we can’t recommend it enough!
The gannets themselves are graceful in the air but incredibly clumsy on land – keep your eyes peeled for their crash landings!
12. Take on Splash Planet
Splash Planet is only a 15 minute drive from Napier, located in neighbouring Hastings.
This is now New Zealand’s only water theme park and it’s a heck of a lot of fun!
Originally opened in 1968 (as Fantasyland), it has been a family favourite for generations.
Now, it is home to a wide range of awesome kids’ attractions, including exciting water slides, a mini train, go-karts and so much more.
Splash Planet really do a great job of catering to everyone in the whānau. What’s more, tickets are surprisingly affordable considering the wide range of attractions that they have.
Perfectly suited for families, this really is a must-visit during the warmer seasons.
So you know. Splash Planet closes down in the winter time so be sure to check that it’s open for your planned visit.
The Hawke’s Bay (and Napier in particular) offer so much to families looking for entertainment.
What will you do there next?
Photo credit: Wikipedia, Napier City Council, John Cowpland, Healthy Kids.