Family-friendly hikes in the North Island | Apollo NZ
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Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

A New Zealand campervan holiday through the Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki region offers an unforgettable experience. Rich in natural beauty and cultural significance, this special part of New Zealand offers travellers a unique blend of urban charm and rugged wilderness. If you love exploring arts and culture, you’ll be spoilt for choice in this region. You may even like to follow the Coastal Arts Trail which spans 300 km between New Plymouth to Palmerston North. The trail is peppered with galleries, sculptures, studios and more. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the mystical Bridge to Nowhere, accessible through the verdant Whanganui National Park, offering an unforgettable journey into New Zealand's remote backcountry. 

Transitioning westward, the landscape dramatically changes as you enter Taranaki, dominated by the iconic, conical shape of Mount Taranaki. This region is a magnet for adventurers and nature lovers alike, with New Plymouth at its heart – a coastal city known for its sunny climate, thriving arts community, and surf-friendly beaches. The coastal walkway stretching from Bell Block to Port Taranaki offers spectacular sea views, perfectly complementing the city’s dynamic cultural venues and eateries.


Why explore Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki by campervan

Exploring Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki by campervan offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the heartland of New Zealand's North Island. It also makes it easy to change your itinerary on the fly. Whether it's spending an extra day enjoying the surf in New Plymouth, exploring the hiking trails around Mount Taranaki, or parking beside the scenic Whanganui River for a spontaneous picnic, the choice is yours. The ability to set your own pace and schedule makes a campervan ideal for discovering the hidden gems of these regions.

Travelling by campervan not only brings the comforts of home on the road, such as your own bed, kitchen, and living space, but also eliminates the hassles of constant packing and unpacking. This is especially valuable in regions like Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki, where attractions are spread out. Having your necessities with you means you're always ready for the next adventure. 


Things to do in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki offer activities for all ages, from nature excursions to authentic cultural experiences. Explore Palmerston North's gardens and arts scene, Whanganui's historic riverboat cruise, or brave the surf at New Plymouth's beaches. Immerse yourself in the local culture with visits to museums, galleries, and artist studios. Whether it's outdoor excitement or cultural enrichment, this fascinating region provides something for everyone.


Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Family-friendly hikes in the North Island.

Ready for some fun with the family in New Zealand's great outdoors? We've got you covered with some top-notch family-friendly hikes in the North Island. Perfect for when you're cruising around in your campervan hire, these trails are not just walks in the park. They're some of the best hikes in New Zealand for creating those awesome family memories. So, grab your hiking boots and let's hit the trails!


What to pack for a family hike

Hiking New Zealand is always an adventure, especially with kids in tow. To ensure everyone has a great time and stays safe, it's important to pack smart. Here are a few considerations worth bringing along:

  • Comfortable footwear: Ensure everyone has sturdy, comfortable shoes.

  • Weather-appropriate clothing: Layers are key, as weather can change quickly.

  • Snacks and water: Keep energy levels up with healthy snacks and plenty of water.

  • Sun protection: Hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses are must-haves.

  • First aid kit: For those little scrapes or bites.

  • Map and compass/GPS: Even on well-marked trails, it's good to have a backup.

  • Insect repellent: To keep the bugs at bay.

  • Camera or binoculars: For those beautiful views and wildlife spotting.


A word about Kauri Dieback Disease

Kauri dieback disease is a serious and deadly disease affecting kauri trees, one of New Zealand's most iconic and ancient tree species. Caused by a soil-borne pathogen, it poses a significant threat to these majestic trees, some of which are over 2,000 years old.

How you can help protect our precious kauri trees

As hikers and nature enthusiasts, we play a crucial role in preventing the spread of kauri dieback. When you’re enjoying New Zealand’s hiking trails, please remember to follow these important steps:

  1. Clean your gear: Thoroughly clean all soil off your shoes, gear, and pets' paws before and after visiting kauri forests. Cleaning stations are often provided at track entrances and exits.

  2. Stay on the path: Stick to designated tracks and avoid straying into areas where you could come into contact with kauri roots.

  3. Use boardwalks and cleaning stations: Where provided, use boardwalks and make sure to use hygiene stations to disinfect footwear.

  4. Respect area closures: Adhere to any signage or barriers indicating closed areas. These are put in place to protect kauri and prevent the spread of the disease.

  5. Spread awareness: Educate others about kauri dieback and the importance of following these guidelines.


Why is it important?

Protecting kauri is crucial not only for the preservation of a species but also for the broader ecological health of New Zealand's forests. Kauri are keystone species, playing a vital role in shaping their ecosystem. Their loss would have cascading effects on the biodiversity of our forests. By following these guidelines, we can all contribute to the protection of kauri trees and ensure that they continue to thrive for future generations to marvel at and enjoy.

Image: Tourism New Zealand


The best family-friendly hikes in the North Island

New Zealand is home to some fantastic trails that are perfect for families. Let's explore a few of the best North Island hikes.

1. Huka Falls Lookout

Located near Taupō, the Huka Falls Lookout offers a scenic walk along the Waikato River. This 3 km trail, taking a leisurely 1.5 hours, winds along the river, leading to the spectacular Huka Falls. Here, the river narrows dramatically, causing a powerful surge of water to flow over a natural ledge, creating a breathtaking waterfall. 

The path is well-maintained and suitable for prams, making it ideal for families. Along the way, you'll find spots for a family picnic, where you can relax and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty. The roar of the falls, combined with the tranquil river setting, makes this walk a memorable experience. It's a great opportunity to teach kids about the power of nature and the importance of preserving our natural waterways.


2. Rimu Walk

The Rimu Walk in Pureora Forest Park is a short loop of 1.7 km, taking about an hour to complete. One of New Zealand’s popular family walks, this trail takes you through a forest dominated by majestic tall rimu trees. As you wander along the path, the lush greenery and the chorus of native birds like kererū and fantail create a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

The trail is not only a delight for birdwatchers but also a fantastic educational experience for children, offering a glimpse into New Zealand's unique ecosystem. While the track is not pram-friendly, its gentle terrain makes it an easy and enjoyable walk for young explorers. Along the way, the diversity of the forest's flora and fauna unfolds, offering a perfect opportunity for families to connect with nature and each other.


3. Kamahi Walk

Step into the enchanting world of Egmont National Park's Kamahi Loop Track. This 600-metre loop, nestled in the East Egmont area, is a short but magical 15–30-minute walk through what's affectionately known as the Goblin Forest. The track weaves through a mystical landscape, where twisted trees and mossy greenery create an otherworldly atmosphere that captivates both kids and adults alike. It's an adventure straight out of a fairy tale, perfect for sparking children's imaginations and their curiosity about the natural world. 

The walk, though short, is rich in sensory experiences, with the forest's unique textures and sounds providing a delightful backdrop. While the track is not accessible for prams, its easy terrain makes it suitable for young adventurers eager to explore this magical part of New Zealand's natural heritage.


4. Manginangina Kauri Walk

The Manginangina Kauri Walk in the Puketi and Omahuta Forests of Northland is a wonderland for families. This easy, 350-metre return walk takes about 15 minutes and is accessible via a boardwalk, making it suitable for buggies. 

The highlight of this walk is the awe-inspiring view of towering kauri trees, a sight that will leave kids and adults in awe. A boardwalk makes the walk is easy for all ages, and the surrounding forest provides a relaxing backdrop for a family outing. Remember, there are no dogs allowed on this track, and while it's a short walk, it's always good to carry water and snacks. 


5. Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk

The Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk in the Waitomo area is a journey through a stunning limestone gorge, leading to a 17-metre-high natural arch. This 700-metre return track, taking about 20 minutes, is not only easy and fascinating for families but also a window into New Zealand's geological past. The natural bridge, formed over millions of years, captivates children with its grandeur and the story it tells of the earth's ever-changing landscape. 

Along the path, you'll traverse boardwalks and staircases, enhancing the adventure. While the track isn't suitable for prams and lacks facilities, its natural beauty and educational value make it a must-visit for families interested in geology and natural history.


6. Tokaanu Geothermal Walk

At the southern end of Lake Taupō lies the Tokaanu Geothermal Walk, a fascinating journey around a natural thermal area. This short walk is a wonderland for kids, offering an up-close view of steaming hot mineral pools, spluttering mud pots, and lush native bush. The easy and accessible path makes it perfect for families to explore the wonders of geothermal activity safely. This NZ walk provides an educational experience, allowing children to learn about geothermal processes in a fun and interactive way. 

After exploring the geothermal features, families can relax at the nearby Tokaanu Thermal Pools, where the therapeutic waters offer a soothing end to the adventure. The pools are a great way to unwind and reflect on the natural forces that shape our planet.


7. Redwood Memorial Grove Track

The Redwood Memorial Grove Track in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest is a fun escape into a forest of giants. This 2 km walk, taking about 30 minutes, allows you to wander through a grove of breathtaking Californian redwoods, planted in 1901. 

These towering trees, standing alongside underplanted European larch, create a canopy that shelters a diverse range of native plants and birds. The track, featuring a boardwalk over an old thermal pond, adds an element of historical intrigue, reflecting the area's geothermal activity. 

This walk is not just a stroll but an immersive experience in a unique ecosystem where families can enjoy both the beauty and tranquillity of nature. It's an ideal spot for nature photography, bird watching, and simply enjoying the peacefulness of the forest.

Image: Tourism New Zealand


Where to stay in the North Island

When you're exploring the North Island in your campervan, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to family-friendly holiday parks and campgrounds. Here are a few of our top picks.

Taupo TOP 10 Holiday Park

Taupo TOP 10 Holiday Park is a fantastic choice for families travelling by campervan. Located in the heart of Taupō, this park offers a variety of facilities, including a heated swimming pool and a kids' playground, ensuring fun for all ages. The park's location makes it an ideal base for exploring the local attractions, and the campervan sites are well-equipped to provide a comfortable stay.


Rotorua TOP 10 Holiday Park

Situated near the stunning Blue Lake, Rotorua TOP 10 Holiday Park offers a peaceful yet convenient location for campervan families. The park is just a short drive from Rotorua's city centre, which means easy access to the area's famous geothermal attractions and Māori cultural experiences. The park features excellent facilities, including a playground and barbecue area, making it a great spot for a family stay.


Port Waikato Holiday Park

Port Waikato Holiday Park is a picturesque choice for those seeking a coastal experience. Located close to Sunset Beach, it's perfect for families who love the beach and want to enjoy activities like fishing and surfing. The park offers various campervan sites and is known for its friendly atmosphere, making it a great spot for a relaxing family holiday.


Whananaki Holiday Park

For a unique Northland experience, Whananaki Holiday Park is an excellent option. Situated beside the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere, this park offers easy access to beautiful beaches and excellent fishing spots. It's a great place for families who enjoy outdoor activities like kayaking and exploring walking trails.


New Plymouth TOP 10 Holiday Park

Located in the heart of New Plymouth, New Plymouth TOP 10 Holiday Park is an ideal base for exploring the Taranaki region. The park is close to Mount Taranaki and beautiful beaches, offering a mix of mountain and coastal experiences. With facilities like a heated pool, spa, and playground, it's a great spot for families travelling by campervan.


Explore on your next holiday with Apollo

From the enchanting trails of the Huka Falls Lookout to the unforgettable beauty of the Rotorua Forest Walk, your Apollo campervan is your ticket to a holiday filled with exploration and family bonding. Ready to get your hiking boots on and take an adventure your family will cherish for years to come? 

Book your campervan hire with Apollo online today and set the wheels in motion for an extraordinary road trip across the North Island.

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Popular Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki road trips & itineraries

Stretching down the lower west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki are prime destinations for road trippers seeking a mix of culture, nature, and adventure. Easily accessible from major urban centres like Wellington and Auckland, the drive itself showcases the dramatic shift from urban landscapes to the lush, green countryside of Manawatu and the striking volcanic features of Taranaki. These routes not only offer breathtaking views but are dotted with a variety of attractions, making every stop an opportunity for discovery. 


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Great savings on your New Zealand road trip

Apollo offers a fantastic selection of deals and specials for those looking to explore Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki by campervan. From hot deals and last-minute discounts to long-term hire benefits, you’re sure to find a deal designed to help you make the most of your campervan road trip. 

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Apollo Campervan branches


The drive from Apollo Christchurch to the Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki region sets you up for a scenic journey across the South Island, including the picturesque ferry crossing at the Cook Strait, and onto the North Island. 


Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore the South Island before heading north? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and spend a few days taking in some of the great southern highlights before crossing the Cook Strait by ferry.


Set off from Apollo Auckland and kick off your exploration of this region in New Plymouth – just a few hours drive away. Make your way down the west coast taking in the charming townships, rolling rural landscapes, and rugged coastline as you venture south.  

Auckland City Skyline


New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.


Christchurch City, New Zealand


 One of the world’s most unique destinations.



Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.


Helpful tips for visiting Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki


Climate and seasons in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

Stretching hundreds of kilometres, this expansive region offers distinct seasonal experiences, making it an attractive destination year-round for visitors looking to enjoy a variety of landscapes and activities.

Manawatu-Whanganui enjoys a mild, temperate climate with moderate rainfall, making it pleasant for travel most of the year.

  • Summers (December to February) are warm with temperatures averaging around 22°C, ideal for exploring the great outdoors and the region's rivers and parks.
  • Autumn (March to May) brings cooler temperatures and a beautiful change in foliage, particularly in the bush-clad hills, providing perfect conditions for hiking and photography.
  • Winter (June to August) can be cooler, with temperatures dropping to around 10°C, but it is generally mild compared to other regions, with occasional frost in sheltered areas.
  • Spring (September to November) sees the landscape rejuvenate with bursts of flowers and greenery, making it a lovely time for visiting the many gardens and reserves.

Taranaki is known for its more dynamic weather patterns, due to the presence of Mount Taranaki, which can attract clouds and cause quick changes in weather.

  • Summers here are pleasant with temperatures similar to Manawatu-Whanganui but expect more frequent rain showers that keep the surroundings lush.
  • Autumn sees stable weather, ideal for outdoor activities as the forests display a vivid array of autumn colours.
  • Winter in Taranaki can be wet, with more pronounced rainfall, and the mountain often receives snowfall, offering spectacular views and winter sports.
  • Spring brings a rapid growth of new foliage and is particularly spectacular as rhododendrons and other blooms erupt around the mountain's base.




What to pack?

Preparing for your campervan journey through Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki requires thoughtful packing to make the most of the diverse climates and activities available in these regions. Here’s what you should consider bringing along:

  • Outdoor gear: given the varied terrain from river valleys to volcanic mountains, pack versatile outdoor gear. Lightweight, breathable clothing will serve you well during warmer months, while waterproof and windproof layers are essential for the unpredictable weather near Mount Taranaki. Sturdy hiking boots are a must for exploring the rugged landscapes and numerous walking trails. With the stunning natural beauty and wildlife in both regions, a good camera can help you capture memorable landscapes and native birds. Binoculars will also enhance your experience, especially when visiting coastal areas and bird sanctuaries.
  • Campervan add-ons: Enhancing your campervan experience can significantly improve your comfort during the trip. Consider including a portable heater for the cooler evenings, especially during winter months in Taranaki. A reliable GPS and physical maps can help navigate the more remote areas. Additional camping chairs and a table can also be handy for scenic stops along the coast or in forest parks.
  • Sun protection and rain gear: The regions' varying weather conditions call for both sun protection and rain gear. Pack a high-SPF sunscreen, UV-protection sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield against the strong New Zealand sun. Also, include a durable rain jacket and waterproof trousers to stay dry during sudden rain showers, particularly prevalent in Taranaki. For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.



Nearby attractions and day trips from Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki


Whanganui River cruise or kayak

Experience the tranquil beauty of the Whanganui River by taking a leisurely cruise or paddling a kayak. This historic river offers stunning views of lush landscapes and provides a quiet escape into nature, perfect for a relaxing day on the water.

Whanganui National Park

Home to native forests and scenic waterways, Whanganui National Park is popular with hikers and walkers. The park is also home to the Bridge to Nowhere Walk, a 3 km return (around 1.5 hours) easy walk popular with visitors to the area.

Forgotten World Highway

The Forgotten World Highway, running through remote, mystic landscapes, offers a journey back in time. This historic route passes through rugged terrain, dense forests, and small forgotten towns, making it a unique adventure for road-trippers.

Bushy Park

Bushy Park Ecological Sanctuary, near Whanganui, is known for its rich biodiversity and protected native forest. The 100-hectare reserve is home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the region, including a 500-year-old rata. The park's predator-free status allows visitors to encounter rare and endangered birds such as the hihi and saddleback in their natural habitat.

Nearby attractions and day trips from Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

Dominating the landscape, Mount Taranaki offers challenging hikes and spectacular views from its summit. The symmetrical volcano is a striking feature of Egmont National Park, drawing climbers and photographers alike.

New Plymouth Coastal Walk

The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway is a spectacular 13-kilometre path that stretches from Ngamotu Beach to Bell Block, offering panoramic views of the Tasman Sea. This award-winning walkway is ideal for walking, jogging, or cycling featuring iconic landmarks like the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, which resembles a breaking wave or whale skeleton.

Pukekura Park

New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park is a beautifully landscaped garden featuring lakes, waterfalls, and exotic plants. It hosts the famous Festival of Lights, transforming into an enchanted evening wonderland.

Dawson Falls in Egmont National Park

Dawson Falls is a spectacular 18-metre waterfall located within Egmont National Park. The area around the falls offers picturesque walking tracks that wind through lush native bush, ideal for a short, scenic hike.


Where to stay in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:






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