Cheap or Free Things to do in July With The Whole Family

July is often not the best of weather in New Zealand, and the school holidays fall during the month. The question on every parent's mind is; what to do with the whole family without blowing the budget? Well it's rare for the weather to be absolutely miserable for the whole time, so first thing is to keep an eye on the forecast, and when the weather gives you a break - take it!

Great Day Walks and Bike Rides

Park at Mission Bay

Grab your raincoats and thermals and head out to New Zealand's great outdoors. At least you won't have to worry about sunburn, or crowds of tourists! I think New Zealand's bush and coastline can be stunningly beautiful even in the rain, and at least the kids will burn off some energy. Aucklanders can grab their bikes or walking shoes some of the bush tracks nearby Waitakeres or the west coast beaches. Wellington's south coast walk is spectacular (best in a northerly though) or head up Mt Kaukau - relax with hot chocolates and maybe fish and chips on the beach afterwards.

Or Head To The Park

If you don't have the transport, or don't want to get too wet and muddy consider a local park. The ride on Wellington's cable car still appeals to all age groups, and a family pass is only $14. There is a free museum at the top too! Then get the kids to run back down to town through the Botanic Gardens. Aucklanders can head to the Domain, or up One Tree Hill.

Hop on public transport and go to town - walk Wellington's waterfront from the Railway Station to Oriental Parade, or Auckland's harbour-side Wynyard Quarter.

Get Out On The Water

Again, you'll have to pick your weather, but Auckland and Wellington have regular ferries which make for a cheap day trip with the kids. Take the East-West ferry to Wellington's Days Bay, or chose one of Auckland's many islands and island hop with the local ferries.

But let's get real - the weather doesn't always play ball. So here are some suggestions that work whatever the weather.

Swimming Pools or Hot Pools

Champagne Pool at Wai-o-Tapu geothermal area

What's better than a hot pool on a cold wet day? New Zealand is blessed with plenty of geothermal activity, so many of us are not far from some awesome hot thermal pools. Auckland has Waiwera, Tauranga the Mt Maunganui pools, and Napier their deco-styled pool on Marine Parade. If you are anywhere near the central North Island you are spoilt for choice, buy my pick there are the cheap and cheerful pools at tiny Tokaanu. The mainlanders have Hammer Springs and Tekapo Springs to check out.

If you aren't close to a thermal pool, New Zealand's council's do a good job of providing great swimming pools, at very reasonable prices. You'll probably find that your local pool has a school holiday program as well. The adults can chill out in the spa or sauna while the kids get involved with the holiday program.


Unless you live in a really rural area, most towns , and all cities have libraries. These provide not just books, but also audio books, videos and Internet access either for free or for very low-cost, and most run school holiday programs. Check websites or call to find out what times sessions are running, and what age-group is being targeted. And it's not just all about reading either, activities often include crafts, and other creative pursuits for the kids.

Museums and Galleries

If the weather is still bad, then in larger centres check out the local museums and galleries, particularly with older children. In Wellington, both Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand and the Museum of Wellington, on Queen's Wharf are free, and normally offer free kids activities or programs during the school holidays. In Auckland, the Auckland Museum is free for locals while MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) will cost a family $40.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas for family winter entertainment, which will not blow your budget. Check your local council's website, your library's notice board and local community papers. They will have plenty of options to keep the whole family entertained, even if New Zealand has a cold blast this July.