Best Family Activity Holidays – The Ultimate Guide

Best Family Activity Holidays – The Ultimate Guide

Do you enjoy outdoor adventures? What’s a perfect family holiday for you and the little (or bigger) ones? We asked travel writers around the world for their recommendations for the best family activity holidays around the globe. Explore the amazing adventures your family can have whether you would like to go hiking, boating, kayaking, cycling, skiing, snowshoeing, white water rafting, snorkeling, or surfing! Or how about a cruise on an ice-breaker ship or ride on a steam train? Sail under the Golden Gate Bridge, visit Niagra Falls or discover the Waitomo Glow-worm caves? Or try something totally new and experiment bike zipwire and tree root climbing? Adventures await and there’s something for everyone!

Europe

Montserrat Cable Car

Hiking in Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain

by Emma at World Best Hikes

Ah, beautiful Barcelona, where you can spend days exploring architectural wonders like Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló and Park Güell – not to mention a host of gothic and modern delights. Right? Well, yes, if you’re travelling without children… but if your kids are anything like mine then you might need a break from all those buildings.

Montserrat is the perfect antidote. Located just an hour from Barcelona, this series of tooth-shaped mountains combines nature and stunning views with the fun of a cable car and funicular railways – plus an 11th-century abbey perched high up on a cliff. You can drive there, but for a more relaxing day I recommend taking the R5 train from Barcelona’s Plaça d’Espanya station to Montserrat-Aeri station, followed by the cable car to Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey. You can buy a combined train-cable car ticket at Plaça d’Espanya station, as well as other tickets that include the funiculars as well.

Once at the abbey you have many options. For a short walk, head down from the abbey to see the shrine and chapel at Santa Cova, and then take the Funicular de Santa Cova back to the abbey. Or for a longer hike, head up to the highest point, San Jeroni. There’s a few restaurants and takeaway places at the abbey – which, of course, you can also visit. Visit the tourist office at the abbey for maps and further information, and recharge your family’s batteries in this truly lovely part of the world!

River Boating Brittany France

River and Canal Boating in Brittany, France

by Lisa at Travel Loving Family

We absolutely adore Brittany, France.  We first went on a family holiday there nearly two years ago and we’ve been back three times since.  It’s just so convenient to get to from the UK, the scenery and particularly the coastlines are stunning plus the region offers so much for outdoorsy types, like my family and I.

In July I spent a week cruising along the rivers and canals in Brittany in a self drive motor cruiser with my husband and our two boys, 4 & 7 years old.  Friends thought we were crazy to take them on a boat for a week but it was one of the best family holidays we’ve ever had.

We loved navigating through the locks and under bridges, stopping in marinas for the night that took our fancy and exploring river side villages and towns.  My boys thoroughly enjoyed helping out with the steering, even filling up the water tank and shopping at local bakeries was a big adventure for them.

The cost of hiring a boat very much depends on the time of year and size of boat but as a very rough guide with the company we went with, Le Boat, it is around £1,190 for a 7 night self-drive cruise for up to 6 people which excludes boat damage waiver, fuel, travel to/from the base, mooring fees and insurance.

As for advice/tips – I would say don’t feel like you need to be a professional boater to try out this type of holiday.  You really don’t need to be.  If you can drive a car you can genuinely drive a motor cruiser.  We found the marinas really easy to moor up in and everyone on the waterways to be very friendly and helpful (obviously it helps if you speak some French).  The locks in Brittany, France are mainly manned too so all you have to do is pull into the lock, throw your rope to the lock keeper and literally hold on to it to prevent your boat from banging into the sides.

Canoeing on the Dordogne

Canoeing in the Dordogne, France

by Gillian at The Little Den

Known as the land of 1001 chateaux, the Dordogne region of France has something for everyone – fairytale castles, 20,000 year old prehistoric cave paintings, beautiful villages, incredible gastronomy, stunning landscapes and scenery. We fell under the charm of this paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers. One of our favorite family activities is going for a canoeing trip on the Dordogne river.

You can choose to paddle down either of two rivers – the Dordogne or the Vézère. The former is more picturesque with amazing views of riverside towns, chateaux and villages carved into the rock face. The latter is wilder – think Canada – and might appeal more to nature lovers. You get an amazing vantage point from the river and are able to see things that aren’t visible from elsewhere.

There are plenty of companies that hire out canoes along both rivers – our favorites are Canoe Roquegeoffre for trips down the Dordogne and AVCK for the Vézère. Our preferred option is to take a mini bus upstream (organised by the hire company) and to paddle down the river back to our starting point. It allows for a more leisurely pace with no pressure to meet a bus at a specific time. The cost varies depending on the distance you plan to cover and the number of people that will be taking part, however, it remains a reasonably priced family outing. This is definitely a must on your next Dordogne family holiday!

Cycling Rhone River

Cycling the Rhine River from Switzerland to the Netherlands

By Anya at Unexpected Occurrence

Cycling along the Rhine River from source to sea is an incredible family adventure. The route starts in Switzerland on a high pass (which you can take a train up), and from there, it’s all downhill and flat! It’s amazing for families because there’s great food and culture in the countries you cycle through, you stop in plenty of towns with history, and sights are dotted along the whole route.

You can either stay in hotels or camp, which makes it suitable for nearly all budgets. It takes roughly 3-4 weeks, but you can always slow down the pace if travelling with young kids. I’d cycle roughly 50km a day to ensure having enough time to see all of the beautiful sights and to account for lots of breaks with some great views.

Boating Hallstatt

Boating in Hallstatt, Austria

by Diana at The Elusive family

Hallstatt in northern Austria is a postcard-perfect town and considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.  Located just one and a half hours from Salzburg, Hallstatt is a great day trip if you are visiting the region.

Taking a boat on Lake Hallstatt is a great way to spend an afternoon with your family during the holidays. The town’s location among towering mountains creates for an amazing adventure. There are several options for boats: 1) row boat, 2) swan pedal boat or 3) electric boat with a sun roof. The best boat is the electric boat as it is budget friendly. Prices do vary and the latest price is approximately 15 euros for 30 minutes. There is a choice of a higher-powered engine as well.

The boat is easy to maneuver and as long as you have one with a sun roof, you can spend a long time out on the water. Be sure to eat before or after as food is not allowed on the boat. Make sure you have a camera as well to take candid shots of the village from different places on the lakes. During high summer season, be sure to get to the lake early, as the boat rentals are very popular. The boat can comfortably sit 4 people and up to 6 if you have smaller children that can squeeze in.

Kayaking Lagos, Portugal

Cave Kayaking in Lagos, Portugal

by Pia at Next Stop TBC

Lagos is a small town in Algarve, on the Southern Portugal coastline. There are amazing views to the turquoise sea and long beaches, limescale rocks and grottos. The Atlantic winds can be gusty but when the weather is calm, it’s a perfect place to go cave kayaking especially with a bit older kids. It was the first time to go kayaking for my 8-year old daughter and it was quite an adventure and the highlight of our vacation.

You can find different kayaking tour operators in Lagos Marina. It’s a good idea to also do some research online in advance and read the reviews. Pack along plenty of drinking water and apply sunscreen in advance. Don’t forget hats and sunglasses! A waterproof case for your mobile or camera would be recommended. If your skin burns easily a UV shirt would be a good idea, otherwise you won’t need much more clothes in addition to swimwear although a light jacket could be nice on a cooler day. Leave your valuables at home and watch out for the motorboats

The Cave kayaking in Lagos, Portugal was a fantastic experience for us and the views were absolutely stunning!

Lake Bled Slovenia

Water Sports on Lake Bled, Slovenia

by Cath at Passports and Adventures

Lake Bled in Slovenia is the perfect location for a family activity holiday. It is far from a typical resort. Lake Bled is located at the foothills of the Julian Alps and was formed by a glacier. The lake is home to Slovenia’s only island and offers families a chance to partake in lots of water sports.

Firstly, you can swim in the lake, just ensure you are a good swimmer and watch out for the boats ferrying people back and forth to the island. You can swim from a few of the beaches around the lake, or from Bled Lido which costs around €10 per day for access. At the Lido you’ll find changing rooms, shallow pools for kids, a diving board and grassy banks to enjoy some summer sun from. You can also enjoy body boarding and kayaking on the lake, and even hire row boats to get to the island yourself. These are charged at a fee, with row boats starting from around €10 per hour.

As well as water sports, there are hikes in and around Bled for the more adventurous families. You can also enjoy the toboggan run during summer and skiing during the winter. For families visiting Lake Bled with kids, particularly younger ones, there is a tourist train that goes around the lake if you don’t fancy walking the circumference. But we highly recommend the walk. It takes around 2-3 hours, depending on whether or not you stop for a slice of Bled Cream cake.

Romania Maramures Steam Train

Steam Train Ride in Maramures, Romania

By Corina at Another Milestone

In the northern part of Romania lays a region where traditions are still alive and nature is still wild: Maramures. A perfect place for a relaxing holiday far away from technology and big cities, Maramures has an attraction that will take you back in time: a steam train ride.

At 9 am the Mocanita (how it’s called the steam train in Romanian) departs from Viseu de Sus and after a 2-hour ride between mountains, green forests and unspoiled nature you will arrive at the destination. For more than 2 hours you will stay here and have a picnic, listen some traditional Romanian music, visit the small train museum or just sit on grass and enjoy the water’s tranquil sounds.

A half day trip with Mocanita costs around 20 euro per person and the best thing is to book it with few days in advance. Children love everything about this trip (the train ride, the break in nature where they can play) and for adults is a breath of fresh air away from the real world. On the way back to Viseu de Sus, as you start to see the houses, you feel a little bit upset that it didn’t last longer!

Bormio, Italy copyright Epic Road Rides

Cycling and Family Fun in Bormio, Italy

by Clare at Epic Road Rides

Bormio, in the Italian Alps, is at the doorstep of the Stelvio Pass and is renowned as one of the world’s best road cycling destinations. While the cycling is best suited to fit adults rather than families, Bormio is a fantastic place for an active family holiday.

Sticking with the cycling theme, our kids loved the bike path that circles the town and incorporates a playground and a fun, kid-friendly cafe en route (the cafe even boasts a real bus your kids can pretend to drive and quirky seating areas). There’s also a bike park where your kids can master cycling over obstacles such as ramps and jumps. They run daily group lessons for kids or you can book a private lesson.

Away from the bikes, there are a plethora of other activities, from playgrounds and ball pools to big outdoor trampolines, go karts and a summer toboggan run. You can also head up to the ski station, Bormio 2000, where they offer horse rides and some great walking trails.

This outdoor adventure haven is full of fantastic Italian architecture and charm. After a day of adventure activities head to the impressive thermal baths or sit back in a restaurant on the piazza, surrounded by towering mountains.

Hiking Dolomites

Hiking in the Dolomites, Italy

By Mike at 197 Travel Stamps

The Dolomites in Northern Italy are the ideal family destination if you want to have an active holiday. The Dolomites offer several amazing day hikes of different difficulty levels.

Depending on how active you want to get, you can either get some climbing gear and climb up a via ferrata on Catinaccio Mountain that are also suitable for children. Alternatively, you can also go on an easy hike along the Alpe di Siusi. Here you can enjoy some of the best views of the Dolomites on mostly flat and broad trails where your children can play around without the danger of steep cliffs.

Regardless of what hike you are doing, one of the most amazing things about the Dolomites is the typical Tyrolean cuisine you can reward yourself with afterwards. The children love the traditional bread dumplings or cheese spätzle that are served in most restaurants.

Snowshoeing Pallas Finland

Skiing and Snowshoeing in Pallas-Yllastunturi National Park, Finland

by Pia at Next Stop TBC

Breathe the freshest air in Europe and enjoy the beautiful pristine nature in the Finland Lapland winter wonderland. Whether you go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing you can choose hills or flat ground, open fields, forest or go over the frozen lakes. Snowshoes really help walking on deep snow – just with a bit of practice you’ll find the right calm pace.

Select at least one hut or café to be your destination and always pack along plenty of water, hot drinks and snacks like juice, granola bars, sandwich, fruit, nuts, as well as a bit of chocolate and some sweets. Kid’s love playing games and wont even notice the length of the journey if they are having fun. Also encouragement and praise can take you far!

If you’re into downhill skiing, Ski resort Pallas is focused on offering a genuine experience of skiing on natural snow. There was a good variety of slopes for beginners and families as well as more advanced skiers. We had an amazing Easter holiday skiing in Pallas National Park and recommend it to all families loving outdoors winter adventures!

Icebreaker cruise and ice floating

Icebreaker Cruise and Ice Floating Kemi, Finland

by Sara at Our Kind of Crazy

We think a great vacation for families with tons of activities is Kemi, Finland. Kemi is a perfect place to visit if you are looking for a dream winter holiday, but it is also great in the summer as well. Kemi is located right off of the Baltic Sea, so there are great activities available on the water during the summer, and on the ice during the winter.

One of our favorite activities was the Icebreaker Sampo. This Icebreaker cruise starts with a snowmobile ride across the Baltic Sea and to the Icebreaker ship. This ship is in the middle of the ice, and breaks through the ice as it sails. It is such an awesome thing to watch.

Right after the ship docks, in the middle of the frozen sea, you’ll have a chance to float in the icy waters which is oddly enough a relaxing experience. The cruise is for all ages while the floating is for bigger kids as they have to fit in the size small suit, around ages 8 and up depending on their size. The Icebreaker Sampo Cruise is like no other activity you’ve done before, and we recommend you taking a ride if you’re ever in Finland.

Africa and Asia

 

City Bowl from Table Mountain

Hiking and Kayaking in Cape Town, South Africa

by Cal at Once in a Lifetime Journey

Cape Town really does have everything for adventurous traveling families. You can hike to the top of Table Mountain by sunrise and an hour later be surfing at some premium breaks, then onto MTB trails in the forest and ending with SUPing around the Peninsula. There are bikes and eScooters available for rent along Sea Point promenade, paragliding if the wind is low and even a trampoline park in Claremont.

I would say that one of the most spectacular family holiday activities in Cape Town would be to go ocean kayaking. Firstly, it is really convenient as the starting point is really central, either in Green Point or the V&A Waterfront shopping mall. Secondly, it is a beautiful experience to see Cape Town from a different angle. You’ll most likely spot some playful Cape fur seals. And if you’re really lucky, you will bump heads with dolphins and whales, as I have done before.

Note that the Atlantic ocean is quite tumultuous and pretty cold, so this activity is for fitter families. But don’t worry, the guides are really helpful and the activity is safe. Don’t forget your GoPro to capture the moment!

Hiking Israel

Hiking in Israel

by Melissa at The Family Voyage

Israel is an amazing destination for families who are interested in experiencing the outdoors! In addition to the religious, cultural and historical highlights for which the country is best know, it also offers a range of active opportunities from unique expansive deserts to lush waterfalls you’d expect to find in the tropics.

Many of Israel’s best hikes are in its national parks, where the trails quickly take you to amazing views and are manageable for kids as young as 4 years old. Some of our family favorites are Ein Gedi (a desert oasis near the Dead Sea that offers refreshing swimming holes throughout the hike), Maktesh Ramon (the largest such erosion crater in the world, located in the Negev Desert) and Tel Dan (a lovely stroll through thick forest in Israel’s far north). Each of these hikes offers a completely different experience, but you can drive from one to the other in just a few hours!

The best tip for hiking in Israel is to buy a National Parks pass. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority offers special discount cards for tourists that are valid for entry into 3, 6 or unlimited national parks over two weeks. The pass can be purchased at many parks around the country.

Zipwire biking Philippines

Bike Zipwire and Tree Root Climbing in Bohol, Philippines

by Kirstie at The Family Adventure Project

If you are after high adrenaline, low budget adventures, The Philippines is a good place to go. The islands of Bohol and Cebu have lots of inexpensive experiences packed into a small area. The Cebu Skywalk experience offers a skywalk and skyride around the outside of a skyscraper.

At the Danao Adventure Park, you and the kids can climb a tree. If they are underwhelmed by this idea they probably need to know they will be hauling themselves in a harness up 15 metres of vertical height on twisty, tangled roots, dodging ants nests and trying not to look down. Speeding back down the rope afterwards makes it all worthwhile.

But the highlight of our trip was the Rush Bike Zip at Bohol’s Chocolate Hills Adventure Park. There are plenty of zip lines on the islands but this is the only one involving bikes with rims that sit on a trapeze wire. You won’t need a bell up there; no one is going to get in your way! Afterwards calm down with a walk in the Chocolate Hills; hundreds of golden mounds stretching over several villages. Perfect for cycling around, if only you had a bike with tires….

Penang hike

Hiking in Penang Island, Malaysia

by Marco Ferrarese at Penang Insider

Penang is a tropical island on the northwestern coast of West Malaysia and is a perfect family destination in Southeast Asia. Indeed, from nature to restaurants with indoor playgrounds, there are many things to do in Penang with kids, and the best part is, the cost of travelling to Penang is very affordable. It’s perfectly possible to spend less than 50$ a day for accommodation, food and entry to attractions for a couple with one child.

Penang’s main centre is George Town, a UNESCO-inscribed World Heritage Site filled with romantic Chinese shophouses and atmospheric lanes whose main touristic draw is the world-famous street art initiated here by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic in the year 2012. One of the murals, the famous “Two kids on a Bicycle”, made the Guardian’s list of best street art around the world, and it’s a popular spot for selfie shots.

But the island also has a lot more going on beyond the touristic enclave of Chulia Street, George Town’s main thoroughfare. In Penang, nature really shines, especially on the flanks of Penang Hill — a former British colonial hill station that offers hiking trails and a funicular train to the top for those who don’t feel like braving a steamy tropical jungle in close proximity to the city. On top of the hill, the Habitat is a charming eco-park with a walking trail, canopy walkway, a course of ziplines and an impressive circular bridge that’s the highest viewpoint on the island, and makes for a perfect day out with your family.

Sea Kayak in Thailand

Kayaking in Thailand

By Sally-Ann Brown, Tips 4 Trips

A fun and unique family experience to include when visiting Thailand with kids is to go on sea kayaking during a Phang Nga Bay Tour. Phang Nga Bay is a 400sqm expanse of water in the Phang Nga Province nestled between Phuket and Krabi, it has stunning limestone islands jutting out of the sea. The best way to get up close to many of these uninhabited islands is by a sea kayak. The sea kayak tour includes a guide to paddle you and your kids (all wearing life jackets) through the calm waters, under the low lying natural limestone bridges and caves, into isolated grottos, amongst the tangled mangroves and you may even spot the occasional monkey climbing the scrub.

When preparing for the 1200-3600THB tour from locations including Phuket, Khao Lak and Krabi, don’t forget to wear your swimming clothes underneath your day wear.  This makes it easy to strip off just before boarding the sea kayak as you will get wet during the ride.  But not too wet, you can take your camera to capture your family experience sea kayaking.

Australia and New Zealand

Blue Mountains Sydney NSW

Hiking, Cable Car and Railway in Blue Mountains, Australia

by Kirsty at Travel with Meraki

Only two hours away from the hustle and beaches of Sydney, The Blue Mountains could be a world away. From the Wollemi Pine that dates back to the age of the dinosaurs, to Australian wildlife like the Koala and beautiful waterfalls, The Blue Mountains is a place with something for everyone.

One of our favorite spots as a family is Scenic World. Here you can ride the highest cable car in the country with its glass bottom letting you admire the stunning landscape 270 meters below. Do hikes that take in the iconic Three Sisters or enjoy the more leisurely Scenic Walkway through ancient rain forest.

Another great family activity is to ride the worlds steepest passenger railway! With a 64° incline it’s a fun adventure. This part of the Blue Mountains can get very busy so be sure to arrive early to avoid queues and crowds. You can also purchase tickets online and save on the price.

Surfing Australia
Image by MMazer from Pixabay

Surfing Lessons in Gold Coast, Australia

Sophie Marie at Lifestyle Queensland 

The best holiday for our outdoorsy, active family HAS to be the Gold Coast. There are the best beaches in Australia and so many fun things to do. There are outdoor parks galore, free barbecues all over the place and best of all, tons of great beach activities like body boarding or surfing. The Gold Coast is perfect for learners because there are so many great little beach breaks so there’s no need to paddle for miles and exhaust yourself.

My partner has been surfing since he was 12, so when I suggested me and my nephew start taking lessons he was thrilled! I signed up for a 2-hour group lesson (cost about $60AUD) and had the time of my life! Most amazing of all I actually stood up and rode a wave on that first lesson and so did everyone else in the class!!

We signed my nephew up for a group kids class. Aged 7 he was only allowed because he was already a great swimmer and one of us was in the water with him. Normally children under 8 should take private lesson so the instructor can have eyes on them at all times.

Unfortunately my surfing has halted because I’m pregnant but I’m obsessed! Best of all my 2 year old rode her first wave this week (sat down on my board on a tiny beach break but it’s a start!).

If you’re looking for a bit of adventure and you’re a family who love the water I’d definitely recommend heading to the Gold Coast and taking some lessons.

Port Douglas Snorkelling

Snorkeling in Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

by Stephanie at Navigating Adventure

Queensland, Australia is a popular destination for families wanting to experience the Great Barrier Reef. The world’s largest coral reef system stretches over 2,300km along Australia’s eastern coast and can be accessed from many coastal towns and islands. The best family activity on the reef is, of course snorkeling!

Our favorite destination for visiting the Great Barrier Reef is Port Douglas – located 70 km north of Cairns. From here, you can book a snorkeling tour to Low Isles. We have found this location is perfect for families as the water is calm and warm, there is always plenty to see and it’s not far from the mainland.

There are several cruise operators travelling to Low Isles each day, and the cost starts from about $550 for a family of four. We chose a tour that included a leisurely day on the reef, smorgasbord lunch, morning and afternoon tea, guided tours by marine biologists, lifeguard and glass bottom boat coral viewing and snorkeling equipment.

We saw gorgeous coral, many reef sharks, turtles, and colorful fish on our trip. The children had so much fun and it was wonderful to see them learn about the environment and the importance of conservation.

It’s important to pack plenty of sun protection including long sleeves, hats and strong SPF sunscreen. We also recommend you take an underwater camera and travel calm tablets in case you get a rough day on the water.

NZ Rafting

White Water Rafting in Lake Taupo, New Zealand

by Meredith at Chasing Abandon

New Zealand is well known as a country full of breathtaking landscapes and adrenaline filled, extreme experiences to match. While there are plenty of sights to see and trails to explore for families with young children, we sought out unique options to help make our New Zealand trip truly memorable. Our kids wanted their own slice of adventure!

Lying in the heart of the North Island is Lake Taupo, where we had a blast white water rafting with our family of four. Thankfully the rafting companies offer an alternative to huge rapids, with family friendly experiences on smaller rapids. Leaving out of Turangi (on the south shore of Lake Taupo), there are a few different rafting companies to choose with minimum ages ranging from 3 to 5 years. We booked with Rafting New Zealand, and a three hour trip was $139 NZD/adult and $89 NZD/child. Look out for online discount codes to reduce the price.

Guides do a wonderful job of telling Maori legends about the nearby mountains and the Tongariro River while driving to the start of the rafting. While on the river, the small rapids are a perfect difficulty for the kids, yet still lots of fun for the adults. Safety was always first, with kids paddling the quiet sections of river, and tucking inside the raft during the rapids.

The guides keep things exciting on the river by sneaking up and splashing the other rafts during the quiet sections of river, and of course, making sure the kids in front get extra wet during the final larger rapids. White water rafting in New Zealand was a huge hit with our 8 and 11 year olds, and we would absolutely recommend it for other families!

Hiking pouakai hut NZ

Hiking and Spending a Night in a Hut, New Zealand

by Bailey at Destinationless Travel

New Zealand has the perfect solution for families who like to hike – huts. In NZ, huts are essentially basic accommodation located along various popular hiking trails. These huts are run by the New Zealand government and are in place to help people complete multi-day hikes without having to sleep in a tent.

For families, this is ideal because it means nobody needs to carry a tent, sleeping mattresses, or gas for cooking. The huts are also very comfortable as all huts are fitted out with bunk beds with mattresses and many of the nicer ones also have a kitchen with running water, gas to cook, and even bathrooms with flushing toilets! And the best part is that spending a night is cheap costing between $15-35 NZD per person per night.

Some huts are rather challenging to reach (such as the Mueller Hut) which wouldn’t be a good option for families with for young children. However, some huts are located along flat and shady trails and can be reached after only 2-3 hours of walking. Some of the best huts for families to spend a night in include the Pouakai Hut which offers stunning views of Mount Taranaki, the Routeburn Falls Hut which is one of the fanciest huts in all of NZ and located beside waterfalls, or even the Pinnacles Hut which towers over NZ’s impressive coastline.

Waitomo caves NZ

Discovering the Glow Worm Caves in Waitomo, New Zealand

by Gemma at Mum Off the Map

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves in New Zealand are a fantastic family activity. All parents know kids love adventure and discovery. Seeing glow worms as Waitomo is all of that and more, it’s a truly magical experience for your whole family. I have traveled extensively and now live in New Zealand, and Waitomo is easily one of the best places to visit.

It’s suitable for children of all ages: there are multiple tours ranging from a shorter dry cave tour (although young children will have to walk or be carried) to adventure tours that older teens will love, where you can abseil into the cave and go on a flying fox in darkness lit only by the blue glow of hundreds of glow worms. Pre-teens might love cave tubing, where you float and paddle along an underwater river beneath shining glow worm stars. Tour prices range from approx NZ$50 for a 1-hour tour to approx NZ$250 for a 5-hour adventure tour.

United States and Canada

Niagra Falls

Visiting Niagra Falls, Ontario, Canada

by Lauren at My Favorite Job Title is Mom

Niagara Falls in Ontario Canada is an amazing weekend family destination especially for families with young children. The falls provide an amazing view that everyone should see at least once, but it’s especially impressive to young children.  Activities are ideal for young children because they are in often in open areas, not loud or overwhelming, and have no age limit.  The Adventure Pass Classic is a great deal and provides all of the major attractions in one package. You get the Hornblower Niagara Cruises, Journey Behind the Falls, and the White Water Walk. You also get a two day bus pass which is an easy way to get from attraction to attraction. Depending on which pass you decide to purchase, the cost ranges from $25 – $75 per person with the youngest family members being free.

We did a day trip with our 9-month-old son and the activities were perfect for him. He loved seeing the falls and feeling the spray. The White Water Walk was a perfect relaxation moment. The sound of the water is white noise to lull a child to sleep in the stroller and it’s a shaded, peaceful walk for the whole family. Attractions that involve getting wet such as the cruise and the Journey Behind the Falls, provide tiny ponchos perfect for little bodies.

So many destinations require you to leave adult attractions unexplored in the interest of making the trip family friendly. Niagara Falls is truly a place designed for the entire family to enjoy. Even with a 9-month-old, there wasn’t anything we wanted to do that we couldn’t. Toddlers can appreciate the scope of the falls and older kids can start to learn the history of their formation. There really is something to be understood and appreciated for each age level.

If you want to maximize every part of your trip, grab my family travel planner.

Hiking Vancouver

Hiking in Vancouver, Canada

by Erin at Little Miss Kate & Company

The Canadian West offers a beautiful backdrop with mountains, rivers, and oceans for hiking, especially in Vancouver. Depending on what you are looking for there are three opportunities for walking and hiking to enjoy the Canadian landscape.

  1. Experienced Hikers: if you are looking for a long hike, check out Grouse Mountain and the natural stairmaster known as Grouse Grind which is 2.9km of challenging trail up the mountainside, definitely for more advanced hikers. There is no fee to climb the Grouse Grind trail but the cost to take the Skyride back down from the top is $15.00
  2. Family Friendly Walking Trail: Stanley Park trails offer 28km of trail that you can walk or ride along the Sea Wall from Stanley Park all the way to Spanish Banks Park. Families can enjoy the trails, beaches, local wildlife, and cultural experiences and landmarks.
  3. Walk in the Trees for Kids: One of my favorite locations to go hiking and exploring with kids is located just outside of the Downtown Vancouver area and is called Capilano Suspension Bridge. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is named after a Squamish chief and translates to “beautiful river”. Last summer we visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge with our 4-month-old daughter using a baby carrier and it was the perfect family activity to enjoy the outdoors. Experience the Treetop adventure as you cross 7 different bridges and explore the treetops of the Douglas Fir Rainforest and cross the 450 metre gap on the suspension bridge across the Capilano river. This is just one of the awesome activities in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Cost: Adults: $47, Kids 6-12 $15, Under 6 are FREE!

Snorkling Oahu

Snorkeling in Oahu, Hawaii, USA

by Bryann at Fitspiration Adventures

It’s no secret the Hawaiian Islands have some of the most beautiful waters and ocean creatures known to man. A trip to Oahu would not be complete without an up close and personal experience with these ocean life creatures. Luckily, snorkeling on Oahu isn’t an activity that requires much planning and can be done for free!

If you want an experience with a lifeguard on duty and don’t mind a small fee, Hanauma Bay on the east side of the island has a wonderful program for you. It is considered a nature preserve, so there are many fish to be seen. Getting there early and planning for a long wait in the ticket line is recommended as it can get quite crowded. You can rent equipment on site. Be advised there is a small fee (less than $10) and a short educational video you must watch before you are able to snorkel.

If you are a little more adventurous and/or experienced with snorkeling, I highly suggest you skip Hanauma Bay and take on a FREE experience around the island. Luckily, you can find ocean life pretty much anywhere on the island. One great place is Sharks Cove on the North Shore that has a cove with calm waters to find beautiful fish. It is very popular with tourist and locals, alike. It is safe for all ages and skill levels, just bring along your own snorkel gear.

No matter your skill level, Oahu has something for you. In addition to snorkeling, your family can also enjoy kid-friendly hikes on Oahu. Just remember to bring coral safe sunscreen to protect those beautiful creatures!

White Water Rafting Jackson

White Water Rafting in Jackson, Wyoming, USA

by Margie DQ at DQ Family Travel

Whitewater rafting is a fun-filled activity that is perfect for outdoor-loving families. We chose to do this experience on the Snake River in Jackson, Wyoming. There are many rafting companies in Jackson, as the Snake River has very popular class II and III rapids. We chose Mad River Outfitters due to their high reviews online and were very pleased with their prices ($85 for adults and $65 for children), knowledgeable guides and overall experience. Families can choose from a gentle scenic float (optimal if you have toddlers) or brave the whitewater on larger classic rafts (which we did), or smaller rafts for the more daring. There are even options to include an outdoor BBQ lunch on the river.

The best time to whitewater raft would be the summer, as the water temperatures are the mildest, near 60 degrees Fahrenheit / 15 degrees Celsius. We were fortunate that Wyoming had plenty of snowfall this past winter, so the rivers were running high. Our guide explained to us that it made for a better rafting experience. The entire trip on the river was just over an hour, with some gentle stops along the way to jump in the cool water. Water shoes, a hat, and sunscreen are highly recommended.

Our family enjoyed our trip to the West immensely. Since we were visiting Grand Teton National Park nearby, the town of Jackson was the perfect home base for our exploration. In addition to the beautiful scenery, our family loved whitewater rafting in Jackson. To date, this is my family’s most enjoyable outdoor experience and one we will look back on fondly.

US NP Junior Ranger program

Junior Ranger Program in United States National Parks

by Jamie at Photojeepers

One of the best family activities you can do is visit a national park. In the US, the Junior Ranger program teaches children to “Explore, Learn, and Protect!” The participants take an oath to protect the parks, continue to learn about the parks, and share their junior ranger adventure with family and friends.

There is a fee to enter most national parks, but there is no fee to participate in the National Park Service Junior Ranger program. Simply go to the visitor center and talk to a ranger. The program is typically for kids ages 5 to 13, but anyone can participate.

To become a Junior Ranger, kids will complete a series of activities during their visit to the park. They will share their answers with a park ranger then receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate.

Kids can continue to earn Junior Ranger badges from home to keep the spirit of “explore, learn, and protect” once your vacation ends. Use this list of fun US National Parks to visit with kids, because a family vacation becomes and adventure when you visit a national park!

Jordan Pond Acadia NP

Hiking, Swimming, Cycling, and Sailing in Acadia National Park, USA

by James at Travel Collecting

Acadia National Park is the perfect national park for families. The park is next to Bar Harbor, so there are plenty of accommodation options. Free shuttle services run between town and the key points of interest in the park. There are fantastic hikes, many suitable for kids of all ages, as well as plenty of other activities. You can swim in the ocean at Sandy Beach and the warmer Echo Lake. The ocean here is pretty chilly, but the lake is perfect.

The park is also laced with old carriage trails created by Rockefeller. You can rent bicycles in Bar Harbor (and transport them free on the shuttle) and ride miles and miles (or just one or two) through the forests of the national park. Relax at the end at Jordan Pond House restaurant for popovers, which are a local delicacy (kind of like a slightly eggy muffin, but more or less hollow inside – covered in butter and jam, they are delicious). There is a large lawn here for the kids to play on and you can kayak and canoe in Jordan Pond.

There are dozens of islands scattered around, and you can go on sailing trips (especially beautiful at sunset), or take a ferry to the Cranberry Islands for lobster and short, easy walks. You can also kayak around the islands. No matter what you and your kids love to do, there is something for you in Acadia NP.

Best view of Golden Gate Bridge

Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA

by Julie at TREKKN

One of our all-time favorite family destinations is without a doubt, San Francisco, California. On our first visit, we squeezed in all of the normal tourist activities, making sure we checked off that bucket list. But on our second visit, we wanted to mix things up a bit and do something we hadn’t really heard a lot about.

So we went sailing.

If you’re looking for a way to get the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge, sailing up to and under it is definitely something you should consider. My two sons and I boarded a catamaran with Adventure Cat Sailing at Pier 39 for a 90-minute sail. The crew was friendly, personable and even let my sons try their hand at the ropes.

One thing to remember is to dress warm no matter the season. Layers are key and it gets windy on the boat! But if you forget a jacket, no worries because they have some to share.

The whole sailing experience is something my boys often bring up when we’re talking about our favorite travel memories. Between getting to experience sailing and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge up close and personal, it’s not something you easily forget.

Share Your Experiences

How many of these family activity holidays have YOU experienced? What’s been your all-time favorite family activity holiday? We’d love to hear your experiences and recommendations!

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5 thoughts on “Best Family Activity Holidays – The Ultimate Guide”

  • All of these look absolutely incredible! We plan to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef when we do the big lap of Aus. And also do a lot of hiking in NZ but looking at all of these has made me want to travel more globally with my girls. All except the ice floating though, I’m happy with warm water thanks (though it would be an incredible experience). I worked in the arctic circle offshore for a few years and all our training was about staying out of the water haha.

    • Your trip to AUS and NZ sounds amazing! There just so many good reasons to travel globally… After that arctic circle offshore job I can imagine warm waters could be more appealing 😀

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