Summer in the City

While many Kiwis pack up and leave for beach towns and campgrounds over the summer holiday period, there is something to be said for staying in the city – the peace and quiet being one thing, you can immerse yourself in cultural experiences without the crowds.

Here are some of the best summer activities for us city-dwellers.


The capital city is often at its best in summer, when workplaces clear out, but enough people stay around to give Wellington the heart and soul it is renowned for. Buskers are out in the city streets, entertaining those ambling around, while you can also wander along the waterfront with a take-out coffee and people watch.

Best Free or Cultural Experience: 

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa’s full name translates to ‘container of treasures’, which is an apt description for a museum considered the home of New Zealand stories.

Free to visit, it is packed with the country’s national art collection, Māori artefacts and art, and scientific and natural wonders. Some of the exhibitions are interactive, which the kids like, and it appeals across the generations. It’s also a good place to visit if the weather turns.


If you’re in Auckland over summer, you’ll be spoilt with tons of sunshine, sandy beaches and warm sea, and, on a bad day, a ton of activities to enjoy both in and out of town. Sitting in the sparkling blue Hauraki Gulf, Auckland is also a great base to explore the islands nearby: Waiheke, Rangitoto, or Rotoroa, and you could even take a day trip to the Coromandel.

Best Free or Cultural Experience: 

The Auckland War Memorial Museum sits on top of a hill on picturesque Auckland Domain. It has a range of galleries and revolving exhibitions.

Along with showcasing New Zealand’s war history and stories of Jewish holocaust survivors, another highlight is the immersive Living City, where the walls and floor are alive with projections illustrating the lives of Aucklanders and the places they inhabit. You can use the interactive touchscreen to dive further into a specific location such as a neighbourhood.


The riverside city of Hamilton is one of the country’s fastest growing and it is blessed with attractions, from adventurous and family activities to cultural events and an impressive range of eateries.

Hamilton is a great spot to visit in the summer months due to the breadth of accommodation, and it is close to a range of must-dos in the Waikato: the Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton, Waikato war sites and the west coast surf beaches.

Best Free or Cultural Experience: 

From a former rubbish dump to the Waikato’s most visited attraction, Hamilton Gardens are among the best in Australasia. Hamilton Gardens tell the story of international gardens through themed collections. You can walk from a peaceful Sung Dynasty Chinese Scholar’s garden into an Italian Renaissance Garden, before being enthralled by the grandeur of the Indian Char Bagh (‘four quartered’) Garden.


One of the wonderful things about Queenstown is that each season is distinctive. You can feel like you’re visiting an entirely different place in spring, when the trees are sprinkled with pretty blossom, and in winter, when the craggy mountains are layered with snow.

A Queenstown summer is often hot, when the heat settles between the mountains and Lake Wakatipu glistens invitingly. Queenstown is packed with so many activities and adventures that you’ll be spoilt for choice, and a holiday here means the kids will be too busy to stare at their screens.

Best Free or Cultural Experience: 

Arrowtown, the Historic Chinese Settlement is dotted along the Arrow River. It’s free to walk along and gaze at the miners’ huts – some restored, and some recreated. In 1874, there were over 3500 Chinese workers in the region working as gold miners, 60 of whom lived in huts in Arrowtown. Ah Lum’s Store is a historic trust category.


Dunedin is gobsmackingly pretty: think houses spilling down the hillside, a harbour shimmering on sunny days, and lush, vibrant public gardens. Known for its surf beaches, indie fashion and rich culture and history, Dunedin’s summer temperatures are high enough to make it worth a visit.

Best Free or Cultural Experience: 

The Dunedin Botanic Gardens in the northern part of the city were New Zealand’s first public gardens and are internationally recognised for their significance. Highlights are the 3000 rhododendrons filling the native bush with bursts of colour, and the tui, bellbirds and wood pigeons singing happily.