Hands up who has a child that hasn’t loved dinosaurs? There’s no escape: Whether you’re a Generation X, Y, or Z parent, you’ll be reciting your this, that, or the othersaurus along with your children at some point. But hey, who wants to get away from this positively healthy obsession (much better than watching YouTubers play Minecraft or unbox!). We’ve decided to give you a hand with your little palaeontologists by going on a dinosaur hunt of our own. Here’s our all-time “bring-it” list of everywhere to find dinos in NZ.
Check out the real underwater dinosaur and T-rex skeletons at the Auckland Memorial Museum and take a wander around the Origins exhibit on the first floor. The kids can see a real megalodon tooth (think prehistoric shark, and note: The megalodon’s great-great-grandson is still around).This display give kids a real sense of how big these creatures really were.
In Rotorua, sail your way through the history of New Zealand on the Big Splash ride at Rainbow Springs and you’ll pass a giant T-rex, get a little wet, and learn about Māori history.
GRAB YOUR BINOCULARS AND SPOT THE REX (Ruapehu)
Break up your road trip and distract (bored) dino-crazy kids by keeping an eye out for Raurimu Rex in Ruapehu. See if the kids can spot Rex in the distance; he’s made entirely out of New Zealand driftwood (some of which predates the Taupo eruption). Situated off state highway 4, on 1 Kaitieke Road, Raurimu. Make sure you get a photo!
The dinosaur house (Raetihi, Ruapehu)
The Dinosaur House is now open! This little museum, dedicated to dinos, will be filled with life-sized reconstructions of dinosaurs, fossils and skeletons.
Head to Wanaka’s park located on Ardmore Street so the kids can climb all over and slide down the giant dinosaur, while the adults enjoy a picturesque view of the lake with a coffee in hand.
STEGOSAURUS SLIDE (Dunedin)
Marlow Park, aka Dunedin’s famous dinosaur park, is fun, free, and suitable for the whole family. It is home to the incredible stegosaurus slide, bike and skateboard areas, and also sits beside St Kilda beach.
LOST IN THE FOREST (Cromwell)
Hidden within Otago in Cromwell is the Highlands Jurassic Forest Tour, where you can walk around the forest in search of life-sized dinos big and small. The off-road track makes for a truly Jurassic experience where the kids can run and play in this imaginary world.
FLYING PLESIOSAURUS (Auckland, Hastings, Dunedin)
Magical Park turns a normal urban city park into a digital fantasyland on your device. The kids can run around the park chasing virtual dinosaurs or walk through an enchanting world of fairies and kittens. It has geo-fenced boundaries, so the app stops working beyond the edges of the park, making it completely safe. Great free entertainment outside for the kids – just download the app when you get to the park and enter another land. The app works in the regions of Auckland, Hastings, Dunedin, Wellington, and Christchurch.
Oamaru’s Prehistoric world
Immerse yourself in a world of dinosaur bones and fossils at Oamaru’s Prehistoric World. Kids love the oversized movie screen where they get to experience a fantasy world of massive dinosaurs, complete with amazing sound effects.
BRING THE DINOSAURS HOME (Nationwide)
DinoFest are a travelling pack of life-sized dinosaurs that delight children (and adults) at festivals, exhibitions, and even libraries (definitely worth suggesting to your local!). Kids get to have a close encounter and pat their favourite dino. Even better, you can hire DinoFest complete with fossils for your own party extraordinaire – but make it an outdoor party or hire a big venue as these are not small creatures!
DINOS AT DUSK (Auckland and Wellington)
DINOS THAT BREATHE AND ROAR (Auckland)
Take the train around Dinosaur Gully at Crystal Mountain in Swanson, where you’ll find life-sized dinosaurs that move, breathe, and roar.
CREATURE KINGDOM (Auckland)
Just two minutes away from the Auckland Airport, visit the Dinosaur Kingdom at Butterfly Creek. Here you can trek around the habitat of more than 60 dinosaur replicas with amazing sound effects. There are also photo opportunities for a fun family portrait (plus a toothy dino in the background).
MAMMOTH MINI GOLF (Auckland and Hamilton)
A more active approach for those with ants in their pants is the Lost in Time Mini Golf in Skycity, 219 Queen Street, Auckland. Take the rocket-shaped elevator to the top, then make your way around the prehistoric course crawling with dinosaurs. For enthusiasts, it doesn’t stop there, you can also putt your way around dinosaurs at T Rex Alley, 3 Tamaki Drive, Auckland and Ice age in Centre Place, 65 Bryce Street, Hamilton.
SHABBY SALON (Wellington)
Shabby Salon in Wellington have hit the kids’ party scene and are doing a dino-themed party for kids. They set up shop at your party, where boys and girls can have their faces and hair painted to look like their favourite dino (think purple, yellow, and brown dinosaur spots painted onto short haircuts), or have special hair ties and crowns made with dino toys.
DIY CAKE (Nationwide delivery)
If you enjoy baking your own birthday cakes, kiwicakes.co.nz supply everything dinosaur-themed you’ll need to make your child’s special day dino-tastic. Cake pans, party cups, candles, and a range of edible images all related to our favourite creatures from the past will make for the ideal children’s party.
COSTUME FUN (Nationwide)
Look Sharp can fit you out with a dino costume, complete with tail, teeth, and hoodie (available in both pink and blue) for only $30. Costumes change regularly here, so keep an eye out for what’s in stock.
DINOS AT HOME
Make use of all the empty tissue boxes circulating around the house in the winter months by creating dinosaur feet. Paint the outside of the tissue box, create the texture of scales or, if you’re feeling particularly artistic, use papier-mache. To add dino claws to the front, cut triangles out of sponges, and glue them sticking outward. Slip those little feet inside and roar!
Got some hungry budding palaeontologists? Create your own fossil footprint cookies by simply choosing your favourite biscuit recipe and letting the kids choose their favourite dinosaur toy. Press the foot of the toy onto the middle of the cookie dough to create a fossil effect, then bake.
Snuggle up for some movies and get ready for the greatest dinosaur-themed weekend in. We recommend The Good Dinosaur, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the classic self-titled Dinosaur – or, for a more educational approach, BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs.
Ultimate dinosaur den
If your child is in need of a new bedroom look, theinside.co.nz supply a range of awesome sustainable dinosaur wallpapers. For the ideal dinosaur den, they also have fabrics, pillowcases, and bedside lamp covers to match.
Board game night
Your kids will love the Tyrannosaurus Rex Game from Toyworld for $24.99. It includes 17 different dinosaurs and is simplistic, strategic, and super enjoyable. For kids age six and up, this is a great afternoon timewaster for a gang of budding Jurassic Park wardens.
If your children keep begging you for some new stationery, the Warehouse Stationery supply novelty dinosaur pens that might just inspire a little creative writing.
Jurassic Park-inspired Lego is available from Farmers , Toy World, The Warehouse, or buy online. Create raptors or have fun with the awesome T-Rex. Once kids have the dino figures, they can use all their bricks to create a massive Jurassic Park – maybe even create this in the garden on a sunny day to get a realistic context for the outdoor dino world.
Photo: Dinosaur Kingdom/Butterfly Creek (Auckland)
By Finn Jelicich