Salt water crocodiles measuring four metres in length. Graceful butterflies, so trusting that they land on your fingertips. Life-scale models of Tyranasaurus Rex, growling and baring their teeth as you pass. What more can you ask for in a day's entertainment?
Butterfly Creek, located at the edge of Auckland's international airport, is still centred around its original butterfly house and crocodile pen. But there's more. The butterflies and the tropical fish tanks are joined by the Buttermilk Farm petting zoo where you can get up close and personal with rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and chickens. The wider farm area includes very cute lamas, as well as an obstacle course designed for the resident mountain goats. The pigs and sheep are not shy and happy to be touched by little hands as they pass, and the brilliantly coloured parrots and pheasants are a delight to see.
The new dinosaur exhibition is a dramatic experience, especially for those under four foot tall. The models are scary and lifelike and the information boards taught me everything I didn't know about the pre-historic age.
It's not a cheap experience for a family, but can be stretched to an all-day activity if you want to maximise value. Costs range between $39 for a family pass (2 adults and 2 children), through to $73 for that family to access all areas. The train is a further $3 per person. Fortunately, you're not forced to exit through the (exciting and tactile) gift store.
We didn't venture into the café as we came after lunch but the website advertises an "awesome collection of home-made food".
My recommendation; it's a special treat and worth making a day of it that both big and little people can thoroughly enjoy.