Queenstown to Lake Tekapo – great drives in New Zealand

Nothing like a family road trip to see the true New Zealand.

After a week in Queenstown in September 2014, the kids and I headed off on an 18 day road trip, finally ending in Auckland. Our first stop was Lake Tekapo.

The 256km drive takes around 3 hours, more if you stop, which you will. The azure blue Lake Pukaki makes for an amazing photo opportunity, especially if it’s a clear day and you get a good view of Aoraki / Mt cook in the background.

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WE stayed at  http://laketekapo-accommodation.co.nz/kiwi-bachs/ which was a whole lot of fun. The ‘kiwi bach’ itself was very authentically decked out like a private holiday shack. There were 5 of us and we slept comfortably in the absolute peace and quiet on the shores of lake Tekapo

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One of the best views from a playground in NZ!

image   This is the view!

I could see my children at the playground from inside the kiwi bach. Not to mention the lake and mountain views.

 

It is a very rocky walk down to the lake, but worth it to get up close to the clean, clear water and skim a stone or two.

imageLots and lots of rocks!

Lake Tekapo now has thermal pools and ice skating and tubing in Winter. We caught the last days of the tubing hill and the kids had a ball sliding down a snowy strip on a big tube. The ice skating looked like great fun, but alas, was beginning to melt in late September. Next time. The local supermarket was well stocked with produce from the area including cheeses and smoked salmon.

Lake Tekapo was just one night for us, but we already plan to go back.

 

 

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Why go to Queenstown NZ with your big family?

1. It is beautiful. Queenstown is heaven on earth, as anyone who has been there knows. You have a stunning lake punctuated with snowy peaks, and all manner of exciting and relaxing things to do. In the olden days we would have said bring lots of film, because the photo opportunities are endless.

2. It is easy for Aussies to get there. The direct flight from Melbourne is just a little over 3 hours, which makes it a great option for families. All the excitement of an overseas trip, without the long haul flight. Arriving at Queenstowb airport is simple. It is small and easy to get around. The flight in is one of the most beautiful I have seen in the world. The white snowy peaks let you know that you have arrived in NZ. I never cease to say ‘Wow!’ when I do this flight.

3. It is reasonable in terms of expense to get there. As far as the kids go, it was a first flight for my 2 y/o and only 2nd flight for my older ones (ages 7, 10 and 12). We chose the seat and bag option for financial reasons, though I have to say the food options to buy on Air NZ were limited (meat pie, pringles chips, very solid and old chicken roll, jam bagel). In hindsight, I would go the meal or the full service option and just keep looking for a better deal. The smell of the cooked meals goes right through the plane and it is hard to explain to a 2 year old why you are not getting any! Either that, or make sure you bring something yummy for them to eat.

4. It’s easy to get around. There is one set of traffic lights in Queenstown and it is out near the airport. We used Go rental cars and found the airport pick up pretty straight forward. The drove us to their depot and got us sorted out with our van (Tarago) efficiently. I would use them again, and theirs was the cheapest 7 seater rental in Queenstown. Driving is a breeze, even in peak times.  Think the opposite of driving in Rome.

5. There is so much to do. We have a big age range, so from the 12 year old who wants to browse the shops, to the 2 year old who wants ice cream and a play at the park, the kids were happy. We had decided already that the kids would get to try skiing, so we looked at the weather when we got there and tried to pick the best day. You know already that skiing is pricey, and yes it was, but one day only and it is a great memory for all of us. Apart from skiing, there is so much else to do. We visited the Gondoloa and Kiwi wild life park, father and son went jet boating, and the girls went shopping. There are kayaks at the lake  and water bikes which my older girls tried too. WE took a drive to Glenorchy which had some of the most amazing lake and mountain views I have seen in NZ and the world. Well worth the drive, plus cheap/free. If it’s a nice day take a picnic. Arrowtown is another lovely short drive with heaps to look at, including cute shops and for a free activity try going down to the river to skim some stones.

Negatives:

It is expensive to do a lot of these activities, so have a look online and budget before you go.

Accommodation can be very pricey so look for off peak times to go. Or consider staying a bit out of town where it may be cheaper.

Our next adventure….one month in New Zealand

Spring is the time for new adventures right?

We have one planned.

We are off to New Zealand for a month, travelling from South to North (by car), almost the bottom, to almost the top. New Zealand is not a huge country (well compared to Australia anyway) so we will spend a week relaxing first in beautiful Queenstown, then amble north with another 11 days in the South Island spending time in Lake Tekapo, Methven, Akaroa, Hanmer Springs and Nelson. A further 9 days in the North Island exploring Wellington, Tongariro National Park, Rotorua and Auckland.

The big kids have a 50L pack each, the bub (age 2.5) has an overnight bag. We will be packing as light as possible, going with the rule, “you pack it, you carry it” My son is only 7, but he will be responsible for his own bag. I will have my own and Miss 2’s to deal with. With three weeks to go before we leave we are beginning to plan what the kids will bring. 

I have booked most of the accommodation online using booking.com. I have found the ability to put in 4 kids while searching has made it so much easier than looking through place after place that only takes 2 adults and 2 kids. Another benefit has been the ‘pay later’ option, which allows you to book and confirm and then pay on arrival. There have been no requests for security deposits either which you can be asked for with internet bookings.

We will post reviews of the accommodation as we go.

Back to planning for now….will keep you posted with our progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Echuca. We liked it so much we went back.

During our motorhome trip we visited the town of Echuca (Echuca/Moama really). It was such a fascinating place, we vowed to return when the warm weather hit so we could enjoy the resort like pools at Maiden’s Inn Holiday Park that we looked longingly at when we visited in April.

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 Booking just a week before Christmas meant we had the place pretty much to ourselves. The large cabins fitted our family of six perfectly, with a master bedroom with double, and 2 further bedrooms with a set of bunks in each (one of the rooms had a double bed below a single bunk). It was hot, but the cabins have air conditioning. The open grass areas meant plenty of room to run around.

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This pool suited our family beautifully. There are lots of little ledges and rocks to hold on to for the learners and plenty of space for the big kids. Not to mention sun lounges for a spot of relaxation between swims.

Echuca itself is a town full of history with the Port area being a great place to visit and go for a trip up the river on a Paddle Steamer. Flora enjoyed the Christmas window at the Echuca Lolly Shop, not to mention the sweet treats inside (and it was nice and cool).

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Something must be said about the weather here. It’s well and truly a few degrees warmer than where we live (near the coast in Victoria), so it is perfect pool weather.

For those who enjoy fishing, the park is also right on the Murray River and you can throw in a line if the mood takes you. 

For Australian and overseas visitors alike, you will have a unique experience in Echuca, and probably want to come back again and again like us. 

Motorhome travel close to home

Travelling close to home in a rented motor home was an adventure we had a year or so ago….. here are the highlights.

 

It gets harder to go places the more children you have. Accommodation, getting around, it all takes time and planning to organise. So this time we decided to rent a motorhome (Britz had a great half price deal!) and take our home on the road.  Our 4 children aged 10, 8, 5 and 1 got really excited at the prospect and enjoyed planning and thinking about where we might go. Having not tried this style of trip before we figured one week was a good place to start.

The vehicle depot is an hour from our home. For a smooth beginning we got a friend to drive my husband up so he could collect the vehicle. Avoiding the whole ‘frazzled, excited kids’ scenario having to wait for ages. Kids and waiting for long periods are never a good combination.  Having a toddler along for the ride also creates a need for less waiting more doing! Miss 18 months is a busy girl! Imagine the children’s faces when dad pulled up out the front of our house in a 6 berth motorhome…. Priceless! All we had to do was load her up.

We hadn’t expected a brand new vehicle but that was what we got. Shiny, clean and very big! Well big in terms of driving, maybe compact in terms of living. WE chose a first destination not too far from our home in Geelong, Victoria, as I knew the packing would take a while and we didn’t want to arrive in the dark on our first night. So we set off for Daylesford, a beautiful spa town and felt like we were in the bush within minutes. Nothing like seeing your first kangaroo within half an hour of driving off.

Jubilee Lake Holiday Park www.jubileelake.com.au is a gorgeous little park, off the beaten track amongst stunning tall gum trees, abundant native birdlife, a lake and a walking trail. Mr 5 was most impressed that we could have a fire. At just on an hour and a half from Melbourne, we could have been anywhere. The surroundings at Jubilee Lake are of the Australian Bush in every way. Marshmallows were toasted, birds were watched, neighbors chatted to us and everyone slept pretty well in our new house d’ wheels. The pace of life had begun to slow already.

 

We managed our first pack up and ship out relatively easily. First stop Frangos and Frangos, a local Daylesford eatery that we have been to any time we are in town. Pancakes, coffee , juice, eggs, bacon, now this is living!

Destination Bendigo, a bit over an hours drive from Daylesford. I had researched what I thought looked like the best option for a caravan park in Bendigo based on what was on offer for the kids. Giant chess set, games room, jumping pillow and heated pool were all sounding good. The gold Nugget did not disappoint! For the grown-ups there was an element of 70’s holiday that we had never forgotten. Something in the bathroom tiles perhaps. For the children, absolute joy at 4 computers in the games room and the OK from their parents to play games on them. Kid heaven. Between computer games there were jumps, billiards, free arcade games and table tennis. We found the other campers to be so friendly and willing to chat. The pace of life is slower on the road for sure, people take the time to say Hi and ‘Where are you from’ and impromptu conversations happen with ease.

Parents had ideas to ride the talking tram in Bendigo or visit the Gold Museum, but the kids were so entranced with The Gold Nugget that we chilled out there for longer than expected. Miss 18 months loved the playground too. We dragged them away for a wander in the town of Bendigo and somewhat stumbled on the Sacred Heart Cathedral. A bigger church I have not seen outside of Rome. The proportions massive, the height, neck achingly tall, the steps, exhausting! Once inside the serenity and beauty of this building were revealed. Organist practising up stairs and all in all we had a perfect visit. Well worth a look and totally free.

Our travel day was set up to fit in with Miss 18 months’ sleep patterns. So we got up and organised, check out by 10 and off for a bit of sight-seeing, then drive to our next destination around lunch time.

Next stop, Echuca and over the border to Moama.

Maiden’s Inn Caravan park in Moama was perfectly leafy, on the river and had the most beautiful resort pool (sadly not heated though!) and made the perfect spot for our next two nights. Echuca is a beautiful little country town, on the border of Vic and NSW and well worth a visit. The pace of life seemed a little bit slower (or was that just us?) and the river scenery was serene. The Port of Echuca is like a historic street (think Sovereign Hill but free!) with lots of interesting shops and things to see. The kid’s favourite by far was the Penny Arcade. They were captivated by the machines and had their first sight of “The Three Stooges” on the screen. A holiday highlight indeed. Echuca had lots to offer that we didn’t manage to see, yes kids were mad for the jumping pillow and playground again at the caravan park, but we vowed to return in the warmer weather and enjoy that pool!

A quick trip into Echuca Coffee Roaster in High st. for a couple of take aways and we were on our way back to Bendigo. We hadn’t planned to back track, but Miss 18 months was growing weary of the confined car seat so we figured we missed a lot of Bendigo so it made sense. Back to the Gold Nugget of course, and much more fun was had by the squidlets. Bendigo’s old buildings and architecture was a highlight. Café au Lait was a lovely lunch spot, and Oh how heavenly was Bendigo Wholefoods for a spot of organic shopping!

http://www.bendigowholefoods.com.au/who.html

Castlemaine was our last big town and only half an hour to drive from Bendigo. It is a favourite of ours so we knew exactly where to hit first! Saff’s café for lunch, with the amazing antique and nic nac shop across the road, Restorers Barn for much happy browsing! The air began to cool and the feeling of shorter Autumn days could really be felt in the afternoon. Sadly the Big4 at Castlemaine was rather disappointing, with a sub standard size jumping pillow (kids were mightily disappointed!) and sites that were far from level. The only saving grace being the location on the edge of the beautiful botanic gardens. Castlemaine has one of THE BEST playgrounds with some of the most beautiful trees surrounding it that we have ever witnessed. Much fun was had, collecting of acorns, sliding, swinging, and I even managed a lovely chat with a local mum and her sweet kids. The park had barbeques which we contemplated using to cook tea, but it got so cold that we decided to go back to camp and eat inside.

Next stop, Gordon, near Ballarat, a teeny country town which is the home of some dear friends. Especially well timed for my husband’s birthday, we arrive late afternoon to a warm home cooked meal and the vast open space of a real HOUSE! Luxury.

On the 8th day we drove into our home, recharged, refreshed and relaxed. Also somewhat exhausted, aching (poor old backs away from our own mattress), weary, but broadened by our experience of living on the road. The children confident from their roaming free in caravan parks, spending of their pocket money and all the new experiences. Us grown-ups so appreciative of the giant space we had previously called our tiny home and ready to settle back into the rhythm of family life as we know it.

Motorhome travel close to home, we give you 10 out of 10.