The Lake Taupo Holiday Resort (previously called the Top 10 Holiday Park Taupo), is the most fantastic destination for families with kids. The thermally heated lagoon pool is the biggest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere and cost over two million dollars to build, and the kids (and big kids) can play and splash around for hours. The water is warmer than the water in Fiji year round!
A swim-up café and bar has everything from coffee to a cheeky wee cocktail on offer and there’s also a giant poolside screen that shows sports and movies, almost around the clock.
There are parts of the pool for all ages, with a lovely wee lagoon style paddling pool for toddlers, complete with a toadstool fountain. There’s a massive spa, and a cave with the water in there an impressive depth of 4 metres that you swim to under a waterfall. The kids particularly loved that area and would dive to try and reach the bottom. Kids under 16 aren’t allowed in the cave without adults and the staff were great at doing spot checks.
The accommodation is varied and well positioned. There are powered and non-powered sites, and a variety of cabins to suit every configuration and budget.
We stayed in the Wimbledon Cottage, a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit overlooking the tennis courts. It’s a fantastic set-up, the only gripe being there is no oven in the unit, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to cook for 11 people. The communal BBQ’s in the grounds come in handy though!
The morning was spent sleeping in, relaxing and waiting for the groceries that we’d ordered to be delivered. Countdown provide a great online service. It’s how I do all my grocery shopping at home and I thought I’d give it a whirl on holiday too. It went without a hitch! Dad and Jase cooked up a mean feed of sausages for lunch that we had with bread and salad. I don’t normally like sausages but these were beef beauties from the Kaniere butcher in Hokitika. They were amazing!
During the afternoon, the 3 boys hired out some wee bikes and burnt off a bit of energy with an hour long zoom around the park. They absolutely loved it! Once they were finished we all hit the pool, where the kids ordered their first drink at a swim up bar. They all thought they were the coolest kids on the planet, and sat there swigging their cokes and sprites like the best bar proppers.
Caitlyn and I enjoyed a mocktail each, and I have to say, the prices were really reasonable. Being a captive audience, they could charge what they like but the kids drinks were only $4.00 each and our mocktails were $6.50 each. Really good value for the size.
Jase and I were called upon in the early evening to help out an 11 year old who had fallen off his bike. He had broken both wrists, hit his head and hurt his neck when he had fallen and was in a serious amount of pain. Jase and I took over his care, organised the ambulance and assisted the paramedics. The wee lad was back the next day with two casts on and came knocking at our door (with his head as his arms weren’t working) and had a box of chocolates under his arm for us. Warm fuzzies! It was so nice to help someone again, and made us both miss our ambo jobs (for an instant anyway). Unfortunately the politics at St John are so intense that neither of us would consider returning at this stage. The politics bled the joy out of the job.
Dinner was a mixture of Tracey’s butter chicken and rice, and my honey soy chicken noodle stirfry. We were all tired so it was another early night. Tomorrow we’re out sightseeing, bring it ON!
We decided on a Summer family holiday in Taupo this year. It mean’t a ferry ride rather than a plane flight, and a huge roadie to get there. In fact, the roadie was so big that if we were flying, we’d be in Singapore by now! Luckily most of us like road trips. Those that don’t just hunkered down for the big day with ipods, ipads and pillows.
We got up at 5.50am and were on the road at 6.45am. I was half expecting issues getting 5 kids up and moving (on a school day, it’s damn near impossible even with an early night and a later wake up call) but when a holiday is on offer, they are rolling out of bed even before their eyes are open.
We’d packed the night before with clothes out all ready to be climbed into, so it ended up being quite painless. All kids were fed, watered, and organised. We stopped at the McDonalds drive-through, to just top up the tanks with hash browns.
Two hours later we were in Picton where our two car convoy met up with Mum and Dads at the check in area. We were parked on the rail deck on the Aratere ferry, and were the first in (and first out which was awesome!).
The kids were super excited, Riley and Tobi hadn’t been on the ferry before and Caitlyn, Amber and Zach were excited to be going again with the boys for their first time. The general rule on the ferry to the North Island is that if the winds are northerly, you’ll get smooth, calm seas, even if it’s windy. If it’s a southerly, watch out.
Luckily for us, it was a northerly. Mild swells of 1 metre. No problem. We went straight upstairs to the back deck and watched as the horn sounded and we departed. Then Jase and Craig took the kids to get something to eat (because they’d gone two hours without food, heaven forbid!).
We sat on the deck for the majority of the crossing, with various wee groups going off to explore at different stages. Mum, Tracey, Caitlyn, Amber and I went down to get cups of tea for everyone at one stage and it felt quite rough downstairs. We were lurching from side to side, and it instantly reminded me of Jason and my disastrous cruise. In that moment I remembered why I said I’d never do another one… and these were only 1 metre swells! I used to have fantastic sea-legs but as I’ve grown up (gotten older, crustied, matured, wrinkled…..), they’ve fallen by the wayside apparently.
If you haven’t been on New Zealand’s Interislander ferry, then I urge you to make the trip….. It’s not travel, it’s an experience.
NCL Cruise Ship in port at Wellington
The first ten minutes of the Picton ferry journey takes you to the entrance of the Grove Arm, at the end of which you’ll see Anakiwa in the distance. Here the Cook Strait ferry swings right and enters the Queen Charlotte Sound. With the hills of Marlborough surrounding you and the sheltered waters calm and placid, sailing through the Marlborough Sounds feels more like cruising along a large river.
After passing Allports Island and a number of huge bays on the left, the Interislander’s route through the Marlborough Sounds takes a sharp right turn around Dieffenbach Point and begins its journey through the Tory Channel.
The initial turn in to the Tory Channel is a broad 90° swing from northeast to southeast. Shortly after, the ship will swing 90° back to an east heading. The Cook Strait ferries like to pass in this section, we passed one here and one further on.
You’ll also pass some King Salmon farms midway along the Tory Channel. These will appear as large square platforms, which the fish are bred inside. Shortly after these, the Picton to Wellington ferry will turn and head north towards the end of the Tory Channel
Sailing out of the Tory Channel is an event you should definitely be outside for. If you are on Kaitaki or Kaiarahi, then take a starboard spot (on the right-hand side of the ship). If you are on Aratere then you can stand on the bow and watch it all unfold.
The exit to the Cook Strait is invisible as the ship travels along the Tory Channel and it seems as though the ship is sailing into a dead-end. The Cook Strait exit becomes visible quite late on and is very narrow. The exit requires yet another 90° turn, which makes the ship’s course all the more dramatic.
It’s a beautiful journey, and well worth the time. It’s good value for money too, with passenger only fares starting at about $38.00 per person.
On our arrival into Wellington, we were asked to go down to our vehicles and wait. It was only a matter of about 10 minutes and we were on our way, heading north. We’d decided to stop in the Kapiti Coast area to give the kids some lunch (more McDonalds, I know, parents of the year award right here!), but realised as we headed along the brand new highway, that McDonalds had disappeared down an exit. Sorry kids! We ended up stopping another 30 minutes down the track at Levin to feed 5 ravenous mouths (have I mentioned how much they eat?!).
Mum and Dad were about 45 minutes behind us as they’d stopped at Parliament on the way out. The weather was deteriorating as we headed north. We drove through a spectacular cloud formation at Taihape followed by an impressive cloud burst. I do love a good storm! It cleared within about 10 minutes leaving us with a pretty good view through the Desert Road, one of my favourite parts of this fabulous country.
The Desert Road takes you through the Central Plateau and the main feature (well, for this die hard volcano fan anyway) are the awe-inspiring volcanoes in the area. Mt Ruapehu is magnificent, it’s sheer size and imposing power are apparent as soon as it comes into view. Next up is the beautiful cone shaped (quintessential volcano) Mt Ngauruhoe. This is basically attached to the historically grouchy Mt Tongariro, a beautiful beast that is visible from Lake Taupo, where you can often see steam venting from.
Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are technically the same volcano, but with separate distinctive vents, however they’ve always been classed as separate volcanoes. The Central Plateau volcanoes are part of a much larger volcanic field, that in pretty much a straight line, include Mt Taranaki, Mt Tarawera and White Island. All different and fascinating in their own rights.
We stopped at the look out and took some photos. It was such a shame that Ruapehu’s rugged top was shrouded in cloud, but the rest was stunning. The desert landscape is spectacular. The army use this whole area as a training ground, and many movies have been shot here including parts of Lord of the Rings.
The land is barren, covered in ash from various eruptions over the years and the weather in the area is extremely inhospitable, from the heavy snow in winter, to the harsh winds in summer.
As I mentioned earlier, Mum and Dad were a wee way behind us. They called to let us know they had just missed a fatal accident. In fact, they were only 4 cars behind it, when an impatient driver had overtaken a logging truck and collected two vehicles going the other way, who had then hit the truck and rolled it, logs everywhere. One of the innocent drivers lost their life. All because of impatience. Why, Why, Why do people not realise that their vehicles are weapons?
Anway, don’t start me on that. I have lots of idea’s on punishments for being an idiot. And many more idea’s if those idiotic actions harm someone else.
I digress…. So, Mum and Dad had to wait about half an hour before the emergency services all arrived, and were then detoured around the crash site before heading north again.
We arrived into Taupo at about 6.30pm and checked into the Lake Taupo Holiday Resort. What a fantastic place for kids! I’ll tell you more about the resort tomorrow. Once settled, we jumped online (free wifi at the resort too!) and ordered Dominoes pizza’s. They arrived within about 20 minutes and were devoured in the time it took to order them. Luckily there were a few pieces left for Mum and Dad when they arrived.
11 weary travellers were tucked up in their beds, in dreamland by 9.30pm…… Looking forward to exploring tomorrow!
We both had a great sleep last night and woke up about 7.30am feeling much refreshed.
The Tanoa is a large hotel close to Nadi Airport. It’s a fantastic option for a quick stopover when enroute to the outer islands. Our family always used to stay there until we discovered the delights of Denarau Island, but for old times sake, I wanted to stay here again and in the future this will be my choice.
For roughly NZD$112 you get your nights accommodation and buffet breakfast for two people. There are plenty of inter-connecting rooms if you have the kids with you too. The rooms are spacious and cooled by both fan and air conditioning units. Since I was last there, the pool area has been modernised. The fake grass around the pool is gone, replaced with lovely sandy coloured tiles, big tables and chairs with umbrellas, and lots of deck chairs.
There are now three restaurants. The original, a poolside fresh food cafe and a Japanese restaurant.
We had breakfast and then packed up before checking out. The hotel kept hold of our bags and we spent the morning by the pool sipping on coke zeros (I didn’t have much as I knew there was no toilet on the plane and if that’s the case, I automatically need to go!). Lunch was chicken tikka masala kebabs with salad and naan bread, a selection of dipping sauces on the side. Very tasty!
The Tanoa transferred us back to the airport at 12.45pm. The check in for domestic flights is 90 minutes which is a bit of an overkill. There is one small terminal, however it’s fairly new. The last time I flew domestically over here, the counters were just down one end of the international building.
We watched a couple of flights depart, one to Labasa, and one to Savusavu, before we were called (20 minutes before departure but in Fiji, once everyone arrives, you just go). It was really windy walking out onto the Tarmac. My heart was pounding so hard and I felt quite terrified. There are only two moments when I’ve felt that scared in recent times, firstly during the Christchurch earthquakes and secondly when I had my surgery last year. My palms were sweating and I was shaking.
The plane was a de havilland dhc6. Made for short take offs and landings, no toilet, tiny seats, a cockpit you can see and what looks to be a corrugated tin roof. These particular planes have been flying this route for over 40 years, ancient in aviation terms. When I saw inside, I didn’t want to go anymore. I climbed in and took my seat, Jase squeezing in beside me. It was so cramped there was nowhere to put my handbag and I started panicking again. I stood up, forced the bag down the gap in front of my seat and perched my feet on it. There was nothing to hold onto, so I grabbed Jason with one hand and the seat in front of me with the other.
The pilot had a quick chat and mentioned going down, with a laugh. Soooooo not funny for me at that moment. He then sat down, started the plane (it felt like a car that he just turned the key with) and off we roared being airborne within about 15 seconds. As we climbed, it was bumpy and rough, but more like a roller coaster, big waves up and down. I was so petrified I couldn’t physically make my mouth answer Jase when he tried to talk to me, I just clung on and stared miserably out the window.
Viti Levu, the main island, is huge. Much bigger than I thought it was, it took 45 minutes to fly over it. There is so much space in the middle with small communities dotted in the mountainous landscape. There were lakes and dams. I relaxed slightly when we levelled out and the bumps calmed down. We continued for another 40 minutes over the sea and islands, and saw lots of azure coloured reefs. It really was beautiful.
I was so relieved when we started our descent although of course we still had to go through that bumpy layer again, just as bad as on the way up. Landing was awesome as it meant I could now get off and I couldn’t get off fast enough I must say.
The airport on Taveuni is a wee thatched roofed shack that has not changed since it was built in the early 70’s. It’s very quaint.
Our host Do (short for Dorothy I believe) met us at the gate and drove us the short distance back to the Taveuni Island Resort in her 4wd. We arrived to a welcome mocktail and the staff singing for us.
Before being shown to our bure, we were told about the resort and how it works. The water is safe to drink as it comes from a fresh artesian spring. When I tried it, I have to agree that the water is beautiful. The island grows all of its own produce so the meals each day are fresh and there are not a lot of processed foods.
The owners, Do and Rick, visited Taveuni from Auckland 40 odd years ago and loved it so much they packed up and moved here, starting up a dive boat operation before gradually building their resort over 20 years.
They raised their kids here, who, after attending boarding school and travelling overseas have all (bar one) come back to settle on the island with their partners and children.
Two of the boys purchased land and have set up a farm that the family collectively runs. It supplies the resort, the island and a couple of sand islands nearby.
They have a crack at any fruit or vegetable they can get their hands on, it’s pretty awesome really.
We were taken to our bure and it’s stunning. Absolutely huge for accommodation. The massive covered deck overlooking the sea beckoned me instantly and the afternoon flittered away as we dozed in the sun and just relaxed to the sound of gentle waves caressing the sand down below.
We had to leave our hotel at 6.30am this morning so I set the alarm for 6.00am.
At 4.45am I was prodding and poking Jase saying “hey, are you awake yet?!!!!” Excited like a kiddie at Christmas I was, especially after a wonderful sleep in the most fantastic bed at the Pullman.
Jase was not quite so enthused about his wake up from me as it had taken him a long time to get to sleep but hey, you get that on big jobs!
Our regular Corporate Cab driver picked us up and drove us into the airport. We checked in at the Premium Room after which you go in a lift up to the departures lounge. Our passports were scanned and we then joined the masses to go through the bag checks. It was soooo busy at the airport today, like Christmas time!
The airport is going through renovations and everything was topsy turvy which threw me for a bit until I worked out where everything was.
We sat in the Koru Club and had breakfast waiting for our boarding call at 8.30am. The time came and went and then the flight was boarded however we were advised to just stay put.
The flight was then offloaded…. problem with the engine and the pilot refused to fly the plane saying it was far too risky. He even got on the loudspeaker and explained it to the passengers down there.
The engineers are working on it and then doing engine tests but it keeps failing. They are doing another test shortly and then we may get to depart but I’m not holding my breath…. it’s now midday…. I should be poolside with a mocktail in hand by now.
A further few hours have passed…. it’s 4.15pm… the test flights failed and we are now waiting for a plane to arrive from Hong Kong. We’ve passed the time chatting to the group around us, who are all in the same position, eating, taking turns going for a walk, and then repeating the above. The cameraderie in the lounge is great.
We’ve watched passengers come and go, staff on their shifts come and go and planes come and go. My phone died so I had to go buy a new charger for it so the game of Solitaire could continue…. oh and another pencil for a sudoku book I brought to help pass the time.
Rumours are rife that the plane coming in has 100 seats less than the original and that people will be offloaded in the next hour or so. That will suck.
I feel so sorry for those passengers downstairs with kiddies who dont have access to the lounge…. what a day for them. And also for the group going to an Indian wedding that was due to start tonight… a small comfort is that the celebrations continue for 3 days.
We met some great people and I even walked away with a job offer as a sales and marketing rep for boutique resorts in the South Island. The kiwi who owns the company has moved to the US with her American hubby and needs someone down here. They also deal with the Cook Islands and Fiji so it’s tempting!
At 6.15pm we got the call we’d been waiting for…. the plane is here and it’s ready to board!
We were off like fire crackers! Our plane was a 777-200. It was so nice to fly in something other than an A320.
We’d decided to give Premium Economy a crack and I have to say, I loved it. You’re still sitting comfortably next to your companion, whereas business class caters more towards privacy.
The seats reclined enough to stretch and be comfortable, and we were each given a big comfy pillow, a bottle of water and a hot towel before departure. Theres also a leg rest that comes up so although you’re not in a flat bed, I think I could probably sleep in it.
The tv’s are a bit bigger, the entertainment system being the same as economy class. The meals were really tasty! I thought it was going to be the same as economy but it’s got a lot more pizazz.
I had NZ snapper for my main and it was absolutely delicious! Panna cotta for dessert which Jase said was lovely (I can’t have dairy) and fresh breads and olive oil on the side…. yummmm!
I was a bit anxious during the flight so never fully relaxed unfortunately. I hate night flights, I have to see where I’m going. But I managed it and here we are in Nadi finally…. what a day!
Nadi Airport has had a revamp and is looking pretty spiffy. Customs was quick and painless and I had to laugh handing in our declaration forms as we told them we had food but they didn’t even ask to look at it. Now that wouldn’t happen in NZ or Aussie!
The Tanoa minivan was there to meet us, and after waiting about 15 minutes the driver said he’d take us over to the hotel and then go back and get the stragglers. We were pretty relieved as we were both hitting the wall by then.
We got to the Tanoa and were shown to our room. It’s way down one end and so peaceful and quiet. The hotel is operating at 100% capacity as it’s close to the airport, cheap, clean and friendly.
My family always stayed here a night on our trips to Fiji when we were kids. Back then it was called the Travelodge. It’s still the same and I’d recommend it without hesitation for a quick stopover. It also has a Japanese restaurant these days so I was rather gutted I missed the opportunity to go there for dinner.
Tomorrow is another day of travelling but then we will finally be at our destination….
Bring it ON!
Time for sleep now….
Our broken plane. Apparently the fuel line to the engine has to work for it to be able to fly….
Today we dropped our car off to Craddocks at 2.00pm before being whisked over to the domestic terminal by the on-demand minivan. It’s a fantastic service and extremely reliable.
I’m a huge fan of being on holiday, however flying to get to the destination is one of my least favourite things. Over the years I’ve found three things that have helped make my travelling experiences soooo much better.
First, I always book a seat in the exit row. It costs an extra $20 per person but you get substantially more leg room.
Secondly, we have Koru Club membership. If you do a lot of flying, I can’t recommend it enough. It is expensive, however if you have a debit or credit card that earns airpoints, then you can get discounts off your yearly membership and no joining fee.
The thing with Koru is that you never queue. You check in along your own Koru line. You get through customs and go into a beautiful lounge that has free wifi, a full bar and lots of snacks, all complimentary. It’s a peaceful retreat from the chaos of being airside.
The third thing that has helped me immeasurably is a prescription for some great wee tablets that completely take the edge off my fear. They don’t make me go to sleep or zone out but just help me to enjoy my flight rather than sit and grip the sides of my seat (or Jasons arm) for the duration.
If you have a fear of flying that stops you going off and enjoying the wonderful destinations we have closeby, then investigate this for sure.
Sitting in the Koru Club today waiting for our flight, we were watching the comings and goings of the planes. I love the black and white livery of the NZ planes, it makes me feel incredibly patriotic!
Our flight to Auckland was calm and smooth. We were flying on an A320, the standard runabout workhorse on Air NZs books for shorthaul travel. This particular beastie was incredibly loud, everything rattled and creaked and groaned and it reminded me of the older Boeings before Air NZ switched to Airbus (my favourites are still Boeings).
We are staying tonight at the Pullman Hotel in the city. It’s a lovely hotel with big rooms. We have a view over the harbour and being an Accor member, we got the room for free (you get one free night per year) and 50% off your meals.
The restaurant here is a highlight for me, I absolutely love it…. tonight we had complimentary breads with homemade butter with parsley and black sesame seeds. My main was a roasted duck breast with a celeriac puree and a red wine roasted pear. Delicious!!!! Jase felt like something pretty hearty so had the old fashioned steak, eggs and chips (added to the menu for the Lions tour).
Then we snuck back up to the room and ordered room service desserts 😊
This is quite a big thing for me. For the last four years, I’ve used a beautiful blogging site called travelpod. It basically did everything for me, which was great! They’ve closed their doors now and I’m on my own which is scary for this technology dinosaur!
Anyway, we are now in the year 2017 and we have quite a few adventures planned for the year, so follow us on the daily journey of the adventure we call Life (and please be patient while I learn this new system!) 🙂