Just what the kids asked for: sand, snow and mud.

So begins my first travel post since returning home to kiwiland.

It has been awhile and its a little bit different from Asia, but there are now kiwi adventures to be had in this great land of ours. Lots to explore. Less chickens and motorbikes, more trees and scones.

For this school holidays we decided on the optimal mix of experiences to keep all the peeps happy- beachfront sand at Waihi, snow skiing in National Park and mud, lots of smelly mud in Rotorua. All on a part-time salary budget. Packing was a one hour delight, thank god for the seven seater.

First off the beach. It must have been 15-20 years since we had been to Waihi. As we nervously pushed out dinner to our 7pm arrival, we looked out for the RSA thanks to google, and stumbled upon quite possibly the biggest RSA in the country, perched upon Waihi’s hilltop entrance. We were in luck, the food was delivered almost instantly, the roast was superb and the company of #silvertops thought our children were delightful. Result, and we managed to skip bed, bath and beyond. Love holidays.

The house we hired was right on the beach, a secret little bargain that could sleep three families. Highly recommended for your next Waihi visit, but don’t tell too many.

http://www.holidayhouses.co.nz/properties/56143.asp

A great little guide to Waihi left at the house led us to The Deli for Allpress coffee, the best cinnamon brioches and fresh bread rolls. The local boomers are regulars here.

The kids spent their days running from the house to the sea, discovering the giant manmade sand pillows to leap between while they protected the eroding sand dunes. We will be back.

Waihi beach

Waihi beach

Now for some spring skiing! We headed for Te Honu House in National Park, one you can hire for your whanau, that shows a lot of love from its owners and those that that use it.

Usual Mt Ruapheu antics, meant we had to wait a day to head up, but once the skies opened up it was as good as it gets.

After a great coffee from the Railway Cafe, we headed for Happy Valley with kids and gear in tow. I had to relearn how to get on a chair lift with skis, a snowboard, poles, and a four year old in tow. Luckily we hade four hands between us and surprising some really competent and friendly lifties. They obviously save their best for the learners.

Now this is where I got a little teary eyed and humbled by seeing so many parents and grandparents going to huge efforts to give their children the chance to experience snow. I saw dads skiing with a baby in their arms (don’t be alarmed Happy Valley is virtually flat) and toddlers on skis in front. Falling, getting up, falling, but lots of laughter. I think its probably why we all love ice cream, snow magically makes you happy. I saw families with packed lunches in old Tip Top blue boxes, grandparents running down the slopes with iPads in hand and as many smiles as there were wails.

As for our two, Zami was a natural after previous snow planet lessons, Cocolily couldn’t stand after two days. Might have been something to do with the fact that we couldn’t really put her between our legs and ski down, whilst we were on our snowboards. We finally handed over our precious to a 19 year old ski instructor called Daniel who had her skiing in less than 10 minutes. Glad the experts were on hand!

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Sunset over Mt Ruapheu

Sunset over Mt Ruapheu

I also slipped in a spectacular mountain bike ride on the Fisher Track with the lovely Stacey Faire. Leaving from the railway station at National Park, you’ll need a pick up at the end of this nearly two hour cycle across rolling hill farms, with spring lambs and wild goats bouncing along beside you. Seriously unbelievable.

National Park Fisher Track with Stacey Faire

National Park Fisher Track with Stacey Faire

Nothing like falling in cow dung while mountain biking

Nothing like falling in cow dung while mountain biking

Now off to see some boiling mud. Naturally, Rotorua was on my list of places to take the kids. Loads of big and small kid fun.
We did the big stuff like luging, log flume ride, fed the trout, saw the bird show but found a few really cool less known experiences along the way. Here’s three of our favs.

A must visit when you are up the Skyline Gondala is Volcanic Wines. A retail based business, they buy the grapes from the best, make them at the bottom of the gondola and sell them at the top, in a stunning warehouse that feels like a loft nearly in the clouds. If you are lucky, you will be served by Johnnie Rainbow, likely in his 60s, a sale pro with a facial scar that makes him interesting but not scary. We tried their 5 wines and left with two bottles, accompanied by a great platter. Mr Rainbow managed to rustle up dominos and colouring for our angels. A must visit.

Abracadabra Cafe and Bar was our second find. Run by a couple of under thirty year olds, this place manages to avoid the usual Rotorua fare of giant scones and bad coffee ( sorry Rotorua!) and serves a mix of Mexican and vegan (how can they go wrong?) But what you will really love here is the kids menu. As big as the grown ups menu, it includes Buckwheat Pancakes with fresh berries and even a Toddlers healthy ‘Bits and Bobs’ served in a cup cake tray. It’s open all day and you can book private rooms decked out Arabian style or sit out the back for draft beers amongst the Hula Huts and picnic tables. A perfect venue for kids dinner or when you are starving after luge riding. Other recommended dinning options include the brilliant Night Food Markets on a Thursday and Star Indian. The latter reminded me of the how London does curry. Everyone was in waistcoats and bow ties with service that made you feel like royalty. Run in for takeaway and you’ll find the service is just as good.

Rotorua night markets

Rotorua night markets

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Thirdly you can’t miss Wai-O-Tapu Natural Wonderland, 27k south of Rotorua. This place has the Lady Knox Geyser which rockets into the sky everyday at 10:15am, mud pools and a fantastic walk through neon green lakes and steaming champagne pink plateaus.

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Lady knox

Lady knox

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Wai-O-Tapu

Wai-O-Tapu

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So now for the car journey home to Auckland..well that’s another story!