A family trip to New Plymouth – Part 1.

Any good road trip should start with road trip snacks so we make our way to a local bakery, Fix Federation. The Lower Hutt Sweet As Challange is on and I want to try their Biscoff Smash Hot Chocolate.

Yes, it’s as good as it looks! This trip is off to a good start.

We are heading to New Plymouth for a family holiday. We will be joined by my Mum, Dad, brother, sister in law, nephew and niece. Last Christmas we decided not to do gifts, and instead put that money towards a family trip. Finally, we have made it happen.

It’s a bright, sunny, winter’s day. I like days like this, it’s crisp and cool. Trees are bare silhouettes, having dropped all their leaves, it feels kind of magical.

We stop for lunch in Wanganui to spend some time with my aunt and uncle. They have a cute little dog named Millie and a reptile friend. I say “Look at the lizard Lachie” he replies with “It’s a bearded Lizard Auntie Lani” Noted, thanks Lachie!

As we get closer to Taranaki, we can see the mountain, there are clouds on the peak, but we can see the snow line. We were hoping we might be able to get the kids to the snow, but it looks way too high for that. We will have to save that for another trip.

We arrive at the house and it is beautiful, it’s very large, which will be perfect for all the family and it has an indoor pool and spa pool. What more could you need? Of course it doesn’t take long before the kids are into their togs and enjoying the warm water of the spa pool. It’s a nice way to end a long day of travel.

I wake in the morning to little whispers coming from the end of the bed. Lachie and Lily have snuck into our room and are whispering at the end of the bed, trying to decide if we are awake. I lift up the covers and they both get in for some morning snuggles. I love this part of family holidays. It’s so special to spend some quality time with them.

Today is Miss Lily’s 3rd birthday and my brother is cooking up a birthday breakfast, crepes, fruit salad and scrambled eggs. James is a pretty good cook and I always like going away on holiday with him!

It’s Lily’s day today, so she gets to choose what we do. She wants to go to the park, so we head out to Pukekura Park. We came here last year with Daniel’s family, but it was at night for the Lights Festival. It’s nice to experience the park in the daylight.

The park is tranquil. Mature trees, a lake and an abundance of bird life. I like being in the forest away from home, it’s noticeably different. We are north of home and the foliage feels more tropical with lots of palms dotted amongst more familiar trees.

It’s another lovely winter day. Out in the open, the sun is glorious, I can feel its warmth on my skin. In the bush, it’s pretty cold, but the forest has a gorgeous, damp, earthy smell. We amble along, it’s a large park, and make our way to the Bowl of Brooklands – a large grassy hill that looks down towards a stage. This would be such a great place to see an outdoor concert.

The reason we have wandered up here is to go to the Brooklands Zoo. It turns out to be a pretty cool little zoo. They have a great range of animals, farmyard animals like pigs and llamas, a reptile house (no bearded lizards this time) birds, primates and other creatures. The capybaras were great, I know they are the world’s largest rodent, I just hadn’t realised quite how big they get! Another favourite were the monkeys. They had several species. I find them fascinating to watch, their swinging and climbing ability is outstanding.

I think my favourite though, was the Burmese pheasant. A very colourful bird, (obviously the male) was running around all over the aviary, feathers puffed out, trying to impress the ladies, none of whom seemed the least bit interested. He was very persistent, animated and entertaining to watch.

After our little outing to the zoo, Daniel and I head off into the city center for some lunch. We choose an Indian restaurant, purely because we liked the name, Arranged Marriage. They serve South Indian cuisine and I loved that they served lunch sized portions. It was the perfect amount and really delicious. Especially their naan, that was yum!

In the afternoon, I spend some time decorating a birthday cake for Lily while everyone else makes their way to the pool. It doesn’t take long before they all start migrating towards the spa pool though. Apparently the pool isn’t very warm. When I join them, the music is playing and the drinks are flowing.

The day is finished with an Italian dinner at Belle Vita as Miss Lily loves antipasti platters, especially olives. I think she ate most of the olives that we got for the starter. I of course had a pizza. It’s got to be one of my favourite foods!

New Plymouth Walks

I love walking. Getting outside, amongst nature, in the fresh air. It is one of life’s delights. It’s not Daniel’s favorite thing to do though so it can be hard sometime to encourage him to come for a walk.

We did get one day of great weather during our 4 night New Plymouth trip and on that day, we did 3 walks. Daniel also helped me cook dinner and then did the dishes (who is this person?) I later found out he had 5 coffees that day. Note to self, make sure Daniel has lots of coffee!

There are lots of walks out this way and I am sure that whatever you choose you will enjoy, but here are the 5 walks we managed to squeeze in between the rain.

Paritutu Rock. ‘When you go to New Plymouth, you have to climb Paritutu rock and see if you can beat my time. I did it in 13 minutes.’ These were the words from my dad.

Challenge on.

The first part is mostly steps which get steeper and steeper. Daniel races off. He is on a mission to beat 13 minutes. I struggle. The steps are hard on my knees and really, I don’t expect to beat dad.

This is not an easy stroll. Paritutu stands 156 meters tall and the ascent is steep. I had seen this rock from a distance from Fitzroy beach. It has a very distinct, pointy silhouette. And now we are climbing it.

Half way up, the steps stop and you are left climbing rocks and boulders up a pretty steep cliff face. There is a chain to hold onto to help you scale the cliff.

The views from the top are excellent and makes the challenging walk/climb so worth it. You will be rewarded with stunning uninterrupted 360 degree views across New Plymouth.

I found the descent much harder. Make sure you take your time. This is not an easy walk. Back at the car park my legs feel like jelly. I will be feeling this tomorrow and the days to come!

Oh, and my time, 9.27 minutes. And Daniel was about 7 minutes. Turns out dad couldn’t remember his time so he just made up a number!

Coastal Walkway. The New Plymouth Coastal Walk Way is a 13.2km path that stretches from Port Taranaki to Bell Block Beach. It’s mostly flat, easy walking, following the coast. You don’t need to walk the whole track, just choose a starting point and begin your stroll. We did our walk from Fitzroy Beach to Te Rewa Rewa Bridge adding in a loop walk around Lake Rotomanu. Being summer, there was an explosion of red flowers on all the Pohutakawa trees which looked stunning. We did this walk in the middle of the day, on a rather hot day. I found there was limited shade on this walk so make sure you go prepared. The New Zealand sun can be pretty harsh!

Paritutu Centennial Park. We headed back to Paritutu, not to climb it this time, but to take a walk through the park next to it. Starting at the base of Paritutu rock I felt a sense of pride looking up at it, knowing that I had climbed it the day before. The walk passes through lush open grass, native flaxes and forest, running along side the coast. We found a park bench along the way and sat and watched the surfers cruising the wave in Back Beach. I was surprised at how many surfers there were. It’s not a common sight in Wellington. The walk eventually comes out at another car park with steps leading down to the beach so we walked back along the sandy beach, past the surfers and huge, impressive cliff faces. Apart from the stairs down and back up from the beach it was an easy walk with some great views.

Fitzroy Beach. The house we rented was only a short walk away from Fitzroy beach, so needless to say, come rain or shine, I was down there at least once everyday. When the sun shines, its a very popular beach for swimming and patrolled by lifeguards. But come evening (or early morning) or in the rain, you pretty much have the place to yourself. The huge stretch of sandy, flat beach makes it the perfect place to to take a stroll, have a swim, watch the sunset or just relax.

Pukekura Park I have been to New Plymouth once before, when I was a teenager. The light festival at Pukekura Park is the only thing I remember from that trip. I am not sure I have actually seen this park in the daylight but have no doubt that it would be a beautiful place for a walk.

Come evening, during the Summer school holidays, the park it brilliantly lit for Festival of Lights. There are some beautiful displays and the colourful lights twinkling off the lake are gorgeous and romantic. There is even live music on some of the nights so be sure to check that out.

New Plymouth when it Rains

It’s an early start for us as two little heads pop in through our bedroom door checking to see if Auntie and Uncle are awake. Looks like sleep ins are off the table on this holiday.

The sky is grey and moody today but it’s still warm, so I pop down to the beach after breakfast for a quick stroll and splash in the the waves. I don’t let the light rain stop me from getting outdoors.

The beach is lovely. We pretty much have it to ourselves. The water is warm and I enjoy splashing about in a very uncoordinated manner with one of my nephews. Thinking back to my last year of travel, some of the best moments have been the carefree, childlike play in the waves. Such a simple activity (and as a bonus, completely free) but oh so delightful!

But then the rain gets heavier and thicker. The sun umbrella my father-in-law brought down ain’t going to keep us dry in this weather. We arrive back at the house, soaking wet, but honesty, I feel so alive and invigorated.

The rain looks like it’s here to stay, at least the weather forecast is telling us so – heavy rain and potential thunder storms. So, if like us, you find yourself on holiday in New Plymouth in relentless wet weather, here are a couple of activities to entertain young and old.

Todd Energy Aquatic Centre. I’ll admit, it’s been a long time since I have been to a swimming pool and I had my doubts about enjoying this, but it actually turned out to be a pretty great morning. (Except for forgetting to pack Daniels togs and having to buy a pair at the pool) This place has indoor and outdoor pools with a ton of different inflatables, water features and pool toys to use.

The main pool has a wave machine that seemed to go off every hour which created challenging conditions for my uncoordinated self to get up onto an inflatable boat our family was using. There is an inflatable pool obstacle course where you try to get from the pool edge to the end of the inflatable. I only got over the first hurdle on my first attempt but 2 more goes and I managed to make it all the way to the end. Further than anyone else in the family – pretty proud of myself with that one!

And then there was the hydroslide. There were 2 actually. A family friendly one and a turbo slide. It’s been a very long time since I have been on a hyrdoslide, probably not since my youth, but I am keen to give it a go. I line up with my husband, mother in law and 8 year old niece to give the family friendly one a try. Not too bad. A section of the slide is pitch black which I wasn’t expecting and initially gave me a bit of a shock, but otherwise not too scary. So then we all decide to give the turbo slide a go. While waiting in the queue I look outside to the slides twisting and turning and notice that the turboslide has a rather steep gradient at the start. It makes me feel a little nervous, but kids are lining up to do it so it can’t be that bad.

Famous last words. It was TERRIFYING!!! That steep gradient near the start created a falling sensation, in the pitch black. I couldn’t see anything. I was falling and I couldn’t feel anything around me supporting my body. The shock of it all caused me to struggle breathing as water splashed all around me. After what felt like forever (but probably only a couple of seconds) I can feel the sides of the slide around me again as I begin slipping and sliding up the walls. All I can do is try to focus on my breathing. I exit the slide in chaotic mess and look up to see my mother in law standing there. I exclaim ‘that was awful’!! She replied with ‘I know, it was horrible!’ My niece loved it!

I decided that I couldn’t let that slide defeat me. I can be brave. I know what to expect this time. I line up again. But last minute I chicken out and jump into the line for the family hydro slide. It felt pretty tame after the last one. I finally build up the courage to do the turbo slide again. Not quite so terrifying but I certainly wont be lining up to do it again.

After all that fun and terrifying excitement, I ease my tense muscles by soaking in the spa for a bit.

Naki Nitro Indoor Karting. As a kid, I had a rather traumatic experience when I couldn’t get the gokart to stop (I had my foot on the accelerator and brake) and ended up crashing into the shop and almost taking out the owner. I have never been a fan of them ever since. I was also exhausted from all the swimming so decided to sit this one out, but everyone else loved it. Especially the kids. Seeing their little faces light up as they drive around the course was pretty awesome. Even thought they were only going about 2km per hour, they loved it! Especially Vincent. He was too young to drive his own gokart so he went in a 2 seater with my husband as he specifically requested Uncle Daniel as his driver. They went flying around the course lapping everyone multiple times with Vincent wearing the biggest grin.

Mini Putt. But not just any old mini putt, this is black light mini putt! This 18 hole course is fairly easy but rather unique. With a pirate/ underwater theme, you make your way around the glowing course. I came first equal with my father-in-law. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much! There is also a bowling alley and video arcade at the same venue, so lots to keep you entertained with.

The Beach. Yes, I know this a list of suggestions of things to do when it’s raining. But when was the last time you walked in the rain? It can be so magical. Put on your raincoat (or not) and head out for a walk. Feel the rain on your skin. Smell the damp earthiness of the forest and don’t worry about getting wet. There is always a hot shower waiting for you back at home.

New Plymouth Bound.

It’s another car sauna situation. We really must get the air con fixed in our car!

It’s the 1st of January and we begin the New Year with a family trip to New Plymouth. After some last minute packing, we are on the road, an hour and a half behind schedule and minus a few things I forgot to pack, but we are in holiday mode so ‘she’ll be right’

We pass many little beach towns on our drive, it’s made me realise how much of this country I still have left to explore. New Zealand really is a Summer Paradise. I am hoping kiwis are taking this opportunity to explore their own back yard. There is so much to see and do!

Its a hot sunny day and we are feeling it in the car! Each time we enter a 50km zone, the windows come straight down and then regrettably back up again when we get onto the motorway. We meet up in Whanganui at Kowhai Park, with half the extended family. (The half, who like us, had a casual morning departure) Its a great park for families. Running along side the mighty Whanganui River, it has a rather exciting playground that could keep children entertained for hours. It’s certainly a popular place. We set up a picnic under the shade of a tall tree, although I am the only one eating it, hubby had Macca’s on the drive up.

We are only half way to our end destination so we carry on with the journey. Driving through the Whanganui town center, I notice a difference in the vegetation. There are palm trees and tropical looking flowers, very different to what you see in Wellington. We are heading towards warmer weather!

We decide to take the Surf Highway. It’s longer and not as direct, but Daniel did the direct route a year or so ago and said it was really boring. So, it’s the coastal route for us. There aren’t many cars on the route, so we get a clear run and it is scenic. We get views of Mt. Taranaki, although the peak is surrounded by clouds, and some interesting looking land formations – flat land with lots of small hills scattered across it.

We are the last to arrive at our New Plymouth holiday home. Everyone is sitting outside, enjoying the evening sun. We waste no time getting out the bubbles and chippies and spend some time chatting.

After dinner we take an evening stroll. The house is in a great location, it’s only a few minutes walk from Fitzroy Beach. The sky is a smudgy mix of soft sunset colours. The evening air is still and pleasant and I delight in walking bare foot on the sand, waves lapping at my feet.

Yes, this is going to be a great few days!