If you could take 2 things on a trip, what would those things be?
For us, it was a sense of adventure, and another family to share the memories with!
We were so excited to experience the South Island of New Zealand during the third Australian school holiday break and good friends of ours from Canada, the Boszormeny family – George, Julie, Amber and Abby – were willing and able to join us. Our motto for the trip quickly became “Oh Momma” thanks to the expression being uttered by George early on in the trip and then incessantly repeated by the 5 kids!
We arrived in Christchuch, from opposite sides of the world, and spent two weeks in convoy in our rented campervans, exploring Kaikoura on the east coast, Blenheim and the Marlborough wine region, Picton and the Marlborough Sounds area, Nelson, and Hokitika on the west coast and the Franz Joseph glacier. Then we moved in land to explore Wanaka and Te Anau, the magic of Milford Sound, and finally Queenstown before returning the campervans to Christchurch.
New Zealand is AMAZING! If you ever have the opportunity – take it and run! The scenery and landscapes are absolutely stunning. Spring was a perfect time to go – the lambs were running in the fields, the flowers were starting to bloom, the campgrounds were virtually empty, the weather was pleasant during the day and cool in the evenings, perfect conditions for exploring and for sleeping in the campervans.
We certainly came away with some wonderful memories that seem extra special because they are shared with the Boszormeny family. We certainly noted our favourites and would love to share some of those here.
Our favourite campsite had to be our site down at Milford Sound. It was more about the atmosphere and company, and less about the actual site. Our experience at campervan parks in New Zealand was such that you were practically parked on top of one another; but the campground at Milford Sound is perched right on the edge of the Cleddau River, in Fiordland National Park, and the mountain peaks surround you in this stunning setting, in one of the most peaceful places on earth. The night was absolutely magical and it involved getting our feet wet in the river, some good ole’ belly laughs, and a few beverages!
Our campsite at Kaikoura was stunning for the view. Snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance while we were metres away from the ocean. And the campsite at Hokitika was memorable because we were right on the beach on the west coast and the campground had a little hobby farm in the middle, which made it memorable for the kids. Unfortunately the campgrounds in New Zealand do not allow campfires, however, the site at Lake Wanaka had an outdoor oven (“the pizza oven”) and plenty of wood, so we warmed ourselves by the fire that night and although the campground itself was a bit tired, the fact that we were able to enjoy an outdoor fire, made it one of our favourite spots!
Our favourite town was perhaps Picton, in the north. It is a quaint port town with a wonderfully designed waterfront with a spacious playground and park area on the water’s edge with magnificent gardens. It had a very welcoming feel to it.
Some of our favourite views were from the Marlborough Sounds in the Picton area. The fiords and waterways in the Marlborough Sounds are absolutely brilliant and breathtaking. We enjoyed a hike down onto the shores north of Picton and explored the pebbly beach we happened upon, much to the kids delight!
Milford Sound, in Fiordland National Park, is definitely worth exploring for the memorable drive in through the Homer Tunnel and for the views from the boat cruise. It is convincingly one of the most photographed places in New Zealand. Sheer granite cliffs tower into the sky and plunge into the depths of clear water amid vibrant native rainforest. Iconic Mitre Peak looms silently at the head of the fiord, a massive peak guarding this amazing and peaceful place. Nowhere is the wild beauty of New Zealand displayed with more effect than in the stunning landscape of Fiordland. It stuns and enthralls, and leaves lasting memories.
Our favourite meal was enjoyed in the best company at the campground in Nelson. It was this night that we dined on mussels – greenshell mussels to be exact! Native to the New Zealand shores. What a feast. And the sunset was almost as memorable as the dinner that night.
Some of our favourite memories include the pebbly beach at Kaikoura where the waves crashed with fierce abandon at our feet. Hiking up the short trail at Ohau Point to see the baby seals frolicking in the waterfall just north of Kaikoura was incredibly memorable, as was the marriage proposal at this location! Wine tasting in the Marlborough region at the Villa Maria Estate vineyard, where they provide a box of toys to keep your children amused while you sample their fare. The Hunter Valley wineries should take note!
We will never forget the memories made at the campground at Nelson, as we tried to hire the bikes and ride to the beach, only to be told that the bikes are strictly for inside the park grounds! We hiked to see the glow worms at Hokitika and will never forget the magic and sight of the iridescent display. Almost equally memorable was the very graceful display by Abby as she unsuccessfully tried to dodge a large wave at the beach at Hokitika fully clothed and ended up on her bottom in the massive wave! She handled it like a pro!
We enjoyed the hot pools at Franz Joseph, especially after hiking along the river bed to the base of the glacier. And we will forever remember the baby lambs that graced the fields around this amazing country – the wagging tails and the playful leaps.
Our most memorable rest stop was our lunch stop at the Blue Lakes between Queenstown and Christchurch. The lake reminded us of Moraine Lake or Lake Louise in western Canada. It was that same shade of turquoise and was absolutely stunning with Mt. Cook looming at 3700 metres in the background.
Old Mout, a New Zealand cider, quickly became a favourite night cap on the trip. And many evenings were often spent sitting around on our camp chairs, contemplating life, and drinking the delicious cider.
If you ask the kids what they enjoyed the most from their trip around New Zealand, they will undoubtedly mention some of the playgrounds in the various campervan parks! Their favourites included the hamster wheel at the park in Blenheim, the Koktopus swing at the beach in Nelson (would love to know who named that children’s swing), and the old tractor at the campground in Wanaka. The other thing they will mention are the nicknames for the campervans – Turd and Deuce. It will be a long time before the 5 kids relinquish the chant “Big Ole’ Rolling Turd (or Deuce) Coming Down – Woo Woo”!
New Zealand’s geography, while providing scenes of unsurpassed beauty, poses some difficulty in terms of time. The countries rough-hewn nature makes travelling time often longer than you expect. That being said, the South Island is the absolute perfect setting for a road trip. We were amazed at the vineyards, the orchards with apples, olives and cherries. And we found the one lane bridges and culverts, each of them named, endearing. We will never forget the majestic snowy mountains, the silent fiords and sounds, ancient glacier, wide-open plains, lush green pastures, and sparkling blue lakes.
We took a sense of adventure and another family to share the experience with, and we left this magnificent island with so much more. We came away with some beautiful photos, some amazing memories that will last a lifetime, and a deeper love and connection to the Boszormeny family. And for that we are so incredibly grateful.