We’ve just arrived home from a glorious two-week family holiday in New Zealand.
Two whole weeks in the beautiful South Island, my husband Dave’s birthplace and old stomping ground.
Dave has been mad keen for a long time for the girls to experience winter in New Zealand. We prayed there would be enough snow for them to play around in. We needn’t have worried. There was so much snow roads were closed!
New Zealand put on a spectacular winter wonderland for us. Everywhere we went was achingly beautiful. Snow-capped mountains rising above golden grass whipping around wildly in the wind. Thick fogs mysteriously hiding turquoise lakes below. Beautiful Snowflakes dancing delicately on our eyelashes, dusting our hair and melting on our tongues. Big, fat snowflakes and flurries that came thick and fast, and stunning red, gold and black autumnal colours that made my heart ache.
Around every bend, there was a spectacular photo opportunity. Dave made sure he stopped at nearly all of them, eager to savour the beauty of his homeland and cement the memories deep in his mind until his next visit.
I could write a blog post about every place we visited – and I will with some of them – but for now, here are the highlights from our two-week family holiday in New Zealand.
Our first stop was Dave’s aunt’s property just outside of Christchurch. Our city kids loved riding with bales of hay in the back of a truck to feed miniature horses and donkeys. They loved getting up close and personal with the animals. I don’t know who was more nervous, the animals or the kids! We oohed and ahhed over beautiful deer and a stag, who we later found out would end up in the freezer. Eek!!
Oh yeah, baby. Oh yeah! These pools are the absolute bomb. This was the second time I visited Hanmer Springs and I will definitely visit again. We soaked in hot pools ranging from 38 – 42 degrees surrounded by towering trees and snow-capped mountains. It was nothing short of breathtaking. The pools have a great kids’ area, which was a little chilly, but the kids didn’t mind.
When we arrived in Hanmer, there was a buzz in the air. Whisperings of snow – big snowfall – were on everyone’s lips. Temperatures plunged over night and we awoke to snow falling. Let’s just say that excitement levels were Off.The.Hook.
Imagine sitting in your bathers in steaming hot pools with delicate snowflakes dancing around you. Imagine being out in the snow in your bathers, but feeling as warm as toast. Imagine doing a mad dash between hot pools, while the snow is falling around you. This is a memory that will be etched in my mind forever.
Driving to the Mt Hutt ski fields before sunrise was nothing short of spectacular. Spectacular, but also freaking scary driving up dark, icy roads. Every time our back tyres skidded, I pictured us crashing to our death off the side of the mountain. When we reached the top, the sun was slowly painting the sky purple and pink above a sea of shimmering white. All four of us were in awe.
Unfortunately, we got off to a rough start with the skiing. There were a few tears from Miss Four, which is understandable because it was freezing and new and a little scary. It wasn’t long though before we were having a blast like regular ski bunnies – or something.
You know that one time Elsa was like ‘Let the storm rage on!’? That’s what our drive through the Lindis Pass was like. We drove through a snow storm with snow coming at us sideways. People were putting their snow chains on left, right and centre. It was an unforgettable experience.
Queenstown is so beautiful, it’s a crime. After getting mobbed by overzealous ducks, we decided to take the Skyline Gondola for a birds’ eye view of the beauty below. When we reached the top, a kind stranger offered us two free luge rides. Dave and Miss Seven made the most of them hooning down the mountain.
We spent only a short time in the quaint, old gold rush town of Arrowtown, but it was a good time. We arrived mid-afternoon, when temperatures were rapidly dropping. It was so cold my phone turned itself off! The entire trip the girls were obsessed with finding crystals and gems in the lakes, so the first thing we did was head down to the river with gold and gems on our mind! As we walked to the river, ice had formed in shallow areas. There was not another soul around, just the four of us. The trees surrounding us were something special. Charcoal black trunks with golden leaves. I’d never seen anything like it. It was eerie and mesmerising all at the same time.
Once I dragged the family away from the river, we ducked into an old hotel, where we warmed ourselves by an open fire. A couple of glasses of pinot gris and a divine blueberry risotto with caramelized orange and I was in heaven!
One of our darling girls turned seven while we were away. Her birthday wish was to ice skate at Lake Tekapo and take a dip in the hot pools afterwards. We spent more than three hours on the ice. Talk about fun! The girls quickly became obsessed with ice skating and we returned the next day for another three-hour session. Highlight for me: Sipping mulled wine by an open fire as we watched the girls’ confidence on the ice grow. Miss Seven even made a friend. Seeing them skate hand-in-hand was beyond cute!
Walk or drive up to the top of Mt John and you’ll be guaranteed spectacular 360 degree views of Lake Tekapo, the Southern Alps and the Mackenzie Basin. When we reached the top we were gob-smacked. There was snow as far as the eye could see. The photos just do not do it justice. While we were taking in the view, a friendly old chap asked us where we were from. When I told him we were from Brissie, he asked if we’d like to see a telescope. Little did we know at the time that the friendly stranger was heavily involved in the University of Canterbury and Mt John Observatory’s astronomical research. Mt John Observatory, you see, is the premier location for star gazing in New Zealand. The night sky is so amazing there they want to world heritage list it! The telescope we saw was massive. We felt so fortunate to gain insight into the university’s research.
We were thrilled to be able to spend quality time with Dave’s side of the family and quality time as a family of four. There were plenty of laughs, fun and adventure. We were so grateful to be able to take this trip. We created some very special memories.
Have you been to New Zealand? What were your highlights? What’s the last family trip you went on?
Linking up today with Kylie for IBOT.