Bon Voyage (at least it was one way!)

‘I’m sad Mummy,’ said Sophie as she hugged her favourite bear and waved bye bye to Wellington. Charli, meanwhile, was focused on drawing a dolphin and was richly rewarded with the sighting of dolphins and orca as we entered the Marlborough Sounds. The crossing to Picton, on Sunday 27 September, was thankfully very calm. We left Wellington early, on the 8.30am sailing, and after Sophie’s initial sadness she soon got in the holiday spirit.

But bless her, when it came time to return to Wellington a week later she was again sad. ‘I’m going to miss Nelson. I wish we could stay. Poor Daddy going back to work tomorrow,’ she said as we sailed back in a southerly wind, gusting to 45 knots, with a 2 to 3 metre swell.

After the initial half hour of excitement at seeing waves crash up and over the bow of the ferry (we were sat, rather stupidly, at the bow), we all became rather subdued. Half an hour before entering the relative calm of Wellington harbour the sick bags made an appearance. ‘Mummy you are vomiting,’ said Charli in shock. Sophie took one look at me and followed suit into her own bag (half missing). Charli looked green, but having sensibly not eaten much for lunch she managed to stay composed. After depositing my butter chicken and rice into a sick bag I felt a whole lot better and was relieved to see dry land!

Our holiday was a real mixed bag of spring weather. Much of the country experienced extreme downpours and even snow on the Central Plateau in the North Island, leaving drivers stranded on the Desert Road needing to be rescued.

Further afield the tragedy of the tsunami in Soma and earthquake in Indonesia touched our hearts. In Nelson we were advised to keep off the beach in the early afternoon on Wednesday 30th in case of a small tsunami, but thankfully it eventuated to nothing and after a morning of sun we were ready to leave.

The first two days of our holiday were complete wash outs and not the best start. However, we amused ourselves at the World of Wearable Arts & Classic Car Museum one morning and at Mapua Aquarium on Tuesday.

Thankfully, the holiday home, 180 Views, had a spa pool. The feel of the cold rain on our heads, whilst our bodies were immersed in warmth was surreal and magical. We spent most of the afternoon on Monday and Tuesday soaking in the outdoor tub till we were thoroughly pruned. I’d thoroughly recommend this holiday home for anyone fancying a break away to Nelson. We found it through Baches & Holiday Home to Rent and it was great value with all the essentials (and more) and plenty of room to make for a wonderful family holiday home.

On Wednesday morning we woke to glorious views and sunshine. We headed down to Tahunanui Beach, where we could while away months, let alone days. As well as the fantastic beach there is all the fun stuff for the children. We knew we wouldn’t escape our holiday without the obligatory sack slide, mini-golf and bumper boat ride! The girls also loved visiting Natureland Zoo, where the small array of friendly animals happily feed on rice pops from keen little hands.

We really did enjoy the simple stuff this holiday. We had visions of doing some ‘big picture’ activities and driving to Nelson Lakes National Park (one and a half hours away from Nelson), but in the end the thought of spending time in the car just didn’t appeal. Some holidays are for simply taking it easy and this was one of them. It was great to have time together to focus on the little things. Some of our happiest memories of this holiday are making creatures out of plasticine and playing indoor cricket (with a soft ball!). We also visited the fabulous swimming pool in Richmond a couple of times.

A highlight on Friday was horse-riding at Stonehurst Farm. Both the girls enjoyed a half hour pony trek in beautiful rural surrounds. Sophie was in horse heaven and rode like a pro (for a three and three-quarter year-old – as she proudly announced to anyone who would listen). Charli relaxed into the saddle pretty quickly too. We were fortunate to have the ‘boss’ leading one of the ponies and along with his amazing dog, Bill, was great company and very interesting to talk with. The farm has been in his family for around a hundred years. He was fantastic with Charli, who was a little nervous to start with. She really did let her shoulders loosen up and enjoyed the ride. Sophie would have loved to have put up camp right there and joined the pony club.

We found a fabulous spot for lunch on Friday, at ‘The Grape Escape‘. Gorgeous garden dining, rural setting, llamas to feed, a playground for the children, friendly staff and amazing food (plus a fabulous arts and crafts shop!).

We revisited the hedge maze at Stoneridge Cafe too and thankfully found the middle a lot faster than on our last visit!

The end of our holiday came around all too soon. But we had a night in Picton to enjoy before our ferry ride home on Sunday. We took our time on the Queen Charlotte Drive, stopping at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve for a few short walks.

We stopped at ‘Apartments on the Waterfront‘ in Picton, which were beautifully located by the marina and away from the town. It was a very windy, blustery visit, but with a lovely setting and a spa pool we were happy. There were quite a few walking tracks near by.

On Sunday morning, with only a couple of hours to spare, we visited Picton Aquarium, where the girls listened avidly whilst a guide fed and talked about the sea life. It’s a great aquarium, but expensive for the locals I spoke to. I was surprised they didn’t do an annual pass, like we have at Wellington Zoo.

We were eager to be on our way and get the crossing over with, but sad to leave behind the beautiful expanse of the South Island. It would be wonderful to spend months touring with the children in a camper van.

Home sweet home welcomed us with warm, open arms (and one fish down alas. More on the fish in another post… let’s just say a trip to the pet shop to get one replacement has turned into something a little more on the tropical side!).

It’s great to be home and we do feel refreshed. Wellington really does have so much going on and we really value the huge array of facilities – especially indoor ones when the weather takes a backward step to winter! Like anywhere though there is a need to escape from what you know best and have a change of scene to recharge the batteries. This holiday certainly did that.