A Whanganui family of four were stranded in their car for 18 hours when they were stopped by rising flood waters outside Pauanui.

The family were heading for their holiday house at Hahei a small settlement on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula.

Neil and Darnelle Parkin and their two children Ryan, 10, and Catherine, 8, had left Whanganui on Sunday morning to stay for a week.

The driving rain and rising floodwaters put a stop to travelling for them and about 30 other cars in the Pauanui area, Neil said.

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"We had pulled into a small service station and the traffic was banked up. There was no way we could carry on.

The traffic was at a standstill with "everyone wondering how long we'd be stranded for", he said.

"I still can't believe we were stuck in the car for 18 hours. We all had pillows, and we used our towels as blankets. I kept the car engine running to keep us warm."

"If a woman who had done some grocery shopping and was on her way home hadn't tossed us a bag of kiwifruit and a packet of vanilla wine biscuits, we would have starved.

"She saw the kids and felt sorry for us," he said.

The family were stuck from about 3pm to about 9am on Monday morning.

Because of the floodwaters the owner of service station shut up shop early and headed home leaving us all to it, he said.

"They left the toilet at the back open for the night.

"Just as well, otherwise it would have been a terrible sight this morning ."

Yesterday the family were taking the long way round, determined to reach their holiday house by nightfall.

They had driven across to Thames then up to Coromandel town, where they were all aching for some good cooked food, Neil said.

"We were all starving.

"God, if we and all the other stranded motorists had realised we would be there all night we would have bought the service station out. [And] if the owners had thought about it and stayed open, they would have made a killing.

"Every bag of chippies, every pie, every piece of food in the place would have gone."
When they reached Thames yesterday morning they all chomped into pies, he said.

"Not the best breakfast, but it sure tasted good."

The couple said they were no strangers to floodwaters after last June in Whanganui.

"I gave myself a private little public holiday because I couldn't get along Anzac Pde on that Monday."

And for the children the travelling theme of "are we there yet?" was finally going to be reality by teatime, he said.

"We're going to have thoroughly fantastic holiday. It still amazes me that we actually got some sleep in the car."