Hot pools are just the start of family fun at accessible Miranda and Kaiaua.
When you're going away with eight adults and eight kids under six you have to think carefully about where to go so it's actually a holiday. The Miranda Kaiaua area is definitely one of those places. Just an hour out of central Auckland, it's the perfect weekend retreat.
We arrived on Saturday morning and decided to see what the area had to offer. Miranda is world-renowned for its birdlife. It's a breeding and wintering ground and at certain times of the year there are thousands of birds on the shore. Not really being the spotterish types or knowing what feathery finds we should be seeking, we just headed to the shoreline for a stroll.
Turns out it was a bit of an adventure including electric fences (yes they are on) and a paddock full of bulls (not cows, it seems) but we were rewarded by the sight of a gorgeous white heron and some other birds we'd never seen before. Exciting for even the least ornithologically-inclined.
After our "wildlife" encounters, we dropped in to the local pub. Kaiaua is only tiny with no main street so this and the fish and chip shop are about it.
The Bayview Hotel is perfect for families, with a garden bar out the back and plenty of tables.
Revived, we headed back to Miranda for some hot spring fun, past the rows of campervans that park up on that stretch of road. It's quite a sight. Speaking of hot springs, it's important to note that the holiday park and the hot pools are two separate businesses. One is just pools and the other is accommodation with its own private pool. The Miranda Hot Springs are a Kiwi classic - an enormous thermally heated fresh mineral pool along with children's pool and adult-only sauna pools. They were built in 1959 and despite slightly tired looks are a lovely soak in a tranquil environment.
It was time to check in to the Miranda Holiday Park, which has a huge range of accommodation from tent sites to very comfortable self-contained units. The complex is immaculately clean, the pool heavenly and the facilities excellent. We spent the rest of the day between the pool, G&Ts and nibbles for the adults and cordial and crackers for the kids.
Our unit was very comfortable and we particularly enjoyed tapping the mineral water directly into our huge spa bath for a soak. One of our kids thought it was great, the other decided the sulphur smell was a bit "farty" for him.
There was heaps for the little people to do - trampoline, tennis courts, playground and some great multi-person pedal carts. Lots of fun. Dinner had to be from the Kaiaua Fisheries (this was not a health retreat weekend) and it lived up to its excellent reputation. Apparently they sometimes do up to 500 meals a night. We did think that once our kids were older, Miranda to Kaiaua would be a lovely cycle.
The next day after check-out, we dropped in at the adorable Kaiaua Seaside Market (think very home-made wares and food) on the way and started a leisurely journey home via Clevedon for some slightly more sizeable market action. The Firth of Thames coastline is stunning, especially with the sun sparkling off the water, and it's lovely to meander home, stopping wherever takes your fancy. Summer or winter, Miranda and Kaiaua are the perfect no-hassle getaway.
Miranda Holiday Park: 595 Front Miranda Rd, RD 6, Thames. Phone: 0800 833 144.
Miranda Hot Springs: right next to the Holiday Park. Phone: (07) 867 3055.
Kaiaua Fisheries Restaurant and Takeaways: 939 East Coast Rd, Kaiaua. Phone: 09-232 2776.
Bayview Hotel: 943 East Coast Rd, Kaiaua. Phone: (09) 232 2717.