Fast-food, cycling and fishing tick all the boxes for Donna McIntyre and family in their bid for a weekend of action.

Planning a two-night trip to Thames, we hear from friends that there's a great tropical butterfly and orchid garden that you must see.

While I'm tempted, I'm mindful ours is a family trip and I think butterflies and orchids just aren't going to cut the mustard with our sons, aged 12 and 15, promised adventure and excitement.

The main thing the boys want is to stay somewhere with a swimming pool. So we google Thames and within seconds we've found good accommodation options with pools, and also fishing and mountain bike activities.

We take the coastal route from Auckland and it's an easy run to Thames and the Grafton Cottage and Chalets (with pool, of course).


While we check out Thames' main street, the boys pounce on Subway, a treat as there are no fast food chains where we live. What the hell, once in a while fast food won't hurt. We don't have to worry about provisions for breakfast as the chalets provide a breakfast hamper.

The boys are chocka from their late-in-the-day subs and, since they've snuck the Xbox into their luggage, they suggest their parents go out for dinner while they play Need for Speed.

We find what looks like the most popular place to eat in town, Thai restaurant Nakontong, and then get a good night's sleep before tackling mountain biking.

For this we meet Kim Lambert, of Eyez Open Adventure, in the Kauaeranga Valley. We don helmets and we're off, following Kim like ducklings follow their mum, though pedalling rather than waddling.

The valley's gentle hills are easily conquered with the bikes' multigears as Kim tells us about the logging history of the area. We stop at the visitor centre where there is a scale model of the kauri dams.

Further on Kim takes the boys and their dad off-road for an exhilarating ride while I walk one of the tracks. And then we're all back on the road to the walkway to Edwards Lookout before stopping for lunch at a waterhole on the Kauaeranga River. The boys jump into the water and swim across to the rock face.

After seven hours of biking, walking and swimming, we say goodbye to Kim. The boys reckon they've done enough exercise to warrant another Subway meal ... we leave them to it and have a coffee at Sola cafe.

Sione's Wedding 2 is on at the cinema, so we watch the gang try to find Pauly (or "his name's Paul", as the females in the film keep saying). Good fun and the boys want to know if there really is a place called Chur Burgers in Ponsonby Rd. We all feast on another meal at the Thai restaurant.

Next morning is another early start to meet Paul Winterburn, who's taking us fishing north of Thames.

At this time of the year the fishing is good near the mussel farms and no sooner do we have our rods over the side than our 15-year-old gets a bite. As the snapper keep hitting our lines, we throw many of our catches back to live another day. Once we've bagged our legal limit, Paul takes us close up to the mussel farm to watch the beds being worked, before returning to shore.

We thank Paul ("his name's Paul" my boys keep reminding me) and he rings the wharf in Thames to see if they can fillet the fish ($2.50 a fish).

While we wait for the rest of the fish to be packed, we dine on fish'n' chips - made with our very own fillets.

You don't get food much fresher than this. What a great family trip. Chur, Thames!

Accommodation: Grafton Cottage & Chalets, ph 07 868 9971.

Mountain bikes: Eyez Open Adventure, ph 07 868 9018 or 027 436 4522.

Fishing: Top Shelf Charters, ph 07 868 2727, 021 842 637 or 021 488 191; Snap-A-Fish, ph 07 868 4726, 021 150 1919.

Donna received assistance from Top Shelf Charters, Eyez Open Adventure and Grafton Cottage and Chalets.