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Highways to happiness: NZ's best road trip memories

NZ Herald
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Some car journeys will always be with us . . . the sights, smells, the people

Last month we asked you to write in with your favourite memories from Kiwi family road trips, for our Interislander competition. Your responses were full of evocative nostalgia and stories of happy holidays from days gone by. Here is a selection of our favourites. Thanks to everyone who wrote in — we'll publish more of your stories in weeks to come. In the meantime, happy travels.

Some things never change

North to Kerikeri. Three little girls in the back seat. We stopped at Makana Chocolates and their eyes lit up ... macadamia butter toffee crunch for mum, truffles for dad, and our girls pacing up, and down, and up as they chose a chocolate each for themselves. Treasure wrapped in a shiny gold individual box. Up the road for ham and egg sandwiches from the hot bread shop and then paddling in the water in front of the Stone Store.

Paddling in front of the Stone Store in Kerikeri. Photo / Northland
Paddling in front of the Stone Store in Kerikeri. Photo / Northland

I sat on the river bank and remembered being in that same river as a child. My skirt tucked into my undies, tightly holding my nana's hand. The food on sale is fancier now, but the birds still try to steal your lunch. And the adventure of balancing on slippery rocks is one that has spanned a generation. "Mum ... " I focused on the river again and then laughed and laughed at the disgruntled look on my sopping wet eldest daughter's face. Her father grinning behind her. Ah yes, if you visit the Stone Store — take a towel.
— Helen Haine
* Helen was the winner of the $1500 Interislander prize pack

Epic there and back

The Saul family road trip of the summer of 2014 was an event that went down in history. The final road trip before us kids spread our wings and went to uni. We stuffed our car to the brim with five people, five tramping packs, camping gear, two kayaks, snorkels, wet-suits and a tent and travelled from Christchurch to Cape Rēinga and back again over four weeks. We surfed for the first time, we tented and tramped, I had my first driving lesson on 90 Mile Beach, my sister got so badly sunburned that she had the tan lines for two years and my bro was forced to sit in the middle for the whole trip (sucks to be the youngest!). Trip of a lifetime.
— Kristina Saul

So much to see: Clare Evans took her mum to the Moeraki Boulders in Otago. Photo / Miles Holden
So much to see: Clare Evans took her mum to the Moeraki Boulders in Otago. Photo / Miles Holden

Stop ... go ... stop ... go

When we drove from Queenstown to Franz Josef, every corner we turned, we were greeted with another stunning landscape that just kept changing. It was so unpredictable, with so many great spots to stop and enjoy along the way. What we thought would take around five hours ending up taking up 11 — but it was one of the most memorable days of our lives.
— Tom Leonard

An elemental discovery

A great family road trip memory was taking our four kids from South Auckland to Tūroa to stay for the weekend and see snow for the first time. It was the longest road trip they had been on. We timed it just right as it had just snowed. The kids loved it. They didn't want to stop playing in it. But when I finally said "okay, time to go home", and got them in the car, they suddenly all realised how freezing they were. There were even tears. Luckily I had hot chocolate ready in the Thermos, changes of clothes and the Crock-pot dinner on back at the Bookabach. It's a great story that we reminisce about 11 years later.
— Karena Brady-Leathem

Where the road runs out: Cape Reinga, Northland. Photo / Northland
Where the road runs out: Cape Reinga, Northland. Photo / Northland

The journey never ends

Our favourite Kiwi roadtrip has to be Auckland to Wellington and then Wellington to East Cape all within eight days through the New Year period. We live for road trips. Even in our typical working weeks, we road trip as far as possible to see our motu, NZ. We live in Auckland and drive to Kaiaua and Whakatāne for fish and chips, which friends and family do not understand. Our goal in life is to travel to every place possible in NZ just see what is there and see places that people would normally not travel to.
— James Pulehega

Just us and Marmite sandwiches ...

Just us, a basket filled with Marmite sandwiches and overly diluted orange juice, and nowhere to be for a few days. Dad just drove wherever he felt like, we'd stop off and picnic or run around until exhaustion took over, and the folks would look at sights and talk about very serious things while we blundered about. One of my favorite memories, and life experiences, just us on the open road experiencing NZ as it really is.
— J T Bailey

... and cold sausage rolls

When we were little, more than 50 years ago, Mum and Dad would load up the old Standard 10 for a summer holiday road trip. We stayed in cabins, usually one or two nights then moved to the next town. It was all planned around horse race meetings for Dad. When we arrived at the camp, Mum would unpack the car, tell Dad to rest after driving, and she would get out her frypan and other stuff and cook dinner. The amount of stuff that got loaded into that little car. We always had pillows and sheets and blankets piled in the back and I would hide under my blanky on the Napier-Taupo road as we got sandwiched between trucks. We stopped at every playground along the way and Mum would get out the Thermos and cold sausage rolls.
— Mandy Greig

Five go off on an adventure

This family roadie was 20 years ago when the five of us flew to Christchurch and picked up a 4x4. It was the first time for all of us in the South Island. We got off the plane and straight across the alps to Greymouth. This was the first time our eldest, at 2 years old, went tramping and what a legend he turned out to be, storming up any hill we pointed him at. We just thought it odd that Mum could not keep up with him. Look, to cut a long story short, what we didn't realise was that a holiday we thought was for the three of us turned out to be one for the five of us as, on our return to Auckland, we found out Mum was carrying twins up the hill as well.
— Charles Willmer

Best start to best holidays

It was a hot Kiwi summer, the cicadas were out, but the road was long and windy. Three hours later, two stops for Tip Top, heads hanging out off the window and finally the pōhutukawa on the pretty coastline of the Far North came into view. The old bach gate creaked its welcome, scrunchy green grass underfoot. A Kiwi road trip always ends in a traditional Kiwi holiday.
— Loren Sirl

Down the road: the view to Mt Taranaki down the Whakarewa Bridge. Photo / 123RF
Down the road: the view to Mt Taranaki down the Whakarewa Bridge. Photo / 123RF

A life-changing experience

I came to visit my parents for a holiday after they emigrated to New Zealand. We did a road trip all around the lower North Island which was so breathtaking. The beautiful wineries of Martinborough, the black sand in Taranaki. I loved NZ so much I transferred from my UK university and have been here ever since.
— Lauren Mellish

So much to see, so much to show

My favourite family Kiwi road trip was a few years ago with my mum. It was her first time in New Zealand, and I really wanted to show her why this is home for me. We did a big loop around the South Island, starting and finishing in Queenstown, dipping into the middle for Hanmer Springs and Aoraki/Mount Cook. We loved seeing dolphins at Punakaiki, paddle boarding at Kaiteriteri, horse riding at Lake Pūkaki, the pools at Tekapo, and the beautiful boulders at Moeraki — there was just so much to see and it was the holiday of a lifetime for her (from the UK) and such a special time together.
— Clare Evans

Over the hills to Golden Bay

"My family and I love to go to Tākaka in Golden Bay. We pack the car the day before and rise early to make the first ferry of the day to leave Wellington. The anticipation is so much fun. On board, we grab a coffee and stand outside to see the marvellous views that can only be enjoyed by sea. Entering the Marlborough Sounds is spectacular. When we disembark in Picton, we drive west to Nelson and stop for a break and to visit the Saturday markets. We drive to Richmond where the fruit orchards are covered with a fabric to protect them from birds and bugs and begin the very long windy climb up and over a very high mountain. As we head down we sing songs, take in the view of Golden Bay, and look forward to arriving at my mum's house in Tākaka.
This is my family's best ever road trip.
— Janine Nana

Racing to Tākaka: Golden Bay. Photo / Nelson Tasman
Racing to Tākaka: Golden Bay. Photo / Nelson Tasman

Chunderama on the ranges

When I was a kid growing up on the farm in an isolated Waikato dairy farming district, we would look forward to the annual Christmas holiday at Mount Maunganui. It involved packing six kids and all our holiday requirements — including food for four weeks — into the Falcon station wagon. Thankfully Dad had to stay home and milk cows, otherwise we would not all have fitted in. At least one sibling would be in the back with luggage. The four siblings jammed into the back seat would have Tupperware containers of soup and casserole on their knees. Invariably a fight would break out because someone was taking too much space, and at least one would be carsick going over the winding hill road over the Kaimai ranges, resulting in a screech of brakes and quick evacuation of people so the chunderer could get out of the car. Not always successfully. But there was always a great sense of joy on the way down the Kaimai road with the Bay of Plenty ocean in the distance. And the thought of four weeks of summer adventures ahead of us.
— Allen Swney

Counting days to campervan trip

My favourite family Kiwi road trip is the one we're yet to have. Taking advantage of the cheap camper van deals on offer we have booked a dream family road trip around the South Island in September where we'll be stopping off in Queenstown, Wānaka, Mt Aspiring National Park and many other beautiful spots. Travelling New Zealand in a camper van has been my dad's dream for a long time and we're all so excited it's finally happening.
— Anna Rattray

Plan plenty of stops: The scenery around Franz Josef Glacier is stunning. Photo / 123RF
Plan plenty of stops: The scenery around Franz Josef Glacier is stunning. Photo / 123RF

Everything tasted good

It was one of those summer days when you woke up in the dark. You didn't ask your father "where to?" and "are we there yet?". But there was endless sun, the laughter and radio music, stale sandwiches that never tasted so good before, the trees and water intertwined in their embrace, where time did not exist. I want to go back.
— Larisa Bovhan

Memories of a good Kiwi bloke

Our last road trip with my uncle before he passed away. He was a real outdoor Kiwi bloke so we all went on a road trip from Wellington through to Castlepoint, which doesn't sound amazing but it was. We drove his old truck out to Lake Ferry, Ngawi, Tora, Riversdale and Castlepoint. He taught us how to make bivouacs and damper on the fire. We slept under the stars, hunted for rabbits and snorkelled for crayfish and pāua. He taught the kids so much about our flora and fauna but even more about getting back to nature and enjoying whānau. We miss him so much but have incredible memories.
— Simonne Goodall