The much-loved Kiwi star reveals her favourite NZ holiday destinations
What are your favourite memories from childhood family holidays in NZ?
Every year we travelled in the big white family Ford Falcon 500 Station Wagon from Motueka, and then Ashburton in later years, to Totaranui in the Abel Tasman. We had a big trailer on the back carrying the sizeable wooden dinghy Dad built, the army tent and enough stuff for six weeks. The back seat would be down in the back of the car with a double mattress laid out in the boot, where we four kids would recline on bed pillows for the long car trip.
We had a small portable cassette player where I had recorded music from the radio or the stereo at home; usually by popping the cassette up against a speaker and pressing record. So we had the whole of 20 Solid Gold Hits volume 4 to sing to. Mum had Jeremy Pope's History of NZ from which she would read out loud and Dad had his arm out the window smoking and driving all the way.
Setting up a camp took a day, apparently: as soon as we hit the campground us kids disappeared straight to the lagoon until dark. Mum and Dad pitched tents, set up stretchers, dug trenches around the tents (no tent floors in those days), set up outdoor tables and chairs, portable cooling cupboard, nappy buckets, fruit buckets, fishing nets, fire lit (barbecues were not a thing) and Dad built a hot water shower out of black piping, sacking and the slope of the land for water pressure.
The smell of a mixture of baby oil and Dettol as an insect repellent/sun tanner is an unlikely trigger even now, to holidays which every year now carry with them such a sense of magic and gratitude. What better gift can parents give kids than a summertime sleeping on the grass next to the sea, eating fish from a fire and chasing wekas away from the plum bucket.
I don't remember it raining except for one day, lying in my sleeping bag in the big tent, eating gingernuts all day, listening to the rain on the roof and reading The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Where is your favourite off the beaten track/secret spot in NZ to get away from it all?
The Kaihoka Lakes. Before you hit Farewell Spit, turn left at Pakawau and drive round the Whanganui Inlet.
On the way, there's a sign marked Echo Point and if you call out, the call back is louder and clearer than your original sound. It's disconcerting and wonderfully affirming.
The drive is exquisite and suddenly it's a hundred years ago. I don't know if the forest is pure native virgin but it sure feels like it is. You turn up the Kaihoka Rd and then there are the lakes - small, perfect and so very quiet. You can hear dragonfly wings there.
Large nikau palms encircle the lakes like sentries. There's a peace to these remote lakes I've not experienced anywhere else. Those meditation exercises they ask you to do where you must "find a place you take yourself in your mind which is peaceful and beautiful and where you feel utterly content"; always, always it's there.
If you were heading on a family getaway now, where would you go?
Family getaways here in Aotearoa are tricky now because the boys are older and really, who wants to get away with Mum when there are pals to hang with? We just did one down to the Abel Tasman again with extended family for Christmas. We have successfully managed Ohau in the winter. The ski field is chill, low-key and friendly and the Mackenzie Basin incredible to drive through. I reckon I could bribe the kids simply with the promise that we'd stop at the famous Fairlie pie shop on the way.
What's your dream NZ roadtrip?
You know there aren't many roads I've not driven in NZ. Back in the day when I had my big Toyota Cressida, I took it everywhere. The drive from Queenstown to Te Anau is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. One area I'd love to go back to is the East Cape. I've only done that drive once, years ago, and I will do it again. I remember a truly wonderful sense of history and magic around that area. I think it was Hicks Bay where there is a monster elderly pōhutukawa. I hope it's still there.
And if you could choose one ultimate, luxury, dream holiday in NZ, where would you go?
The Scrubby Bay Villa at Annandale Villas, Banks Peninsula. Look it up. It's mentally luxurious - off the chart posh and rural and romantic.
Robyn Malcolm performs as special guest narrator in Mansfield In Her Own Words - Unplugged at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival on Sunday February 27, 6:45pm. Limited VIP tickets include an intimate pre-show talk with cast members, plus the best seats in the house. hgaf.co.nz