A good road trip is about experiencing the places you pass. It’s about the different smells, sounds, looks, tastes and the feel of the places in between places. It is not about looking out the window.
We travel 460km today, from Blenheim to Geraldine, and it took us just under 12 hours (roughly 37kph), and here are some tips I have learned about road tripping with kids.
TIP # 1: STOP OFTEN: If it looks interesting – just stop! Take a look.
A spontaneous stop at “THE STORE” on the east coast not far from Blenheim. It is a beautifully manicured store and cafe isolated on the Kaikoura Coast, where we went for a walk, fooled around and took photos of the beautiful and charming setting.
TIP # 2: DRIVE SLOWLY & BE SPONTANEOUS: There is a plethora of historic or commercial sights that we zap by at our 110kph missing opportunities to see, learn or experience something new, so rest your speedo on 80-90kph, as this makes it much easier to pump the break and do a u-turn if necessary.
Doing a u-turn, we made another spontaneous stop at a roadside crayfish stall. Yummy! The girls chowed down on some freshly cooked Lobster with mayonnaise and tartare sauce. The boys turned their noses up at the fishy smell. Pah – those boys don’t know what they’re missing! Along the coast there are a number of these little stalls selling crayfish (Koura) from permanent cabin stalls or temporary caravans.
TIP # 3: HAVE A ROUGH PLAN: Having a rough plan of the “must-dos” can aid the road trip experience, but don’t try to fit in too much, or ignore other opportunities. You don’t what to end up speeding from one thing to the next. You want to relax and enjoy each stop, and you can’t do that if you’re constantly looking at your watch and saying it’s time to go.
Taken at a lay-by on the side of the road this picture is of one of the hundreds of seals lazing on the rocky shoreline to Kaikoura – so cute!
TIP # 4: LET THE KIDS BE THE TIME KEEPERS: It can be good idea to let the kids decide when it’s time to leave a stop, as that’s when they’re ready to settle down into the car again. And if that means your plans are going to be broken, so be it, their enjoyment is more important than any of your plans.
The Ohau Seal Pup’s were amazing. This stop is a must-do and is well worth the five minute hike into the freezing cold bush that follows the Ohau River. The seal pups play and frollick in a water hole at the base of a waterfall, and being very friendly and inquisitive they regularly come up to their human spectators for a close encounter your kids won’t forget. Amazing.
TIP # 5: CAMERAS & DIARIES: Each kid should have their own individual camera and/or diary as it encourages them to engage in their environment. So rather than being told ‘this is interesting’ or ‘this is beautiful’, they start looking for the interesting stuff themselves.
Lunch Stop: Damien and Monica peer into the pacific looking for whales at Kaikoura’s Whale Watch Lookout whilst chewing on their salami sandwiches. We thought we spotted some whales but binoculars revealed only breaking waves. Disappointing!
TIP # 6: BACK UPS: Have something to do in the car.
You are bound to meet some long and barren stretches of highway, so make sure you have a DVD player or some fun car games handy … this makes the trip between stops enjoyable for all.
Being in Christchurch, we just had to take a macabre bicycle tour of the earthquake destruction. The outer suburbs coming into Christchurch appeared to be relatively unscathed, but the closer you got the city centre, the silty and dusty it got, and the more frequent the tell-tale port-a-loos on every corner. We hit the fenced off red zone. Wow – it really does tell a sorry tall. Score upon score of beautiful and historic building lay in ruins or were held up with iron beams. To think it wasn’t that long ago that I sat supping coffee or looking at art in these very buildings. So much of the beautiful heart of Christchurch hangs by a tether. So sad.
TIP # 7: DON’T HAVE A FIXED DESTINTATION: Where you stay each night is not important. Besides, staying somewhere you hadn’t intended on staying sometimes rewards you with pleasant surprises.
Tired and hungry our day concluded as the lone patrons of the Geraldine Village Inn Pub. The pub menu was fairly limited in choice, but that said, the matron of the pub was incredible helpful and we were served the most delicious and huge pizza’s that I’d had in a long time. This was topped off by the very generous and accommodating moteller of the Twin Peaks Motel who gave us two rooms for the price of one … awesome end to an awesome day!