Family Travel – Hamilton, Balloons Over Waikato

This weekend away in March was amazing!  We ditched Auckland and had an epic three-day family adventure in Hamilton.  Our itinerary was co-ordinated by Hamilton & Waikato tourism and was so good I’ve decided to share it step by step in case anyone wants full details on how to max out three days with your kids, in a super-fun city just 127km from Auckland, NZ.

Day 1

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Museum

We left Auckland around midday on Friday and had a great drive south to arrive in Hamilton at 2 pm.  

After check-in at the Sudima Hotel, we walked across the street to the Waikato Museum.  Let me tell you, Friday afternoon is the time to visit if you want a really peaceful, quiet experience.  We spent almost a full hour just in the Exscite exhibit.  Every activity is a kid magnet.  The boys ran around in a frenzy at first, touching on every station within the first 15 minutes.  They calmed down a little after that, took their time and really took it all in.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Museum

After visiting Milk Matters, For Us They Fell, Te Winika, Beyond the Cordon and the Bob Marley exhibit (all awesome), we left the museum and headed a couple of blocks along Victoria St to Bowl & Social.  Situated in Sky City, we were totally unprepared for how cool a bowling alley could be!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Bowling

We bowled one game with the boys (Even Nix loved it at 3.5yo) and enjoyed a really great meal overlooking the river.  This is hipster heaven, but equally perfect for a family fun date or birthday party – there were three parties in action while we were there!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Bowling New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Bowling Pizza

Part of the Balloons over Waikato calendar is the City Burn and Markets.  The boys were a bit shattered so I left them with Dave and walked the single block to Garden Place in the city.  What a fun family event!  There were food vendors, market stalls, live music and of course the choreographed basket burn set to a really cool soundtrack.  I loved this, it was quick and awesome and makes a fairly early night for the kids.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

Day 2 – Super busy AWESOME day!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Sanctuary Mountain

We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and loaded up for the drive south (54min) to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.  We had no idea what to expect, but if you LOVE getting your family out in the New Zealand native forest like we do, then this is a must-do on your next visit to the Waikato.  

Surrounded by the world’s longest pest-proof fence, Sanctuary Mountain’s ancient forest offers a sanctuary for populations of many of our most endangered species – from birds to bats, frogs to reptiles, tuatara to giant weta.

We spent the morning on an amazing tour along one of the many trails and just soaked in the abundant native wildlife that is being so well protected here.  Major highlights were seeing many Kaka plus Ethan and I did a solo mission to a freshwater pool and were wowed by the biggest Kura we have ever seen!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Sanctuary Mountain

Tip: Don’t be off-put by less-than-perfect weather.  We visited on a rainy, gloomy morning but the thick forest canopy did an excellent job of keeping us dry and happy.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Waitomo

Next on the itinerary was a trip to the famed Waitomo Glowworm caves.  After an easy 47-minute drive south-west of Sanctuary Mountain, we were sitting down for lunch at Waitomo Homestead.  Delicious cafe food, well-priced and a convenient spot to refuel before you begin your cave adventure.  

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton WaitomoThe Waitomo Glowworm Caves are an NZ institution.  I first remember visiting with my parents when I was a little girl and loved bringing my own boys back here to experience the beauty of the underground caves and magical, twinkling glowworms.  This is a beautifully run operation and something special but, as a kiwi, I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing and have only just figured it out as I sit here in Ubud completely surrounded by Balinese culture.  It is a completely sterile operation, almost devoid of any Maori/NZ culture or history – it could conceivably be picked up and plonked anywhere in the world.  I’m not sure international visitors would pick up on this but it seemed really odd to me.
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Waitomo

 The rain began to fall as we headed back to Hamilton and we were fading a little.  We were seriously considering skipping the weekend’s main event, the Balloons Over Waikato Zuru Night Glow.  Instead, we hardened up, charged it and were rewarded by the rain clearing and the most fabulous family night out in a long time.  Held at the University of Waikato, this is an event worth travelling for.  The food vendors provided ample choice (we chose some fab burritos), the music from The Jordan Luck Band was incredible, the hot air balloon light show set to an awesome soundtrack kept even Nixon in raptures and the fireworks finale was simply outstanding.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

Put the Night Glow Event on your family calendar for 2018.  It’s a seriously good night that I expect to become an annual tradition in our family. 

Day 4

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

We delayed the inevitable drive back to Auckland for as long as possible with our first visit to the famed Hamilton Gardens.  Over the past few years I’ve been coveting pictures of the many varied landscapes within the gardens so was super keen to explore with the kids.

The space here is incredible, there are tourist buses aplenty (and rightly so) but you can easily find a spot to yourself and lay out a blanket and wile away an hour or two with a picnic.

Which is exactly what we did – after 2 separate plays at the beautiful Hamilton Gardens Destination Playground.  Both boys, big and small, had such a wicked time here.  Just like the wider gardens I feel like you may spot something new to do here every time you visit.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

Phone ahead and let the professionals at The Hamilton Garden Cafe take care of lunch.  We picked up our laden basket and blankets and settled down to the most delicious lunch under a tree in the Rose Garden.  The food was ah-mazing, not exaggerating one bit.  I dream of another picnic like this one lol

What a weekend Hamilton/Waikato!  We enjoyed some incredible activities and visited some beautiful spots but we also saw twice as many things that are now on our to-do list for our next long weekend.

Our Accommodation

We stayed the weekend at Sudima Hotel in Hamilton City.  We had a huge 2 bedroom suite with, pretty much a full kitchen, 2 large bedrooms and a balcony – a perfect, kid-friendly hotel right on ‘the strip’ in Hamilton and surrounded by amazing restaurants and things to do. 

Tip – the street side room can be a bit noisy at night so pop the kids in the interior room and bring some earplugs if you’re a light sleeper like me.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

Family Travel – Four Days in Napier

After a pretty manic end to 2016, Dave and I had absolutely no inclination to plan an extended, extravagant summer holiday with the kids.  There was to be nothing involving chilly-bins or tents, no road trips, no car/boat combo packed to the hilt…..

Some years that stuff seems easy, is easy, this year we just couldn’t manage it.

What we could do (and did lol), was plan a mini-vacay with minimal fuss, minimal rushing from here to there i.e a minimal, or even better, NO itinerary and minimal expense to be honest.  

Napier was our choice of destination as it ticked all of those boxes plus even more.

In Napier City there are;

  • Flights leaving from Auckland daily – we flew with our travel partner Jetstar
  • Plenty of accommodation options right in town
  • ‘Town’ happens to be a $25 dollar taxi ride from the airport, no rental car needed.
  • ‘Town’ is right across the road from the beach, the pools, the fountain – which kids are welcome to play in!
  • ‘Town’ is the Art Deco capital of New Zealand!  Everywhere you look Napier is freaking stunning!
  • Plenty of awesome family friendly activities you can do, again, without having to rent a car.

We loved it!

So what DID we do?

We arrived at 9.30am after our quick and easy 1-hour flight, jumped in a taxi that was waiting right outside the terminal and headed to our hotel to offload our bags.  We always fly as early as we can for two reasons;

  1. The kids are better when they are well rested and fed.  After breakfast is the perfect time to confine my boys to a small public space where they must remain seated lol.
  2. Arriving early means you’re not travelling during one of your allocated ‘holiday’ days!  We always have our whole arrival day to explore and get cracking with making the most of our vacay time.  Also, if you arrive prior to check-in, your hotel won’t mind storing your bags for you whilst you get your tourist on.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

We stayed at the stunning Scenic Hotel Te Pania which boasts an unbeatable location right across from both the beach and the pools and a single block walk to the main hub of beachside Napier.  We would absolutely stay here again, outstanding beds, great service and a lovely bar in which to sip a Hawkes Bar wine whilst working – as I had to throughout the trip lol.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

On Friday we explored!  We hit the shops, the stunning pier, had a swim, enjoyed cocktail hour and finished our day off with takeaway pizza in our hotel room!  Kids were stoked lol.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

On Saturday, Dave and I both had to work a little, so I took the kids across the street to the amazing beachside pool complex that is Ocean Spa Napier.  With multiple pools and depths, there is something for everyone here and the boys begged to come back each day during our stay.  It was also great value, a Family Pass cost us $30 and I was able to leave, pop into Subway for some lunch and bring it back to the boys and Dave.  We spent most of the day here before heading out and about for another stroll, enjoying the Art Deco sights which are everywhere!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

Sunday was one of the most fun family days we have ever had I’d day!  The weather wasn’t amazing and we had to change plans a little but everything just fell into place.

We walked across the road to the beachside market in the morning for breakfast and were a tad overwhelmed by the choices on offer!  Nixon enjoyed waffles-on-a-stick, Dave and I treated ourselves to humongous bacon and egg sandwiches and Ethan combined both into a bacon and egg waffle!  We also picked up some fresh fruit as snacks for the remaining two days.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

After filling our tanks, we rented bikes from Napier City Bike Hire and Tours on Marine Parade, who had the best prices and incredibly helpful and accommodating staff.  Nix was well catered for with a super-comfy toddler seat on the back of my bike and so we headed north along Marine Parade.  Our destination was Pandora Splash and Play, an easy, flat 5km cycle along the waterfront.  We knew Ethan and Nix would have a lot of fun at the inflatable water playground however super high winds meant it was closed for safety reasons.  Not really a big deal as we all enjoyed the ride anyway!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

With some time on our hands, we pedalled south to the National Aquarium of New Zealand, locked up the bikes and spent a couple of blissful hours exploring hands-down, the BEST aquarium we’ve been to.  Once again this was such great value for money, $54 for a family pass was definitely money well spent and money I’d spend again in a heartbeat.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

Because we’re cheap lol and the children were too tired to risk eating out we had dinner in our room again, this time a roast chicken, salad and buns from Pak ‘n Save.  Easy and delicious.  When travelling,  we often will visit a little cafe or restaurant later afternoon for a glass of wine, a beer for Dave and a couple of appetisers to share.  This keeps the boys fed and happy and gives Mum and Dad a little respite and a chance to enjoy local offerings.

On our final day in sunny Napier, all we had on the agenda was relaxing, swimming and soaking up some of the sunshine that had been in such short supply in Auckland!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

Dave headed off to get a skate in at the newly opened concrete skatepark, just south of the Sunken Gardens on Marine Parade whilst the boys and I headed back to the beach for more swimming.  Of course, a trip to Napier with a small child wouldn’t be complete without a dip in the Tom Parker Fountain.  Who am I kidding, BOTH of the boys swam in this fountain every day, playing with local kids and tourists alike.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

On the way back to the hotel we stopped in at the Hog’s Breath Cafe for a fruity ‘umbrella’ drink and an ice-cream sundae for the boys to share – a perfect ending to an absolutely awesome long-weekend – and we didn’t even make it to any vineyards!

Visit Napier, do it with the kids, you’ll have an amazing time.

Thanks so much to our travel partner Jetstar, we love flying with you guys!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier
Sunset over Marine Parade. View from Te Pania Scenic Hotel

 

 

Explore Queenstown Like a Local

AdvertisementDespite my sensibilities saying otherwise, packing up the kids and heading to Queenstown the Monday before Christmas was a genius idea – a trip I’m keen to repeat each December as a respite from the madness that is Auckland during peak retail season.  Trading the domestic duties of home for hotel life at the Crowne Plaza for a couple of nights was definitely NOT a difficult decision lol.  On a previous stay in Queenstown, we had coveted its lakeside location and as guests, we were not disappointed.  The views from our balcony were Instagram perfection!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Lake Wakatipu

We’ve got our family hotel-routine down to a fine art now.  As we spend an absolute minimal amount of time in our room, we bunk together, leaving more money in the holiday fund for our adventures.  The twin balcony room with views over Lake Wakatipu and out to The Remarkables was a perfect choice for Dave, the two boys and I – great, comfy beds, a workspace for me and a well-appointed bathroom for those holidays baths at the end of each busy day.  We’ve always found that IHG hotels do family stays really well.  The kids are always made to feel welcomed and catered for which is massively important when you travel a lot as a family.  Little touches like the activity packs gifted to the kids upon arrival were well thought out appreciated by both the boys and Dave and I.

Find out more about the deals available at Queenstown Crowne Plaza here

As one of New Zealand’s most visited tourist destinations, traffic in Queenstown can be a chaotic, gridlocked mess.  The first thing we did upon checking in was hand over the car keys to the hotel valet.  When you’re staying right in the centre of town, exploring on foot is a much better option than jostling for a car park.  Aside from day trips that may take you further afield, you have no need for a car when basing yourself at Crowne Plaza.  Foodies are spoilt for choice here, from Josh Emett’s renowned Rata (make a booking, it will not disappoint), to the iconic Fergburger (prepare for an epic wait for your epic burger), there are options for all budgets and tastes within a 2-minute radius of the hotel.
With 2 young boys in tow, breakfast sets the tone for the day.  Nix and E need to be loaded up and they need it early!  It was awesome being able to cruise downstairs as we woke and enjoy a full buffet that offered everything from a juice fountain to an egg chef plus cafe quality barista coffee for Mum and Dad!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Crowne Plaza

Queenstown in summer is just as spectacular as the winter vistas the region is famed for.  The many lakes and surrounding mountainous terrain make it pretty easy to lose yourself in nature and ‘go bush’ if that’s your jam (it’s totally how we like to enjoy Queenstown!) or, you can go ‘Full Tourist’ and invest in the multitude of action adventures and guided tours on offer within the region.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Crown Range

The sheer amount of options available in Queenstown can be overwhelming, so we chatted to a few locals whilst we were in town, gathered their opinions and formulated a wee list of faves to help kick off your own Queenstown adventure.

Explore like a local in Queenstown

Best place to Treat Yourself: Caci Clinic – trust me, you will fall in LOVE with microdermabrasion after just one session here!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Facial Caci Clinic

Best Breakfast: Joe’s Garage, good coffee, open early.  Also try Bob’s Weigh.

Best Sweet Treat: Patagonia for chocolates, coffee, ice cream and frozen yoghurt.

Best spot for Drinks with the Girls: The Sundeck

Best Family Hike: Moke Lake circumference

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Moke Lake hike

Best Quick Trip: Lake Wanaka

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Lake Wanaka

Best Fish and Chip Shop: Fernhill

Best Burger: The World Bar

Best Pint with Kids in tow: Cowboys

Best wine Tasting: Gibbston Valley

Best Pub Lunch: Cardona Hotel

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Cardrona Pub New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Cardrona Pub

Best Lake Cruise: Million Dollar Cruise

Best Date Night Dinner Tips: Use www.firsttable.co.nz and www.bookme.co.nz to save some $$

Best Lunch on the Run: Pita Pit picnic boxes.  $15 pp incl. drink, pita + side

Best Sharing Plate Dinner: Blue Canoe

Best Sushi: Hikari Japanese Restaurant

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Sushi

InterContinental Hotel Group are all about helping their guests make the most of local destinations and their precious holiday time.  I was chatting with the front desk staff at Crowne Plaza and they got so pumped discussing the seemingly endless options for family fun in Queenstown.  One thing they love to do is putting together packages and guides for guests whose interests might run the gamut from wine tasting to extreme adventures.

If you’re planning a trip in the near future then I’ve got a deal for you!  With my Refer-a-Friend code, when you make a booking over $80, you’ll receive a $40 charge-back from Booking.com on any completed stay when you make your booking using this link > Booking.com.  It couldn’t be easier; book your stay, have an awesome time, come home, check out your holiday snaps and look forward to $40 hitting your credit card account!

Disclaimer: Booking.com uses third party cookies to help provide personalised ads and analyse their traffic. This information may be shared with our advertisers, where it may be combined with other information you’ve given their website.

Family Travel – A getaway that’s #closerthanyouthink

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

Location, location, location. It’s everything when you’re deciding where to escape for a little R&R and even more crucial when you’re holidaying with the kids in tow. We’ve travelled with the kids a wee bit internationally and A LOT around New Zealand and after a few less than ideal accommodation choices, Dave and I both agree, that your home-away-from-home whilst travelling can set the tone for the entire trip.

Initially planning only a two night stay, we headed south last weekend and checked into the Novotel Rotorua a day early to make the most of the stunning weather and squeeze as much out of our stay as possible. Rotorua is the perfect destination for an adventure filled, family getaway. Just over three hours from Auckland, my two crazy boys survived the trip with only 1 quick toilet stop for Nix – the worst part was negotiating Auckland traffic on the way out of town!

While still at home, we had completed online check in, so upon arrival at the Novotel we were able to quickly settle our two very excited boys into our adjoining Family Rooms and THIS amazing view!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

Even Nixon, who rarely sits still, was completely enamoured with the view over Lake Rotorua – a mere 600m from the hotel lobby to absolute lakefront, a great playground, paddle boats, the Rotorua Walkway and the Soundshell Market (which we visited on Sunday).

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

Before we could explore (and then again after we had finished exploring each day), we had to hit the pool.  I’m pretty sure a pool in your hotel (or Holiday House as Nixon called it!) is The Best Thing EVER when you’re a kid, Dave and I get that, so we happily made the twice daily pilgrimage to the indoor pool complex on the ground floor.

It wasn’t exactly a chore mind you! Dave had packed his running gear (oops I totally forgot mine – ha!) so he made good use of the really well appointed gym whilst the kids and I swam in the geothermal mineral pool and hot tubs – totally luxe, plus the perfect routine to get the kids off to sleep peacefully each night. I was able to sneak a couple of saunas in when Dave had finished working out, so I totally got a sweat on too, albeit a more relaxing one.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

5 Things you NEED to do in Rotorua

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

If location is everything, then the Novotel Rotorua is smack bang in the middle of where you want to be. Basing your family here allows you to make the most of every, precious, get-away-day by minimising time in the car and maximising family fun.

Check out these Rotorua Must-Do activities before you plan your next trip;

  • Tutanekai Streat – Eat Streat Food and the constant search for the next meal is always a massive consideration as the mum of two boys. Deciding what and where to eat when on holiday can literally eat up much of our day. Novotel Rotorua is across the road from Eat Streat, home to quality restaurants, cafés and bars as well as the famous Lady Jane’s Ice Cream Parlour. With it’s covered central walkway and thermally heated footpath, Eat Streat (and surrounds) is an awesome, family friendly place to dine. We loved Indian Star and Fat Dog Cafe (just around the corner).
  • Happy Ewe Cycle Tours Located at the Rotorua I-Site, a mere 6 min walk from the Novotel, owner-operator Roger will have you falling in love with Rotorua as he guides you on an 8km FLAT cycle around the geothermal wonders of  Rotorua. Nix was well catered for with a toddler seat and Dave, Ethan and I were riding in style on the comfiest bikes ever.  DO THIS TOUR GUYS!
  • Skyline Rotorua A nine-minute drive from the Novotel, we had a great time on the Skyline Gondola and Luge. Another perfectly family-friendly activity, Nix simply rides tandem with either Dave or I as we have a race to the bottom with Ethan.
  • Redwoods Treewalk We were already enamored with Rotorua’s breathtaking Redwood Forest after a previous visit, but the 6-12m high treewalk is next-level beauty. A quick 12-minute drive from the Novotel, this is another family must-do. No skill required all you do is walk and take it all in!
  • Polynesian Spa Lakefront Rotorua is where you want to be and spending an afternoon at The Polynesian Spa was exactly what our family needed after a busy couple of days.  This was another activity that catered beautifully to both parents and kids alike. We spent some time relaxing at the Lake Spa and finished up in the Family Spa where the boys could splash, swim and slide to their hearts content! Again, super-close to the Novotel, just a 15 minute walk – keep in mind Rotorua is pretty much completely flat!

 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog RotoruaDave’s working on an American project right now which means he has to start work at 2am every day. Our adjoining family rooms (when you stay as a family the second room for children is half price!) made this so much easier as he was able to sneak out and head down to the lobby (where there is a dedicated workspace) without waking the kids –  or me! We were free to laze in our beds and wake at our leisure (6am!) to watch the All Blacks play Ireland on Sunday morning – Sky Sport in our room made me a very happy mama!

An early tip-off that the staff and service were going to be amazing at the Novotel was the personalized welcome we found in our room; a handwritten card, super cute swim towels for the boys, swim diapers for Nixon (I’d forgotten those!), water and mud masks for me! This wasn’t special treatment either, it’s just part of the awesome service you get when you book a Family Room.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

On Saturday night we were just too tired to venture out to Eat Streat but were equally wowed by the buffet and a’la carte menus available in house at the Novotel Rotorua’s award winning Atlas Restaurant. Dave went on a seafood bender, I demolished the most amaze salad bar ever whilst Ethan and Nixon just ate pretty much everything, including fresh SUSHI – they were actually in heaven.  As an Accor Plus member I can receive up to 50% when dining in hotel restaurants plus the kids eat breakfast free! Little perks like this and (free wifi) really make these mini getaways that much more accessible, enjoyable and #closerthanyouthink. Likewise, having amazing kid-friendly amenities and services within the hotel itself makes me want to start planning ahead to our next long weekend!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

If travelling is your thing, either in our own backyard here in NZ or internationally, then joining Accor Plus (NZD$385 per 12 mths) will not only make you feel like a VIP every time you stay, but also make your getaways #closerthanyouthink. Member benefits include a complimentary nights stay when you join, 10% off best available accommodation, automatic Silver Status which gives you online and priority check in, free internet, a welcome drink and late check out as well as the dining discounts mentioned above.

 

#weloveaccorhotels #accorplus #closerthanyouthink

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua
AccorHotels graciously made our trip possible and completely exceeded all expectations, thanks guys! All opinions are my own, but to be fair, any hotel that puts THIS much effort into making Christmas magical for their little guests is going to get a BIG thumbs up from me!

 

Toddler Snow Gear – Warm, Dry and Super-Cute

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

Last week we braved the long drive, the blizzardy weather, the LOUDEST two children on earth and made a family mini-vacation in the snow happen.  I’m going to need a whole year to recover before I attempt that again so I hope our little guys loved every second of it lol!  (Secretly I did too x).

Getting your family snow-ready is really an exercise in layering.  Dave and I have plenty of snowboarding gear – enough to outfit Ethan, so we just needed some updated thermals to get the 3 biggest Jacks packed.  This would be Nixon’s first visit to the snow so we needed to outfit him from the ground up.  Much easier than it sounds when your scheduling means you’re shopping for snow gear in Spring!

I found some little snow boots for Nix in a clearance sale and picked up everything else at Macpac.  They launched their new Spree Kids Ski range this season and it’s filled me with envy – I want his ski jacket and pants in an adult size, they are seriously amazing!

 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

Spree Ski Jacket Kids $199.99, Spree Ski Pants Kids $159.99, Kids Mitts $29.95, Geothermal Crew Top Kids $29.99 (Now 2 for $30!), Geothermal Pants Kids $29.99 (Now 2 for $30!), Ski Socks Kids $19.99

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

The first day we headed up to Turoa was in gale conditions, but, as the kids were jonesing to see snow we headed up the hill for a little play.  It was freezing!  I’ve never been so cold in my life.  Dave and I had neglected to put on our new Macpac Geothermals that morning but thankfully the boys were toasty and warm in theirs!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wearI couldn’t believe that despite making snow angels in those conditions Nixon remained completely dry and warm – he pretty much spent the whole time we were there crawling around on his tummy in snow drifts so the waterproof membrane on the Spree pants and jacket passed the toddler test really well!

Our second day on the mountain was much improved.  Nix got on skis for the first time and had a blast, Ethan nailed his snowboarding lesson in the morning and charged hard all day with a friend he’d made in the class and I rented some skis for the first time (after snowboarding for 14 years!) and loved it!  Dave got the solo-mission and headed way up the hill for some good runs while I hung out with the kids and cheered Ethan on throughout the afternoon.

Our final runs were made with blue skies overhead and big smiles on everyone’s faces.  An awesome day made super-easy as neither of the boys ended up cold or wet, which meant no complaining!

A parenting win!  

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

Things I LOVE about the Macpac Spree Ski Wear

  • The Spree Ski Pants come with the ‘Space to Sprout’ system meaning Nix will get two seasons from one pair!  You just unpick the red stitching in the lining to grow each leg by 4cm!    
  • Both jacket and pants have a waterproof, breathable membrane with insulation
  • Available in sizes 4-12
  • The hood on the jacket doesn’t fall down!
  • Waist snow gaiter on Spree jacket – perfect for preventing cold tummies during snow angel sessions
  • The Spree pants have velcro waist adjustment tabs
  • Nixie’s Mitts stayed on all day with no fussing from the little guy – snowballs ahoy!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

Road Trip Diary – Day 3 Taupo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Hotel
View from our garden at Comfort Inn Cascades, Taupo

We are off on an amazing 4 day tour of the upper North Island  in conjunction with Choice Hotels Asia-Pac, Hamilton Waikato Tourism, Destination Rotorua and Destination Great Lake Taupo!  Catch up on Day 1 here and Day 2 here!

We awoke on Sunday to the most beautiful, blue sky day in Rotorua and decided we had to spend a little more time exploring before we hit the road.  We had, after all, slept in the BEST beds known to man at Econo Lodge Cleveland so we were feeling ready to tackle THREE tourist hotspots in one day.  We have kids remember?  This is the parenting equivalent of climbing Mt Everest – no joke!

First up was a visit to The Redwoods where we smashed out a quick 2km trail through these vast, silent giants.  Well, they were silent until my family arrived!  The kids had a blast hooting and hollering through the trees, it was beautiful!  So different to walking through the dense native bush that we’re used to.  Dave and I can’t wait to make it back to the Redwoods, we both want to run those trails or compete in a race down there.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Redwoods
Redwood Forest, Rotorua

Ethan is wearing Macpac Halo Down Jacket, Nixon wears Macpac Mini Pulsar Hoody

Our awesome hostess at Econo Lodge Cleveland recommended we head to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland to finish off our Rotorua experience and I’m SO glad we did.  Halfway between Rotorua and Taupo, we spent 2 hours wandering the trails here and I can’t get the amazing colours out of my head!  There is so much to learn and see here, from bubbling mud pools to crazy mineral craters and landscapes.  We didn’t have the Mountain buggy with us so Nix walked most of the way, hopping in the umbrella stroller when he needed a rest every now and then.  The paths are great, really smooth so there was only one section where we left the stroller off the path and continued on foot.  This place is gorgeous, this IS the Rotorua experience I wanted to have and to give the kids so it was worth it to splash out a little and add it to our itinerary.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Geothermal
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, Rotorua

Dave is wearing Macpac Ribbonwood 280 Pullover Hoody , Ethan is wearing Macpac Halo Down Jacket, Nixon wears Macpac Mini Pulsar Hoody

Onwards to Taupo and the final destination on our road trip.  Our lake cruise on board the Ernest Kemp was to depart at 2pm and we made it with enough time to grab a pie for lunch – we are sahhhhh kiwi guys, it’s not even funny lol.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo CruiseThe Ernest Kemp is a beautiful replica steamship that sails a 2 hour course from Taupo Marina out to the ridiculously amazing Maori rock carvings that are only accessible from the water.  Our boys were so excited to get aboard, which to be honest, worried me a little, but they both settled in and really chilled out and enjoyed the experience.  EVEN NIXON!  Wonders will never cease.  We were thoroughly looked after by our Captain and his crew, as were all of the 20+ passengers onboard on Sunday.  It wasn’t the smoothest sailing as the wind had come up on the lake and we could definitely feel it on the way out, but the Captain kept checking on his passengers  and kept us informed throughout the entire journey – it was lovely and smooth on the way back and everyone was smiling!

I loved this experience for three reasons;

  1.  It was so personal.  Even with a large group on board, I’m fairly certain that every passenger was spoken to, offered refreshments, a chocolate fish, a coloring page and crayons, or even a beer!
  2. Being out on the lake gives you a totally different perspective of how HUGE it actually is.
  3. It was real.  There was rain on our faces, wind in our hair and we all felt alive.

Get out on that big old lake guys!  Preferably with the team at Ernest Kemp cruises ;  )

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Cruise

A massive day exploring meant we were all ready for our hotel beds and some dinner.  We spent the night at the lovely Comfort Inn Cascades on the lakefront and couldn’t have asked for a better spot to wind down with the kids.  Our unit was perfectly suited to our family – large, airy, mezzanine style accommodation with three singles and a toilet upstairs for the kids.  It was freezing cold in Taupo on Sunday but the kids soon found (separate! yay!) comfy spots to play and relax in our super cozy unit – it was sooo warm!  The layers came off, Dave and I enjoyed a peaceful afternoon cocktail and I set off to explore the property.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Cruise

Lake Taupo is literally at the bottom of the garden!  Our unit’s patio bordered the walkway so it was steps to the beach and the water.  This is another property we are definitely bringing the kids back to over the summer.  Heated pool, spa, trampoline and of course the lake right THERE – I can see this being a favourite family spot for years to come.  I took a peek inside the unit on the end in the image above – the lake view from the bed through those red patio doors is unbelieveable, you would want to stay there all day!

One more thing – full sized Whirlpool bathtubs.  So RARE in a hotel!  We have two full bathrooms at home but no bath so this was a little luxury enjoyed by all – as was the free wifi, blogger essential right there!  Our hosts were lovely, our breakfast was delivered to our room on time and we were a little sad to leave to be honest!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Cruise

Dinner at Plateau Bar + Eatery

We finished off our family road trip with dinner at award winning restaurant Plateau Bar + Eatery.  I was slightly nervous about taking my two tired boys out for dinner at 6pm with no visible kid’s menu on the website, but, we were seated, kids menu’s were there (hooray!) and the wonderfully attentive staff did their thing.  My kids eat anything, both boys have adventurous palettes and great taste in food, the kids menu for me isn’t about food selection, it’s merely a cue for me that a restaurant is kid friendly and able to cope with Nixon lol.

Dave, Ethan and I all ordered off the $55 Set Menu and enjoyed three stunning courses.  Our favourites were the Prosciutto Wrapped Poached Pear, the Confit Duck Leg and the Citrus Iced Nougat, though every dish was incredible!  We really enjoyed trying each others choices throughout the evening.  Nixon was well looked after with a delicious chicken and cheese taco dish, perfect for little hands to hold on to.

We had a fabulous night at a very special restaurant, the perfect finish to a trip the kids, Dave and I absolutely loved.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Restaurant

Dave is wearing Macpac Ribbonwood 280 Pullover Hoody New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Restaurant

Thanks so much Choice Hotels Asia-Pac, Hamilton Waikato Tourism, Destination Rotorua and Destination Great Lake Taupo for hosting us and showing us your wonderful regions and Macpac for equipping us.

 

 

Road Trip Diary – Day 2 Rotorua

We are off on an amazing 4 day tour of the upper North Island  in conjunction with Choice Hotels Asia-Pac, Hamilton Waikato Tourism, Destination Rotorua and Destination Great Lake Taupo!  

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog MacpacDespite a thunderous night in Hamilton we slept really well at the Quality Hotel Ambassador and started our day with a seriously good breakfast buffet at Retrospect Cafe, Bar & Grill on site.  There were gluten-free options as well as hot oatmeal, fresh muffins, a comprehensive cereal bar, toast and a full cooked menu of bacon, eggs, kransky sausages, potatoes, baked beans and mushrooms.  Awesome spot, no hesitation about staying again – would love to try the brand new Clarion Suites, which have been purpose built using green principles and a firm dedication to use local tradesmen and suppliers to fit out these luxe suites.

 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Macpac

Nix is wearing LFOH Frost Henley and Macpac Astro Hooded Down Vest (see below), Ethan wears Macpac Pack-It-Jacket

The drive between Hamilton and Rotorua is quick and quite lovely, particularly so at this time of year as the leaves change colour – the Waikato was looking beautiful this morning!  We made it to the New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog MacpacSkyline Rotorua in just over an hour and headed straight up the hill on the gondola.  We seem to be getting really lucky with the weather this weekend despite many parts of the Waikato getting pummelled.  It was a blue sky morning heading up and the view across Rotorua from both the gondola car and the summit of Mt Ngongotaha makes this a must-do activity.

The age gap between the boys sometimes makes activities a little difficult, but Nix was able to tandem ride with Dave and I on the luge so this was another fun family morning  when we were all able to participate, TOGETHER!  Love that.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Macpac

The rain set in after lunch so we took the team down to Kuirau Park for a cruise around the hot pools and a lovely foot soak in the public mineral pool.  Fun, free and a definite taste of local Rotorua.

Despite checking in early (which I really appreciate on a rainy day with two tired kids!) we were greeted with warm smiles, patience and time at Econo Lodge Cleveland.  When doing some background reading about the property, I came across the quote that proprietors Brij and Ronnette are aiming to provide five star service at a 3 star price and I can attest that this is absolutely the case.  Ronette is a wealth of knowledge about what to do and where to go and most importantly what would best suit your travelling party – I really appreciate this when I encounter it, it’s such a value-add to anywhere you’re staying, as is free unlimited wifi which is available in each unit! 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Macpac

You know when you’re first settle into a hotel/motel room and you’re feeling a little bit dodgy and wondering if you should check the sheets, but maybe it would be better if you didn’t?

Yeah well, that’s not happening at Econo Lodge Cleveland.  This is the cleanest accommodation I have ever stayed in.  The stainless steel bench tops could make a grown woman cry – so shiny!  We settled in quickly and hit the beautiful heated pool for some fun before the sun went down.  This is classic kiwi accommodation done right.  Brij and Ronnette are working hard at property upgrades and it looks great.  The latest addition is Cleveland Cottage, a stunning period villa that has been beautifully restored, boasts a full, modern kitchen stunning bathroom and sleeps 7-9 guests.  I want to stay here!!!!  So gorgeous. 

We didn’t manage to squeeze in a soak in either of the 2 mineral pools on site, with the kids sleeping, we opted to enjoy the  comfy separate lounge, free wifi and Sky TV in our unit.  We are planning to bring the kids back here over summer, the awesome outside facilities plus the close proximity to the lake and amenities tick all the boxes for excellent family accommodation in my book.  

FYI, all units have new beds and they are hands down the BEST beds ever.  Slept like a baby……..until our baby woke at 2.40am groan!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Macpac

Nix is wearing LFOH Frost Henley and Macpac Astro Hooded Down Vest (see bove), Ethan wears Macpac Pack-It-Jacket, Dave wears the Macpac Uber Light Down Jacket and I’m wearing the Macpac Uber light Long Down Jacket

 

 

Road Trip Diary – Day 1 Hamilton Zoo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo TRavel BlogWe are off on an amazing 4 day tour of the upper North Island  in conjunction with Choice Hotels Asia-Pac, Hamilton Waikato Tourism, Destination Rotorua and Destination Great Lake Taupo!  

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo TRavel BlogWe have been looking forward to this family getaway for a long time!  There is nothing Dave and I enjoy more than exploring New Zealand and neither of us have spent any time in the Hamilton, Rotorua or Taupo regions which are all easy driving distances from Auckland, and just perfect for a long, family weekend away.

We left our house at 8.20am, had a surprisingly good run along both the North Western and the Southern Motorway and arrived at The Hamilton Zoo at around 10.30 after a stop in Bombay for a really, really good coffee at the BP Wild Bean.

Let’s just say, the entrance to the zoo is a bit of an illusion.  The sign says ZOO, the buildings look quite zoo-ish, but Hamilton Zoo is like no other I have ever visited before.

The animal residents are what you’d expect from a zoo, the staff are just as informative and knowledgable as you’d hope them to be, but the environment is what sets the zoo apart from others.  Rather than the purpose built, rather sterile, urban, concrete environment of other zoos we have visited in Auckland, San Diego and Florida, visiting Hamilton Zoo feels like you’re just on a bush walk in any New Zealand national park when you happen to stumble upon a Red Panda or FIVE Sumatran Tigers!New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo TRavel Blog

The size and scale of the zoo are mind blowing in comparison to Auckland Zoo.  The animals reap the benefit of the 25 hectare facility, as do visitors!  I racked up over 8,000 steps throughout the day as did little Nixie and Ethan!  Legends.

We were treated to a Face2Face encounter with the Ringtail Lemurs and Ruffed Lemurs and it was seriously one of those very special moments that you didn’t see coming and didn’t anticipate how wonderful it would be.  And guys, it costs $15 per person!!!  It’s first come first served on the day but it’s mind-blowingly lovely.  

Zoo Highlights
  • Red pandas, not sleeping in trees but frolicking!  Like a good panda should!
  • Lemurs, cuddly, cuddly lemurs around my neck
  • Most massive aviary you can even imagine, Kaka dive bombing us and witnessing the super stealth HUGE Bittern bird.
  • 5 gorgeous Sumatran Tigers frisking around, not yawning!
  • A baby chimp seen at feeding time
  • Getting to experience the Zoo classroom one-on-one with amazing guide Ken! Thank you!

The latest addition to the zoo’s gorgeous family is a 3 month old female chimp, whose name has been decided via a public competition and was announced today!

Meet beautiful baby Chiku!  Thanks so much Tara for allowing me to use this image, check out her work here
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo Chimp
Photo Credit: Tara Sutherland www.tarasutherland.net

We loved this zoo so much I can see us making the drive to Hamilton every time the kids need a wild animal fix.  No parking problems, no crowds, a bigger zoo with world class facilities – Hamilton Zoo you have won us over.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo Travel Blog

When the kids were about to fall over from exhaustion we made the 10 minute drive to our final destination for the day, Quality Hotel Ambassador in Hamilton.  This is a truly unique hotel, offering three varying accommodation options (hotel, motel, corporate suites), with rooms to suit every conceivable need.  We are staying in a 2 room suite in the Quality Hotel which is perfect for our family of four.  We’re on the ground floor which is so considerate when you have kids and a shit-tonne of stuff and there is a king and a single in each room so we are comfy with plenty of space to relax.  Which is totally what we needed after our awesome day.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo Travel Blog New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo TRavel Blog

Though there is every amenity and restaurant (including Pak ‘n Save across the street!) in walking distance from the hotel, we kept things convenient and ate at the Retrospect Cafe, Bar & Grill  on site.  Def stick with the mains guys as the meals are huge!  And awesome.  We ordered the Kids Cheeseburger meal, the T2 burger, Chicken Carbonara and Aged Scotch Fillet and every bite was amazing.  Served on vintage Crown Lynn serveware, the food and relaxed, friendly atmosphere was a perfect match for our family group.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo Travel Blog

We’ve just finished watching the Crusaders smash the Warratahs live on Sky and now it’s time for sleep.  

You can follow our adventures tomorrow as we head to Rotorua!  Check us out on Snapchat @thebestnestnz + @djack456 and on Instagram @thebestnest + @djack.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo Travel Blog Macpac

It’s COLD here in the North Island this weekend so we are pretty much living in our Macpac gear!  Dave is wearing the Meteor Jacket which is an amazing hybrid of a jacket and a shirt!  Nix is wearing the Kids Astro Hooded Down Vest and LFOH Pick Pocket Long Sleeve and the Bubbles Merino Fleece Pant, Ethan is wearing a Pack-It-Jacket (don’t think we’ll ever leave home without these again!) and I’m snuggly in the Uber Light Long Down Jacket.

Cruise Diary | Day 4 on the Pacific Pearl

After dancing the night away at the Bianco Party with Ethan I was seriously lagging when we woke on Sunday morning.  Fortunately for me the first point of business for the day was in the beauty salon!

A long overdue hair cut with Rex was just what the doctor ordered and he delivered one of those scalp massages you dream about ever after.  Loved it.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

When we (finally) kicked off our dancing shoes and returned to our cabin last night, we found a very special invitation to visit the bridge from the ship’s secretary!!  This had been high on my wishlist from the second we boarded so the opportunity to meet the Captain was something I was not taking lightly.

Holy shit.

Mind boggling.  What an experience!  The view and the personalities up there are outstanding and the crew totally put up with my myriad of semi-technical questions that come from being the daughter of a marine engineer and married to another one!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

After our tour E and I headed to Plantation for lunch and spent a couple of hours relaxing and swimming in the pool – top deck was totally the place to be on such a beautiful day.  The loungers were full and everyone was enjoying the bluebird conditions and smooth sailing on the way back to Auckland.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

We headed to Salt Grill at 3pm for my first ever High Tea!  (So many firsts on this cruise, you are definitely able to get involved with as much or as little as you like when you are on-board – your itinerary needn’t be as full-on as ours was!).

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan is one of the premium restaurants on the Pacific Pearl and the service and food at the High Tea event was nothing short of outstanding.  The beautiful tea setting, the luxe options and the delicious food made this a lovely and relaxing way to wile away our final afternoon on board.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

Of course we had a busy evening planned!  We took in a show in the marquee – Off the Charts.  We had been admiring the skill and energy of the ship’s dance team whenever we spotted them at the parties on board.  The troupe are super friendly and fun and exude so much energy, they totally make you want to dance whenever you see them!  The show was a ripper, a 45 minute song and dance performance with many sing along Top 40 faves included.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

We headed back to Salt Grill for dinner and I found deciding what to order the most difficult choice of the trip!  We skipped entrees (totally wise considering how much we’d been packing away over the past 4 days lol!), shared sides and ordered mains.  My lamb was phenomenal as was Ethan’s rare tuna. < That kid has a seriously sophisticated palette!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

It was the end of an amazing four days and we hadn’t yet begun to pack, so upon Ethan’s wise recommendation, we skipped dessert and headed back to our cabin for an early-ish night.

We were due to disembark shortly after 7am and my floor-drobe wasn’t going to pack itself.  God I loved this trip!  One week later and I’m still fan-girling over every aspect of the cruise. 

I’m going to pop up one more post this week with some Cruising Tips and Cruise Essentials to pack when you’re ready for your amazing get-away!

Cruise Diary | Day 3 On The Pacific Pearl – Napier Art Deco Festival

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

Shore day!

Saturday dawned a seriously stunning, blue sky marvel.  We docked, disembarked and were on a bus to marine Parade in Napier by 8.30am! 

I was once again blown away by the how streamlined and easy all of these processes are.  There were buses lined up on the wharf ready to shuttle cruise passengers to the incredible Tremains Art Deco Festival which was about to kick off with a Champagne Breakfast on the beach.

In terms of New Zealand’s heritage, architecture and culture this festival is a must-do.  In terms of a holiday destination with the most beautiful beachfront I’ve ever seen in New Zealand – Napier is it.  What a stunning spectacle!

We were treated to a beautifully staged breakfast with bubbles on the beach, entertained by a jazz band and caught our first glimpses of just how invested Napier is in the Art Deco Festival.  The streets were lined with smiling people in elaborate period costumes, accessorised by vintage bicycles, motorcycles, cars and perambulators – classic prams!  Men, women, retirees. young hipsters and tiny babies were all in on the Art Deco action and dressed to the nines!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

Our pre-arranged shore tour began with a walking exploration of the Art Deco district in the CBD.  Our guide was an amazing volunteer who has been showing tourists the sights for over 20 years, and her love and pride in beautiful Napier was a sentiment echoed throughout the day by all whom we encountered.  This little city loves to party so we headed up to the top of the beachfront Dome Apartments to watch the classic car parade and an incredible airshow over the water.  This was another beautifully catered event.  I highly recommend checking out some of the ticketed events if you’re visiting the festival next year, the two we attended were such a value-add to an already perfect day in Napier.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

Heading back to the ship was another exercise in ‘How easy can a holiday be?’  The buses were running constantly and were ready and waiting. Just as soon as we arrived at the pick-up location we were whisked back to the wharf and had embarked, changed into our togs and were poolside with a cocktail within 30 minutes of leaving the festival.  LOVE THIS!

Between dips in the pool and ice cream, E had fun on the mechanical bull and I enjoyed some downtime before we headed to dinner and the White Party later on in the evening.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

We ate at Luna and both Ethan and I agree it was our favourite meal of the cruise.  The modern Japanese menu is ridiculously good, everything on it is brilliant and unexpected.  The Sashimi of Ahi Tuna and Salmon tacos with chilled tomato salsa was as genius as the rice-free sushi of Blue Crab meat, avocado, salmon caviar and brandy sauce.  My mouth is watering reliving this menu and those were only two of the starters lol!New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl

Our perfect meal was followed by the super fun Bianco Party.  We all dressed in white and danced the night away under the stars on the top deck as the Pearl pulled away from Napier and we began our trip north to Auckland.

Ethan loved the dance party, it was classic!  I had to tear him away as I was exhausted and my party boy was showing no signs of slowing down.  This was a great event, the ship’s dancers showed the crowd how to get down and both the DJ and the band played perfect sets that kept the energy up and the dance floor packed.

Holy smokes, 3 late nights in a row!  Who am I???

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Cruise Pacific Pearl