A holiday to me means getting on a plane and jetting off to a country other than the one I live in. When I think of going on holiday, I instantly start to dream of exotic locations, places I have never been to before. Admittedly, I have never been the type of person to ‘holiday at home’. I am quite a shocker when it comes to travelling and sightseeing the very country that I live in so the decision to take a family holiday on New Zealand’s rugged East Cost this summer was a welcomed one.

Places/activities I cannot stop raving about:

Havelock North – is a vibrant village in the middle of one of the most charming locations in the world, Hawke’s Bay Wine Country. On offer is world-class wineries, award-winning restaurants, shopping and a large range of accommodation, from hotels to bed and breakfasts.

Woolshed Apartments – absolutely fabulous apartment-style accommodation at a very affordable rate in Havelock North. We booked two apartments for two nights and loved it so much that we stayed for a third night. So comfortable, gorgeous décor with your very own private deck and BBQ……they even come with washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher in each apartment, complete with washing powder and detergent.

We got too comfortable at the Woolshed Apartments - photo www.woolshedapartments.co.nz

Splash Planet – A five-minute drive from the Woolshed Apartments, this is one amazing water park for people of all ages! It costs $26 per adult which gives you access to the water park and slides (I highly recommend the Double Dipper if you don’t mind speed and a bit of a rough landing – its ok, the bruise on my butt is definately fading!), as well as the bumper boats, kayaks, Jungle Jeeps (for those speed demons who want to go off-road), Formula Fun Karts, mini golf and so much more. There is even Tiny Town for the kids under seven years old. With a gift shop, food, hot drinks and ice cream all on site, you really can make a day of it here.

Splash Planet - fun for all the family! - photo www.hawkesbay.co.nz

Strawberry Patch – is located on the outskirts of Havelock North, in the wine region of Hawkes Bay. You can go along and enjoy their strawberries, ice cream or coffee to go and are welcome to take a picnic lunch and have it under the trees while the little ones play in the small children’s area. We decided to pick our own strawberries (available from Mid-November) which I thoroughly enjoyed. It reminded me of my childhood when my siblings and I would spend every summer in the berry fields.

Pick your own strawberries at Strawberry Patch - dedliNZ on Flickr.com

‘Boy’ the movie – is one of my favourite movies of all time! This New Zealand-made movie is a laugh a second, with a great storyline and a talented cast. Good news for those in America – it is being released there in March 2012 so I urge you to check it out – you will not be disappointed (my favourite scene is Boy showing his love-interest, Chardonnay, his Michael Jackson moves). During our drive along the rural East Coast, we were lucky enough to stop along the way (at Waihau Bay) to visit some set locations which were featured in this movie – one of the highlights of my holiday! We seen the school, the local dairy, the graveyard where the young characters mother is buried…..absolutely amazing!

Photo www.waihaubay.co.nz
Waihau Bay - location for part of the kiwi movie, Boy - photo www.waihaubay.co.nz

With the good must come the bad – there are a few things about our holiday that I would prefer to forget:

•The severe weather warnings – December 1st in New Zealand officially marks the first day of summer but that does not guarantee that the sun will shine every day. We travelled back to Auckland on 31st December with severe weather warnings – torrential rain, fog and winds…we had it all. Driving in the dark on long, windy and rugged roads is bad enough but add rain and fog to the mix…disaster!!

•Wandering stock – until now, I thought I knew my road signs as well as any experience driver should. Never in my life had I come across a sign warning of ‘wandering stock’ – so now, not only were we motoring in severe weather conditions, we had the added task of keeping an eye out for cows, horses, goats, sheep and ducks that may happen to be just walking or gathering at the side of the road!

Wandering stock is a reality on NZ's East Coast - photo www.testazyk.com

• Falling rocks, land slips and flooding – my patience and confidence driving were finally tested when we started to pass several land slips! Sections of the road-edge had been completely washed away by heavy rain, making the very narrow lanes even narrower; they had simply been cordoned off with traffic cones! Just as I we got pro at driving around the slips, we were then faced with falling rocks! I was a nervous wreck as I had to navigate around large rocks, boulders and stones which were covering the width of our single-lane road…it would not have been so bad if our car had not been hit with one of the said falling rocks!

Driving through Gisborne was crazy. Every year, they host the Rhythym & Vines Festival for new year – it attracts thousands of revellers who party for 3 days non-stop. Beaches and road-sides were covered with tents, the streets were filled with people, the roads were gridlocked and police were everywhere you turned.

When it comes to planning our next family holiday, I will definitely be staying closer to home. Why pay top dollar to go overseas when there is still so much to discover in this beautiful country?