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Family Campervan Holiday

Mt Maunganui, New Zealand

Amanda Smyth takes her family on a campervan holiday in the North Island of New Zealand.

The first night of our campervan holiday was interesting. Our two daughters (six and three) were sleeping in a bed above the cab. I woke, checked on them, laid back down and heard it, the baaaaa-ing. I rolled over, convinced some cheeky sod in the tent next door must have changed his ring tone to sheep noises. Funny, being in New Zealand and all. The noise continued for much of the night. Couldn’t that prankster just answer his phone? A new day dawned at a respectable hour - a big plus for parents travelling with early risers - and the truth revealed itself. Mt Maunganui was in fact covered in sheep. Sheep at the beach. Who’d have thought?

We stayed two nights in Mt Maunganui on New Zealand’s north island. Locals had informed us that the pick of the van parks was Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park and we weren’t disappointed. 

My advice is to outlay the extra cash for a beachside site - the proximity to beautiful Main Beach and view to Motoriki Island is worth every penny. The van park is well equipped and the staff were very accommodating of our late night arrival.

Our girls could not believe the wealth of shells on the beach, the variety was unlike anything we’ve seen here in Australia. They spent hours searching, sorting and grading their finds.

Main Beach is a popular spot for surf carnivals during the season, so board riders and ocean lovers are well catered for. Prefer calm water? No sweat! It’s a short walk to the calm waters of Pilot Bay.

The Mount Hot Pools were a terrific first introduction to New Zealand’s thermal baths. Managed by the local council, the pools boast a cooler dedicated toddler pool, complete with slide. Adults are well catered for with two large pools - one designed for exercise, the other designed for relaxation (don’t miss a chance to plunge your neck and shoulders under the massage jets) 

A scenic harbour cruise is a fabulous and affordable way to see more of Pilot Bay, Katakana Island and Tauranga Harbour - New Zealand’s largest port. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that children under 12 travel free. During our 1 hour harbour cruise we cooed over a tiny blue penguin (the first penguin our girls have seen in the wild), we giggled at the cheeky seagull perched atop the statue of fierce warrior Tangaroa and we marvelled at the size of the ships in Tauranga Harbour.  Kewpie Cruises operate hourly between 10am and 4pm during the summer months, bookings recommended.

Looking for a cheap and cheerful feed? We ordered breakfast at The Burger Bar on The Esplanade and were delighted when our coffees arrived adorned with bears and elephants. The staff made the kids feel very welcome and breakfast was delicious - a perfect spot for casual family dining.

Mt Maunganui is a perfect spot for a relaxed family holiday. Don’t be put off by the sheep, I hardly heard our noisy neighbours the second night!

On her blog, Cooker and a Looker, Amanda Smyth serves up great tucker with a side of farm life. When she's not writing, she's spelling words out loud for her eldest daughter, distracting her youngest from unpacking the dishwasher and helping her husband on the farm all while dreaming of their next escape.

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