TOP FIVE ADVENTURES AWAY FROM HOME

Top Five Adventures away from Home. Yes we really did manage to take in all these destinations in one year. With clever use of annual leave, airpoints and smart accommodation bookings we managed to get some great holidays in and tried out some great family activities along the way. Here is the lowdown:

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Third time to Rarotonga – this time a short mini-break of a few days to get some winter sun. As anyone who has visited knows, Rarotonga is not a big island and you can easily get around it by bike or scooter in half a day.

Although I last visited “Raro” to do the annual triathlon with friends it’s usually been a place to go and just chill out. Not this time! This time I found Ariki Adventures as I stayed in their accommodation and explored all they had to offer. Jules and Kave were the perfect hosts at their 3 self-contained apartments. They were clean and cosy and the newly installed swimming pool was an added bonus.

Just a short walk into Muri Beach it was easy to get to the cafes – Le Bon Vivant (LBV for short), being a favourite for yummy baked goods.

To work off those pastries there were many water sports to be had. I took out the complimentary paddle boards several times for a morning workout and kayaks kept the families entertained. 

Last time I was in Raro I tried out kitesurfing for the first time in many years and was surprised at just how much the technology had moved on making it safer and more enjoyable.The warm and shallow lagoon makes Muri a perfect location to learn but unfortunately the wind just was not playing nicely so no outing this time. However a young 8 year old girl was lucky to get the right wind one morning and seeing just how easily she took to it made us determined that my daughter would try it next time.

It’s easy to circumnavigate the island and I have been round and around it many times by bus, scooter and bike. A favourite lunch break en route is always the Tuoro Café, not just for the great food but also the stunning views. This time I was pleased to get off the main road and discover some of the back roads with Jules’s help on one of their sturdy mountain bikes. With childrens’ bikes, tow on bikes and electric bikes all available on the island there are plenty of options to get the whole family out of the hire car and onto two wheels. We found some pretty beautiful places to park up the bike for a little nap too!

The highlight of the trip was definitely swimming with the turtles. With the help of motorised sea scooters to navigate the stronger swell out where they reside we spent over an hour being guided by qualified marine biologists who hunted out not only the turtles but also eels and plenty other sealife. I was confident that our guides were truly passionate about the conservation of the these beautiful creatures and not exploiting them for tourists and financial gain.

On top of swimming with these majestic animals I must confess a real bonus was trying out the hand held motorised scooters which power you through the water. I felt rather like a Bond girl zooming through the ocean, although I have to say I sure didn’t look like Halle Berry as I emerged onto the beach!!

If you are keen to visit this beautiful island and discover adventures that you did not know were there why not let us custom build you your own Raro family activity holiday or join us on our family tour in July?

THE ‘GC’

Not a year goes by without a trip to the Gold Coast for us. We have been extremely fortunate to have friends there to stay with who and show us some of the more local favoured spots. We are always also welcomed due to our uncanny ability to always bring much needed rain to the area. My super power for delivering rain is something I should look to commoditise perhaps?

So on our Easter visit we got to discover some of the “rainy day options”, aside from the obvious shopping malls.  On a particularly torrential day we chose to take the kids to the theatre, of which Brisbane has many great options. A local youth theatre company’s production of the BFG kept the under 10s suitably entertained and even better they got to meet the cast backstage. For lots of family friendly listings look here: More Info

We tried out kayaking when it was a little overcast on the Tallebudgera creek. The calm estuary waters are perfect for tandem paddling with children. I can’t say that our paddling is as smooth as the water – I have yet to find a way of successfully instructing my daughter on how to paddle in sync. I am sure we will get there. Based on the current form however, I will not be teaching her how to learn to drive! 

Kayaks were easily rented from Smooth Waters

Of course no trip to the GC is complete with visiting a theme park, or two and we have done most of them. When my daughter was little Seaworld was our favourite for the huge kids play maze, the water pistol pirate ships, sealife shows and the Dora show which we saw many, many times over ! We always found it more cost-effective to buy the combined pass to visit MovieWorld and Wet n Wild as well.

As my daughter got older we have found the Dreamworld combination worked better. What we like most about Dreamworld is that not only is there a good selection of rides that keeps the adrenaline junky children like mine happy but when you start to wilt from the heat you can walk next door and spend a few hours in White Water World. We got good use of our pass by moving between the two parks on several days. 

When the weather failed us again we used the same pass to go up Skypoint – the GCs tallest building and observation deck – where the kids had a very grown-up afternoon tea.

For discount passes, you can try sites such as Experience Oz

Vanuatu

I last went to Vanuatu six months after Cyclone Pam wreaked her devastation. The damage was clearly visible even on the main island of Efate where tarpaulins serviced as roofs and damages to crops were evident in the food chain. Four years on and even around the top of the island which bore the brunt of the storm the rebuild has progressed impressively, on land at least –  the coral may take longer to recover. 

We had an absolute blast in Vanuatu. There are so many outdoor activities for children to throw themselves into it is hard to think of another Pacific island which offers such variety. From ziplining to chocolate factories on land and onto surfing, kayaking and swimming with turtles in the pristine pacific waters we definitely packed lots in.

With so many options of family-friendly activities in Vanuatu let us help plan your next holiday. We have preferential rates with the best activity providers whom we have tried and tested. Or join us on our family group holiday in July. More details can be found here:

For a more detailed review of our best Vanuatu adventures: Vanuatu Family Holiday Top Fives

Bali, Indonesia

Third time to Bali and the second time to Club Med Nusa Dua. We had stopped here en route back from Europe a year ago for a 3 day stopover to break up the long flight. It was far and away the best stop over we have ever done. My daughter loved it so much we went back for a week in the October school holidays.

In all honesty in resorts like Club Med you can be anywhere in the world – the same winning formula is what you pay for and what you get. Having stayed in Club Med Cuba many moons ago I knew  one of the best things was the amazing food. Club Med is French after all and one thing the French know and love is their food! Being all inclusive and with amazing expansive buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner means even the fussiest eater will be spoilt for choice and the waistlines are guaranteed to expand for many!

To work off all the eating, and the main reason we chose Club Med, is a wide variety of sporting and other activities for both adults and kids. Group tennis lessons, archery, mini golf, volleyball, yoga and many others we tried and are all free. And adults can try their hand at the trapeze – I tried, lets not talk about how well it succeeded!

It is, however, too hot for large parts of the day to want to throw yourself around in too many hot and sweaty pursuits. There is always the water aerobics and although I always swore blind I would never embarrass myself and be one of “those mums” jiggling around in togs in front of a row of bemused onlookers on sun loungers we did join in most days as its good fun for all the family and worked up a bit of an appetite pre lunch!

There are watersports on site but in all honesty this is the more disappointing part of the resort. Tides meant it is too shallow for large parts of the day and when the timing was right it was a bit of a bun fight to get a paddle board or kayak so in the end we just gave up and enjoyed the rest of the facilities instead!

And my daughter certainly made the most of the other facilities with the help of the kids club. Club Med does kids clubs as well as they do their food. There is so much to do and what we really like is its quite sports oriented. So as well as the obligatory pool play time there is also circus school, beach games, show times and my daughters personal favourite – archery. The GOs are amazing with the kids and many kids spend the whole day there (and even some most evenings!). We preferred to have more time as a family and that for me is the best proposition about Club Med – that there is so much to do together as a family that you barely need to leave the resort. And quite frankly we rarely did!

Next time however we are going to venture back out to the Bali that we know and love to experience the wonderful culture and beautiful scenery with some more exciting family adventures. Why not join us? More information here:

In fact if you want to escape down to this neck of the woods and try some of the adventures on offer why not join us on our Gold town adventure weekend where we introduce families to the NZ cycle trails with a pedal down the Hauraki rail trail from Paeroa to Waihi :

Bangkok, thailand

Having stopped over in Bangkok many times it seemed like a long time between drinks. So when I went back for a Facebook conference I guess I still had this romantic version in my head of the place I went to as a twenty something backpacker starting off on my OE. Back then it was one of my first “real” adventures and the Khao San Road seemed so exotic. This was back before it was made famous by Leonardo di Caprio in The Beach (yes I am that old!). What I had forgotten was just how vast, smoggy, sweaty and dirty it is! A 45 minute ride in a Tuk Tuk to the Royal Palace was enough for that reality to slap me in the face with a humid, filthy hand! There are reasons why people over the age of 30 take air conditioned taxis I concluded but of course my inner pride forced me to make the return trip by tuk tuk too!

I decided to revisit the Royal Palace. Majestic, shimmering and colourful it is certainly a sight to behold. But it was one million times more crowded than I remembered it. It’s one thing to jostle with a thousand sweaty strangers at the shoe racks in front of temples but quite another to try and evade being butted with their selfie sticks. Seriously let me be clear, the person who ever gifts me a selfie stick is instantly unfriended!

Far more chilled (figuratively speaking!) was Wat Pho and if you are to visit just 1 Bangkok temple with kids I would make it this one. The spacious grounds with many nooks and crannies crammed with trees and Buddhas mean its peaceful and uncrowded no matter how many people are in there. It is like a giant maze and which I did go round and round in circles to find the giant reclining Buddha but we got there in the end and it was worth it to see the serene giant but also the ladies intricately working at keeping the murals updated.

Here are some interesting facts for the children on Wat Pho: https://kids.kiddle.co/Wat_Pho 

Would I take kids to Bangkok? Probably not. To be honest you can immerse yourself in Thai culture and adventures without subjecting them to the chaotic sweaty mess that is Bangkok in my opinion. There are plenty of beach and island destinations (Koh Phi Phi or Krabi) and mountain regions (Chang Mai and Chang Rai) to soak them with temples, elephants, pad thai and tuk-tuks which are less draining on the collective energy!

For more ideas of what to do with kids in Bangkok and beyond you may find this website useful: https://thailand.tripcanvas.co/bangkok/things-to-do-with-kids/

What are you waiting for?