Monday, October 3, 2022

Travelling With a Baby?! Can Do! Plus, Where To Find One Of the Waikato’s Best Hidden Gems

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Planning your next school holiday trip? Thinking about travelling for the first time with a baby? We’ve got some advice, after just having a cracker of a holiday in Turangi!

During that third trimester of pregnancy, when people like to tell you how life as you knew it is now entirely over, one of the things people said that did actually give me a little pit in my stomach was, “well, it’ll be a long time before you ever go on holiday again”.

As someone who does quite like to have a trip on the horizon to look forward to, the idea of being housebound for an eternity made me feel, well… a little claustrophobic.

So, when our boy was just shy of four months and one night my partner suggested that we all head sway for the school holidays I almost whispered, “are we allowed?!?

We were a little late with our planning (we made the decision to go a week out from leaving, during school holidays – we were also taking the seven-year-old along!) but a quick look through Airbnb showed plenty of places still available.

Looking at the situation, an Airbnb seemed like the best way to go – because yes, although babies do cry and it’s a normal part of being a baby, I didn’t want to spend the whole time worrying that a nice family or couple might be in the room next door trying to enjoy their much anticipated holiday only to have the cries of a baby as the soundtrack.

Plus there were four of us on the trip – including my seven-year-old stepson, so we had multiple bedtimes to consider. I feared that sharing a hotel room would quickly end in tears (most likely my own). A house seemed a much better idea, and would also have a fridge and microwave that are also necessities at the moment. 

Other than that, my criteria involved finding somewhere that was warm and cozy (seeing as I’d likely be spending more time in the house than a holiday pre-baby) and, I was kinda keen to see some snow before spring arrives. If we could swing it, seeing as I’d be inside a fair bit, the boys were keen to take the opportunity to get near a river.

Luckily, we found the perfect little home in Tūrangi – the Tūrangi Trout Lodge. Based right by the Tongariro river (the garden literally backs out onto it). it was ideal for my fly-fishing partner and budding fisherman stepson. The split level home featured two bathrooms, two bedrooms and a spacious living room upstairs that also had a little alcove by the kitchen with another bed in it (perfect for midnight snacks, I guess?) Plus, it came with a generous sized spa bath which was the clincher for us all.

Julie – the wonderful super host who rents it out – let me know that there was also a port-a-cot available, as well as a high-chair if needed, which was a game changer, as space was at an absolute premium in the car. Normally I would have packed every single warm item of clothing I own, but, this time, I stuffed a few warm things into a handbag and the car was still bursting at the seams (i also even managed to forget a toothbrush and any socks).

When we pulled up in the late afternoon – surprisingly fairly unscathed from the long drive – the house was already toasty and warm. The river however, wasn’t quite so inviting – after a series of downpours over the last few days it was a swollen, muddy torrent (apparently not so good for catching trout).

By the next morning it was looking slightly better, but still not too promising – although, just down the road (literally five minutes walk away) at the Creel Tackle House & Cafe, the experts were still optimistic and encouraged everyone to get down to the river later on in the day.

Passing through Turangi? Don’t miss the Creel Tackle House!

The Creel Tackle House is truly a gem of the Waikato – it looks like somewhere John Cusack and Meg Ryan would have a meet-cute in a 90s American rom-com (one of the highest compliments I could give a place, really). It’s a traditional tackle house, selling fishing gear and shelling out advice, but it’s also a darned good cafe, serving up really decent coffee, full cooked breakfasts and lunches, as well as seriously good cabinet food. They’re even allergy friendly, and we pick up a truly tasty breakfast – I grabbed a gluten-free salmon bagel and was very jealous of their famous brioches.

While the river wasn’t playing ball, we jumped in the car and headed down the road to the Tongariro Trout Centre, to check out the native aquarium and Rainbow Trout Hatchery. There’s lovely walks meandering around the river (where you can feed the rainbow trout) – and also happened to be perfect for an afternoon nap for the littlest chap. Also, the seven-year-old really took the pressure off the holiday by reeling in a trout in the kid’s fly-fishing area. For $45 kids aged 5-18 get a licence and all the gear, then go out with an instructor who helps them land their own trout. By the time you’ve made it back to the entrance – especially if you take a look in the museum – the trout will have been filleted, smoked (in manuka honey and brown sugar) and ready to be eaten on site, or taken away.

By the time we make it back to the house, we can see a few eager folks out fishing the river’s edge outside the house. But, with a trout already landed, the pressure is off and no one is too disappointed when the fish don’t seem to want to bite.

The next day we decide to take a chilly little adventure up the mountain. Whakapapa ski field is just 35 minutes away from Turangi (perfect for a little nap) and it’s a pretty little drive. By the time we arrive, just before lunch, car parks are in hot demand, and once we nab one, we have a serious choice to make – play it safe, or risk going on the Sky Waka Gondola with a wee infant…

The Gondola takes you 1.8km across waterfalls and ancient lava flows, with views stretching across to the neighbouring volcanoes of Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro, right up through the clouds to Mt Ruapehu. It’s majestic, but the thought of a baby’s cries ricocheting around a wee gondola – particularly if we ended up with other passengers (it fits up to 10 people) almost puts us off. Thank god we push ahead anyway as the views are truly spectacular. Everyone working on the mountain was an absolute treat and only too happy to help us navigate a stroller onto the gondola.

Up the mountain, the views are equally as spectacular and we take a seat outside the cafe to warm up with a hot drink and hot chips (that are cold in the mountain air before we can get halfway down the pottle) to take them in. There’s also a chance to have a snowball fight in the area behind the cafe. It’s filled to the brim with tourists wanting to actually touch the snow, so I’m happy to just be a spectator – but it’s delightful to hear the sounds of so many different accents one again.

All in all, it was such a successful trip – we may not have arrived back home with a haul of trout, but we certainly proved that having a baby doesn’t stop your ability to get out there and explore NZ!

The Turangi Trout Lodge has a safari theme that kids will love.

Accommodation: Tūrangi Trout Lodge

Recommended for: Families (particularly if you have any keen fishermen in the fam). There’s space for five adults to comfortably sleep – one couple and three singles (or kids). There’s baby gear available, which is a bonus. The property also has a spacious back garden for kids to play in, but if you have toddlers or young kids it might be slightly problematic, as it’s not fenced – it backs onto the public walkway right next to the river, so you’d want to keep a close eye on little ones at all times. It’s right in the heart of Turangi, so perfectly located!

The writer was hosted by Airbnb. All activities were booked independently.

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