Friday, April 19, 2024

The Great Kiwi Road Trip: A Long Weekend in the Far North, With Something For the Whole Fam! (And Yes, You CAN Do it Easily in an EV)

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Celebrating the joy of finally having a beautiful NZ summer, Alice takes her family on a road trip to Mangōnui in the far north to experience a long weekend away that’s fun for the whole family.

In partnership with our pals at Toyota New Zealand

The first time I got behind the wheel of an electric vehicle last year, I became a convert. I mean, I certainly didn’t need to be sold on the environmental advantages of an EV, but before I tried one out I just couldn’t understand how it all worked and if it would even be possible for my lifestyle. We live a zillion miles away from anything – I don’t just ‘pop out’ to the supermarket -so, I figured they’d take too much planning? Would it end up being a hassle?

Well, here I am, a few months later, being completely blasé about taking an EV – the new Toyota bZ4X Motion All-Electric AWD to be exact – away for a long weekend road trip. And not just any road trip – a rather ambitious one to Northland, with a spicy two-year-old and a nine-year-old in the back seat – oh, and during a long weekend where every Aucklander was also making an exodus via State Highway 1.

We chose Mangōnui because we’d heard it was beautiful (which a Google search confirmed), there was an affordable, huge and lovely holiday home on Booking.com, right across the road from the water available – and, it was somewhere we’d never been before. Particularly now that we’re a family of four, we’ve got into the habit of going back to the same places for holidays. The familiar can be comforting when you’re wondering and worrying how it’s all going to pan out with a little one who needs lots of naps! But, now that he’s two, and down to one nap, we’ve decided to get out of our rut and do some more exploring.

Mangōnui turned out to be the perfect choice. It’s a quaint, beautiful little seaside town. It’s stunning, but completely unpretentious. There’s no big hotels, chain stores or fast food joints, just a lovely community of very welcoming, kind people who serve up a lot of delicious treats.

There’s a magical little jetty where you can fish from (or perfect your bombs), the cutest little Four Square that sits out over the water, and the world famous Mangōnui Fish and Chip shop.

It’s also right on the doorstep of some of the most beautiful beaches our country has to offer. We were stunned when we tried out a new beach or two each day and were often the only ones there.

If you’ve got kids in tow, I’d definitely recommend Waikato Bay – the crystal clear water looked more like something you’d find in Fiji. There were rock pools for the kids to play in, and overall it’s a very kid-friendly beach. It’s protected from the elements in a calm little bay, where there are only the most gentle of waves lapping at the beach, and a long shallow stretch to play in, without any great drop off into the sea!

We took the journey up in one of Toyota’s brand-spanking new bZ4X Motion All-Electric AWD, and heck, they are a dream to drive. The first thing I was struck by when driving a Toyota EV was the power. When you put your foot down, they move. It’s especially helpful (and calming for the nerves) when you need to overtake a truck out on the highway and you’ve got precious cargo in your back seat.

There’s also an outrageous amount of room. We normally play a game of ‘what can we leave behind and still survive’ when packing for two kids. I often end up just taking a handbag sized piece of luggage to accommodate all the paraphernalia we seem to need. But, we somehow still had a lot of space after packing a full-sized stroller, a scooter, helmets, beach umbrellas, beach toys, regular toys and four large bags. We stopped off on our journey to also pick up a travel cot – we tend to hire one when we head away. It’s a super cheap option if you only need one occasionally and don’t want to fork out for buying one (especially given they only can fit in one for about two years?).

There was still plenty of room with the cot added into the boot and, in general, the four of us were all pretty in love with the car. It features a fun panoramic roof (it’s a sure fire way to impress the kids), 160kW of power, X-Mode drive modes with Grip Control (especially helpful if you’re heading out to Waikato Bay along those shingle roads!), 9-speaker and JBL premium audio for all those road trip singalongs (we are firmly in a Taylor Swift era and she sounded wonderful – although four hours in, I was wishing she had a few more different eras to listen to).

We just made one little mistake on our drive (remember me saying how blasé I was?) and left with the car at 65%. This was a silly move, because a full charge would likely have got us all the way to our doorstep in Mangōnui (or to the Chargenet station just up the road), but instead it meant we had it hanging over us that we needed to stop and charge. It’s also wise to look at what your range is if you’re using air-conditioning.

Trying to coordinate a toddler nap (he does sleep in the car, but wakes up if the car stops?), toilet breaks and snack breaks made it a little added element we could have done without. We also turned up to a Chargenet station that in reality, didn’t exist?!? But, once we found an unoccupied one, it was all really easy. And really, taking a break a few hours into a long drive is good for everyone (particularly the driver having to listen to Taylor Swift continuously?).

Coming back, we charged up the car to 100% and would have easily made it home no sweat, but, we opted to stop in Whangarei where we made three stops (Subway, St Pierre’s Sushi AND Maccas) then had a picnic at an amazing playground by the river. There was a Chargenet station in the carpark so we plugged in for good measure and had an excess of juice to get home.

Now, we’re already wondering where we could take an EV to next, or, if we could already break our pact to try new places and just go to Mangōnui over and over again.

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