Taking older kids on a campervan adventure in winter might seem a daunting task, but if you plan enough interesting activities in-between all the mind-blowing scenery, they’ll be sure to enjoy the trip just as much as you.
1. Exploring at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch
Experiencing what life must be like in the storm simulation, and riding the Haaglund vehicles up and over crazy terrain no other vehicle would be able to attempt was a fabulous start to our trip straight after picking up The Suite from Wilderness - we made it there just in time for the blue penguin feeding and spent most of the day exploring the Antarctic Centre.
2. A hike up Mount Sunday (for LOTR fans)
Since watching the Lord of the Rings for the first time in lockdown, my oldest (age 14) has become a huge fan, so it made sense to incorporate a hike up Mount Sunday aka Edoras, the home of the Rohan people in the movies.
The day we hiked was glorious, and the hike itself is easy at only half an hour each way, and the boys found plenty of rock faces to climb up while we simply ogled at the 360 degree views.
3. Rock skimming anywhere
Give a kid a rock and they’ll happily throw it in any river or lake going, and my two are no different. But this trip there was the added element of breaking ice in most places we went since it was so cold which added to the fun.
4. Luging in Queenstown
It had been 6 years since we last took the boys luging and I distinctly remember my youngest at age 4 (now 10) desperately wanting a turn but refusing point blank to ride the chairlift to get to the top. This time he was first in line to get up there and quicker down the track than his older brother - oh what a difference a few years makes!
More to-dos in Queenstown here!
5. Hiking the Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook
I’d wanted to do this hike with the family 3 years ago, last time we were down south, but the weather didn’t play ball. This time, there was no such issue with a clear, albeit chilly day at Mount Cook. We were so surprised to reach the end of the track and discovered the glacier lake half frozen. Much to our chagrin, the boys insisted on walking out far enough so they could stand on icebergs that were frozen solid in the lake - quite the unique experience.
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6. Gazing up at the stars in the Aoraki Dark Sky Reserve
Although my boys don’t quite share the same passion for photography that I do, they were still mighty impressed with the clarity of the night skies at Mount Cook when I managed to drag them out in their onesies at 7pm to show them what I was capturing on camera.
7. DVDs and onboard Wifi
No matter how great the weather and scenery, most kids these days gravitate towards time with technology, and it was so awesome to have the option to just chill inside in the evenings when it was dark and cold outside. We borrowed several DVDs from the Wilderness library including LOTR so we could get excited about the scenery on our visit to Mount Sunday.
8. Snow Tubing in Tekapo
This was a bit of a last minute decision on the last day of our trip and one that the big kid (aka hubby) enjoyed just as much as the smaller ones did. The snow tube park is part of the Tekapo Springs complex and this meant we could warm up in the hot pools straight after - which was a good thing when it was still zero degrees mid-afternoon!
9. Family game nights
Another favourite family past-time of ours is card and board games, and the Wilderness motorhome dining area set up is perfect for a tournament or two in the evenings - we had several nights of epic Five Crowns, Phase 10 and Quiddler competitions while keeping cosy and warm with the gas central heating.
10. Unexpectedly waking up to snow at Lake Heron
We made a last minute decision to spend the night at Lake Heron in the Ashburton Lakes and had the whole campsite to ourselves, miles from civilisation and with no cellphone reception it really felt like a wilderness experience.
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Hearing what sounded like gentle rain on the roof during the night was in fact a fine layer of snow which kept falling and it was soon enough to have a snowball fight, make snow angels and bring a snowman to life. It was resoundingly the best experience of the trip for us all.
Download: Meghan Maloney's 10-day Campervan Itinerary for Breathtaking Views of the South Island