Approximate Driving Time: 5 hours 5 minutes
It may have been a cold and stormy winter’s night but we were toasty warm throughout. After a superb night’s rest at the Comfort Inn Cascades, we woke on the final day of our road trip to news that our route home, the notorious Desert Road, was currently closed due to snow and ice. But with bright, clear skies we figured it would open by the time we were due to head south. Plus, the kids were excited by the prospect of some snow to play in! OK, I say kids but really it was this snow-mad mum trying to spread the enthusiasm for the bitterly cold day. We packed up and after the kids said goodbye to the friendly resident cat that had greeted us the night before, we took a wander down to the lake to breathe in the fresh air before setting off.
Huka Prawn Park
We headed out to the Huka Prawn Park, just a few minutes drive north of Taupo at the Wairakei Tourist Park (SH1).
Beside the steaming Wairakei power station we found the curious attraction that is Huka Prawn Park. The introductory tour is well worth taking before you explore the park. We learnt about the breeding of the prawns, got to handfeed the babies (very tickly) and learnt the top tips for successful fishing. Before we fished we took the loop track through a variety of challenges and hands-on activities testing strength, balance and speed. The gauntlet requires perfect timing to avoid getting wet. Lee took it on and save for a split-second near miss, got through unscathed but buzzing! We fed the rainbow trout and took a short bush walk whilst spotting signs of the park’s mascot, Shaun the Prawn, before seeing the Huka Jet on the mighty Waikato River.
We picked up our rods, bait and buckets and found a sunny spot to fish. There are so many prawns that they start grabbing the bait almost immediately. Getting them out of the water is not quite as easy but even these fishing novices managed to pull three small prawns and one good-sized prawn onto dry land. Starting to feel the cold from the chilly wind we took up position on heated seats to carry on fishing. Great for warming cold hands and cold derrieres too! We had the option to have our prawns cooked at the park but we chose to have them put on ice to bring home – we’ve got a great prawn toast recipe waiting for them.
Huka Prawn Park: Clockwise from top left – Shaun the Prawn (the park’s mascot), family photo fun, catching prawns, the beautiful Waikato River, prawn fishing ponds, feeding the rainbow trout and handfeeding baby prawns!
Leaving Huka Prawn Park we started our journey south, towards home. The road around Lake Taupo is winding but spectacularly scenic. There’s lots of picnic spots to pull off the road and enjoy the beauty of the lake.
By now the road was clear and we could make our way from Turangi at the southern end of Lake Taupo through to Waiouru. The volcanoes in the Tongariro National Park were resplendent in pure white with a stunning blue sky background. We found a suitable spot to pull over and brave the biting cold for some fun in the snow. As much as I love the snow, I admit to retreating to the car once I couldn’t feel my hands anymore! The kids had a snowball fight (which involved pelting each other and then the car) and scraped together enough snow for a hastily made snowman.
Left to right – Desert Road, Mt Ruapehu, Snowball fight, Frosting fingers
Home and thanks!
We got back in the car and defrosted as we drove through Taihape and onward to Mangaweka. Keep an eye out for the DC-3 plane – you can go inside and view the history of the famous landmark. A photo with the huntaway statue in Hunterville is also a favourite with the kids. We were treated to a seemingly neverending sunset as we passed through Foxton and Levin – not that the kids saw it as they were pushing out zzz’s after a hectic but awesome five days.
We packed so much in to those five days and even as a seasoned troad trip family, we were astounded by the quality of the fun and interesting activities that we visited. Our family as a whole wishes to thank Choice Hotels for giving us the opportunity to undertake this road trip and experience our beautiful country. Choice Hotels operate 35 hotels across New Zealand, with in excess of 1500 rooms, under the Econo Lodge, Comfort, Quality and Clarion hotel brands. We can highly recommend them for your next family getaway!
This blog was written by Julie Scanlon. Julie and her family were sponsored by Choice Hotels Asia-Pac on their 5 day road trip of the lower North Island.
We acknowledge the support of Great Lake Taupo in providing activities during the road trip and thank them for their assistance.