We had wanted to explore the Matakana cycleway (or walkway depending on who you talk to, which website you are looking at and which sign post you are reading) for a while so an Abel Tasman training walk while we were staying in Matakana seemed the perfect opportunity.
We got off to a false start on our first day when we thought we would just walk the first part of it from Matakana and after setting off over the new-ish pedestrian ( and cyclist ) bridge and along the Matakana Community Group Walkway we arrived at a road with no directions and no sign of a path. Long story short the next 3-4 kms of the path is on the road so we decided to regroup and start the trail along Tongue Farm Rd the following day.
After setting off the following day and parking at the Tongue Farm Rd entrance we set off on a relatively easy 7km walk to Point Wells through farmland, with one small section walking on the road. If you are directionally challenged like me be aware that there is little signage so may be print the map to take with you.
If you do the trail in summer try to arrive at Point Wells at high tide as jumping off the jetties there is lots of fun.
I think walking or cycling to Omaha would be longer, however I couldn’t find any accurate distances online and as I said I am directionally challenged.
Yes its also a cycle path, mostly off road and predominately flat with just one steep section up to Takatu Road and down the other side. The trail is quite chunky gravel so probably wouldn’t suit road bikes or less confident riders.
B.C ( before children ) I loved road tripping with my then boyfriend ( now husband ). We would throw ourselves in the car with reckless abandon with some drinks, a bag of chips and a mix tape and go explore. Fast forward a few years and two kids and the packing takes a while longer, the snacks are more extensive and the mix tape is an audio book. Oh my how times have changed.
Over the years we have explored extensively with our kids including almost monthly trips to Rotorua ( a 3 hour trip that can be up to 4 hours depending on traffic ) and 3 weeks round the South Island and for the most part our kids are good at sitting in the car. In fact, we just drove 5 hours to Napier and actually described the trip as enjoyable and yes the kids were in the car with us.
Like any part of adventuring and exploring with kids it takes training and that starts when they are young. So no matter how young your kids they are always ready to discover the joys of roadtripping. To make sure it’s a pleasant experience for everyone I have put together my top tips for road tripping with littlies and not so littlies;
If your kids are still having a nap during the day then this is a great time to travel, or travel in the evening.
Pack lots of little snacks and water. Nothing seems to make children as hungry as sitting in the car.
While we are on food – always have a container ready for food that comes up as quickly as it goes down. I have a container in the front of the car with ‘car essentials’ in; wipes, hand sanitiser, sun screen and the second a kid mentions feeling queasy I up-end that container and hand it over.
Old MacDonald had a farm can have a lot of choruses when you have some miles to cover. And kids are never too old to sing – it’s just the songs that change as they grow up and we can pass many a happy mile singing along with the radio.
Play games: With slightly older children I spy is always a winner as is I went to the moon and I took ( if you aren’t familiar with I went this game – go round the car with each person taking something to the moon in alphabetical order and remembering all the things before them). Good for the parent’s grey matter as well.
Let the kids take a few toys in the car. My children always take their soft toys and can happily pass the time play acting with the toys.
Tell stories. Often as we are travelling somewhere with the kids, my husband and I will have already been there ( albeit in another life time ) but it’s fun to relieve the memories and the kids really like hearing that we had a life before they came along. Even if its somewhere we go all the time ( like Rotorua ) we can tell many a story about all the different friends who have come away with us or the different mountain bike rides we have done.
If you get worn out telling stories then of course you can leave the story telling to the professionals and pick up some audio books ( from the library or you can download ). Of course for young children the Ear drops audio books are great as not only is it passing the time its educational.
Some people say lots of frequent stops for kids but we always tried to drive for 2-3 hours before stopping and it has got our kids used to sitting in the car. Now they are older, toilet stops aside we can drive for 3 hours easily with no stops.
And yes there is always a screen that could entertain your child but then they would be missing all the amazing sights out the window. As a last resort we use some screen time but I really think we are doing our children a favour in the long term by teaching them to sit quietly, be mindful and enjoy the world around them.
We live in an amazing country, just made for road trips. With a bit of planning you can enjoy the journey with your kids.
Now you have the road tripping sorted are you ready to start exploring and adventuring with your kids. Check out some of our adventures;
We were mountain biking with a group of adults who hadn’t ridden with our children for ages and one of them had never even meet our children. The adults and I were catching up to my husband and the kids who had gone on ahead. We started riding up a solid 20 minute uphill trail ( Sidewinder for those of you that know the Redwoods ).
We have ridden it with our kids once before and there was a bit of bike pushing but it’s all part of the experience. The guy who didn’t know our kids was saying ‘your kids can’t be on this trail’ and at one point he actually stopped and said I should call my husband to find out where they were because there was no way they were on this trail. Not sure if he was questioning my navigation skills (which are questionable ) or my children’s fitness levels. So we got to the top of the hill and there were my little mountain bikers with big contented smiles on their faces. ‘I rode all the way’ says my 8 year old – and then I had a big contented smile on my face.
Ok, so I am pretty proud of my kids. They love mountain biking and we love mountain biking with them but it wasn’t always like this. I can still remember the first time we went riding with the kids, they were 5 and 8 years old. I almost didn’t change into my bike riding gear because I thought it was going to be a short ride. Of course we started off on the easy trails and there was a lot of bike pushing and moaning…and not just from the kids. After about 6 km we headed back to the café for a refuel and probably thought that was it but after some cake they were keen to go out again so we ended up riding 16km the first time.
We started going to Rotorua on a more regular basis and took the kids riding about once a month with varying degrees of success and lots of perseverance. We spent a lot of time getting their confidence and fitness up on the kid’s trails. And then gradually the moaning decreased, the enthusiasm increased and we ventured onto harder trails.
And they aren’t just fair weather riders either – one time it was pouring with rain when we set out and didn’t stop the whole time we were out. Not only was it wet, it was cold. When we got back to the carpark after 2 hours ride we were covered in mud, soaked to the bone and freezing cold with the biggest smiles on our faces, kids included. Nothing more bonding and character building than a shared adventure.
So it might not happen overnight and there will probably be a few tears but it’s worth it to share your love of mountain biking or tramping or whatever form your adventuring takes because as the good memories grow the challenges of getting there fades. In fact the challenge of getting there are part of the good memories.
So when our friends thought there was no way my kids would be on the steep uphill trail I knew they would be because we had put in the mud, sweat and tears to get them there.
🚲Try and get out on a regular basis. Just like us adults, the more your kids do something the easier it becomes.
🚲 Don’t think that your children need to be great riders before they hit the trails. There are many family friendly trails around the country that are a great place for kids to get their confidence up. Start slow and easy and focus on the fun.
🚲 Urban cycle paths are also a great way to increase your child’s confidence on their bike and ability to ride longer distances without having to drive to a mountain bike park. We did lots of training for riding the Timber Trail with the kids on our local urban cycle paths.
🚲 It’s important to have the right size bike for your child. A small bike doesn’t necessarily mean easier and neither does having the seat lower. As bikes gets bigger so does the wheel size which can make it easier to maneuver over rougher terrain. Having the seat at the right height is key too and enables the child to get better return on the stroke effort. Pop into your local bike shop and have a chat to your expert to ensure you’ve got the set up right.
🚲 Invest in gear that makes the riding more enjoyable for everyone. Obviously a good helmet is key, but also gloves, and cycling shorts are beneficial. Trade Me and local buy/sell pages are great for picking up deals. You could also suggest to friends and relatives that they buy gear as gifts for your kids.
🚲 Think outside the box with helping younger kids up tougher inclines. Inner tubes are great as tow ropes or I have even seen someone using a retractable dog lead to tow a child up a hill!
🚲 Be patient – both on the trail and with your child’s progress. While it might not happen overnight and there may be a few tears and frustrations, your child will get the hang of it. Give loads of encouragement and praise along the way.