It’s easy to visit the popular locations, those which are easiest to reach, the place that everyone knows about, and it’s usual the default / safe plan for your trip. However, if you are prepared to be a little bit more adventurous – consider exploring what’s further down the road … and perhaps follow it to the very end. Obviously it’s a good idea to have a glance at a map before you do this, as in some parts of the world the road may take you thousands of miles across a large continent.
Our family recently followed the road to the end, primarily to find the last beach along a particular volcanic harbour in New Zealand. After passing several small townships, we reached the end of the pavement at a nice looking holiday-house type community. However, we continued onto the gravel road, past the “No Exit” sign, and after a short, but adventurous, drive – we found a beach that our daughter later said was her “favourite beach in New Zealand!” Best of all, we were the only ones there for most of the time we visited!
While this little beach looks remote, it was only about 10 minutes from the nearest shops, and about 40-45 minutes from the city. We loved the fact that it felt remote, and our view included no developed land (no buildings were in sight) plus a nice view out over the Pacific Ocean.
We also explored a very short walkway, and found “the niftiest, coolest little rock cove in all the world” – according to our son Luke. Mind you, I’m with him on this one as it was totally awesome – and photos can’t do it justice (it’s a 4D experience, not suitable for 2D pictures). There were little caves and tidal pools, shells and shellfish, cool volcanic rocks, natural hanging gardens, old jetty piles from some bygone era, and lots of interesting things for kids of any age … or even those of us just young at heart!
You’ll note that I’m not sharing the exact location of these beaches … primarily because I don’t want to find it crowded the next time we visit!! Obviously some of the locals know about it, but I’d prefer to keep it a well kept ‘secret’.
Check the map, but don’t be afraid of exploring a little bit further down the road!
As the visitor information says: The seaside settlement of Kaikoura, situated midway between Christchurch and Picton on the rugged east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is overlooked by majestic mountains, which are snow-capped for many months of the year. Few places in the world can boast of such natural wonders as those offered by land and sea in Kaikoura. This unique combination of ocean and mountains offers stunning coastal alpine scenery and a host of eco-tourism oriented activities, including whale watching, dolphin swimming, walks, and much more!
We took a day-trip from Christchurch, although a long weekend would have been a much better idea! The road from Christchurch gets progressively more curvy as you get closer to this seaside town, and passes through a number of short tunnels along the rugged coastline (which the kids just loved). The mountains drop straight into the Pacific Ocean, into an area called the Kaikoura Canyon. The canyon extends northeast to join the Hikurangi Trough, which in turn connects with the Kermadec Trench, one of the deepest spots on earth (10,047 m at it’s deepest point, or 32,963 ft).
Simply put, Kaikoura is an ideal place for a wildlife nursery – hence the abundance of baby whales, dolphins and seals.
Sometimes a day trip just isn’t enough time … so make sure the preparation and total driving time still allows for a suitably long visit at your destination. If you want to see the whales, AND the dolphins, AND the seals, AND do some walks, AND check out the shops in Kaikoura township, plan on spending a weekend!
Spring Break or early summer is when we like to pack up the family and take a trip to the beach … before it gets too hot, or too crowded. This April we went to Panama City Beach (PCB), a six hour car ride from Atlanta (or one hour flight). We stayed in Laguna Beach – one of the numerous areas adjacent to PCB and which lays claim to some portion of the beachfront on the Gulf of Mexico. We have driven to several beaches from our home – but this has been our favorite!
The 27 miles of pure sugary white sand beach was easily accessible from a number of well posted boardwalks. While the modest emerald green waves could easily lull you to sleep, be watchful of your children who might try to bury you in sand (ours probably would given the chance). The beach has plenty of space to swim, splash and relax, although the riptide can be quite strong at certain times of the year – so please observe the flags and any warning signs prior to entering the water.
Restaurants and shopping options are diverse, as are options for outdoor activity and attractions. We found the Spring Break crowd kept the central shops and restaurants too crowded for our liking, but we were able to find quieter options nearby. Rather than fill our days with too much activity, this trip was about looking for some quiet relaxation … and ‘accidentally’ found some sub-tropical paradise on a gorgeous beach.
This was our Spring Break beach-on-a-budget trip because we were saving up for our big summer trip to New Zealand. We saved money by staying across the street from the beach instead of directly on the beach; and we prepared many of our meals in the comfortable 2 bedroom cabin instead of dining out all the time. We stayed at the family friendly Laguna Beach Christian Retreat, which had multiple swimming pools to provide a great diversion from spending endless days on the sand. We left the PCB area with the distinct feeling that we need to go back and explore some of the many things we discovered – we got a taste, and want some more.
The sunsets can be truly captivating, so take time to walk down to the beach and enjoy the sensation … make sure you take your shoes off. Consider renting a place with a kitchen and with a view of the beach … it makes for lovely mealtimes together as a family.