A Reunion of Friends in Nelson, New Zealand Family / Friends / New Zealand / Photography

One of the most amazing things about traveling as a family is becoming friends with other traveling families. It is really fun to get together and play in different places around the world!

We feel exceptionally fortunate that we had two of these wonderful families to adventure with during our stay. New Zealand was a first for all of us, and it was great to discover it in such fine company. We introduced you to our friends the Lybberts, in our previous blogpost. We also spent time with our mutual friends, the Kings, who our family saw most recently in Victoria this past December, and in several other countries before that, dating back to the early days in Costa Rica.

Arrival Visit

Once we had all arrived in Nelson and settled into our holiday homes, we had a reconnecting evening with everyone together at our house. The Lybberts brought ice cream to share and the Kings brought some fancy pinot noir grapes from the vineyard they visited earlier that day, as well as some bread and hummus.

As luck would have it, our family had a lot of frosting, candy sprinkles, and gingerbread cookies to share, so we added those into the mix as well. The kids had a great time decorating the cookies, and it was good for our family to be able to divvy up that sugar load a bit.


Marie, Maya, and Ella did a fun circus/gymnastics show for everyone that night, down in the basement, which was great entertainment for everyone. This group of friends certainly does mesh fantastically well together!

Beach Day

The next day we went to the beach and playground at Tahunanui Beach to meet our new friends, Alice, Satria, and Mary, as well as the King and Lybbert families. We hung out on the playground in the shade for a bit before heading out to enjoy the water, sand, seashells, and sunshine.


We bid farewell to our new friends who were heading off to Golden Bay, while the rest of us had dinner together at our house, some baked Kumara, topped with butter, spinach, lentils, and feta cheese. The Kings brought a delicious green salad to share, and the Lybberts brought pavlova for dessert.


Our family hibernated the next day and watched the movie Click that night, starring Adam Sandler. Being a sloth at heart, I simply loved the message about not fast forwarding through life, but fully living your moments.

Center of New Zealand

Ready for a bit more socializing and adventuring the next day, we met at the Botanical Reserve to do the Center of New Zealand hike with the Lybberts and Kings. Keith brought along lots of snacks like butternut squash/kumara hummus, brown rice crackers, chips, apples, water, pears, and celery. Brandon took a couple of nice group photos of us while we were up there, overlooking the gorgeous view.    

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Roller Skating

Emily did a bit of busking at the Saturday Market the next day, where we all got waffles with berry sauce and vanilla ice cream for breakfast. The Kings and Lybberts met us at the market as well, before we all went roller skating together at the rink at Tahunanui Beach.


Sightseeing Day Trip from Nelson

A couple days later we went on a sightseeing day trip  from Nelson with our friends, starting out with breakfast at a really great restaurant called Jester House. There was a large garden with lots of large outdoor games and activities for the kids to play.


There was access to a river on the property also, which had some tame eels. You can even feed them some special food, if you wish.


Afterward, we drove to Riwaka Resurgence Walk with the Crystal Pool. We all had fun playing in and drinking the clean water. It was so clear and deep; our friend Keith even jumped in a couple of times! I read the following on a plaque nearby: “For Maori, every river has it’s own life force. Rivers are the veins of Earth Mother (Papatuanuku), and the water in them is her lifeblood. Rivers nourish all living beings and link us with ancestors. It is by our rivers that we know who we are.”

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Later we stopped at a fruit/vegetable stand where we got some delicious pears, apples, tomatoes, asian pears—mmm, and generous free samples of fantastic watermelon.

Ngarua Caves was our next destination, where we saw beautiful hanging fabric-like structures, cathedral ceiling configurations, and coral formations; the earliest record of human exploration dates to 1876. It was such a unique, beautiful cave, and our tour guide was wonderful. There was a gorgeous view on the hike back to our car as well!

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Afterward, the kids played at the large playground near Kaiteriteri Beach, which included an awesome zip line. We bought our dinner across the street from a top-notch burger place, and ate it on the shaded picnic tables adjacent to the playground. Before heading back home to Nelson, we went across the street to the beach to play for a while, where the sand was the same color and texture as graham cracker crumbs!

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Sharing Dinner

Dinner at the Lybbert’s was on the agenda for the next evening, and they prepared us an array of amazing tacos. The Kings brought some really nice horchata to share, and our family brought brownie sundaes for dessert. I found the brownie recipe online and was very happy with the way they turned out! I just made the basic version without the add-ins, which was superb, although I might get a bit more creative with it sometime. I made sure to test them when they began smelling done, so I didn’t over-bake them; they’re so much better moist. Afterward we added vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce, sweetened whipped cream, and mini M&M’s on top.


Berrylands and Real Fruit Ice Cream

There is a berry picking farm nearby Nelson called Berrylands, where we went with our friends the next day to pick loads of our own strawberries and a few raspberries. We also bought some other vegetables they had for sale, such as mini kumara.

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And of course, we couldn’t leave without trying the delicious Real Fruit Ice Cream they had on offer. It was vanilla ice cream with fresh berries mixed in, using their special machine, and served in waffle cones.


Afterward, the kids all played together at the playground for a while, until Marie got a big splinter stuck in her foot, which she didn’t want anyone to touch; she spent hours that night at home digging it out herself. Ouch!

Lee Valley Swimming Hole

Every day holds fun outings when friends are in town! The next day we all went to the Lee Valley swimming hole, but first we had quite an adventure just trying to find it. During our search, we hiked down to another beautiful river spot and took lots of photos.


We did eventually find the swimming hole, and some of us played in the very cold water, while others of us ate our picnic lunch at the rocks on shore. Keith, Ella, and Maya even swung and jumped into the water from the rope swing multiple times.


My shoe broke along the hike, but it has served me well over the years, so I bought the newest model of the same shoe when we arrived back in Nelson. It is the one with gold and gray straps, and because of its slightly different design, it fits a bit more snugly on my foot, which I like.


Overnight Sightseeing Trip from Nelson

The next day we caravanned with our friends a bit further afield from Nelson to Takaka Valley, wherein lies Te Waikoropupu Springs. The color, clarity, and movement of the water is absolutely enchanting.

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Afterward, we ate lunch at Wholemeal Cafe before driving to see some unique and challenging climbing rocks at the Paynes Ford Tramline Track.

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In another area close by, we played on a couple of big rocks in the water with a log bridge stretching between them. Several daring souls in our group braved the walk across the log, while others were content to scoot on their bums. The rest of us watched from afar, hoping all of our precious family members and friends would be safe throughout the process.

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We encountered a 24 hour raw milk vending machine along our drive afterward, and were delighted to purchase a bottleful. We enjoyed it so much we went back for more the following morning. If you’ve never tried raw milk before, I’m telling you, you’re missing out!


We’d like to publicly thank our friends the Kings for spotting such a great find and providing a bottle for us to collect our milk in, the genius crew at Village Milk for setting up the dispensing machines, and last but certainly not least, the friendly community of fine New Zealand milk cows for making this quality experience possible. Quite the posh view they have going for themselves, I’d say…


We spent the night at The Sandcastle Chalets in Pohara, where the owner made pizza dough for all of us and heated up his wood-fired oven. We each added our own toppings and baked delicious individual-sized pizzas for dinner!

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The next morning, many of us attended an impromptu yoga class, offered by our friend Sabina, in the well-equipped yoga studio on the property. We then did the hike to Wainui Falls, and later the Grove Scenic Reserve. There was a beautiful lookout point where we could see a birds eye view of the surrounding farmland, mountains, and ocean. We meandered through the unique rocks and the thick trees and vines that had grown around and among them. We then headed to Labyrinth Rocks Walkway, where we found many interesting rocks which had deep grooves carved into them from water long ago. There were many interesting natural shapes, hollows, doors, and tunnels which were fascinating to explore!

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After a full two days of adventuring, it was time to head back to Nelson, but we needed gas. Unfortunately, it was about 7pm and after regular office business hours, so our only option was to pay through their country-specific EFTPOS system, which quite alarmingly wouldn’t accept our American debit or credit cards. This was very surprising to us, as New Zealand gets so many international visitors each year. Thankfully, a nice man who was also getting gas at the same time as us, offered to let Brandon pay him in cash for gas and authorized his card for us to use. Needless to say, we were very grateful.


Back in Nelson

In other news, Emily scored her first babysitting job for friends when we arrived home to Nelson. She watched our kids and the Lybberts kids at their house, because Alisa and Jared went out on a date at the same time as Brandon and I, and it was convenient to have Emily watch all the kids together at their house.

During our date, just out of curiosity, Brandon and I went to check out the mall in Richmond, and we discovered – it was very small. I believe I’ve already mentioned the refreshingly non-materialistic nature of this culture.

Then we drove to the center of Nelson and had lunch at a family-run restaurant called Falafel Gourmet. We shared the lamb kebab in pita bread mixed with falafel (recommended by the owner’s son). We also tried a chia seed drink which was blended with blueberry, apple, and boysenberry juice. It was a really delicious meal!

After lunch we went to Strandbags around the corner, where I picked out a new purse to replace my old one, and Brandon chose a new Pacsafe wallet. Then we went to Penguino which serves gelato, sorbet, and ice cream in some really nice textures and flavors; mine was kind of like an ice cream mousse.

By the way, have you ever tried crushed cookie ice cream sundaes? We made some at home one night using the CookieTime bite-size chocolate chunk cookies over vanilla ice cream, along with the aforementioned hot fudge sauce. It turned out to be a really delicious combination! I crushed up the cookies with a big mortar and pestle they had at the house, which was a perfect tool for the job. These cookies were also fun to dip in herbal tea, which turned the crunchy cookie into a soft, warm cookie texture in an instant.


Now, I must let you know that the video Brandon made for this post is absolutely magical! Please do yourself a good turn and savor the experience.

Well, our adventures in this beautiful country aren’t over yet, not by a long shot. I’ve decided to save the best for last. Please keep your eyes peeled for — The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island: Three Traveling Families Sharing One Epic Road Trip. Coming right up!

Jennifer loves to breathe, read, write, travel, learn, sing, dance, eat, and practice mindfulness. She is currently residing in Ubud, Bali, and loves exploring new places with her family.


  1. Absolutely magical adventures, and such lovely photos and a fantastic video to capture it all! What a wonderful momento to have created…thank you soooooo very much for sharing the adventures!! :-)

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