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Meet Mona Hannemann. This glowing goddess of a mama hails from the North Island of New Zealand, near the legendary surf town of Raglan. While going to college in Hawaii, she met her man Max who, along with his brothers, own and run the Seven Brothers burger joints on the North Shore of Oahu. A smitten Max followed Mona back to New Zealand where they got engaged and married in Hawaii three months later. Their son Roca joined their little family almost two years ago and since then the trio has enjoyed many epic adventures together. They recently did a road trip through the North and South Islands of Mona’s beloved New Zealand with little Roca in tow. She spoke to Children of the Tribe about their latest adventure.
You recently visited New Zealand and did a road trip around the South Island and spent time on the North Island. Can you tell us a bit about where you went?
I am from the North Island, currently my family lives in Hamilton which is not far from Raglan - which I like to think its the New Zealand version of Byron Bay - so heading out there for a wave and some sun is a guarantee, with a stop at Bridal Veil Falls. There are some cool places to go berry picking such as the Ruakura Berry Shop and Ye Olde Berry Farm, which was so much fun and a first for us. Also not too far from Hamilton is Marokopa Falls, which are insane!
We had a family reunion in the South Island so we flew to Wellington, and caught the ferry across to the South Island where we spent two weeks in a 12-seater van road tripping with all of my family including two babies. The ferry arrived in Picton, which comes in through the Marlborough Sounds and is stunning. We pretty much drove down one side of the island with stops in Nelson, Christchurch, Karitane, Dunedin and Punakaiki,which is where the Pancake Rocks are and the Franz Josef Glacier. We stopped off at so many awesome places along on the way like Lake Wanaka, The Blue Pools - where you can jump off the bridge into the freezing cold water, and Thundercreek Falls. In the North Island, we also managed to visit Taranaki, Mount Maunganui(Tauranga), Auckland, Rotorua and Waihi Beach. There was just so much to see, and we didn’t even see it all!
What was the highlight of the trip for you?
That is tough! It was all so amazing in its own unique way. Queenstown was a super cool place! The scenery is out of this world, and there’s just a fun vibe there with so much to do especially for the adventurer. Peak Hill hike in Christchurch and getting the most amazing cherries and real fruit frozen yogurt ice cream at Mrs Jones Fruit Orchard in Cromwell would be high up on the list, too. The hike was incredible. And it was our first “real hike” - more than just a nature walk - and we loved it! On a calm day, the lakes are like mirrors and reflect the Southern Alps. So on one side of the peak is a huge lake and the other is a braided river - just beautiful!
And you can’t forget the food! In particular, the frozen yogurt real fruit ice creams are seriously are my favourite thing in the world.
What did Roca seem to enjoy the most?
Probably getting fed too much ice cream and chocolate by all of his aunties and uncles. He’s a water baby so he loved it when we went to the beach. There was also the Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch, which is a child heaven! He also loved seeing all the animals outside on our drives.
If families wanted to visit NZ but only wanted to do one part, would you recommend the north or south?
I would suggest the North Island just because that’s where I’m from and I know more things to do there, and its not too cold! There are so many activities, walks, hikes, and fun things to do for all ages. You can go from the ocean to the lake to the mountains all in one day if you wanted to. There are plenty of things to suit different budgets - you can go super bush-style for cheap and still have a blast, or do more commercial things and be touristy and fancy and still see the amazing wild side of New Zealand. Although, the South Island does have the Southern Alps, which create the Milford Sounds, considered the ‘eighth wonder of the world.’
Can you share a special moment you shared with your husband and son on the trip?
One of the most special moments was when we hiked to the top of Peak Hill in Christchurch. The views were incredible, there was no other people - other than a few of my family - and it was super windy so we just hugged and looked out with awe. We come from Hawaii where its highly saturated with people, so it was just so nice to look out and see no one else, and to think about how many other hidden gems there are in New Zealand. It was a moment where we both realised how beautiful the country is and that we would love to spend some of our family life there.
What tips would you give to any other families wanting to head to NZ on a family holiday?
Allow yourself time to enjoy the places you visit instead of trying to see everything because, lets be honest, you never will as there is too much to see. Also, allow yourself the freedom to take opportunities as they come. Yes, having a rough plan or schedule is always good, but if you stay an extra day somewhere or see a sign to a place that sounds cool, or someone invites you somewhere, take the opportunity. The unplanned things usually make the best memories that you will talk about for the rest of your life! Lastly, take advantage of all the free things New Zealand has to offer like the hikes, beaches, parks, waterfalls, free town concerts, hot springs and amazing views.
Do you have any other adventures planned for 2017?
Our hopes are high to head to Peru before Roca turns two - while he travels free - and do Machu Picchu. I think we are moving back to Hawaii soon - as we have been based in Arizona the past few months – so we may head to Canada to visit family then Mexico for one last surf trip before leaving mainland America. We shall see what ends up happening!