Don McGlashan is touring New Zealand from October 20th to November 5th. Photo / Diane Smithers
Kiwi music legend Don McGlashan shares his favorite New Zealand vacation
What are your fondest memories of childhood family vacations?
My parents were both teachers so we were all able to take a break for the August holidays and we got into the habit of going to Rotorua.
I remember getting more and more excited as the smell of sulfur crept into the car and the roadside drains began to steam. We stayed in the Lakeside Travelodge, which had carpeted floors and “Topliss” shower fixtures, which my big brother said were the most luxurious in the world. (Our shower at home was over the bath, with two faucets, which I never got right at age 5, so it was either freezing cold or boiling, so I was afraid of it.) My brother’s endorsement, and the slightly daring—sounding Name, my heart still skips a beat today when I stumble upon this brand of shower faucets on tour.
We drive to Whakarewarewa and the Blue Baths. My father tells us about magmatic substrates and plate tectonics. My mother’s deep Presbyterian outrage at the price of bringing us all to Cobb & Co. I can still see her sitting up stiffly when the waiter asked her what wine she wanted and replied, “Oh, whatever you have open,” which she felt in a tone of withering disapproval. She showed him.
Where is your favorite off the beaten track/secret spots in New Zealand to get away from it all?
When our children were little we followed family tradition and took them from Auckland to Rotorua by train. When we got there we rented a ride-on mower-sized car from a company called Ugly Duckling or Rent-A-Turkey or something and told the kids it was a special joke car. They figured that out, just like they figured out how we explained why we couldn’t have a motel with a natural hot pool. But it was okay. We found cheaper motels with plastic hot tubs that we certainly didn’t have at home. They also had Topliss shower fittings, but they didn’t impress my kids as much as I did when I was the same age.
We’d whiz down the luge, check out the oddly spacy hot-water ducks in the river at Wai-O-Tapu, and walk in the beautiful forests at Okere Falls. We looked at the “water organ,” a bundle of hoses set up to squirt in time to the music. “And now, as a special treat, we end with the can-can.” Colored lights behind the synchronized jets; rain of gold, emerald, crimson; Steam rose, dew beaded the artificial turf apron. Nothing that Offenbach would have imagined in his wildest dreams.
If you were to go on a family trip right now, where would you go?
My family is very grown now so corralling them is even more difficult than it was when they were little but if we had time and could all agree on this I would love to take them to Abel Tasman National Park. I think it’s an amazing place. Clear water, golden sandy beaches, wekas eating your sandwiches. If you keep driving past things, they never really get into you. I remember staring for what seemed like hours at a giant southern Rātā on the track, an opportunist snaking around a long-suffering beech, but what a sensational opportunist. The wheels of my mind just turned, soaking up that color and thinking how you would describe the difference between that rich, dusty orange-red and the rich, dusty blood-red of the Pōhutukawa I grew up with. It’s only when you go for a walk in nature that you slow down and really take it in.
What is your dream road trip through New Zealand?
I love the drive from Kawakawa Bay at the head of the Thames Estuary, past Tāpapakanga, where the Splore Festival is held, to where the coast suddenly flattens out and the Firth looks like a steel engraving. Stop for fish and chips in Kaiaua, with its long shingle beach and the odd campervan perched precariously between land and sea, then down past Miranda Hot Springs, over the top of the Hauraki Plains and along the winding Thames Coastal Road up to Coromandel. It’s not all postcard pretty, but there’s a kind of windswept beauty to it that keeps hitting me in the chest.
And if you could pick the ultimate luxury New Zealand dream vacation, where would you go?
I think I would go back to Awaroa Lodge in Abel Tasman National Park and stay a few weeks this time (you said it was a dream right?). A huge range of amazing beaches, bush and wetlands to explore, beautiful food mostly sourced from their own organic gardens and a strong thread of sustainability and respect for nature running throughout the place pulls. I don’t remember the shower fittings, which is probably a sign of my own personal development. I knew it would happen eventually.
Don McGlashan will be touring New Zealand beginning October 20th, beginning in Queenstown and ending in Auckland on November 5th. Dates, further information and tickets at donmcglashan.com