When I tell people about the Inn Town Campground, I often get asked, “What inspired you to build this place?”  In response, I tell them about how my husband Dan and I spent over five years living in New Zealand— our two sons were born there — and we spent months-on-end traveling around with our small children in a Toyota Hiace van.  Our favorite nights were those spent at classic Kiwi holiday parks, which offered close access to town, family-friendly amenities like playgrounds and family bathrooms, and a mix of different camping accommodations. We made friends in those places and experienced the local culture. That is where the seed for the Inn Town Campground was first planted.

Our family recently got the opportunity to return to New Zealand.  The country still holds a unique place in our hearts.   Over the years we took our honeymoon in New Zealand, Dan went to grad school at the University of Otago in Dunedin and we got the chance to live in the country and really get to know the Kiwi culture.  So for us any opportunity we have to return is special.

One of the great things about visiting a place where you have friends is that you can drag them out of their house and be a tourist.  I love that you when you travel 7,000 miles and convince your friends to take the day off and visit pictuersque places like Tunnel Beach (for the first time, yes, Vanda, I’m looking at you).  I also loved that after driving through Southland we took the extra time to visit Nugget Point in the Catlins.  We got to the parking lot and our boys whined about getting out of the car and I convinced them that the scenic spot is truly right around the corner (which is the truth) and when we got the lighthouse and looked out into the ocean Josh turned to me and said, “We have this picture on our living room wall.”  So while he didn’t remember visiting the spot before at the age of 2 1/2, he at least could connect the art on the wall with real life.  And when he got back in the car he went back to watching Netflix on his ipad, while Dan and I looked out the windows in awe.

Whether you’re around the world or just taking a weekend away in the mountains, there’s always something to learn from exploring a new place, spending a night outside, shutting off your devices and having a quality conversation while hiking through picturesque landscapes.  Our kids said their least favorite thing was hiking, but I’m in awe that we’ve gotten to the stage of parenting where they don’t like it, but they don’t complain.  So when I ended the 17 km day with massive blisters, I took a hint from them and didn’t whine.  Fiorland National Park is one of the magical places that makes you marvel in awe, even if you’re stopped with 5 tourist buses full of selfie stick visitors.

We loved our time in Wanaka, mainly because we got the chance to connect with friends.  While the town has certainly grown in the last decade, the views still take your breath away.  The kids will happily tell you they liked Puzzling World, hokey pokey ice cream and meat pies.  I loved the hikes up Mt Iron, coffee in town and the wine tasting at Rippon Winery.  While I loved seeing the top tourist spots like #ThatWanakaTree, it was also a great chance to stop and soak in the amazing scenery, including some locals spots that my friends said I can’t talk about.  I love combing travel adventures with quality time with friends, there’s something to be said about the added benefit of local knowledge with the desire to explore.  And sometimes the adventure is playing at the local playground or appreciating the vintage trailer food trucks.

Thiem Family Vacation in New Zealand

Mount Cook has always held a special appeal to Dan.  In years past we have camped, hiked and marveled at the aqua colored lakes while enjoying the wide open landscapes.  While the views continue to be as spectacular as we remembered, we were unprepared for the sheer number of people visiting the area.  I would definitely say that are pros and cons to going back to special places many years after your first explored the area.  But even if you have to hike up the Hooker Valley Track with Instagram posing twenty somethings, it’s still a beautiful spot.

Building the campground has felt like the culmination of many adventures—it has certainly been our greatest challenge, and hopefully will be among our greatest achievements. It is a reflection of our past and a window into our future.  Earlier this month I stood in at the foot of Lake Pukaki on yet another wild trip.  At that moment, I realized that our job is to not just experience the world’s most beautiful places, it’s also our job—and one of the goals of the campground—to inspire others to do just that in our own beautiful part of the world.  We want to help the next generation of adventurers get out and see what this big, diverse world has to offer.

Thiem Family Vacation in New Zealand