A very special holiday park on the Firth of Thames holds a lifetime of memories for children’s entertainer Suzy Cato.
You know the saying “Some things get better with age”? That’s so true of the Miranda Holiday Park. There are so many amazing holiday parks around New Zealand, but this one is extra special to me, as I have a personal connection with the area.
We’ve been visiting Miranda for decades. First, when my sister and I were just nippers, and again now that I have a family of my own. It certainly helps that, living in Auckland, it’s only around an hour from home. When we were small, and staying with my grandparents, it was often a day trip from Hamilton during the holidays, or part of the five-and-a-half hour drive home to Kaikohe, as the holidays drew to an end.
When my great-uncle first bought the land for Miranda Hot Springs from a local farmer in the early 1960s, the pools were apparently little more than a hole in the ground, with the Miranda Holiday Park being only the empty grazing paddock next door.
By the time my whānau started visiting in the 70s, when I was around six, there were three concrete pools, a toilet/changing area, a picnic area, a large carpark, and my great-uncle and great-aunt’s home atop the office space and bustling kitchen, where my great-aunt served hot chips, pies, sandwiches, savoury mince on buns, and of course the much-desired ice blocks and ice creams. The holiday park by then was a sea of tents in a fairly bare paddock.
My great-uncle sold the pools and moved on in the early 80s, and around then my whānau bought a boat and adventured through the bays of the Far North. Then, with a wee family of my own, I ventured out one winter weekend in a campervan, with friends in their holiday bus, and we made our first stop the Miranda Holiday Park so I could introduce the kids to the pools of my childhood. We did head across to the hot springs but we barely needed to, as we found the holiday park was perfect for a horde of young ‘uns, with a pool on site, trampolines, loads of room for bikes and balls, a small playground and a gazillion other kids to play with.
And as my wee whānau has grown, we’ve found the holiday park has grown too, with tennis courts, volleyball, mini-golf, frisbee golf, a small BMX trail, just to name a few. Now in their teens, my two are talking of weekends away there with their friends. There’s something for everyone nearby, if you want to leave the park’s own pool: the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, where you can see thousands of godwits, dotterels, oystercatchers and more; the Hauraki Rail Trail; the Waharau Bush Path for a gentle walk or the nearby Hunua Ranges for a more rugged tramp. Kaiaua is just up the road, with easy access to the beach and a good feed of fish and chips, and Thames is just 20 minutes away, in the opposite direction, with several gold-mining experiences.
We’ve stayed by ourselves; we’ve booked out a row of sites and stayed with friends. We’ve had family from across the Waikato join us for the day for a family reunion, filling the holiday park with smells of glazed ham, which we baked in their fabulous facilities. We’ve even stayed when we haven’t intended to, and made the most of their cosy bunk rooms.
We started our pilgrimage to the Miranda Holiday Park for easy access to the pools next door (which are currently closed for renovation). My nostalgia and memories drew me to take my own family to the pools of my childhood. And whenever we are in the area, our car automatically pulls into their driveway as we continue to make new memories with friends and whānau.