Bowling, roller skating and ice skating can all be found and it is unusual to have to book in advance for them, but opening times can be limited. Swimming pools often have an outside pool in addition to the inside ones and hydroslides are popular. Video game parlours and paint ball shooting are gaining popularity.
You can take advantage of the trips organised for tourists and enjoy swimming with the dolphins and whale watching. Surfing is popular but you need to check out the beaches. The sea gets colder the further south you go and you will need a wetsuit. Some beaches can be dangerous and a degree of caution should be applied when swimming in the sea.
It is refreshing not having to book up for things months in advance. We took advantage of that when it came to a last minute decision to hold a birthday party at a local roller skating rink. We knew we could confidently invite all the children at short notice. All went smoothly, until we came to make the actual booking, and were told “we aren’t open on Wednesday evenings”.
Horse racing is popular and there are plenty of excellent race-courses, most are free or charge a nominal entrance fee. It is mainly harness racing which involves the jockey sitting in a small two wheeled ‘chariot’ type contraption which is pulled by the horse.
New Zealanders have a reputation for being great gamblers and plenty of money seems to change hands at these events. You can bet as little as $1.00 on a race and make a lovely family day out, particularly if you adopt the kiwi habit of taking a barbecue.
On the subject of barbecues, because there are so many occasions that a portable barbecue is appropriate in our new way of life, we are only grateful we chose the gas type, rather than the charcoal variety. Particularly as charcoal barbecues are banned from some picnic areas. In addition, our folding garden chairs and table have been more useful to us than a rigid style patio set would have been.
Car racing is popular and bingo, which is also known as ‘housie’ is held in school halls. The more luxurious type of bingo hall is yet to be found. Bridge clubs are very popular and ‘working mens’ clubs offer cheap family entertainment and meals.
As in the UK, the draw for the weekly lottery offering a million dollar first prize is screened on television. These tickets can be purchased at outlets throughout New Zealand and are big business. It would appear that most of New Zealand can be found in front of the box at 8 pm on a Saturday night waiting for the live draw. Whilst waiting for it to come on I always find it a good measure of homesickness to play a game of “what would you do with the money if you won?” I know I have had a good week when I say I would buy a house with a swimming pool, - we won’t mention the other weeks!