When I first arrived in New Zealand, at the age of ten, I noticed that all the other kids in my new class would talk about a certain magical place of fun, a veritable beacon of childhood dreams. If your parents took you there in the holidays, it was a rare and coveted treat, and if your school took you there on a trip, well how lucky were you?
“What is this wondrous destination?” I would ask, and they would answer, in voices breathy with awe, “Rainbow’s End.”
It’s an amusement park. They say it’s New Zealand’s best theme park, which isn’t a difficult feat because it’s New Zealand’s only theme park. I couldn’t wait to go.
It’s in Manukau, and as, at the time, we lived in a small town just south of Auckland, it was easy for us to get to. I suppose if you’re in New Zealand for a holiday and you have kids with you, Rainbow’s End would be a great place to while away a few hours, as it’s close to Auckland International Airport and many New Zealand campervan rental depots. It could be a nice treat for the kids on your last day.
It’s definitely improved since my first visit. I can only say that I was disappointed that first time. I mean I’d grown up in England, the land of Alton Towers and Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Legoland. I’d also, at the age of seven, been to all the big theme parks in Florida, so, to me, New Zealand’s Rainbow’s End was laughably tame.
Rainbow’s End is a very small theme park, full of happy colours that would be sickeningly bright if it weren’t for the dirt, moss and rust. Its main attraction is the Fearfall, which is actually rather good. You get taken eighteen stories up the side of a tower, your feet dangling in the open air. If you’re scared of height’s, you’ll hate it, but if not you’ll find yourself with a rather pleasant view before being dropped.
When I went that first time, the only other “big” ride was a short and not-very-corkscrewy corkscrew roller coaster. At least now they’ve got the Power Surge, which I used to love, but these days, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, makes me too sick, and the Invader, which is thrilling without being terrifying or stomach-turned-upside-down nauseating.
There are some quite good “small” rides, rides that you can take little kids on and still enjoy yourself, which seem to be the solid theme park staples: the Pirate Ship, the Log Flume and the Gold Rush. The Log Flume and the Gold Rush were actually my favourite rides the last time I went, which was a few months ago with my boyfriend’s nieces, both of whom were around six years old.
The Log Flume has an “enchanted forest” theme, with dancing elves and the like, and an almost scary drop at the end. The Gold Rush, fairly obviously, is one of those “old, abandoned mine” rides. It’s good fun, just watch out when you get to the end – the final brake is very sudden and you can hurt yourself, which I did.
Always a favourite are the Bumper Boats. I refuse to go on them unless it’s a sunny day, though, because you get a very wet bottom. Last time, I just stood on the bridge that goes over the ride and shouted encouragement to my boyfriend’s niece to ram him with her boat.
For younger children, there’s a section of the park called Kidz Kingdom. It’s really sweet and has in it the sorts of rides that are far too tiny for adults. The good thing is it doesn’t cost as much to enter Rainbow’s End if you’re only going to be staying in that bit, but I’m quite disappointed they got rid of the dragon ride that went around the castle walls.
So here’s my advice for your New Zealand holiday: if you have children with you, Rainbow’s End would be a good day out, but if you don’t then you’re better off pursuing New Zealand’s many other non-theme park thrill seeking opportunities.
Article by Abigail Simpson, author of POMS AWAY! A British Immigrant’s View of New Zealand