Weekend adventures: Napier & Hawke’s Bay

Last weekend we set off on our first NZ road trip in 5 years! We’re pretty used to being on the motorway long into a Friday night, so as we set off it felt strangely like we were off to North Wales to visit Rob’s parents…

Napier is a good 4.5hrs north of Welly and as it was mostly in the dark we didn’t really appreciate the scenery we were passing, or the gorgeous house we were staying in! We got a sense of a rambling garden as we climbed down the steps to the front door – in fact I got a little too close to some of the plantlife when I missed a step in the dark and nearly ended up face-down in a shrubbery. Let it never be said that my life is not 100% glamour.

The house was enormous, and so quirky and higgledy-piggledy and sprawling. Our room had a big snuggly bed and sash windows looking over the crazy jungle-like garden. There was a beautiful old-fashioned verandah outside our room complete with old rugs, wicker furniture, sea views and two of the chubbiest cats I ever did see. And it wasn’t only the cats who were well looked after! Yvonne and her husband Steve were so lovely to chat to and made us a gorgeous breakfast – homemade muesli, homemade sourdough, homemade lemon curd! She even had a little cake dish in the kitchen with a post-it saying “Please help yourself” (the Airbnb listing mentioned that “home baking would be available at all times”… I think you can see why we booked it). They’ve only been running it as a B&B since February and if you’re ever in the area, make sure you look them up!

I now want to run a little B&B in the future – chatting to people from all over the world and baking all the time, that’s all there is to it, right!?

We set off to explore the city. Napier is famous as the “art deco capital”. It was devastated in an earthquake in 1931 and completely rebuilt in the style of the times: i.e., art deco. Since then it’s been impeccably preserved. At street level it just looks like a normal high street – you have to look up

It really is unique, like walking around a film set. You can do tours in classic cars and visit the art deco museum. There is even an art deco festival in February, which sounds AMAZING and the perfect place to live out my Great Gatsby dreams.

As lovely as it was… neither of us are mega interested in architecture. Don’t get me wrong, the city’s lovely, and it’s worth seeing, but it’s also teeny. We found and had eaten our way wandered around the Saturday farmer’s market in about 10 minutes, and after that we weren’t really sure what we were going to do with the rest of the day… maybe a books-and-café day?

After consulting Yvonne’s map we decided to walk around the coast to Ahuriri, where we’d heard there were lots of nice cafes. 10 minutes later… we realised that free tourist maps are rarely to scale. Thankfully, we stumbled across Mr Fishbike. And I fell in loooooove.

I have always wanted a beautiful blue-green bike with a bell and a basket on the front in which to put my beautiful artisan bread and cycle back from the farmer’s market…. (#lifegoals). However, Rob had two bikes stolen from our building in two months, so we’ve decided that until we are homeowners, we can’t be bikeowners either.

Looooooooook! Talk about meant to be! Suddenly a café-and-chill day became a … cycle 30km day! Woops.

The other thing the Hawkes Bay region is famous for (and the thing we were probably more interested in) is WINE. Fun fact courtesy of Rob TG, attorney at law: there is no such offence as cycling under the influence of alcohol. Well. There’s no such offence under UK law. However, we took the fact that the bike trail map listed no fewer than 31 wineries as a sign that it was probably OK…

Our first stop was Crab Farm Winery. I’m well aware that I’m running out of synonyms for gorgeous… but at the risk of sounding repetitive, it was gorgeous, rustic and welcoming, with orange trees out front and an enormous log burner inside. I told Rob that if we ever get married again we’re doing it there! Alternatively, if anyone wants to get married in a vineyard and invite me, please do!

We were welcome to wander around the vines and the grounds while we sampled the wares! We tried the Chardonnay and the Pinot Gris. Soooo yummy. I am not going to try and describe them as I know naff all about wine, apart from “ooh this is nice wine”. But safe to say they were delicious, and the ol’ £6.99 Jacob’s Creek back home probably ain’t gonna cut it any more!…

Having consulted the map we hopped back on the bikes and set off, just a teensy bit more wobbly, to Mission Estate. Let’s just say the name was appropriate. It was an absolute mission to get there (thanks, map) but worth it when, panting and a teeny bit sweaty, we finally rocked up at the bar!

Mission is NZ’s oldest winery and “the birthplace of NZ wine”! If you only have time to sample one, Mission would be a good one to pick! We couldn’t wander around as much as at Crab Farm, because someone else had the same idea as me and they were setting up for a wedding. The views over the vines and the rolling hills beyond would make some truly awesome wedding photos…

We paid a totally bargainous $6 for a “wine flight”, where you sample 6 different wines, a rose, two whites, two reds and a dessert wine. When I think of rose I think of something quite cheap and acidic, which probably says more about me (and Sian) and our uni days than I’d like to admit… this was delicious, fruity and crisp and refreshing. We bought a bottle of the dessert wine as it was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted! Sweet and syrupy without being sickly, and apparently it goes well with Christmas cake – sold.

We left Mission at 4.15 and had to return our bikes by 5pm. We got back to Mr Fishbike at 4.57!!! PROUD. Shows the half marathon training is working.

Sunday we were up early and after another fabulous breakfast courtesy of Yvonne we hopped back in the car and drove 25 mins south to Te Mata Park. We had a mountain to climb!

The walk to Te Mata Peak is gorgeous, varied, and at just over 2 hours, pretty doable if you’ve only got a weekend in Hawkes Bay. It does get preeeetty steep towards the top (I had flashbacks to dragging my poor mother up the wrong side of Arthur’s Seat a few years ago) – but if you don’t fancy stretching your legs you can drive up.

We saw a couple of cute fantails (one of NZ’s best-loved native birds) as we followed the track down and out into a grove of redwoods. They were incredible! I felt teeny tiny! It was so peaceful and quiet there and the smell of the pines was amazing. You stroll around the base of the hill through some farmland and just when you think “hey, this tramping lark is pretty easy!” you start zigzagging up. It’s pretty narrow and exposed at points so I’m glad it wasn’t too windy, but scrambling over rocks does make you feel like a badass. And the views at the top were truly breathtaking.

Just when we thought we’d had enough nature for one day… literally about 15mins from Te Mata are the Maraetotara Falls. You just park the car at the top, follow the path along the river for a few minutes and this is your reward! I just wish it had been warm enough for swimming!

There was just time for one last winery before we headed back to Welly, this time Black Barn. The vineyards are so different and so individual: you could easily spend the entire weekend hopping from one to the next!! This place was full of families out for a special Sunday lunch, and there are a handful of boutique lodges if you want to stay on site. I was tempted by their “Amber Wine” as I’d never seen it before, but in the end plumped for the Arneis, as their winery is the only place you can get it. Rob was driving so just had a mouthful of mine – don’t worry guys – and then it was time to hit the road. We were gawping at the scenery on the drive home; we’d missed a lot by driving in the dark!!

We ended the day with fish and chips in a little takeaway just outside of Welly, exactly two years since we’d been in a swanky hotel room in Paris, getting engaged <3. Much less glam, but there’s certainly nobody else I’d be climbing mountains (or sharing my chips) with!

This weekend coming is our last one in Welly for a couple of weeks! We’re going to Nelson on the South Island next weekend and then… it’s Half Marathon time!! And my little brother arrives. AND it’s my birthday!! So we’re going to try and have a quiet one. And actually stick to it this time!!

Slang of the day: A couple of carb-related examples this week – “chipper” instead of chippy / fish & chip shop, and “chippies” instead of crisps!

 

 

 

 

 

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