Across the Ditch

2 November 2018

After a whirlwind couple of weeks of adventure, amazing scenery, wine, food, and great company, we say goodbye to North Island New Zealand today.

We try another busy breakfast cafe, three doors from yesterday’s (that also appears to be run by industrious Chinese), cause variety is the spice of life! I wish I’d stuck to poached eggs and bacon, because the French Toast was terrible.  Everyone else’s breakfast looked fine.  It sure is hard to fine a good coffee.  We need to finish packing  and weigh our bags, so we head back to the apartment.   Bags done, we check out and store the luggage.

With a few hours up our sleeves, it’s time to look at a few shops and sights around the city. We even notice an advertisement for an artists exhibition, Vera Limmer.  Maybe one of the North Island NZ relatives of Ben.


Down an interesting alley off Queen Street, we notice a sign for Mojo Coffee among some interesting clothing shops, so it was a no brainer to stop for a coffee and snack before returning to collect bags and head off to the airport.  We’re back in plenty of time, only to find our transport is already waiting for us.






Although Lil and Keith are travelling back to Wellington on a domestic flight, David and I are travelling International an hour later, back to the Gold Coast, so the timing is perfect.  We couldn’t believe the Qantas Club even had a fridge full of individual serves of Kapiti ice creams!


Farewell to our favourite travel buddies, until next time!  There is more to explore in NZ and many other adventures far and wide. NZ is a relaxing destination with hidden gems to discover.  The weather was very kind to us with only one really rainy day.


Across the Ditch

1 November, 2017 – Auckland-Waiheke Island

We head off towards the wharf where the boat leaves to Waiheke. We are a little early, so have a browse around the harbour area and stumble across Lenin, a bar where Hallowe’en revelry had obviously taken place the previous night. David picked up a mask that had escaped its owner and scared the wits out of us!


We are so pleased the weather prediction for the day was good, as last time we went to Waiheke it had rained. It had put a dampener on the zip line and island tour experience even though we enjoyed it anyway.  We were so glad to be doing the wineries and lunch because we didn’t have time on our last trip.


The boat took about 40 minutes to reach the Island, that’s situated in the Hauraki Gulf, where we were met by our guide for the day.  She drove about 30 of us in a medium sized bus around the tight island roads while commentating. Well done to her!  The island has a holiday feel about it, but there is a large permanent population, many of whom travel to Auckland each day for work.  Tourism, holiday makers, wine along with vineyard restaurants and reception rooms, olive oil and honey are the backbone of the island. That is apart from the quietness of island living, compared to the big city life of Auckland.

The 4 wineries we visited where all situated on the more populated mid to eastern end of island.


Our first stop was Stonyridge Vineyard in the Onetangi area, in a sheltered north facing valley. The host from the vineyard greeted us with a glass of wine and guided us through the olive grove to a vista of the vines. She talked to us about the types of grapes grown and how their red wine was their most sought after wine.  Every one was given a tasting of the wine.  Lucky David and Keith, as neither Lil or myself drink red, but of course we wet our lips. A delicious sit down lunch in their restaurant goes down well.  The venue has been voted one of the most romantic and exotic venues in the greater Auckland area. “One of the top ten ‘must visit’ wineries in the world” The Guardian, UK.


After lunch we visited The Hay Paddock where they specialise in producing cool climate award winning Syrahs and Rangihoua Estate  award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oils.  The host talked to us about the olives and the process of extracting olive oil and showed us the machinery that produces the finished product.  They will also press your own privately grown small batches of olives.  We purchased a couple of bottles of the olive oil to bring home.  Lucky Georgia and Geraldine.


Thirdly we visit Casita Miro, a Spanish influenced treasure on a hill overlooking Onetangi Bay.  Our host, who I think was one of the sons of the owners tells us the story of Miro before we are seated to a very enjoyable wine and nibbles pairing.  Even their white wines were ok paired with complementing nibbles.  We have time to explore the surrounds and the views from a vantage point behind the restaurant. There is a very Spanish feel captured in the mosaic art work around the vineyard. Some still in progress.


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Last of all we visit Mudbrick Vineyard, high on a hill in the Oneroa area at the eastern end of the island.  This vineyard came about from a dream of a couple seeking out an alternative lifestyle from city life.  The setting is a must see and our host lures us with wine in hand, to the top of the hill to view the spectacular sea views, the vines and looking down over the French potager gardens with lavender in full bloom and the mud brick buildings.  Another fine venue for receptions of all kinds.


We have certainly confirmed that the North Island does not grow grapes conducive to the making of white wine.  The soils in the North Island producing better red wine grapes.  Lucky South Island, you win the accolade for whites.

We were transported back to the boat after a great day of eating and drinking. And best of all, none of us had to drive and the sea wasn’ t even rough!


Back in Auckland we head back to our apartment to rest, before thinking about dinner on our last night.  We had looked at Occidental on our first night, but it was bursting to overflowing.  Tonight we’re in luck, as there is one available table.  The menu and beers are very comprehensive. We had a variety-  pie, grilled mussels, gnocchi and steak.  Keith’s mussels looked massive, but they were in half shells and considering our day we all did well. David also had an interesting Belgium Beer!


Across the Ditch

Auckland Day 2

We begin the day with breakfast at Hollywood, close to the Barclay. One can’t go wrong with soft poached eggs, bacon and toast.

Albert Park is in easy walking distance from our apartment. The huge park is on the hillside beside the city. There is an abundance of huge old trees, expansive lawns, flower beds and the odd homeless or tree house person. We have a lovely peaceful morning exploring the park, wandering through the edge of the Uni grounds where we find Roxy’s Doppelgänger.  Over the other side of hill park is Old Government House, but it eluded us.  Situated across the road is the old High / Supreme Courts, where old meets modern architecture.

We hop on a local bus to do the suburban route to Ponsenby Road where there are many eateries, markets and shops.  We end up locating the Vodka Room, not far off Ponsenby Road, for a well earned rest of our legs, drink and an obligatory visit to their opulent bathrooms. An interesting venue, mostly made up of converted shipping containers.


The bus stop was just around the corner, so we complete the circuit, alighting near the wharf to book for Waiheke Island.  After some discussion we book the return boat trip, Island tour, lunch, wineries, and olive grove tour.  Keith didn’t feel comfortable enough to zip line. Anyway that tour left early and was going to blow out our budget, not that it has worried us on previous trips.

Dinner tonight was at Vue Restaurant at the Grand Mercure. The restaurant has a great top floor aspect with views over Auckland harbour.  Thanks to Lil and Keith who were able to put their ACCOR Club memberships to good use.


Across the Ditch

30 October, 2017 – Small People

Today we leave Hamilton and head east to Matamata and all things Hobbity.  We’re all excited about touring one of the filming sites of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies.


Sir Peter Jackson, the Director of the movies and the farmer Mr Alexander who owns the 1250h sheep and cattle farm have collaborated to keep the Hobbiton Shire set, the home to Frodo, Sam and Bilbo, as it was depicted in the movies.


We’re loaded into the bus, along with a guide, and cross the road, through a gate and onto the farmers property. Up hill and down dale we pass bewildered, grazing sheep and cattle, to the perfect site for a Shire.  In amazement, we walk through the living movie set. The Shire Green with its maypole, the Water, the Green Dragon Inn where we receive refreshments, the Mill, the orchard, vegetable garden and most of the 39 Hobbit Holes. Some of the Hobbit Holes even have smoke oozing out of their chimneys. There is also the man made (we were fooled) huge tree at the top of Bag End.  We can’t get over the detail, something Sir Peter Jackson is renowned for.  Amazing!!!!





The bus delivers us back to the gift shop and Shires Rest.  Lil browses the shop up and down, looking for Hobbit feet, to no avail. She wanted to walk down the stairs at Canberra Airport to see the looks on the grandkids faces. David and I find Elf ears, that we bring home for the dress up box. We have lunch while reflecting on our morning tour. You can even have Elevensies or Second Breakfast at the Cafe.  I retrieve my sun hat that had been left in the Cafe prior to the tour, we finish off in the gift shop and then head for Auckland.


Here is Noah the Xmas Elf.


The 2 hour drive to Auckland goes quite smoothly until we’re within spitting distance from our apartment at The Barclay, when the GPS becomes useless because of road works.  We can see the Barclay, and make a few circuits to figure out our best approach.  Touchdown!  The apartment is on the top (25th) floor, with great views and just up the hill from Queen Street, the middle of town.  It’s rather small, even though it has 2 bedrooms, full kitchen and dining table, laundry facilities, 2 bathrooms and a living room. It’s fine for a few days. Bags dropped off for Lil and I settle in while Keith and David return the car to the rental company.


Iwi Maori people had inhabited the area around Auckland since 1350, but over the years had retreated to the hills because of intertribal fighting. This resulted in relatively low numbers of Māori in the area when European settlement of Auckland began in the late 1830’s.  After the signing of the Waitangi Treaty in 1840 the land that Auckland was established on was given to the Governor by a local Iwi,  Ngati Whatura as a sign of goodwill. The hope was that the building of a city would attract opportunities for the Iwi.

25 years later (1865) Wellington became the administrative capital of NZ because of it’s proximity to the South Island.  In 2017, Auckland had a population of over 1.5 million, a third of NZs population compared to Wellington with a population of 417,000.  In 1986, the NZ government’s immigration policy changed and began allowing immigrants from Asia. By 2006, the Asian population in the city centre of Auckland was 36.2%.  There is no wonder the cultural mix is greater in Auckland and it’s very obvious when one walks along Queen Street. Along with other ethnic groups, it contributes the Auckland’s multicultural zest. It may not have an Uncle Tetsus if immigration policies hadn’t changed!

Even though it has been a long day, there’s always energy for shopping. A visit to Smith and Caugheys for Lil to prop up the NZ fashion industry by way of a classy casual Paula Ryan dress.

We’re all a little weary this evening, but are really interested to seek out De Brett’s hotel for a drink.  Photos I had seen before leaving Oz had intrigued me.  Mission accomplished , we wander up the street and notice Occidental Belgium Beer Restaurant, but it’s bulging at the seams. Then our attention is drawn to the NYC style Al’s Deli-Diner, but it didn’t come anywhere near close to any Deli we had experienced in the USA.  The worst meal of the trip! There has to be one, but it’s not like we don’t eat well every day.


We head back towards our apartment when we see a huge line outside Uncle Tetsu’s. Lil had read about their cheesecake and we had noticed the line earlier.  So Lil and I join the queue while David and Keith sit to wait for us. After 30+ minutes, the guys had had enough and returned to the apartment. It only took us an hour of waiting to get hold of one of these featherlight cheesecakes that have become an icon and must have in Auckland.  What a process, we watched it all from mixture to cooked boxed item! We reach the window where the sign says 1 only per person.  Off we go to the apartment, with our Japanese treasure to sample with coffee. Light as a feather and delicious.


What a fantastic day!

Across the Ditch

29 October, 2017 – Garden Varieties

We have a light breakfast at the hotel this morning and find a very interesting brand of appliance for cooking toast, not sewing your curtains!

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Hamilton gardens is our adventure this morning.  We head off knowing the ground will be sodden from the heavy rain the previous day, and asking Lil to rub her Child of Prague medal for good weather, as it did look a little dicey.  We’re anticipating the roses will present a great show, in full bloom.  Although many roses were in bloom, there were thousands of buds waiting to burst open.


The rhododendrons where done and had been battered badly by the heavy rain.  Taupo Lodge had a much better and very beautiful display of them and azaleas, but it’s further south.  See below.  Their roses weren’t blooming and only in bud.


The complexity of Hamilton Gardens is very diverse in styles, lawn scapes and vegetation and is situated on a site that has evolved from a bleak landscape.  40 years ago it was a sand quarry, then a Victorian Rifle Range to a local refuse tip site.  The expansive lawns and gardens are flanked on two sides by the Waikato River and cover 54 hectares. There are 5 garden collections with 21 themed gardens with work in progress to grow and improve the area.  Just some of the themed gardens are Chinese, English, Japanese, Italian, Maori, Herb, Sustainable Backyard, Kitchen, Tudor, Chinoiserie (European Fantasy), Tropical ……   Leg weary, we have lunch at the Garden’s Cafe and head back to the car via Turtle Lake.



Zealong Tea is short drive from Hamilton, so we go for a look see.  The plantation began in 1996 when Vincent Chen was inspired by camellias growing so well in the Waikato area.  He began the plantation with 130 cutting out of 1,500 imported tea cuttings. These were the only ones to survive importation and a long time in quarantine by the NZ’s Ministry of Agriculture.  There are now about 1 million lush plants over 40 hectares.


The tea production through time is interestingly depicted by sculptures alongside the  pathway to the Tea House restaurant.  Unfortunately the Tea House wasn’t very receptive of us for only Tea or Coffee.  With our tails between our legs, we head back towards the car park, detouring to browse their retail shop.


In retrospect maybe we should have driven to Te Awamutu, even though it would have been a longer drive.  I had looked up the Rose Garden there, but wasn’t impressed. As David’s been doing all the driving, it wasn’t his first choice to drive further, knowing he had two long drives ahead of him the next day.

Tonight we go for Malaysian Street Food at the upmarket Madam Woo’s. Another very nice restaurant overlooking the Waikato River.  The food brought back memories of Penang to us. There was a delicious dessert we had not seen in Malaysia, a deep fried roti doughnut with kaffir lime and ginger icecream! Yum!



Across the Ditch

28 October 2017 – Acacia Bay to Rotorua to Hamilton

We wake up to our amazing view and 30 minutes prior to breakfast, music is piped to our rooms.  We are greeted in the main house by Gary and seated at the beautiful, round, polished table that looks out over the gardens.  Chris the chef greets us to explain the breakfast and take our selection of hot dishes from the menu. The table is adorned with choices of cereal, including delicious house made toasted muesli, pastries and muffins. The counter beside the table has various juices.



The breakfast crockery looks familiar Lil!  Breakfast and all the trimmings was a delight.  On a downside yesterday afternoon, Lil had quietly mentioned to Chris that the cleaners hadn’t removed a bin from the bathroom that had had cigarette butts emptied into it.  Shame on the cleaners!  Prior to breakfast, Gary gave a sincere apology regarding the bin and said the cleaner responsible would get a severe reprimand!

We drag ourselves away from the luxury that has also been enjoyed by many worldwide celebrities and notable persons.  Gary was full of stories about previous guests and his passions of sailing and fishing.  He proudly lets us know the canapés were made from trout he had caught and smoked.  He even gave us a tub of the smoked trout pate to take with us. Maybe it was a softener re the stinking bin!


We leave Acacia Bay and head towards Rotorua as it begins to rain.  Considering the long term forecast was, rain, rain and more rain, we have been dodging it consistently.   Before we reach Rotorua we’re on the lookout for the intersection in the road with a hotel and a servo on the left and a road turning off to the right, that the Captain of river cruise had mentioned to us. He said it is one of the best sites for geothermal action and it’s free!  We take the turn and a short distance off the highway we find Waiotapu Geothermal.  Armed with umbrellas we view truly excellent examples of floating to gushing steam and hot bubbling, splopping muddy puddles.



Rotorua is not far down the highway and it’s still raining, but we’re just in time to take the tour of TePua and the Pohutu Geyser. Our young Maori guide is very knowledgeable of Rotorua’s history and the geothermal activity in the area. He also talks to us about Maori culture (he even speaks Maori) as he guides us to bubbling hot mud pools and the steaming hot geyser that erupts at very regular intervals. The water/steam exploding into the atmosphere is very hot and cools down as it runs down the rocky cliff to the rather cold stream below.  Because of the rain and cooler air the steam makes it very hard to clearly define the geyser.


We’re also taken into a dark kiwi enclosure to see the nocturnal flightless birds, but they’re too busy housekeeping to appear from their keeps.

Our excellent guide let’s us know that some of our entry fee helps fund the teaching of traditional Maori carving and handcrafts to the younger generation of Maori. He bids us farewell as we visit the craft and carving rooms where Maori people are working on projects and learning traditional skills.



Different to our previous visit to Rotorua, the smell of sulphur in the air is not too bad due to the annoying rain, that put a dampener on investigating Rotorua further. We notice the Gondola running up Mt Ngongotaha, but that didn’t look very interesting when there wouldn’t be any view through rain at the top and the luge on the way down would be rather damp.

Lil had been told about the blue and green lakes near Rotorua, so we set the GPS to find them and we did.  We run up the stairs in the rain to the lookout, take photos and leave.  On a sunny day, it would be glorious and the lakes are respectively blue and green.





En route to Hamilton we stop to stretch our legs at Cambridge ‘the town of trees and champions’ with its leafy streets, heritage buildings, anitque shops. It is all very quiet   on a Saturday afternoon, but we do find a nice coffee shop to cater for our addiction.   The Cambridge area is the capital for horse breeding and training.


It’s still raining as we arrive in Hamilton.  After settling in, we pop over to the local Countdown (Woolworths), grab a trundler and collect a few items to enjoy with our pre dinner drinks, the smoked trout pate and cheese.  Also purchased were Ben’s fave Pineapple Lumps, not the previously purchased Aussie version Pineapple Chunks.


We had pre booked the Gothenburg restaurant for dinner as it was a Saturday night and it was a short stroll from our hotel.  The rain had eased, but after much debate we set off armed with umbrellas to keep the rain at bay.  The modern restaurant overlooked the Waikato River, yes the same river that flows out of Lake Taupo.


Across the Ditch

27 October, 2017 – Lake Taupo

This morning we sought out Spoon and Paddle, suggested by the woman at the Information Centre. It’s a converted local house on the edge of town and quite unique to Taupo township, serving up healthy and delicious breakfasts and brunch and not bad coffee!

On our way back, we make a detour up the hill across the road from our hotel. The view towards the lake with a distant backdrop of snow capped mountains looks amazing.  Only problem when I take a photo, a cloud shrouds the highest snow cap. Dam! Lil captured a beautiful photo that I will ask her to send to me.


The pre organised check in time at Taupo Lodge is 12 noon and we make plans accordingly and book a cruise on the lake for early afternoon. With time to spare, we  go for a land viewing of the Huka Falls, to look down in awe to where we were yesterday and see the intensity of the water and surrounds.


Acacia Bay and Taupo Lodge, here we come, but there is time for an all important coffee break when we see an Arts Cafe sign on the way up the hill near the Lodge, so we’re on our way! The Cafe is surrounded by a beautiful art installation garden and a working Artists studio.  While sitting back, enjoying our coffee David receives a call from Gary, the owner of the Taupo Lodge, advising us they’re not ready for our check in, but are happy for us to drop off bags.

Taupo Lodge is loosely inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright design.  It sits discreetly on a couple of acres of gardens on the side of the hill on Acacia Bay overlooking Lake Taupo.  Bags dropped off and introductions done, we will return in time for canapés and drinks!


We make our way to the mouth of the Waikato River to connect with Chris Jolly Cruises on Lake Taupo. A very pleasant way to spend an afternoon with a mixed bag of interesting activities e.g. feeding fly past duck, fishing for trout and an up close viewing of enormous Maori carvings at Mine Bay.  The Maori rock carvings are over 10m high and accessible only by boat or kayak. They were sculptured over a four year period and completed in 1980. Carver Matahi Brightwell led a team of 4 artists to create the spectacular carving of his ancestor Ngateroirangi. There are also other interesting rock carvings to the side of the major piece of work.

Not long after our return to the Lodge, Chris the Chef knocks on our door to check what time we’d like canapés and our choice of wine.  With an hour or so up our sleeves, we use the time to look and photograph the beautifully maintained gardens. We freshen up and voila! Chris delivers the canapés and wine to our balcony. What a pleasurable experience.  Chris asks what time would suit us for breakfast and advises it will be served in the main house at the table in the bay window.

Later, we head off to town to the lakeside Dixie Brown’s for dinner. A larger than expected restaurant, a little down market from dinner the previous night, but very enjoyable, attentive wait staff and a massive choice of dishes.

A great day enjoyed by all, we retire to our respective Frank and Lloyd rooms. Wright was unoccupied, along with the other 3 available rooms, so literally we had this prestigious lodge to ourselves. Life is great!

Across the Ditch

October, Lil and Keith’s Wedding Anniversary

Best wishes Lil and Keith, and happy wedding anniversary. We present them with a bottle of bubbles, we picked up from our winery visits yesterday.


We have a celebratory breakfast at Mister D, an upmarket modern eatery, not far from our hotel. The restaurant was created about four years by two Hawkes Bay couples who shared a vision and passion to serve fresh local produce as they would like to eat. All the bread and pastries are cooked in house. The food was delicious. Waffles and poached fruit, black sausage and eggs, baked eggs and avocado with dukkah and poached egg.




Fueled up, we grab our bags and a couple of kiwi fruit from the fruit bowl at reception, check out of the County Inn, pack the car and head off on the 2 hr drive to Taupo. Along the way, we pass more green mountainous hills and valleys, numerous pine forests, dairy cows and grazing sheep that must be related to mountain goats.

From an elevated position the huge Lake Taupo comes into view and we know the general direction to our waterfront accommodation, as it’s next door to our accommodation of 2 years ago. On our last visit to Taupo we unsuccessfully sought out accommodation at the Millennium, so stayed next door in what looked quite down market but shared all the Millennium’s facilities. The lakeside room was on par, but this time the bathroom much better!


After settling, we drive a short distance to town, spot the Information Centre and book a Huka Falls River cruise.  We have a quick lunch at Victoria’s Kitchen and head off to meet up with the Huka Falls River Cruise up the Waikato River.


The Waikato River flows out of Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is in the caldera of the Taupo volcano and has a surface area of 616 sq klms, is 186m deep and a circumference of 193 klms. It’s the largest lake by surface area in NZ.

The cruise is very enjoyable. The crystal clear water is home to much birdlife, natural hot streams and fish of course.  We saw swans with cygnets in tow and David even saw a large brown trout.  The conditions are so good for breeding swans, that they have become a problem to farmers, eating their crops. This has unfortunately brought about a short culling season. We saw a large number of swans grazing in the paddocks along the riverbank. Before we sight the Huka Falls we pass by the sustainable Wairakei Geothermal Power Station. A great use of the geothermal action in the area.


We hear the water thundering as we approach the Falls, where enough water comes over the fall in 4 seconds to fill an Olympic swimming pool.  The boat does numerous 360 degree turns in the surging, foaming turbulent water at the base of the fall for all to get up close and personal with the spray and for photo shoots. Very exciting and exhilarating. The commentary was very informative and we noted some tips for later. The captain of the boat mentioned we had some thermal action right near our hotel on the edge of Lake Taupo and the best views of bubbling mud was on our way to Rotorua and it was free.

We arrive back in time to catch the 4pm opening of the spillway of the dam, exploding water over the Aratiatia Rapids. There is a convenient bridge in the roadway situated perfectly to view the dam spillway on one side of the bridge and the water swelling up and raging over the rapids.


On our way back to the hotel we see the sign on our right to Craters of the Moon and decide to check out some thermal action. There are other numerous geothermal activities in the Taupo area, but this is probably the most compact, close, easy access and least time consuming. We turn off the highway only a couple of klms north of Taupo, past the Thermal pools and the labyrinth of pipes directing steam to the power station to the 45 minute boardwalk, Craters of the Moon. It is an active geothermal field of steam vents that have obviously shifted, giving the field that other worldly appearance. The boardwalk and viewing platforms take one safely close enough to bubbling Craters, colourful soils and plants that have adapted to the hot steamy smelly environment.



Back at the hotel, Lil and I head off to seek out the steam vents the Captain of the boat mentioned and sure enough there they were in a few places on the waterfront.


Bubbles are opened outside our lakeside hotel rooms and we toast Lil and Keith and enjoy the vastness of the lake, before we head of to a celebratory dinner at The Bistro restaurant. Cheers to Lil and Keith!

We were greeted at the restaurant by a waiter who said we were late, whoops (not a good start), but there must have been crossed wires, as we were only 5 minutes later than our booked time (even though we had a senior moment finding the restaurant) and the restaurant wasn’t anywhere near full. Dinner choices were fairly limited, but fantastic and very well presented, as you can see from the photos.


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October, 26

This morning we decide to do a load of washing at the convenient Laundromat 2 doors from the hotel. While the washing is doing its thing, we cross the road to have breakfast before the clothes need to go in the dryer. Chores done we decide to climb the bluff directly beside the city of Napier, because wineries would not be open for tastings until at least 10am.  We followed the sign to the lookout, but only later realised it was the long motor vehicle way.  At the top of the bluff we noticed a path that almost directly went from the top of the hill to the front door of the hotel. The majority of the homes are built out of wood and have spectacular views over Napier and Hawke’s Bay. It was such a beautiful day and the strenuous exercise did us good.

Off we go to visit a few of the many wineries in the Hawke’s Bay Area. The Hotel receptionist had given us a map of all the local wineries and made some suggestion of where to visit and which way to go.  We had also noted a few wineries we wanted to visit. Many of the wineries also produce olive oil.  We visited, Elephant Hill, Clearwater Estate,  Vidal Estate where we also enjoyed a couple of platters for lunch, Mission Estate and Church Road Winery where they both have large grounds where they hold concerts. Not all of the wines were suited to all of us, but we all enjoyed many of the tastings.

We dined at the Masonic Art Deco Emporium where we all enjoyed our dinner after a glorious day.

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October 24 and 25, 2017

Quite early, prior to Lil and Kerry finishing breakfast, Keith and David leave Novotel, in an Uber, to collect the rental car from the depot near Wellington airport. Lil and I knew the Uber driver would have no trouble getting the guys to the car, but we weren’t sure if the passage back to the hotel would be as straightforward.  All good as they arrived very shortly after Lil and I moved all the luggage to the hotel foyer. Goodbye windy Wellington!



Off we go to Napier with a coffee break along the way at We had found most of Wellington coffee a little bitter, except for Mojo. The scenery is very very green and mountainous, with  a spattering of sheep and many cows. Far more cows in north island NZ than south  island and vice versa re sheep.


As a we  drive towards Napier and  the sea, the landscape changes from mountainous green hills  to  low lying  land adorned with grapevines. Driving through suburbia we head towards Napier town and locate our accommodation, The County Hotel. Many of the buildings in Napier are Art Deco Design, because the city was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake and subsequent fire that destroyed the city in 1931.

The County Hotel building was originally constructed in 1909 for the Hawke’s Bay County. It survived the earthquake and the County Council Administration remained there until 1987 when they required larger premises and moved to Hastings.

During 1993 restoration began with the aim to return the building to its’ former glory and transform it into a hotel of character, distinction and charm. Original Edwardian Gothic features with Art Deco influences were lovingly preserved, including high ceilings, wood panelling and fine detailing. The old Council building transformed into a boutique hotel and restaurant. The owners have decorated in Art Deco style.





After checking in, we collect  a self guided walking tour from the Art Deco Centre that was the former Kinross White building, designed by Louis Hay who included Frank Wright design ideas to many of his Art Deco Design builds. Prior to walking past some of the 70+ Art Deco buildings, we pay  a visit to the MTG Hawke’s  Bay to listen to a short film made in early 2000 about the Hawke’s Bay earthquake ‘Survivor Stories’. A very heartfelt film that helps lay a foundation for understanding the Hawke’s Bay Area and the rebuild of Napier after such devastation.


The walking tour takes us to the waterfront where much of the rubble from the earthquake and subsequent fire was buried,  to all  over the rebuilt town of  Napier. Of course we popped in and out of shops along the way. For a relatively small population, Napier is blessed with a few nice boutiques selling NZ made clothing. Purchases were make, including eagle eye Lil spotting a sale leather and cloth jacket. I’d been looking for a modern leather jacket for some years, but hadn’t to date found the right fit for the right price, considering the climate on the Gold Coast, for 10 mths of the year doesn’t require a coat. There was even a shop dedicated to the possum! Every use possible for the humble possum pelt and its fur – slippers, wool, gloves, socks and garments of all descriptions. There were even recreated scenes of possum habitats and gruesome trapping, using taxidermy and specimen jars of preserved possum babies.



It was late afternoon by the time we had almost completed the circuit of Art Deco buildings and as we enter the home stretch, we notice an inviting wine bar up a lane where there was a huge sign ‘Who Shot the Barman’.  Of course this caught our curiosity and our thirst.  The bar was not Art Deco, but of a lovely modern design and not named Who Shot the Barman. It’s actual name was Monica Love.  The sign was originally made for behind the bar, but it didn’t fit.  It was a notable phrase the owner used when at the bar when a Barman was not visible!  The Barman was visible, very friendly and the drinks enjoyable after a long drive from Wellington and a walk around Napier.



Dinner was at Wine Street Restaurant at the County Hotel.  A lovely dining room, but not a great dinner experience.  Three of us had chicken breast stuffed with Brie, and our mouths were watering in anticipation, only to be let down. The Brie was no where to be found and the breast was dry! Desserts on the other hand were delicious.    Negative thoughts of dinner were soon forgotten with a Port from the library of the hotel, just outside our rooms.