Meetings ended, vacation begins! A circle of the lower half of the north island: Wellington to Napier, Taupo, Whanganui, and back to Wellington.
Day 1 – Wellington
We started the day by taking the cable car from the city centre – a 2-minute walk from our hotel (well it would have been, if we had headed in the right direction to start with) – to get a panoramic view of the city and the harbour, and see the Botanic Gardens and the Carter Observatory.
Wellington was embracing the Christmas spirit by closing Lambton Quay to traffic – all sorts of merriment.
Best dinner in Wellington: The Boulcott Street Bistro
Day 2 – Wellington to Napier
First stop – pick up the car, and focus my brain on driving on the left – the right, er, correct – side of the road. Easier said than done. No worries – we were soon away, and marvelling at the coastal view.
Day 3 – Napier
Napier is a coastal town in Hawkes Bay on the east side of New Zealand – in north island wine country, but also known for its Art Deco architecture, as well as wool, apples, pears, and stone fruit. The city was devastated in 1931 by the Hawkes Bay earthquake, and rebuilt in Art Deco style. We enjoyed wandering through the streets, although I was disappointed in the number of chain stores, which detracted from the unique atmosphere of the place. Bluff Hill Lookout offered a gorgeous view, and the Church Road Winery was a perfect place for a late lunch after sight-seeing.
Best lunch in (near) Napier: The Church Road Winery
Best dinner in Napier: The Thirsty Whale
Day 4 and 5 – Taupo
Taupo really grabbed us for the thermal parks – Craters of the Moon near Taupo, and Orakei Korako about a 25-minute drive away – a highly active geothermal area and, according to Lonely Planet, the best thermal area left in New Zealand. I can’t speak to that, but I can confirm that it is impressive! We took the ferry across the lake and followed the self-guided tour along the boardwalk that has been built through the area. We passed the famous silica terraces in vibrant shades of pink and orange, we saw active geysers, and my favourite, the boiling mud. Who doesn’t love boiling mud? You can see it bubbling and boiling here. Plus, the walk took us through Hidden Valley and to the Ruatapu Cave.
Day 6 and 7 – Whanganui and back to Wellington
On the west coast is the town of Whanganui, situated at the mouth of the Te Awa o Whanganui – the Whanganui River – the longest navigable river in New Zealand, once known as the ‘Rhine of New Zealand’.
We spent the afternoon exploring the town, and then the next morning headed south again back towards Wellington. Before we left we had breakfast at Mud Ducks Café and then checked out the market by the river.
On the way back to Wellington we stopped at Paraparaumu Beach, and once back in Wellington took a last drive around the point of Maupuia and around Seatown. Alas, all good things must come to an end, or at least change, and so the we said our goodbyes and headed home, to find in Vancouver, at least, snow!
I definitely want to come back to New Zealand – there is so much more to see! For now, the pictures will keep me going.