Friday, January 13, 2012

Where is Hawkes Bay and what else can I do there?

Hawkes Bay is the central east coast of New Zealand's North Island about 262 miles south of Auckland, 192 miles north of Wellington. In between sampling the area's fine wines on the Wine Trail, visiting the one-of-a-kind Wine Centre (see previous  postings at this site) and dining on its wonderful fresh foods (previous post), there are many ways to fill your time with fun.

Tip: Kiwis, adrenaline addicts and dedicated hikers, will suggest you hike (beware of the "It's just a little uphill" or "an easy bit of a walk;" it won't be), fish, kayak, camp, climb or bike. They are a hardy, hospitable bunch and want you to enjoy their country the way they do.

These are stops more our style, Levelers.

Gwavas Gardens.
Gwavas Garden and Homestead
If you've ever dreamed of wandering in a magical woodland garden, this will fill the bill.

Begun in the 1860s by ASG Carlyon and his wife who missed Tregrehan, the family homestead and its gardens in Cornwall, the 20-acre expanse is a wonderland of nature's beauty. Oaks, ash, pines, magnolias are growing into their second century.

Rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias tower over you in a riot of color. Bluebells, daffodils, rare Himalayan lilies and forget-me-nots carry the palette to the ground and in between, roses bloom effusively.

Gwavas Homestead
Phyllida and Stuart Gibson (she's the fifth generation Carlyon) moved into the house in 2008 and now welcome visitors to their garden and overnight guests into three upstairs en suite rooms. The food is grand and the Gibsons are as much fun as they are fascinating, especially when they tour you through the house telling tales from its history.

Tip: The gardens are easy walking with minor elevation changes. The stairs are broad with bannisters and a landing; about as easy as you can get to a second level.

If you're into history there's a Heritage Trail that starts with Gwavas Garden and goes through the Ongaonga  area of central Hawkes Bay.

Napier (Ahuriri in Maori)
Classic Car Art Deco Tour
The Art Deco capital of the world is well worth a day of your time, if not more. You can take a guided walking tour - the historic district is flat - and learn how this town rose from the ashes in two years and how to spot Maori motifs that make the designs unlike those anywhere else.

Entrance, National Tobacco Company.
I loved the classic car art deco tour where we donned boas and headache bands from the '30s, piled into period Packards and began our journey back in time at the National Tobacco Co., an architectural gem of Deco, Art Nouveau and very personal tastes.

You can easily spend an hour or more browsing through the Art Deco Trust building. I wish I'd made time to stop in at Opossum World and the National Aquarium of New Zealand.

See a rugby game at McLean Park and cheer on the local Hawkes Bay Magpies with a hearty "C'mon the Bay!"

This city, slightly larger than Napier, was also devastated by the 1930 earthquake. Its architecture is more Spanish Mission than Art Deco. In addition to the delightful Sunday Farmers' Market (see previous post), hit the horses with the New Zealand Horse of the Year show in March or the races at Hastings Racecourse.

Havelock North
Its suburb, Havelock North, is a small boutique and food town with neat shops and a great food market. Don't miss the public toilets in the town center park.

The Maori hongi.
By all means experience Maori culture with a Waimarama Maori tour to Hakikino (see previous post on this site).

No shortage of sheep anywhere in New Zealand.

Wool World at Clifton Station, Te Awanga, is another spot I missed but by all reports it's a fascinating exposure to a historic, 2,000-acre sheep station.

Nesting gannet

Go to the birds with Gannet Safaris. Even if you don't give a flip about the winged ones, it's quite an experience and the views of Cape Kidnappers are spectacular (see 12/30/2011 post on this site).
View from the gannet colony.

Where to stay 

Hawkes Bay Tourism

I visited Hawkes Bay with a small group of Society of American Travel Writers members and Hawkes Bay Tourism  selected where we would stay.

However, I was pleased with them all. You will find most rooms, sometimes even in fine hotels, come with efficiency kitchens. Kiwis are big do-it-yourselfers and love to travel so they often cut corners where they can. It comes in handy for us Yanks too.

In Napier, I can recommend The Crown Hotel Napier overlooking the waterfront in Ahuriri. The room was large, handsomely furnished and scrupulously clean. I also stayed at Quest Apartments in downtown, which I can also recommend; four-star rooms in a historic 1919 Spanish Mission style building.

View from The Dome.
However, I fell in love with the luxe condo-style units in the Dome Penthouse Apartments. You'll love the ocean view overlooking the Marine Parade and it is the downtown location.

The Farm at Cape kidnappers.
If your pockets are deep, treat yourself to a stay at the spectacularly sited The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Te Awanga, one of New Zealands most honored luxury lodges. Trust me, you won't want to leave.

Tip: Levelers, to avoid stairs, ask for accommodations close to the lodge.

I don't know if I've convinced you to go to Hawkes Bay but I've convinced myself to return.


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