Free things – Napier/Hastings/Havelock North

I’m going to jump right into this one:

  1. Art Deco Weekend – usually in February, this event has so many free ‘must do’s’ I don’t even know where to start
  2. Marine Parade 
  3. You can’t beat Te Mata Peak on a fine days for views over the Hawkes Bay
  4. Hastings Farmers Market is held every Sunday and is simply amazing. 
  5. Visit the Tom Parker Fountain (on the Marine Parade) after dark.
  6.  

    Balls Clearing – Patoka – Pack a picnic, drive out into the countryside and enjoy this podocarp forest

  7. Botanical gardens
  8. Bluff hill look out has awesome views try to be here for sunrise or sunset
  9. Bluff hill cemetery – possibly a little morbid but a brilliant historical cemetery  
  10. Ahuriri Estuary – a brilliant walk for bird watching. Recommend going at low tide so you can take in the southern side of the estuary too
  11. On the Marine Parade you also have the Sound Shell, the Sunken Gardens and the clock tower as well as the paved path to walk along the beach
  12. Napier has an Urban Street Market on Saturdays
  13. Both Napier and Hastings have a large number of Art Deco and Art Nouveaux style buildings (You can buy a map of these from the I-site on the Marine Parade or with a little research plan your own route for free) 

Bonus: Drive out to Puketitiri and into the Kaweka Ranges and enjoy a soak in the Mohaka hot springs (*technically not within my definitions but as Napier is the closest town I’m breaking the rules)

I feel like I’ve left out something important. Any suggestions, feel free to comment…

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Photo of the day - Tutaekuri River Sunset

Packing up, getting ready to move, makes me remember how much I miss the first place I called home.

White Pine Bush

White Pine Bush is located at Tangoio, 30kms (approx 20min drive) north of Napier on SH2 as you travel towards Wairoa. One of the first reserves set up in the area, the 19 hectares of remnant lowland podocarp forest features dominant Kahikatea stands and a grove of Nikau Palms you see today have survived centuries of land clearance.

Fire was used by the Maori (pre-european settlement) of the region to flush out prey and open up land for crops and settlement. Post European settlement the land clearance continued to make way for farm and pine/exotic forest plantation.

Kahikatea, a species only found in New Zealand, were known as “White Pine” until the mid 1900’s. They are a ‘swamp’ forest species and grow up to 60 meters and up to 2 meters across. Only about 2% of Kahikatea forest is thought to remain. This stand boasts some up to 800 years old.

Ongaonga (a giant stinging nettle that grows up to 3 meters!) is the exclusive food of the caterpillar of the red admiral butterfly. Watch out for them while completing this walk as a bad sting can be extremely painful and cause dizziness for up to three days.

We arrive about 9am on this overcast Friday morning. I’m less than impressed with the weather. The east coast is known for its lovely sunny climate but we get chill overcast fogginess and I pull on a jacket to cut out the wind.

There are two main walking tracks, a 30 minute loop with another loop taking the walk to 1 hour. The 30 minute loop is described as ‘sealed’ which is most certainly is not, however it does appear to be suitable for wheelchair access (although this could get muddy when wet), while both tracks are suitable for most ability levels.

The walk is easy and the path is fairly well kept though a few parts were more overgrown than I’m used to seeing. A lot of the 30 minute track is on boardwalks and there are picnic tables under the trees in a clearing at about the midpoint. This is also where the second track loops in from. The paths are well signposted with lots of information regarding the native plants and birds in the area, a quick history of the reserve and geological information.

The track follows and crosses a small freshwater stream where we spent a couple of minutes unsuccessfully trying to spot some eels. We did have a kereru (New Zealand Native Pigeon) fly overhead and land on a branch quite close by and watch us wander past.

From the car park there appears to be usual access to bathroom facilities however this was closed due to low water levels during our visit (Hawkes Bay, Eastland and much of New Zealand was in drought conditions). Please also note that dogs and mountain bikes are not allowed.

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Escaping

Four days ago I ran away. In the best sense possible. Packed up the car with a loose idea of a plan and drove with an idea that I’d like my first stop to be Napier.

This is a cunning plan. The Napier-Taupo road is one of my favourite roads. There are enough windy, interesting bits to keep me happy and arriving in Napier is like coming home. The bach where I stay when I want to “get away from it all” is a rudimentary little place about 45 minutes drive from the city. Only just having electricity, basic cooking facilities and a shower that is ‘interesting’ at best is compensated by room to roam and no cell phone coverage or wifi access. Its peaceful, quiet and I can actually relax without the world catching up with me. 

Then there is Napier city. Full of ramshackle Art Deco buildings, boutique shops and a coastline that would make anyone envious. On the impossible hunt for a pair of perfect shoes I covered Hastings and Napier (to no avail) and then recovered my senses going for a walk along the beach front at Ahuriri.

Seriously there is nothing better than an ice-cream too big to eat dripping down your fingers while you walk along the board walk looking out across the ocean while absolutely basking in the summer sun. 

A wander along the marine parade is another must do while visiting Napier and a great break from shopping. Visit the fountain, the statue of Pania as she looks out to the reef and walk through the gardens to the sound shell. There is also the Ocean Spa and the aquarium to visit. 

I didn’t dine out on this trip but I highly recommend “Off the Track” in Havelock North if you’re looking for a yummy dinner.

Mission – Homage to the Great BBQ at Trinity Hill

ImageRaymond Van Rijk is a genius. I first stumbled across this talented Dutch specimen at an A & P Show in Hastings, New Zealand. I brought a gorgeous mix of spices off him which if were mixed with olive oil and water made the yummiest bread dip I’ve stumbled across. Unfortunately he doesn’t make it any more, a sore point I brought up with him when I attended his BBQ class at Trinity Hill Winery as part of F.A.W.C, Hawkes Bay.

My motives for attending were definitely suspect. I eat a fair amount of game meat and in all honestly, I was in it for the lunch. That Trinity Hill’s wine maker, John Hancock was also going to be matching wines for the event was a huge bonus. More than 35 years wine making experience in New Zealand, Australia and France as well as a chardonnay that was awarded best in the world by the 1997 Wine Magazine’s International Wine Challenge, John has some significant achievements within the industry.

Raymond Van Rijk takes the humble BBQ to the next level. He encourages getting the basics right while endorsing the use of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables and the best equipment. Sally Haslett from Woodburn Venison attended, contrasting Raymond’s ‘bloke about the BBQ’ with a womanly touch. Meanwhile John was more than happy to raid the cellar (so to speak) to supply Trinity Hill Syrah, Tempranillo, and a Nobel Voignier to compliment our meal. The Trinity Hill 2009 Gimblett Gravels Nobel Voignier was so good I brought a bottle or two to enjoy later.

As well as sampling a few great Trinity Hill wines, I ate venison (farmed, not wild), alpaca and portobello mushrooms (a great vegetarian option).

This event was amazing. I came away with a huge respect for the humble BBQ as well as more than a few new tricks to try. 

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Mission – Winemaker for a day

Church Road Winery – Tom McDonald Cellar

I really don’t think it gets better than this. A gorgeous Friday afternoon in Napier, New Zealand where I’m attending a foodie weekend and I’m learning from Chris Scott how to make a perfectly blended red wine at Church Road winery’s Tom McDonald Cellar.

“All the best wines I try, stand out from their peers because of their texture and structure, aroma and flavour alone is not enough, and this has become a focus in my wine making” Chris Scott, Church Road Senior Winemaker. Chris Scott is intense, passionate about his wines and his mission to see a New Zealand wine establish a new global benchmark.

In the impressive Tom McDonald cellar, I am one of a small group, eight of us in total, here to learn about blending the best red wine from one of the best in the business. Chris is quietly spoken, taking us through Bordeaux blend red wine and mentioning how he sees a Hawkes Bay blend red wine evolving. The similarities and differences of the location, climate, soils and varieties are discussed before clarifying some wine terminology and a brief outline of the varieties of red wine types.

The Hawkes Bay Blend is discussed as containing Syrah as well as the more traditional Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We are given a fleshy Church Road Syrah with a strong spicy, peppery aroma to try and my team decide to use this to compliment the Merlot with a edging of Cabernet Sauvignon. The winning team uses the Syrah as a base.

The experience is a humbling one. I suspect, in ten years time, I will look back on my foray into blending and think to myself “Wow. How lucky was I.”

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