First New Zealand Roadtrip
Written by Cathy Siegismund
Having been in New Zealand for a couple of months, we decided it was time to
take our new car out for some exploration of the North Island. We decided to
meet Drew and Vernita in Napier. Napier is a small town in the Hawke's Bay area,
wine country on the North Island.
Map of North Island and our Roadtrip route
We got a late start leaving Auckland, so we decided to make our first stop in
Tauranga. Tauranga is a small coastal town on the east coast. It has a nice
marina and boat yard. A number of cruising boats choose to spend the summer at
the marina in Tauranga and have boat repairs made there. We arrived in Tauranga
in the early evening, and wandered around the marina. We saw a number of
familiar boats we had met on our way across the Pacific both in the marina and on the hard
and on the hard.
The Strand in Tauranga
Our friends Sue and Brian on Nepenthe were onboard their boat. We hadn't seen
them since Tahiti, so it was a real treat to sit in their cockpit and catch up
over a few beers.
After dinner in town, we went to look for an inexpensive hotel for the night.
We stopped at a small motel, where we were checked in by an elderly woman
wearing her bathrobe. We didn't have very high expectations for the motel, which
only cost $85 Kiwi/night - is less than $40 USD/night.
We were, however, pleasantly surprised by a 2 bedroom room complete with a
kitchenette, Sky-TV (Kiwi cable TV), and a huge Jacuzzi tub. You don't get a
chance to relax in a tub very often while living on a boat, so the next morning,
I decided to treat myself to a luxuriously long bath, complete with a facial
mask and my novel. I filled the enormous tub using all of the bubble bath
provided by the hotel in a small glass jar. I had a few bubbles after I filled
the tub, but once I turned on the jets it looked like I was going to fill the
whole bathroom with bubbles.
Cath taking advantage of the Jacuzzi
The next day we set off for Napier. Outside of the largest cities in New
Zealand, there aren't any freeways. The roads are in good shape, but are mostly
lane roads with the occasional passing lane. With that said, you drive through
all sorts of beautiful country and small towns.
Kiwi Country - a local attraction in the farm country
We decided to go through Rotorua on the way to Napier. Rotorua is inland and
a popular vacation spot for North Islanders. It is best known for the
surrounding thermal pools and geysers and its large Maori (the indigenous
Polynesian inhabitants of New Zealand) population including several cultural and
We made a short stop in Rotorua to check out the town, stop in tourist
information and on the way out of town we stopped at a Maori cultural center.
They have built a traditional Maori village where they have tours and presentations
about Maori life and culture. We didn't have time for a tour, but we wandered
around the village and bought some souvenirs.
Maori Cultural Centre
After leaving Rotorua, we made one more stop in Lake Taupo before continuing
on to Napier. Lake Taupo is a huge lake that was created by a volcanic
eruption several thousand years ago. The view is stunning around Taupo with the
enormous lake surrounded by volcanic mountains. Lake Taupo and the town reminded
Ken and I very much of Lake Chelan in Eastern Washington. The towns are a similar size and a popular
weekend vacation spot and lake playground for Aucklanders.
River leading to Huka Falls
After brief stop in Taupo, we continued on to Napier. Napier is a small
town on Hawke's Bay. We arrived in Napier a few hours before Drew and Vernita,
so we went to tourist information and had them find the four of us a hotel. As
it was a holiday weekend, we couldn't find a room downtown, but we did find a
nice hotel over a marina.
View of the marina from our hotel
We had a studio with a sitting room, and the odd configuration of a large Jacuzzi tub in the sitting room.
Drew stretching out in our sitting room tub
We had dinner with Drew and Vernita and planned our wine tour for the
following day. We didn't have any expectations for the wineries, only having
wine tasted in Napa and Sonoma. By comparison, the New Zealand wineries were not
as huge and extravagant, but they were also less crowded and the wines were
quite good and much more reasonably priced. Hawke's Bay is known for its reds, where
the Marlborough area on South Island is known for its whites. Ken and I are red
lovers, so we enjoyed the wineries, and came home with a few bottles.
View of Hawke Bay from a winery
Drew and Vernita at the tasting counter
Vernita is always ready with her camera
Drew, Vernita and Ken at the Bradshaw Winery
Aside from being in the middle of North Island's wine country, Napier is also renowned for its unusual architecture. New Zealand is seismically
active with a history of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. In 1931, the town
of Napier was completely destroyed by an earthquake. The town was completely rebuilt in 1932 and
1933. As this was the height of the Art Deco style of art and architecture, the
entire town was rebuilt in the Art Deco style, and remains so today, down to an
Art Deco, McDonalds.
On our second day of Napier, Vernita and I took a walking tour of the Art
The Dome, a landmark pub in Napier
We drove home in on, rather long day, taking a different route home through
Hamilton. We wanted to be home in time to see the Volvo Ocean Race boats leave
Auckland at the end of the month.