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Posts tagged ‘hawkes bay’

The joy of driving: Welly to Gizzy

Last weekend was spent in Gisborne and I made the 7-ish hour drive on Friday. I love open road touring especially on my own and especially on days when most of the population is at work!

The TomTom took a ride as well and for me the most value in having it was its more accurate speedo – I reckon it saved a few minutes. However it failed for the second time by freezing up repeatedly later in the weekend. It first happened not long after we got it in January and we may have to apply a three strikes policy.

Laybys off SH1 provide clear views across to Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island is conservation land which you can visit though I've not yet organised myself to do this in the 8+ years I've lived down here!

The route taken was up State Highway 1 cutting through back-roads to the outskirts of Palmerston North, through the Manawatu Gorge and onto SH2. Highway 50 in the Hawkes Bay is a brilliant road, long straights and little traffic. Between Napier and Gisborne the road winds more and, provided you don’t come across too many camper vans, trucks or roadworks, is arguably more fun.

The Manawatu Gorge between Palmerston North and Woodville

After the gorge I detoured up to the Te Apiti Wind Farm, the first wind farm in NZ to feed into the national grid

Then there are the times where you come across a vehicle to keep good pace with, or which keeps pace with you (noting that this is not by any means ‘racing’). Rarely do I feel more present and alive than during those periods of driving.

I stopped at a couple of places for photos but passed by many other opportunities. After overtaking traffic the overwhelming temptation is to keep going lest you get stuck behind the same camper van, truck etc again. I especially love the old dilapidated buildings and I often think that I should revisit these rural primary and secondary roads with more time to stop and take photos.

The town of Wairoa, roughly half way between Napier and Gisborne

On the food front: Norsewood is a little settlement with Scandinavian origins just off SH2 in the Tararua region. It has a great little cafe and has become a regular stop on occasion when we’re passing through. I personally recommend their brownie!

Often I like to drive without any aural accompaniment but I did plug in and crank up the ipod for a couple of hours… until my conscience butted in. I have a project management exam in June and had foolishly put some related audio books on my ipod, so subjected myself to a couple of hours of that also.

View from the top of the Wharerata hills looking north to Gisborne

I reached Gisborne late afternoon and made contact with family members in town for the family gathering, which I will describe in the next post.

One fine day in Napier

Our second and final day in the Hawkes Bay was spent in Napier city. Whereas the previous day was mainly about Josh & Flynn having a good time, this day would have stuff for the big kids as well.

Napier was rebuilt in the 1930s after being devastated by a 7.8 earthquake in 1931 and the day after we left was actually the 80th anniversary of the quake. The city was reborn in art deco style and today is recognised internationally as the Art Deco City. This brings in a lot of tourism. It is nice that out of tragic circumstances grew a new identity and economy.

We had a sunny blue sky day so the place was obviously going to put on a good show for us. First we parked on the waterfront and spent a couple of hours in the main shopping district, art deco spotting, browsing in shops, and partaking in the cafe culture.

Just one of Napier's many art deco buildings

Like most NZ cities, Napier was developed on the coast and has a nice waterfront, though its pebbly beach isn’t suitable for swimming. Marine Parade has a string of interesting features, some free like the beachside walkway and gardens, and some not like the aquarium and pools.

Tree on the Napier beachfront

And mini golf. The boys wanted to play immediately upon spying it and we returned after lunch. Mike played as well but I took that opportunity to flee in search of a trip momento to take home. I found an excellent shop run by the Art Deco Trust where a small colourful vase jumped up and cried “BUY ME!”.

Also of note was a shop selling old fashioned sweets which I was drawn into before I knew what was happening. They happened to have the lemon sherbert lollies I discovered in London last year. At that point it seemed a shame to leave empty handed.

I walked past this art deco mural thing

For lunch we drove five minutes further around the waterfront to the seaside village of Ahuriri. It’s often tricky finding meals that suit everyone namely the fussy palate of Mike’s youngest however we found a cafe with good range of cabinet food that did the trick.

We walked on a bit further, past the boats moored in a channel off the Ahuriri harbour, and on to the little old customhouse. Prior to the earthquake Ahuriri housed Napier’s main port and many of the industrial buildings from that time remain. A little further on you can see the well known National Tobacoo Company art deco building, though today it sports flags of the prominent furniture retailer that owns the site.

Water channel in Ahuriri with the old customhouse in the background

Mike had the excellent idea of having a drink at one of the waterfront bars along the West Quay so that was the next order of business. It was a nice area with great views from the deck. Sun umbrellas offered a welcome patch of shade.

The short return drive back to Napier went past a playground and we stopped to give the boys some running around time. It was also a good spot to observe ships leaving and entering the Port of Napier.

A ship entering the port as seen from the Ahuriri side. In the foreground an old wharf is gradually being consumed by the sea.

One of the unwritten rules about going on holiday is that you get to eat and drink nice things more often than you would normally. We continued this practice with yummy gelato back on the Napier waterfront and pizza for dinner, eaten on the steps of our cabin.

The next day we packed up and shipped out. This had been a short but good trip, enjoyed by the little kids and big kids alike, everyone left with a good impression and memories of the Hawkes Bay. I’m pretty sure the big kids will be back.

When old fun parks are given new life

Splash Planet in Hastings is today’s name for the original Fantasyland ‘dry’ fun park which first opened in 1967. In the 1990s a redevelopment was proposed that saw it become a major waterpark attraction. It’s certainly not on the Gold Coast fun park scale but it is one of if not the biggest childrens’ attractions in the Hawkes Bay – and Mike’s boys were super excited about going.

We chose an overcast and windy day to go, and were glad of the recommendations made to us beforehand to take wetsuits for the boys. The outdoor pools and waterslides do not have heated water and it was a bit chilly.

The day was spent supervising Josh & Flynn. It really is a place for young people and with the cool temperatures outside and relatively small heated pool inside, Mike and I took the soft option of staying dry! (Admission for spectators: $5.) The slides did look fun though.

Watery playground fun

The youngest had some water confidence issues so not as much time got spent on the slides and bumper boats as we thought. There were a number of other land-based things to do so was still easy enough to spend a few hours. In fact you’d definitely want to do as much as possible to make the most of the admission fees.

Best value of the day: big rolled ice cream cones for $2.

While we were waiting for the ‘Fantasyland Express’ train ride, the penny dropped about the park having a previous life under another name. I remembered I had a photo from my first trip to Fantasyland when I was 16 months old. Though any recollection of the actual visit has long since vacated my memory…

With my aunt, visiting Splash Planet in its former life. 10 cents admission!

With my aunt, visiting Splash Planet in its former life. 10 cents admission!

After this realisation I was quite fascinated to notice various remnants of the old park here and there. Old fashioned playground objects, slides, swings, mini golf. They had a bit of a space theme going on and a rocket slide right at the back of the park is now closed. But I love that it’s still there.

Two rocket slides remained from the old park - this one was still open

Two rocket slides remained from the old park – this one was still open

Update April 2015: Sad news this week about one of the legacy attractions at the park.

Road trips with children

I love love love road trips. These days they usually involve my partner Mike, and are conducted in different parts of NZ, and recently in Europe too. Just before school holidays finished this summer we had another short trip, but this time with Mike’s children. While I’ve been on the scene a few years, this was a bit of a new experience for me.

The excitement about having a couple of days off work to play tourist was tempered with a wary curiousity about how I would cope without the usual holiday freedoms that an independent (and without dependents) female is accustomed to.

The Hawkes Bay was our destination, a region on the North Island’s east coast with a reputation for sunshine and winemaking. Those merits alone are enough justification for most people! However there are also good activities for children – in this case two boys under 10 – which is what swayed Mike. Something for everyone! Hopefully?

This lovely quiet backroad to the Hawkes Bay goes through a huge wine growing region. Naturally we felt it only polite to sample of the local produce...

We’re not equipped for camping but from a family perspective the holiday park concept is great so we ended up booking a cabin at the Kennedy Park Top 10 holiday park in Napier. The boys were excited, having stayed at a similar place in the South Island earlier in the holidays.

The end of January rolled around and a coordinated effort between two households saw us all packed into M’s wagon heading north. Even with the myriad of distractions children often have these days eg ipods and handheld game things, it predictably wasn’t long before THAT question came: Are we nearly there? And other variations: How long to go now? What is that in kilometres? The TomTom was really helpful in supplying answers – was just a shame they couldn’t see it for themselves from the back seat!

Obviously I had those exact sort of questions myself when I was little, and I remember some of the tactics that my parents employed.

Four hours plus one coffee stop, one toilet stop and two food stops later we were all pleased to finally roll into Kennedy Park. It looked like a well set up comprehensive sort of place, peak holiday season over as evidenced by the many telltale pale patches where tents had been in the preceding weeks. Our wee standalone cabin was small but modern and best of all, self-contained.

The big and small boys (and respective transportations) outside our cabin

Unloading mission completed, the boys raced off on their bikes and that was the routine for the rest of our time there. When we weren’t out doing other stuff that is (more posts to follow). In such a safe and family friendly environment they had a lot of freedom.

And the grown-ups had a delicious bottle or two of local white wine to look forward to…

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