Not many travellers get to experience one of New Zealand’s most precious predator-free nature reserves, yet Kapiti Island is only a 20 minute boat ride from the main land on the Kapiti Coast of the North Island. For us, having our own personal space is not an optional extra. It’s essential. Although we shared the boat with 8 other people going across, we explored the northern end of the Island with only the birdlife for company.
Here’s one of the locals unloading those all important supplies.
The owner/operators of Kapiti Island Nature Tours live on the Island and run the only commercial operation at Waiorua, at the northern end. We chose their day tour which included a one-hour guided nature walk with guide, Andi and lunch. Really impressed with Andi. She loves her job and is a great presenter. Here we are at the shelter for an orientation before commencing our 3-hour loop walk.
Think I’ll take a moment or two to absorb this scene.
After the orientation Andi walked with us for the first part and we hiked the rest of the way by ourselves. As you can see the track is well defined and maintained.
It’s hard to believe that only 50 years ago, this newer part of the island was cleared farmland. How quickly nature reasserts her dominance. Here’s a plant that even the knowledgeable Michael could not identify.
I was amazed at how fat and prosperous these Kereru were and so completely unafraid of us.
Part of the loop walk included climbing to the cliff face and although the sun stayed hidden, the moody coastline was stunning.
On the way back we paid our respects to the hardworking DOC workers. Cheerful bunch.
Back at the lodge it was a surprise to be served a very good cooked lunch (we were expecting filled buns). We sat down with other travellers that had stayed overnight. Kapiti Island Nature Tours also offer cute little rustic cabins or for a different level of comfort, a ‘Glamping’ experience:
After lunch we took a wander down the beach so Michael could catch a few Zen moments.
And here’s mine:
This nature experience forced us to slow down and beat to a different drum. The Island welcomed us, as did the locals and we’d love to visit again. Time to say goodbye to those Kereru.
Wow, Taupo was really humming along the lake front last tonight and I’m loving my stay here. Seeing funnels of steam rising all around this famous thermal area is a surreal sight.There’s an abundance of beautiful cafes, winebars and restaurants plus stylish boutiques in the CBD and that’s good for the tourists and locals.
We’re staying in the Relaxation Suite at the Hilton Hotel 2 kms from Taupo. I’m not a hotel person, but choosing to stay at this particular hotel and 2 Kms out of the town centre, was a good decision. The staff are so lovely and incredibly helpful. This private balcony area is my happy place at the moment.
The first night we dined a the Lotus Thai restaurant at 137 Tongariro Street. It was absolutely chocka by 7.oopm and the staff coped very well. It’s typically styled in that quaint old fashioned way but that’s part of it’s appeal. At the end of the meal, they delivered hot flannels to our table. Michael forgot himself for a moment and thought he was on a plane. Note to Michael: while dining in a restaurant, it’s not appropriate to give your face and ears a good wash.
The next day we visited Treetops Lodge Estate outside of Rotorua. I love this part of our work. The lodge is even more impressive since our last visit some years ago. This massive estate is often shrouded in mist and the surrounding native bush is beautiful, even on a wet day.
Tonight we dined at The Bistro at 17 Tamamutu Street Taupo, another very good decision. The couple at the table next to us were revisiting from the previous night. What better compliment is that! I love supporting family owned businesses like this where the owner/chef cooks are innovative and cook with honestly. I was pleasantly full as I stepped out into a cold night, but still managed to take one last look at the warmth and people within.
This is my first visit to Gisborne on the East Coast of the North Island and I found the CBD depressing. But to be fair, it was raining at the time. Next day when the sun came out, I discovered that Gisborne’s surrounding countryside offers the most beautiful scenic views.
Visiting the Millton Boutique vineyard and winery was a special experience for me and for wine lovers, definitely a must-do experience. You won’t find amazing stylish rustic interiors in the tasting room. It’s just rustic. But you won’t be jostling for space either. The wines are organic and mouth-wateringly delicious.
Rebecca, Millton’s representative in the tasting room, obviously thinks a lot of her boss, Winemaker, James Millton, who belongs to the ‘Family of Twelve’. This is a prestigious and tightly bound group committed solely to perfecting their craft. Rebecca was thrilled when I fell in love with the Chenin Blanc. Think James would be pleased, it’s his fav.
This is the kind of boutique experience that we’re always on the lookout for. We love the bio-diversity and organic philosophy that goes into vineyards like this. Here’s Michael’s being driven crazy by nature.
On the way out Rebecca invited us to meet one of Millton’s hand-reared calves. Very friendly chap but hardly a calf!
Wine-tasting always makes me tired and before you ask, yes, I do use the spittoon. I reluctantly agreed to take a walk down Gisborne’s beach. Wow, I have never seen a beach quite like this one. It’s a wild multi-layered surf where the noise of crashing waves is terrific and fabulous – a Surfer’s paradise.
Michael loves quiet beach moments so we’ll just linger for a while.
The Hawkes Bay area is definitely a Food and Wine destination. Some of New Zealand’s premium ‘reds’ come from this region and food is not far behind, especially honey. Many visitors to New Zealand travel with their children and if you’re one of them, why not let the bees at the Arataki Honey Visitor centre entertain the kids for a while.
The Arataki Honey Visitor Centre is located at 66 Arataki Road, Havelock North. I can assure you it’s not a 5-minute drop-in experience. There is much to see here for both adults and children. It’s a very educational and interactive experience.
Let’s start with some honey tasting:
If this doesn’t interest you, their large gift shop will. Even if you don’t buy anything, you’ll be astounded at how many different products honey can produce, be it cosmetic, restorative or nutritious.
Although Michael agreed to pose for this photo, he really couldn’t care less about the gift shop, preferring instead to gravitate towards the live bee colony section:
There was a swarm of kids over by the “Bee Discovered” section. I guarantee, your children won’t move from here until you’re ready to leave. There are microscopes provided and this is where they’ll really get to appreciate the vital role of honeybees in our food chain and the wonderful products they produce. Look at how absorbed these kids are!
Currently, the Arataki Visitor Centre is free of charge. Whoa, I’ve just caught sight of my reflection in one of the glass display cases. Maybe I’ll buy some of that Royal Jelly before I buzz off.
It means so much to a traveller to feel welcomed, especially when there’s a chocolate Easter Bunny and a bottle of local involved. We’re staying in Te Awanga Cottages for a few days in the semi rural settlement of Te Awanga, 20mins drive from Havelock North Village. The cottage is enclosed by bush and it provides the peace we crave and the welcome!
Clifton Beach is just down the road and I’m embracing each day here!
It’s always been on our “Bucket List” to do the “Gannet Beach Adventures” at Cape Kidnappers. This tour company uses bright red modern tractors to pull along trailers linked at the back. It’s become an iconic ‘Kiwi’ experience for many visitors to New Zealand and the Hawkes Bay in particular.
The tour began at the end of the road at Clifton Bay Point. As with many coastal tours in New Zealand the tides dictate the schedule. We began at 11am for this 4-hour trip. After a quick pep talk by the tour leader and a few amusing ‘porkies’, we set off down the beach towards Cape Kidnappers with the wind and surf in our hair. Fun in buckets!
The local beaches have had a few storms recently and today the tractors had to negotiate their way through stony parts as well as rather deep holes. There were a few exaggerated shrieks but we were kept dry and very entertained!
Mother nature has formed steep cliff faces over a period up to 4.5 million year A number of layers built up over that time, so that, plus substantial earthquakes (pre-human era) have lifted the cliffs out of the ocean.
After about 1.5 hours we finally reached the “tractor parking” area near the Cape. There is a Doc (Department of Conversation) shelter and fresh water facilities. Most fellow travellers bought their own food for a picnic lunch. We had about 1.5 hours to explore the area.
Following a steep walk toward the actual Cape Kidnappers Gannet colony takes about 30 minute walk one-way. It’s a glorious April day and Michael’s very keen to meet those birds!
And it seems they’re expecting him. It’s heartening to see my fellow travellers sitting down and quietly viewing this wildlife scene with the respect it deserves. What a special memory they’ll take away.Beautiful scenery here folks. It’s wild and tame at the same time; a combination of blue ocean, paddocks and limestone cliffs.
The tour usually returns on the same route it started but Michael, intrepid explorer that he is, decided to walk 10 kilometres from the Gannet colony to Clifton Bay. He’d seen a number of walkers doing this return trip on foot and thought it would be fun. It was a lovely, easy walk along the grand cliffs and pass gentle rolling surf. At some point the shoes had to be removed to negotiate through shallow water, but he considered it all part of the experience.
After many years of having the Cape Kidnappers Gannet colony on our “bucket list” I am very happy with this experience. It refreshes the spirits and for nature lovers, very enriching. On a warm day, it’s the ideal way to explore this beautiful part of the Hawkes Bay region. Time to rest up Michael.