New Zealand Road Trip: Hawke’s Bay & East Cape

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We spent a wonderful week tripping around the Hawke’s Bay and East Cape, in the North Island of New Zealand, during the summer of 2013. Our trusty campervan Bessie wasn’t so trusty at the time and so we took Shaun’s work van – thank goodness we had a backup!

There are a few ways to get from Auckland to Napier, the biggest city in the Hawke’s Bay region. We drove via Taupo and then to Napier on SH 5, and the drive took about 6 hours.

Napier is a cool little city – it’s beautifully situated beside the sea, and has a great beachfront promenade fronting the steep stony beach. The city was pretty much destroyed by an earthquake and the following fire in 1931. As the rebuild happened in the 1930s, the city has a large concentration of Art Deco architecture which is among the best preserved in the world (along with South Beach, Miami). This means that Napier has quite a different feel to other New Zealand towns – it’s quirky and interesting!

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The Hawke’s Bay region produces a huge amount of New Zealand’s fruit – and fortunately for us, there are HEAPS of wineries! Our favourites were Black Barn Vineyards and Craggy Range. We had a delicious dinner at Black Barn and a yummy lunch at Craggy Range. The wines at both places were so good! We also caught a concert at Church Road Winery – Fat Freddy’s Drop, one of New Zealand’s most well-known bands, was playing, and it was fantastic!

Black Barn Vineyards

Also in the wine-related tourism offerings in the Hawke’s Bay are bike tours around the Gimblett Gravels area near Hastings. This is one of the most intense grape-producing areas in the country, and produces some amazing wines. We hired bikes from On Yer Bike, and complete with a map and a packed lunch, we cycled around six or so wineries and tasted some wines at each one. Yum! You ride through vineyards on gravel roads for some of it, and for the rest of the time there is a dedicated cycleway alongside the highway (so you’re not on the road with all the scary trucks!). It was heaps of fun – and hot! Make sure you drink all your water, otherwise all the wine starts to take its toll…

View from Mission Estate Winery

View from Mission Estate Winery

On Yer Bike!

On Yer Bike!

 Hands down, the best view in the Hawke’s Bay is from the top of Te Mata Peak, near Havelock North. You can see for miles – out to the ocean, into the hill-country, and over the towns of Havelock North, Hastings, and up to Napier and beyond. So much landscape porn!
Te Mata Peak
Te Mata Peak

Sadly, it was soon time to leave the Hawke’s Bay, and we headed north along the coast into the Gisborne region. For the most part, the road passes through farmland and sometimes next to the ocean. It’s quite spectacular if you have good weather like we did! We reached Gisborne and passed on through – unfortunately the town didn’t really warm to us. We reached the campsite at Tatapouri Bay (only about 10 minutes from Gisborne) and chose a site a stone’s throw from the water – bliss!

Tatapouri sunset

Tatapouri sunset

Tatapouri Bay

Tatapouri Bay

 The following day we did a huge drive – from Tatapouri Bay all the way around the East Cape to Maraehako Bay (220 km). It doesn’t sound like much, but the road is pretty darn windy and slow most of the way, plus we were in a van – so it took all day. There are some great rest stops on the way though: Tolaga Bay (which has New Zealand’s longest wharf at 600 m long), Anaura Bay, Hicks Bay, Te Araroa Bay, and the list goes on. If you have more time, definitely stay a couple of nights instead of doing this trip all in one! There are lots of cheap or free campsites along the way. We also passed through Wairau Bay, which is where the kiwi film ‘Boy’ was set – such a cute little town!
Hicks Bay

Hicks Bay

Te Araroa Bay

Te Araroa Bay

Tolaga Bay

Tolaga Bay

We stayed the night at Maraehako Bay campsite, which was right on the stony beach. What a stunning location! We experienced the most beautiful sunset, and were treated to locals bringing in their day’s catch of fish and chatted to the few other campers at the site. It’s very basic with no facilities except for a toilet, but we had a great time building a campfire to roast some marshmallows over!
Fire!

Fire!

Maraehako Bay

Maraehako Bay

Finally we headed west into the Bay of Plenty region – another beautiful drive along the coast via Opotiki and Te Puke to Mount Maunganui, one of our favourite beach spots in the country. Yes, it’s a developed beach town, but there’s heaps of good eats and bars and the beach is stunning. We caught up with Jordan, a good friend of ours, and the boys had fun surfing.
Surf boys

Surf boys

View from the Mount

View from the Mount

It was a fantastic road trip around a beautiful part of New Zealand. We were lucky enough to have brilliant weather the whole time, and we tasted some delectable wines and ate like kings and queens. We are so lucky as New Zealanders to have regions like the Hawke’s Bay and the East Cape at our doorstep! I think a lot of kiwis (and international visitors, too) overlook these regions in favour of the South Island – but in fact there is heaps to do, great food and wine, and stunning landscapes and beaches to be found in these places.

Until next time,

P&S xx

3 comments

  1. Pingback: The best food & wine (and beer) in the Hawkes Bay - The Global Couple

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