This post is one in a series on New Zealand road trips. To see more road trip posts, click here.
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!
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!
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…
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!
Until next time,