Tuesday, 25 May 2010


You may be surprised to hear that there are a few regions left in NZ that don't grow grapes and make wine.I suspect that these regions actually brew great beer.But regardless we drink both and on a hot day spent gardening there is nothing quite like an ice cold beer - Gardener's Champagne - you can tell I'm partial....
The Hawke's Bay Region is famous for some of our finest reds Merlots, Cab Savs, Syrah to name a few.The Gimlett Gravels region of Hawke's Bay has more accolades for its reds (plus Reisling,Chardonnay and Sav. Blanc) than you could count on a rainy afternoon. Gisborne,  further north on the same coast , is one of the largest wine growing regions in the country, with over half of its grapes going into the production of Chardonnay - yes, there are still people that drink it and a fine drop it is too.
But we didn't go to  Gisborne this trip - we meandered north to our destination of Hastings and Havelock North through quaint towns called Eketahuna and Pahiatua.Past the wind farms on the foothills of the Tararua  and Ruahine mountain ranges just west of Woodville.An amazing site this is the location of the biggest wind farm in NZ  started back in the 1990's and continuing to expand.Onward to Dannevirke through more beautiful country to Hastings and our destination - Endsleigh Cottages in Havelock North.

But if you want a little detour before you get to Hastings - head to the small town of Porangahau  ( south east of Waipukarau  and can be seen on the map below ) and visit the hill called "Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotamateaurehaeaturipukapiki-
maungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu" all up 92 letters, and has been entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the longest officially recognized place name in an English-speaking country.What does it mean? I just knew you would ask ‘The hilltop where Tamatea, with big knees, conqueror of mountains, eater of land, traveller over land and sea, played his koauau (flute) to his beloved . I thought it was obvious - the ultimate conversation stopper - spell it, say it and explain it!

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Back now to  Endsleigh Cottages - three ( two original and one replica - I bet you can't tell! ) wonderful properties all close to each other. Set in rolling country  is on the edge of Havelock North (which is minutes from Hastings) . I can't say enough about the dedication and energy of this Hastings couple, Margie and Denis Hardy , in the restoration and building of these wonderful early style colonial cottages.They are furnished beautifully in the style of their era and equipped with everything you could possibly require.I could have moved in and stayed for ever - it was so relaxing and comfortable.
The gardens are great too - check their website - you will not be disappointed - the reality outshines the description.

Of course I couldn't possibly leave this blog without mentioning Napier - our very own Art Deco Capital.
This all came about because the town was virtually obliterated by an earthquake in 1931 and the subsequent rebuilding has given us some architectural gems.Their Annual Festival has officianados of Art Deco traveling there from the world over - all in period costume and driving classic cars of the era.
All these wonderful places are easily reached in short drives from Endsleigh Cottages - so treat yourself to a short break you deserve it.


There are some wonderful images on this Wairarapa Website with picture of the Rail link showing barriers to stop the trains blowing off the track on the Rimutaka line !
This region is the darling of the Wellington weekenders and a great wine growing region Martinborough.

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The distances aren't great but the area is well worth exploring - to say it is vibrant would be to undersell its charms. Like Marlborough in the South Island this is a foodies' paradise and there are two properties worth staying at here . One is Briarwood in Greytown  - if I say WOW again - would you think I was overdoing
it ? Well not actually - wow is an all-encompassing word that inadequately describes NZ -  its scenery and its charms. Briarwood is a self-contained property in a lovingly restored NZ Heritage Building and I have a soft spot for history - it abounds in this region. Liz Kennedy is a very talented lady and it shows in the interior of this Gem.
North of Carterton , in a wee place called Gladstone, is a fabulous new property Summit Lodge , a purpose built retreat with charming owners Jim & Tracey.
I haven't stayed there yet but I know they must be good as they are Members of 5 star and Heritage Inns and you have to be good to be invited to join these groups.
We would have liked to spend more time in this region - it is very picturesque - and a great region for R and R - especially when you are on a whistlestop tour of NZ .You now know you should have factored in more time for you visit here but don't worry, you can do what so many of the guests of  The Weston House  do ( that's our B and B by the way - just in case you had forgotten) and come back to NZ again and again.

The next blog will have us heading north again - this time to Hawke's Bay - oh dear more wine and food. 
But hey- someone has to do it!

...and on to the North Island of New Zealand - Wellington,our capital City

If you wish to take the scenic route ..then you cross the Cook Strait by Ferry.( see previous posts on South Island Tour).If time is an issue then you fly but you miss so much - the cruise up the Sounds is worth millions in WOW factor - all untouched and unspoiled and differing little from the days of our forebears arrival in these fair isles.
Wellington, our capital city, ofter referred to as 'windy Wellington' - because when it blows it can be so strong they put rope barriers up at the corners of intersections so the pedestrians don't get blown away.I kid you not - forget hairstyles and buy bulk hair lacquer.It's what life in the 'roaring forties' is all about and makes Kiwis great in sail boats!
But take Wellington on a calm and sunny day and it is a stunner.Lovely hills, quaint suburbs,gorgeous homes and around every corner a little cafe serving coffee to die for and scrumptious food.Worth researching before you go and for accommodation you can't beat Mt Victoria a magic little Band B in the centre of Wellington.Bill and Coral Aitchison will treat you like royalty and give you a carpark - and this is pure gold in the city centre.
We have stayed in hotels too in Wellington ...but they are very generic...loo always just inside the door, two conditioners and no shampoo ....and pay for everything! The add- ons cost as much as the accommodation - at least with a B and B the price is all inclusive and no nasty surprises!
There is a huge amount to do in Wellington and well worth setting aside a couple of days to explore its delights.The 'Absolutely Positively Wellington' website says it all with the true humility indicated by its name- no shrinking violets here - it's where the politicians practice their black arts - just kidding - their mothers still love them!

A little north of Wellington - try the  Villa Margarita - a Member of both 5 Star Accommodation Group and Heritage and Character Inns of NZ.This is a stunner of a modern, purpose built property - brilliant hosting ( a requirement to belonging to these marketing groups). Mark and Margarita will make you feel so at home you may never want to leave.
A little further north ( about an hour from Wellington ) is Te Horo Lodge we have sampled the wonderful hospitality of Craig Garner.The location is wonderful and there is a great little restaurant a short distance away The Red House Cafe . Craig is an accomplished cook and a wealth of advice to his guests.
...and so we traveled north over the Rimutakas ... an interesting drive and amazing road.....