LIFESTYLE NATION: GUIDE TO NEW ZEALAND'S NORTH ISLAND
It is about time that we ventured east to our Pacific neighbour, New Zealand for a winter edition of Lifestyle Nation! We have partnered with some Airbnbs to present an essential guide, city by city, play by play to the gorgeously green North Island.
DAY ONE & TWO - Auckland
Fly into Auckland and spend a couple of nights in the big city. Uber-ing from the airport is cost effective and easy to arrange (even in the absence of a sim).
Auckland is similar to Sydney with plenty of hip corners to indulge in craft beers, good coffee and delicious bites. Brunch at Odette’s Eatery is a must!
Panoramic views of the city, harbour and outer islands can be enjoyed from a number of extinct volcanic peaks, observation decks, and restaurants. Although there is much to see on the city’s golden mile ~ Queen Street. We explored the city for a day via Bird Scooter and then picked up our rental car and hit the road.
DAY THREE - Rotorua
Rotorua city is situated 3 hours south of Auckland on the southern shore of a lake of the same name. Rotorua is hot and steamy in thermal activity, healing mineral pools, idyllic green rolling hills. It is the heartland of Maori culture with immense art, architecture, song and dance.
The Polynesian baths are a big draw card for tourists, but we didn’t indulge knowing we have some spa days planned for the South Island. Instead, we opted for a day trip and tour of Hobbiton.
We stayed at a weatherboard Airbnb in the suburbs of Rotorua. Along with all new furniture and bedding, a new spacious kitchen and bathroom, the home was fit with everything we needed to base ourselves out of Rotorua for a couple of days. The airbnb experience was seamless with our hosts Geoff and Selena!
DAY FOUR - NAPIER VIA TAUPO
We set off to Hawkes Bay with a stop in Taupo (another lakeside city) along the way. On clear days, the distant volcanic peaks of Mounts Tongariro and Ngauruoe and snowcapped mountains provide an incredible backdrop to the lake. Sadly the day was overcast so there were no such lakeside views!
The surrounding area of Taupo is a centre for geothermal energy. Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland and the Waimangu Volcanic Valleys are easy stops along the way. After a quick bite at Replete Cafe & Store we set off for a two hour drive to Napier.
We arrived in art-deco Napier and stayed on the coast at a glorious Airbnb which was situated on the bottom level of a home overlooking Ahuriri , extending out to the Mahia Peninsula. The Airbnb was within walking distance of the local bars/restaurants however given the rain we opted to use our car for the duration of our stay. Our hosts Kath & Brent were so friendly and willing to provide amazing recommendations and an oral history of the city. We highly recommend this Airbnb experience for a winter escape with views to die for!
The Hawkes Bay region is famous for its wine so if you are partial to a vino, there are some must sees:
Pacifica for a $65 degustation with a wine pairing available.
Urban Winery stocks local wineries that do not have their own cellar door.
If you are up for some wineries on the drive, Clearview is a fantastic option. Situated on the Pacific Ocean coastline of Hawkes Bay, the region enjoys a mediterranean micro-climate and therefore an extended grape growing season. The rustic cellar door showcases a full range of wines, the restaurant specialises in brunch, lunch and seasonal platters. The homestead is also available to stay.
Art deco walking tour - Following an earthquake, Napier was rebuilt in the late 1920s and therefore has an assortment of architectural wonders on every corner. Not wine related, but great to do before a wine!
Day FIVE - Wellington
Start your day early with a quick and healthy breakfast at Hapi Clean Kai Co-Op, before a lengthy drive to Wellington. The drive is hilly and diverse with plenty of cattle chomping on grassy hills throughout. The state highway allowed us to drive through small towns, some which did not accept Eftpos (crazy).
The Clareville Bakery is a must stop on the way. The bakery has a robust lunch menu as well as their own artisan breads and cakes.
Our first night in Wellington was at a B&B in the suburb of Melrose, with views overlooking Lyall Bay. As soon as we got in, we jumped in the spa and took the opportunity to unwind after a long day of driving our Maroon Rav-4 around. The space was a self-contained guest suite taking up the entire bottom story of a federation house. The kitchenette was fully equipped as was the separate bathroom. Our host Lucy had a keen eye for detail and indulged us with luxurious robes, books & guides on Wellington, chocolate, coffees, and a gourmet breakfast.
DAY SIX and SEVEN - Wellington & surrounds
On our second and third day in the Wellington region, we based ourself on the coast in Plimmerton. This dozy seaside town is about 25 minutes from the heart of the city and has incredible views. We based ourselves at an Airbnb in the area which still allowed us to travel around the region and into Wellington effortlessly.
Our hosts were so welcoming and graciously showed us around their beautiful home. We were also pleasantly surprised by the variety of activities around Plimmerton. After a long day of exploring I took a warm bubble bath overlooking the bay and contemplated the meaning of life while my boyfriend took an important business call. One thing I love about New Zealand is the prevalence of supersonic electric blankets which made the winter experience so much better. It is no surprise that this serviced apartment is raved about on Airbnb and has ‘plus’ status. The pictures below speak for themselves!
Here are our top things to do in Wellington in 48 hours:
Lunch anywhere on Cuba Street (famous in culinary circles) is a big vibe. We went to Lorettas for hearty salads.
The CBD has some amazing vintage and thrift shopping on most corners. Worth a gander.
Did someone say cheap pasta & natural wine? Yes it was me - and yes you can find it at 1154 Pastaria! RAVIOLI F*** YES NOM NOM NOM
If you’re up for a quick degustation - Logan Brown is world class.
As rain struck during our trip, and we are of course interested in THE ARTS, we checked out City Gallery and Te Papa Museum.
DAY EIGHT - Goodbye North Island, hello South Island!
Rise early to catch the ferry to the South Island. Do yourself a favour and book ahead otherwise you will be disappointed by long waits. Importantly, we were able to drive our car direct onto the ferry, and straight away off to Kaikoura. To be continued in our South Island edition!