New Zealand. The North Island on hyper drive.

We are in New Zealand, landing in Auckland 24 hours behind schedule due to United Airline’s lack of customer service. The plan was to land in Auckland and have a day to rest and adjust, then pick up the rental car and make a leisurely drive south. The plans changed, and upon arrival in Auckland, we headed straight to the rental car counter and loaded up.


We took SH 1 southbound towards Hamilton. Our goal was Napier, where our hotel reservation and dinner at Craggy Range Vineyard was already scheduled. The lack of sleep and jet lag made the drive a bit of a challenge and also made me less likely to stop for photos, which I regret.


It’s a scenic drive through mostly farmland. We saw a lot of dairy cows and sheep, and crops such as corn, apple orchards and peaches.  Parts of the drive could have easily passed for Oregon and/or California.  The drive took 6 ½ hours total. We were mostly on SH 1, a few side roads, then hooked up with SH 5 just south of Taupo. This stretch of highway is called the “Thermal Explorers Highway”.

South of Taupo we were at a higher elevation, (next fuel sign said 140 km) and we saw many logging trucks. Evidence of geothermal activity included the thermal pipelines running from the plants to the settlements, as well as consistent 6 foot diameter concrete vents in the pastureland.


We stopped at a few scenic lookouts. It was cool and windy along Highway 5, but as we descended into Hawkes Bay, we felt the temperature increase and started passing vineyards.



Pulling into Ormlie Lodge at 530 pm gave us one hour to shower and change out of our travel clothes. Looking slightly more presentable we arrived at Craggy Range Restaurant for our first dinner in New Zealand.

The setting, food and wine were excellent. We sampled the Craggy Range Rose, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Our food was quite tasty. We had squeaky cheese, cured salmon and flounder.



Having been traveling nonstop since San Francisco, we were not in the mindset to linger. What we needed was a good nights sleep.  Luckily, Ormlie Lodge provided just that.

The actual “Craggy Range” taken from the tasting room front door after sunset:


The following day we returned to Craggy Range Vineyards for a truly stellar tasting experience. We were entertained and educated by Master Sommelier Matt who made the experience one of my all time favorites. We walked the grounds of the vineyard as the annual business meeting guests arrived, and bumped into the owners as we photographed the chicken statues installed the day before.







L and chicken



Another tasting at Te Mata and it was time for lunch. We had a wonderful lunch under the vines out back at The Black Barn Bistro, just outside of the cute little town of Hastings.




After lunch we toured Napier, the Art Deco capital of New Zealand.




The next day we drove south out of Napier along Highway 50. At first we were cruising among the vineyards, but then as our altitude increased, we were back in sheep country. Highway 50 would be a great road for motorcycles, and we saw several groups of bikes enjoying the twisting roads, crossing several single lane bridges.





Driving through one of the small towns, we saw this road sign.  I have no idea what it means.  Maybe, elderly folks riding skate boards?


The drive from Napier to Martinborough, our next overnight, was only about 3 ½ hours.

In Martinborough we had a lovely lunch at Moy Hill (I would recommend it) and relaxed for the remainder of the day.




The fig salad and pan roasted Warehou at Moy Hall:

fig salad


Our B & B in Martinborough, Aylstone:


The main street in Martinborough:


Our fourth day on the North Island was driving from Martinborough to Wellington to catch the ferry to the South Island.

Here we really found a great motorcycle road, SH 2 from Featherston towards Wellington, also called the Rimutaka Hill Road. The numerous caution signs would only serve to draw more motorcycles.




The sign at the top of the pass:


We arrived at the ferry dock with time to spare, so we wandered the waterfront with it’s many restaurants and museum.


We boarded the ferry and took the approximately four hour cruise to the South Island.


Wellington from the ferry:



Our first impressions of New Zealand have all been positive. The people are very friendly, the roads are good, and the small towns are all clean and well kept.

Unfortunately, our express tour of the North Island was exactly that, an express tour. We can only say that we really saw the Hawkes Bay area and Martinborough. Luckily we have three nights in Auckland before our return to the states.

This entry was posted in Food and Wine, New Zealand. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New Zealand. The North Island on hyper drive.

  1. Augie & Teresa Favazza says:

    Beautiful countryside and love those pics
    of the vines and 🍇

  2. Rich says:

    Sorry to hear about the abrupt start to your vacation, but it looks like you’ve recovered nicely! Love your food pix – everything is so beautifully presented. You always seem to find the best spots.

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