|Queenstown from the beginning of the approach|
Very nice stay at the Rees in a 1br apartment. Was great to have room to hang out in, laundry in the unit, and a huge balcony that would have been more useful if the temps got above 10 C and it did not rain parts of every day. Great room service breakfast. 35-40 min walk into town on the trail by the water was nice despite the weather. Great views from the room and pretty much everywhere we went.
Took the gondola to the top of the skyline and had a nice leisurely hike down, that became a bit more stressful when we got off the forest road onto a trail that was a bit slick and muddy from the rain. Would just stay on the road next time :)
Food: Liked Botswana Butchery for seafood and lamb with a great wine list. Very nice service though on the expensive side. Fishbone was ok, pretty pricey again but with a little less sophisticated menu and wine list and a step down in decor. Speight's Ale House was good for beers and standard pub food, with Erik's Fish and Chips as a quick, gluten-free stop for lunch.
|Balcony at Foxglove|
A quick one hour flight to Wellington, which is a pretty funky airport design. Quick taxi ride to the Museum Art Hotel which was decent. Took a harbor ferry to Days Bay and walked about 20 min to Eastbourne for lunch at a great cafe at the corner of Rimu St and Muritai Rd that seems to have no internet presence. Great lamb curries. Went through Seatoun on the way over and Somes Island on the way back. Really nice way to see the area.
Did not particularly love Wellington, but as with everywhere in NZ, the people were very nice and the city seems to be transitioning into a better place. A couple blocks were still closed because of structural damage from the earthquake.
Food: Great seafood meal at Whitebait. Good cocktails, wine selection by glass and bottle, and fantastic shellfish and fish. Highly recommended. Had drinks and snacks on the balcony outside at Foxglove which was nice. Did not have a great experience at Hummingbird so would skip that in the future. Cannot get enough of the Gunpowder Rum that I had in a cocktail at Crumpet. Bought some NZ wine at Regional Wines and Spirits which has a great selection of both wine and liquor, and really good wine/liquor/groceries/ready to eat foor at Moore Wilson's various detached stores.
|Napier harbor from the Gintrap|
About a 4.5 hour drive from Wellington to Napier in our small rental SUV. Not particularly scenic but seeing the beach when reaching the coast is very rewarding. Had a quick but good lunch of middle eastern food at the Desert Rose in Palmerston North. Stayed at the Pebble Beach Motor Lodge a few days and had a good time. Very helpful staff. Spent the last night at the Nautilus as the PB was sold out. Decent room but slightly smaller. Nice staff there as well. Note that checkout time at all of the NZ motor lodges is 10:00am. Lots of one-night stays from what I could tell and the housekeeping staff needs the time to prep.
The Hawke's Bay region is really a great place to visit. Beautiful scenery. Good wine and seafood pretty much everywhere we went. Kinda feels like the area around Santa Barbara but way more relaxed. Particularly liked the syrahs from the Gimblett Gravels district just outside Napier in Hastings. Dark, spicy wines that were well balanced and not at all showing alcohol. Had a couple nice low-oak chardonnays as well.
Rented bikes for parts of two days and rode on the paths on the beach and around town. Could do this for days. Well managed trails and not many people on weekdays in November.
Food: Excellent lunch at Mr. D, again with very interesting seafood and a great wine list. Really liked dinner at Emporium. Great service, cocktails and meal. Good pub food for a dinner at Gintrap. Not much open on Sunday nights so we ate at Lonestar which I would skip next time. Next visit will make a reservation for the fixed menu at Pacifica and try more Thai and Indonesian.
|Hahei Beach from the trail returning from Cathedral Cove|
The drive to Hahei from Napier starts with about 2 hours through forested terrain with logging trucks in plentiful supply on a mostly two-lane road, so leaving early in the day was helpful. The next two hours are through smaller towns but not particularly scenic. The last hour winds up and down hills with a reasonable amount of traffic before winding to a few fantastic beach towns. Had an amazingly good lamb burger at the Crazy Cow in Putaruru, though if I was driving this again, would stop in the much cuter and less busy town of Tirau just down the road.
Stayed at the Tahiti Village which is in a great location just a couple min walk from the beach and you can start the hike to Cathedral Cove either up the road to the parking lot or by going to the north end of the beach. We took the water taxi from Hahei beach to Cathedral Cove and hiked back. Not sure it is worth the NZD 15 per person, but you do get decent views on the 5 min ride.
The beach itself is very clean without many people during the day, at least in November. Had a couple really relaxing visits. Next trip will make the 20 min drive to Hot Water Beach, which has a thermal spring right at the waterline. At low tide you can dig a hole in the sand and it will fill with hot water!
Good fish and chips at the Gourmet Cottage food stand and at The Pour House, a brewpub with a good beer (theirs and a few guest taps) and wine selection.
|Auckland (Lawn) Bowling Club|
Finished the trip with two days and one night in Auckland at the Hotel DeBrett. Unlikely to stay again. Very claustrophobic room with little natural light and very pricey. Nice staff, good location, but hard to overcome the room feel.
Yummy thai fusion (?) at Woodpecker Hill. Sitting at the counter by the kitchen and seeing the chefs work was a nice experience. Good service as well. Next trip will visit the Pineapple bar at 207 Parnell Road. Looked great from the outside but we had to head to the airport just as it was opening on a Saturday.
Another nice flight on Air NZ with a good amount of sleep on the way back to SFO. Leaving around 8pm on both flights really helped to get sleep and feel at least somewhat refreshed on both arrivals. Decent Air NZ lounges in the AKL domestic terminal and in Queenstown, and a nicer lounge in the International departure area before our flight. So much nicer flight attendants than United on all of these flights.
$1 = NZD 1.40 at the time of this trip