Wellington Harbour from Mt Victoria

Wanganui, Wellington - shooting heritage buildings. March 2017

The Weatherman predicted and delivered, beautiful fine conditions for our California week  traveling down country through Wanganui on the West Coast to Wellington then returning to Auckland via Havelock North on the East Coast.


Tammy, our 4 legged traveling pal carefully supervises the stowing of her breakfasts and dinners as on our last journey I left her breakfasts stacked in the fridge at home! Not this time and soon we are underway.


2 nights in Taupo breaks the journey nicely and with weather that a great autumn can offer, our stay at Delia’s B&B is very relaxing. There are plenty of places to enjoy good food in Taupo with one of the best and original being Replete, still with the founding owners, in HeuHeu Street. Always busy, but we're usually lucky and find outdoor seating where we can take Tammy. There's no view of the lake but the food is so good a view is secondary.

Lake Taupo’s geological history is impressive with the huge eruption of a super volcano many centuries ago, darkening skies around the world and creating a massive crater, or ‘caldera’ which became the lake. The Oruanui eruption, 27,000 years ago was the largest eruption of its type in the world. Today there is still thermal activity beneath the lake and  the volcano is considered dormant rather than extinct.

On a walk along the Lake foreshore we noted that the legendary ‘Hole in One challenge’ is still operating after more than 20 years.  The challenge is to land the ball, hit from the foreshore tee, onto the pontoon 100 metres out on the Lake. Simply hitting the pontoon is a golfing achievement but to get the ball into the hole on the pontoon – well, that is something! If you’re anything of a golfer you have to have a go. We take our lunch sandwiches down to Kinloch foreshore, at the end away from the café and marina, where we can safely have Tammy without breaching any anti-dog bylaws. A superb setting, looking straight out onto the Lake with a gentle on shore breeze keeping temperatures pleasant. Up goes the California roof, espresso on - what could be better.


Tuesday morning arrives a little damp and grey having had thunder storms overnight. These turn out to be very local and the day soon brightens with sunshine and blue sky. Taking our leave of Delia and deciding on the western lakeside route south which is somewhat slower than the more usual SH 1 eastern side but much more scenic with less traffic, we are soon enjoying a caffeine revival at Turangi. A 5km backtrack to SH 47 then through to National Park and Raetihi, onto SH4 takes us onto Wanganui (or Whanganui). This route includes the slow but scenic ParaPara drive which in winter conditions can be treacherous, but usually offers an open alternative south during times when the much more elevated Desert Road through Waiouru may be snowed in.

Wanganui is subject #1 of our week with its splendid collection of heritage architecture, mostly either untouched by modernisation or demolition. It is a feast for the eyes and shutter that we very much enjoy after being surrounded by the general awfulness of Central Auckland with heritage ruthlessly destroyed willynilly by developers and visionless councillors of the 1980s. Wanganui started life in 1840 and was declared a city in 1924, now having a population in excess of 40,000. The Wanganui River is the longest navigable waterway in New Zealand stretching from Mount Tongariro to the sea on the West Coast.  The area surrounding the river was the site of considerable unrest between local Maori and English Settlers, even extending to recent times with the Moutoa Gardens incident in 1995. Both spellings of Wanganui and Whanganui are considered acceptable with the ‘Wh’ spelling now gaining greater useage.


We spend the afternoon, after a splendid lunch at Carolines by the River, shooting film throughout central Wanganui and along  the water, until time says we must hurry on to Wellington, otherwise arrive in the dark. We haven’t visited Wellington by road for some time and as our home for the next 3 nights is to be at Lyall Bay, negotiating Wellington’s tight conformation and many one-way streets is causing us some anxiety.  Lyall Bay is on the southern coast, across the water from Wellington airport. Coming through Levin, Otaki and Waikanae on SH1 our run is free and clear. It more or less remains so right into Wellington but the traffic coming out of Wellington at 5:30 – 6pm is horrendous stop start for miles and miles. I know there are plans afoot to upgrade the road through this area but the desired result will be years away if ever alleviating the congestion, as we have seen in Auckland the traffic volume grows with the road.  We can’t complain going into the City, through the Victoria tunnel, finally turning onto Lyall Bay Parade and easily finding our house directly across the road from the beach. Like lots of Wellington properties, gaining entry is up 2 steep flights of stairs, but once in, welcoming spaciousness awaits.


Wellington, subject #2 for our week, is less than half the population of Auckland and was named after The Duke of Wellington who won The 1815 Battle of Waterloo. It has been New Zealand’s Capital since 1865 when this moved first from Russell to Auckland, then for geographical reasons to Wellington. The City is prone to serious earthquakes with a fault running through the City centre. Due to 19th century earthquakes Lambton Quay, which you might imagine by its name to be at the shoreline, is actually 200 metres back, a setback caused by the quake creating a tidal swamp from land that was the seabed. This was reclaimed. The Beehive and other Parliament Buildings now have earthquake reinforced foundations, protecting from earthquake damage. The relatively new Te Papa Museum structure is seated on rubber. However most residential building is wooden and built on steep hillsides, so just how these would fare in a major quake is quite concerning.

Our Lyall Bay accommodation is on the flat so we don’t fear collapse – maybe a landslide, and inundation by a tsunami is possible. None of this happens during our stay and we enjoy the Lyall Bay seaside atmosphere. Lyall Bay looks out into Cook Strait and can be quite wild in stormy conditions with the ever present wind putting beach sand into most unusual places. We watch aircraft landing and taking off from Rongotai across the bay, with the noise of jet engines being surprisingly low. There are some great cafes in Lyall, off beat and funky, offering the best coffee, croissants and pastries. Some great examples of early bungalows and transitional villas are also dotted throughout the bay. Once we get the hang of the traffic workings, making our way into the CBD comes easily. Finding a park is stress free too but parking machine payment is something else! Eventually successful, we have 2 hours to explore the Parliamentary grounds and the 19th Century interior of old Government Buildings, completed in 1876 – one of the largest wooden buildings in the World. The extensive use of Kauri throughout the building was preserved during the 1994 restoration with recycled timber being used where necessary. Many period features were returned to their 1870s style and the result for visitors to view today is outstanding. Oriental Parade offers several good venues for lunch and our choice, Vista, is a 5 star. They have a small outside seating area where we sit with Tammy, perfect in the fine weather but maybe the reason there is very little outside café seating  throughout Wellington is the more usual wind and rain.

A walk through heritage Tinakori Village and Cuba Street yields some great shots. Overall our 3 days in Wellington with the glorious weather is a real success.


Gravity helps with loading the California on the 3rd morning and we are soon running behind the high-rise Wellington CBD onto SH2 and north. This route takes us over the Rimutaka range which is a challenging road with many hairpin bends and narrow runs. In winter it can be snowed in and black ice a serious hazard. Although the speed signs say 100kmh the average is more like 30kmh! Take your time as it is very scenic.


Greytown makes a good stop for a quick window shopping wander  and lunch at Salute, which we can highly recommend. Great menu choices and friendly staff who all enjoy chatting with Tammy.


Castlepoint is a very worthwhile side journey from SH2 but time allowances must be made for the road conditions. The beach and picturesque lighthouse make for a rewarding 3 or 4 hours.


We drive into Havelock North at about 5pm, turn southeast towards Waimarama, past the Craggy Range winery, right into Matangi Road where our accommodation for the next 2 nights awaits at Tom’s Cottage. Charming and self contained, this early 20th century New Zealand style cottage is furnished appropriately and completely private. Our host, Van, is on hand to greet us and as we have stayed several times previously everything is familiar. Tammy is very pleased to be out on the grass and with her dinner almost overdue, she doesn’t stray too far. Van, as usual has left some of his free range eggs and a pack of locally cured bacon in the fridge for our breakfast enjoyment. The loaf of freshly baked bread standing on the wooden bench, is a delicious smell to welcome us.  There is no Wi-fi and very patchy cell phone coverage at Toms which in reality is a relief. It’ll all still be there in 2 days time.


On Saturday we have booked lunch at our favourite Hawkes Bay vineyard, Clearview at Te Awanga, on the Cape Kidnappers road.  Its casual charm suits us perfectly and the menu choices are always good, accompanied of course with Clearview’s own Des Trois Pinot Noir. When we arrive, a hand written sign by the entrance tells us the restaurant is fully booked for lunch making us very pleased to have made a reservation. Other guests keep flowing in, many arriving on organised bicycle tours. Although Hawkes Bay is pretty flat it is still quite a ride from either Napier or Hastings. So, good on them, they deserve lunch.  The Clearview kitchen works like a well oiled machine and our food is delicious. They have a very full day with the busy restaurant and a wedding booked at 4pm, along with casual wine tasters turning up throughout. We are all done by about 2:30 and an afternoon rest back at the cottage fits well.

We are up with the first light strike on Te Mata Peak at 7am as the drive back to Auckland will be 5 to 6 hours. Tom's looks up at the backside of the peak which is quite spectacular looming up from the surrounding countryside and slowly turning gold as the sun rises. The light soon turns harsh and the photolight is lost – time for breakfast and first coffee of the day. Tammy agrees about breakfast, having had her eyes fixed on me for the past ½ hour.


Cleaning up, loading and dealing with the rubbish, along with thanking and saying goodbye to Van, puts us on the road at 9:30. A quick 2nd coffee at Bellatinos in Havelock keeps us awake for the 2 ½ hour drive to Taupo where we stop for lunch again at Replete. Straight north on SH1 to Auckland and a chance to check progress on the Waikato expressway which will greatly ease the Auckland – Hamilton drive when complete. Still a bit to be done but there is a lot in place already.


In general, when traveling in New Zealand, mainly because of their geographical nature, many roads, even though a 100kmh speed sign is clearly visible, in reality they are usually less than a 50kmh average. Along with the fact in some areas roads are poorly maintained with loose metal and uneven surfaces, we can only say – take your time and enjoy the scenery.