Have Car Will Travel the North Island
“Let me be clear: so long as you are in a car, there’s no wrong way to see New Zealand,” Erin Florio writes in a feature on the North Island for Condé Nast Traveler.
“Every route is the scenic route here. But – but – it has irked me for years that so many visitors default to spending the majority of their time in the South Island. The country’s more populated, less popular North Island has landscapes in a spectrum of colours like nowhere else on earth – think Northern California on steroids.”
“The exceptionally pretty State Highway One slices through the island’s centre, connecting Auckland up north to artsy Wellington at the southern tip in a straight eight-hour drive,” Florio writes. “Slow it down to five full days, detouring to coastal towns where Kiwis holiday, past Māori rock face carvings (you won’t find them in the South Island), and countryside patched with vineyards for a more local take.”
Florio leaves Auckland and heads to the Coromandel Peninsula.
“This area is popular with Kiwis during summer; many have tiny holiday houses, called baches, on the spectacular beaches backed by hills the colour of emeralds. From the surf beaches to the cafés serving hot chips and smoothies, it’s laid back and friendly – the kind of place to go barefoot.”
Florio visits the “unpretentious and beautiful” Mount Maunganui, “the remarkable Mine Bay carvings, where master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell has chiselled a ginormous Māori priest figure known as a Ngatoroirangi right into the cliff face”, and wines and dines in Hawke’s Bay at Church Road, “a sophisticated countryside winery producing some of New Zealand’s boldest syrahs” before heading south to Martinborough and its vineyards.
“Since nearly all of the wineries are within walking distance of the town’s central square, drop your car at your hotel: the historic, recently restored Martinborough Hotel with its wonderful multi-level, wraparound balcony. Then stroll to Poppies, a delightful winery run by a young husband and wife team that serves superb charcuterie boards and bottles of their own riesling on an outdoor terrace.”
Original article by Erin Florio, Condé Nast Traveler, May 23, 2019.
Photo by Martinborough Hotel.