For my full travel guide to The North Island click here
If you're planning a vacation to New Zealand's North Island, you've got to make a stop in Rotorua. It's the island's volcanic and cultural epicenter and a perfect location for checking off multiple sights on your New Zealand bucket list. Unfortunately, because Rotorua is so packed with beauty and activities, it's fairly touristy... like it's one of the few places we visited on the island where we passed multiple fast food restaurants and major hotel chains kind of touristy. However, don't let this scare you away, if you look beyond the initial "Orlando" facade (if you've ever been to Orlando, you'll know what I'm referring to), there's many unique and worthwhile gems to explore.
A few important notes before you begin: My husband and I visited in early spring (August/September) so Rotorua was fairly quiet compared to the very busy summer months and we stayed for three nights, which is just enough for both activities and relaxation, but 2 nights is doable if you cut out the relaxation part. Keep the time of year in mind when it comes to booking tours, activities and places to stay because you'll want to plan ahead and do expect crowds during high season (October - April). Finally, anticipate a strong sulfur smell due to the volcanic activity, especially during warmer months (on the bright side, passing gas in public was never easier).
Where to Stay
There are really only a few high-end accommodations in the area and aren't as easy to find as you would expect. Like I said, this is a city flooded with chains like Holiday Inns and family friendly motels... not exactly my scene, but there are three luxury lodges that meet my Type-A personality and one of those that I highly recommend. I'll list them all for you and include a full feature of my favorite, The Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel and Spa.
The Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel and Spa
Just minutes from the center of town is a hidden sanctuary of solitude and panoramic views unlike any in the city. The Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel and Spa is a family owned lodge that provides all of the touches of a high-end hotel, while offering a personalized and authentic customer experience. The location is fantastic because you can quickly and easily be at any of the main attractions in town, but can also hide away from the hoards of travelers without losing the gorgeous view. My favorite part about the Black Swan are the grounds - imagine The Secret Garden meets Dante's Peak meets the finale episode of the Bachelor... ok, maybe that wasn't very helpful. Bottomline, it's postcard perfect with a cooked-to-order breakfast each morning and, of course, dozens of black swans waiting to greet you lakeside. But, I'll be honest, the decor is a bit too contemporary for my taste and the website leaves much to be desired, which is why I've tried to provide as many photos to show off what this exquisite property has to offer.
The hotel has lakeside, lakefront and garden facing rooms, but my preference would definitely be the lakeside suites. These spacious rooms are somewhat detached from the main building offering added privacy, have their own porch fireplace looking out at the lake and some are even equipped with a separate alcove with a twin bed, perfect for families. Rooms have a stocked mini fridge and snacks, all included in your stay. The bathrooms are huge, with double sinks, glass shower and a luxurious stone soaking tub (quick note: the bathtub does get a dark ring around the drain as do some of the other white stone fixtures due to the volcanic matter in the water, I promise it's not dirty - just a minor adjustment for being in a geothermal hotspot!).
The property has other amazing perks as well, including onsite parking, a lakefront facing game/sitting room, solar heated swimming pool, old fashioned gardens and gazebo, helicopter pad, private dock, sauna, day spa and a secluded sandy beach. My favorite spot is on the second story wrap around balcony watching the sun go down with a cup of tea and a blanket; the view is unbeatable. Even though there were so many things to do in the area, one of the days we simply cancelled all of our plans to enjoy the peace and quiet of the property.
Other Accommodation Options
Solitaire Lodge - 5 star, starting at $1,200 USD per night
Treetops Lodge - 5 star, starting at $1,200 USD per night. We had reservations to stay here for one night, but it was later cancelled due to the property shutting down for renovations. As a customer experience, it wasn't the best so I would think twice before booking a stay here in the future.
What to Do
There are so many great outdoor activities in Rotorua, especially if you take some time to drive just beyond the city. Some of the country's finest lakes, hikes and conservation efforts can all be found here so be sure to plan time to explore.
There is currently only one Canopy Tour on the North Island of New Zealand and Rotorua Canopy Tours is it. I know what you're thinking - you've gone zip lining before in Hawaii or Costa Rica or whatever tropical place you've been to in your lifetime... so have I. But let me say, this one was by far my favorite and not just because it has some of the tallest and longest zip lines I've ever experienced - it's because of the incredible knowledge you gain about New Zealand's unique eco system and the intense conservation efforts that this group is doing to save the island's native birds. What I didn't realize before going on the tour is that nearly all of the island's indigenous bird population are under attack and fearing extinction due to predators such as cats, rats and possums that have been introduced into the once predator free eco system over the years. Because these larger rodents have no natural predators to naturally control their rapidly growing population, they are killing off the island's native birds at an alarming rate (every night 70,000 native birds are killed by pests in New Zealand, with about 260 million killed each year) and the team at Rotorua Canopy Tours is working hard to raise funds and awareness to protect these endangered animals.
The three hour tours are small, no more than 10 people at a time, with 2 fun and knowledgeable guides to keep you safe and entertained along the way. I am terrified, and I mean terrified, of heights (can barely stand on a chair without getting dizzy kind of fear), but the guides did a phenomenal job of helping me through the course and putting me at ease. This is a really fun and fulfilling adventure for kids and adults of all ages and abilities - trust me, if I can do it, anyone can!
Tips: Bring a camera, closed toed shoes and dress appropriately for the weather - but if it's cold, they have extra gloves, hats and scarves you can borrow for extra warmth!
Hells Gate Mud Spa
Looking for some relaxation? Then Rotorua is your spot for some of the purest, silkiest mud spas in the world. Hells Gate Mud Spa is my personal favorite for a few reasons - it's less touristy, it's an authentic experience (this isn't a high-end European spa, much more rustic and spiritual) and has an extensive thermal park with guided tours so you can get a better understanding for this sacred, geothermic region. For the ultimate experience, book a tour and schedule a soak in both the geothermal mud baths and sulphur spa, with natural minerals and health benefits coming right from the source. I also brought home quite a few of the Alite products that are made from mud from there at the thermal park and super inexpensive compared to the hundreds of dollars similar products cost in the states. Also, at the end of the tour, you get a chance to learn about the art of Maori carving and make your own carving block (it's a lot harder than it looks... let's just say that mine won't be hanging on the wall anytime soon).
- Make sure that everything you bring can be washed with the potential to be tossed! The sulphur is strong and will stick to your clothes. If you don't get it out, the last thing you want to do is put it in your luggage with everything else because your entire wardrobe will wreak of rotten eggs. I can't stress this enough. I brought plastic flip flops, cheap cotton clothing and an old bathing suit that I threw away after. Bring a plastic bag to put all of your wet stuff in too. You can also rent a swim suit there for $5, which is a really good option to save you some stress.
- The sulphur water stings the eyes and even if you don't get the water directly in your eyes, it comes up through the rising steam. I brought eye drops which helped as well as wearing sunglasses or even goggles if you're super sensitive.
- Drink plenty of water, it's hot and you can get dehydrated quickly.
- Try not to get the sulphur water in your hair, but if you do be sure to wash it thoroughly as soon as possible. I was an idiot and didn't wash my hair until the next day and even though I only got water on the tips of my hair, it smelled for weeks! However, this only happens to totally lazy people like myself who fall asleep before a quick shampoo; normal, responsible people won't have any issues. Which reminds me - ladies, be sure to bring a hair tie!
- There are showers there to wash it all off so definitely utilize this for your body, hair and your wet clothes.
Tamaki Maori Dinner and Cultural Experience
One of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand is the Maori culture and a visit isn't complete without learning about the history, customs and culture of the Maori people. The Tamaki Maori Experience is the highest rated and most popular in the area, even by locals and is a unique and entertaining event for all ages. The three hour evening includes a tour through the village where you learn about traditions and customs, an entertaining performance and a Hangi buffet feast with typical New Zealand desserts. It's fun, engaging, energetic, moving and delightfully filling - a great way to spend an evening in Rotorua.
Local Walks and Hikes
There are a plethora of fantastic outdoor activities in and around Rotorua to take part in. Here you'll find some of New Zealand's best lakes, hikes, adventure sports and conservation efforts so be sure to plan time in your itinerary for some exploring in this picturesque city.
Green Lake & Blue Lake
This is a great stop a short drive from the city. It's hard to tell from the photo, but Green Lake is on the left and Blue Lake is on the right and you can leisurely walk/hike around the perimeter of both of them. Green Lake is actually privately owned, sacred Maori land so it's glassy, eerily still and seriously green (which is why it's so hard to see in the photo) and Blue Lake is recreational and there are activity rentals available for use. Colin and I packed a picnic one chilly afternoon and sat at one of the tables around Blue Lake and spent the day taking photos. If you just want to soak in the view, there's a parking/lookout area just beyond Blue Lake that takes you to the spot between both lakes.
Tarawera Trail was one of those unplanned stops that we made while we were driving around and exploring the area. Just off of the main road we saw a parking lot next to open landscape, perfect for leisurely trekking along, because as you know I'm afraid of heights. Well, my dream of trampling through open fields was short lived because the scenery was wildly deceiving. There is one trail that you take, that takes a turn from the flatlands taking hikers on a one track hike deep into a vast canyon where all you can see is the tops of trees and all you can hear is the sound of (what I can only expect) is a very large waterfall somewhere in the distance. For many, this is paradise... for me it's my worst nightmare. Needless to say, about 2 miles in we turned back after Colin ran ahead and there was no end of the cliffs in sight. I sat, clinging to a mossy rock taking photos without looking down. We've learned from our previous experiences not to push me too far unless we can afford for a helicopter to come save me when I inevitably become I'm paralyzed with fear (at this point we cannot afford such luxuries). No matter what, the first mile and a half is perfect for all ages and a super easy and beautiful walk through New Zealand's native brush and if you're adventurous and enjoy a good hike, keep going! You'll eventually end up at Hot Water Beach for a fabulous hot spring experience right on the beach. Don't worry if you don't think you can make it all the way, you'll know when to turn around, it's pretty clear.
When I was doing research for our trip, I kept coming across these photos of redwood trees, which I thought was so odd considering they are called California Redwoods for a reason... Well, it turns out that in 1901, someone brought trees over from Cali and planted them in the middle of New Zealand, how random. What we found was Whakarewarewa Forest - this serene redwood park next to this incredibly clear, turquoise lagoon filled with wild birds. It's actually kind of crazy, when we parked, we got out of the car and dozens of ducks, chickens, geese and random birds came running up to us - initially I thought it was because I was a fairytale princess and they were coming to pay tribute... but then realized they are just used to being fed by visitors. Lame. You can do the walk around the lagoon and through the redwood grove in about an hour and there's miles of hiking and walking paths just beyond the water for a longer adventure.
Where to Eat
Like I said, this is a city filled with chain restaurants and mediocre tourist spots so it was a little harder to find unique, unforgettable restaurants - but we did find a couple really memorable places.
Ciabatta Bakery is a just right for breakfast and a perfect stop for grabbing goods for a quick bite or lakeside picnic. Sandwiches are fresh and delicious and they have a large variety of pastries, including gluten free and paleo friendly snacks!
Be Rude Not To Cafe
This is a local favorite right in the center of town. Stop in Be Rude Not To for a good coffee, gourmet sandwich or hot pizza. They use high end ingredients to create unique twists on lunchtime favorites and traditional New Zealand dishes.
We had one of the best meals we had here at Bistro 1284 - a hidden gem and local Rotorua favorite. We actually found out about it because it's owned by the same family who owns The Black Swan Hotel and they offer to shuttle guests to and from the restaurant for free - which meant we actually got to share a bottle of wine (instead of me having a glass, Colin having 3 and then me driving us home while he snores in the passenger seat). This is a fine dining neighborhood bistro with an innovative menu, strong wine list and dishes packed with local, seasonal ingredients. My only regret is not eating here two nights in a row (I wasted one of our nights at a terrible restaurant... I should have known that a buffet that you have to take a Gondola to is a clear tourist trap. I make mistakes too, ok?).
Remember to check out my full travel guide to visiting The North Island here.
Check out my tripcipe map below so you can see spatially where everything is for easier planning on where you want to go!
FOR MY FULL TRAVEL GUIDE TO THE NORTH ISLAND CLICK HERE
If there is one place that you simply cannot miss as a luxury traveler, it is Relais & Chateaux's The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in the wine region of Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. The definition of five star accommodations, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers has it all - breathtaking views, a world renowned golf course, the highest quality of fine dining, superb rooms with every amenity at your fingertips and a lodge so tastefully and beautifully decorated, it would put Pottery Barn to shame. I can say with confidence that The Farm is the best luxury lodge in New Zealand and one of the top hotel destinations in the world.
I've been waiting to release this feature for a while as it is the most incredible location I've visited to date, so it's taken time to do it proper justice. There are several parts to this piece, so I've provided some quick links for you to jump between specific areas as needed.
The Lodge & Property
Location & Check In
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is a short 20 minute drive from Napier and in the heart of the wine region, but is actually hidden away and not easy to find, adding to its elite exclusivity. After driving up and down a quiet road along the water, we were confused because there was clearly not a luxury lodge in sight, even though that's where our directions led us to. We happened to see a gate with a call box and a small sign that said Cape Kidnappers so we decided to dial in and ask.
The man over the box welcomed us to The Farm at Cape Kidnappers and instructed us on our next steps (it felt like a treasure hunt); through the gate we were to go, slowly following the path to the lodge while being watchful for the property's grazing farm animals. We were informed that the drive would take 20 minutes and he would meet us there when we arrived. Now you are probably thinking what I was thinking - 20 minutes to get there from the front gate? Good grief! Where am I going? But that initial drive was magnificent; through rich green hills, wandering sheep, thick woods, dramatic ocean cliffs, open pastures and then finally the lodge. I'm pretty sure that the drive actually took us closer to 30 minutes because I kept making Colin stop the car so that I could take photos of little lambs and the emerging views - the poor guy was probably standing outside wondering what could possibly be taking so long!
We were greeted in the driveway, our car valeted, assured that all of our things would be delivered to our room and we were led to the lodge entrance where we checked in. Although we arrived rather early in the morning, well before the check in time, we were assured that it was not a problem at all and that our room was ready for us - exactly the warm greeting you hope for after a long morning of travel. After the necessary signatures, we were given a tour of the main lodge and escorted to the sitting area where we were offered drinks of our choice and snacks (we decided upon local red wine and mixed nuts). Sitting peacefully with a glass of wine was the perfect introduction into the magic that was to come...
The main lodge is most impressive - gorgeously designed in contemporary chic elegance, with every detail thought of and no expense spared. Set high above the grounds, it looks out onto an endless ocean view and large floor to ceiling windows provide guests optimal viewing no matter what room you are in. It is a single story ranch style lodge and houses the check in desk, three separate dining areas where all of the meals are served and multiple sitting rooms for reading and relaxation throughout your stay. There is also a center courtyard as well as ample outdoor seating to enjoy the views on warm days. Surprisingly, not many people took advantage of the sitting areas so they were often empty, probably because the suites are so comfortable; however, we benefitted from sipping tea, playing games and passing the time in the sitting rooms without interruption the majority of the day.
It is important to note that we traveled during the winter/early spring and were lucky enough to be one of the few guests staying at the lodge since it is considered low season. I cannot express more that this is a wonderful time to be a traveler throughout New Zealand and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers was no exception - over our 3 night visit and practically had the place to ourselves; it was truly magnificent.
The property is comprised of the main lodge, 22 suites plus an Owners Cottage, a world famous golf course, pool & jacuzzi, fully equipped gym and 6,000 acres of their privately owned working farm. There are various designated walks and hikes around the property; however, it would be nearly impossible to see it all on your own without taking a Can Am Tour (see activities), it's just too large and complex. The property spans practically the entire area of Cape Kidnappers and is not open to the public, with the exception of a few accessible coastal areas. It's remarkable that one location can have forest, farms, beaches and cliffs, but this one certainly does. All of the photos below were taken during our first trail walk (about 3 miles).
When I tell friends about my experience at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, I often say that it is one of those rare places that is filled with life. It seemed like at every turn there was life emerging - from the organic vegetable garden, the seals sunbathing along the rocky shores, the thousands of farm animals (sheep, cows, goats and pigs) and the spring babies being born right in front of us. Away from the multi-million dollar lodge is a serenity unlike anywhere else I've been, where nature and opulence converge and excellence emerges.
In addition to the working farm, the owner of the property has been one of New Zealand's conservation leaders in his efforts towards saving the native bird population. With the largest predator fence in New Zealand, the The Farm is home to hundreds of species of birds, including multiple gannet colonies and the rare kiwi.
A large part of what makes The Farm so special is their incredible staff. As you would expect, customer service is impeccable; however, the graciousness and warmth in their hospitality is what struck us most. Unfortunately, in my personal travel experiences, great luxury is often accompanied with a cold, staunchy, stuffiness that can be rather uncomfortable - but there was an ease about the team at The Farm that we fell in love with. We had fantastic conversations with everyone there, learning about their families, their home towns and the story of how they came to work at such a beautiful place; honestly, we tried to convince more than one of them to sit and have dinner with us! The property manager is also lovely, ensuring that all of her guests' expectations are met and that their experience is unparalleled. On a couple occasions we asked about what to do and before we knew it they were making a special experience happen!
One of the days we asked to be driven out to the Gannet Colony about four miles out and we would walk back to the lodge ourselves. It was late in the afternoon and clouds were brewing overhead and about three miles in I was becoming a bit weary from our walk... right when I thought I would start crying from the darkness and the impending rain overhead, a vehicle appeared a quarter mile ahead (which is strange because there is literally no one out there). When we got close, our amazing driver from earlier appeared with an umbrella and said that they were all worried so he came out to get us - my knight in shining SUV!
When we were checking out, one of the amazing women at the front desk had already printed out directions to our next location, wrote a note of appreciation and remembered how much we loved the ice-cream from the night before that she begged the chef for the recipe and printed it out for us so that we could make it ourselves when we got home. Who does that? Wow. I can't say enough about how much we enjoyed their company and I encourage guests to spend time getting to know each one of them, they are an absolutely wonderful team.
There are 22 luxurious suites sprinkled throughout the property, in varying proximity to the lodge. There are four Lodge Suites for those who would prefer not to have to walk, eight Hilltop Suites and two multi-room Family Suites just a short walk above the lodge, and finally, the most secluded Ridge Suites which are a 5 minute walk from the lodge with unobstructed skyline views.
Each Suite Features:
- Air conditioning
- High-speed wireless internet
- Remote control flat screen TV, DVD & CD player with iPod connection
- Fully stocked complimentary mini-bar
- Walk in closets
- Spacious bathroom with over-sized bath tub and twin vanities
- Private balconies with 180 degree ocean & property views
We were in the Skyline Suites as we don't mind the extra walking and prefer the added privacy. The suites share only one wall, similar to a duplex, and are designed in a way that you feel secluded from the rest of the property where all you can see from your windows are sweeping ocean views. The photos will tell you most of what you need to know, but some of the highlights include a California-king bed that is so plush you can barely get out in the morning, an electric fireplace, a stocked bar with drinks and delicious snacks, a flat screen television hidden behind a picture frame on the wall, heated floors, a walk in closet big enough to park my Prius in, and speakers throughout so you can play John Mayer in the bathroom while you watch the sunset from your gigantic bathtub with the windows wide open (you feel that isolated) and the ocean breeze flowing in. In addition, the bed faces towards the french doors that open up to a private porch with views that quite literally take your breath away. I would sit outside with a cup of tea and watch the sunrise over the cape, feeling like I was on the edge of the world and the sun was coming up just for me each morning.
Included in your stay is a full breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and canapés and a multi-course evening dinner each day. While lunch is not included, you can order an a-la-cart lunch in the dining room or head over to the Club House at the golf course and have lunch there. Honestly, I'd be surprised if anyone was actually hungry between meals and with the snacks available in the room we never found a need for lunch. All meals are served in the lodge, unless otherwise pre-arranged for in-room dining or specific private dining requests.
Breakfast starts with an array of options at the self-serve cold table - including yogurt, fruit, cereals and fresh pastries. Then as you sit down to one of the three dining rooms, you are provided with a hot menu, with a variety of typical breakfast options like eggs, bacon and pancakes. The orange juice is remarkably fresh and there is a large selection of juices, teas and coffee to choose from. Sitting in the main dining area with grand sliding windows, quietly staring out onto the vast property is seriously the best way to start the morning.
Dinner is a full event each evening and a fantastic excuse to get dressed up (jackets are required for men, so don't forget to add that to your packing list!) and delight in an extraordinary meal prepared by one of New Zealand's finest chefs, Head Chef Dale Gartland. Upon arrival in the evening, you are escorted to the main sitting area near the fire where the impressive sommelier offers you whatever adult beverage tickles your fancy. I asked for a glass of chardonnay of his choosing, providing him with just a few of my personal preferences and he poured me a glass of Te Awa, what has now become my favorite chardonnay of all time (so much so, I shipped home 6 bottles!). While you wait for your table, you are served an assortment of canapés while your glass is continuously refilled... which is something to watch for, because on our first night I was not paying attention and finished three glasses before we ever sat down for dinner!
Guests have two ordering options for dinner - a la carte or the chef's five course tasting menu - both of which change daily based on the availability of the finest seasonal, local ingredients. We dined for three nights and each meal was equally incredible - offering an impressive collection of dishes, prepared and served to perfection. We have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world and we were absolutely blown away by the quality and care that went into each dish, wish a special note to the pastry chef who makes some of the best desserts and ice-creams we've ever had - I mean wow! I also very much appreciated that the staff was happy to let us pick and choose when it came to the meal, including ordering additional dishes if we were still hungry or, like one of the evenings, deciding that we wanted to try seven different flavors of ice-cream, options were truly endless.
On a side note, alcoholic drinks are not included with dinner, but are included in the pre-dinner portion of the meal. There are options for wine dinner pairings (which I would highly suggest), bottles or very reasonably priced glasses. Again, after all of the pre-dinner drinking I struggled to finish much more than a glass during the meal (but then again, I'm a bit of a lightweight).
On our last evening at The Farm, it was only us and one other couple from Florida who we met at breakfast. We decided to eat together (it would be silly not to, really), so the staff set up a private dinner table for us in front of the fireplace in the library. It was an enchanting ambiance with dim candlelight and the warm crackle of firewood in the background. It was such a memorable way to end the trip, with fabulous company and exquisite food in an elegant setting.
We booked afternoon tea for the two of us on the day we decided to stay in and relax. We were given the choice to set up anywhere we liked in the lodge and were presented with an enormous array of delectable treats and savory snacks along with all of the tea necessities. It was more than enough food for lunch, but be sure to do it early in the afternoon so that you still have room for evening dinner.
Special Dining Events
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is often host to some of the world's greatest chefs, offering special weekends where guests come and experience an unforgettable food and wine event where celebrity chefs design elaborate meals and mingle with the diners. On the weekend we arrived, The Farm had just finished a sold out weekend event with Rick Stein, one of the UK's best known celebrity chefs. Luckily for us, we were able to meet him after all the guests had left and he was enjoying some relaxation at the lodge. Be sure to check their schedule of upcoming events to book one of these VIP weekends.
First, I must advise that there is a very good chance that you will not want to leave the property, so I suggest waiting until you arrive before booking any major activities that are outside of The Farm at Cape Kidnappers as you may just change your mind when you get there and don't want to feel stuck with pre-arranged plans. I recommend that you spend no more than one day away for every three days there; that seems to be the magic number and any more is just a waste of your visit.
There are a number of on property and off property activities available to book for an additional fee (click here for a full list of options); however, there are also a number of fantastic activities included in your stay - such as spending time at the pool, riding mountain bikes, numerous walking and hiking trails throughout the property, as well as a variety of games, books and movies at your disposal for a relaxing day in. I have included details of the activities that we took part in during our stay. Unfortunately, it was not the time of year when The Kiwi Discovery Walk was available, but we would have definitely done that if given the opportunity and will plan on it during our next visit.
The Spa is located just above the lodge and is a tranquil oasis for weary, stiff travelers. I enjoyed an 80 minute Swedish massage and Colin had a 50 minute Deep Tissue massage. The therapists are experienced and professional, guaranteeing the removal of any traces of stress you might be carrying from the long plane ride over.
Can Am Tour
The CanAm Tour is simply the best way to see all that The Farm offers. Since the majority of the property is unreachable by regular, four wheel drive vehicles, your private guide is able to use the Can Am to take you to the farthest reaches of the expansive grounds. We learned about how the property operates as a working farm, wandered deep into the native brush, climbed to the peak of the hillsides, peered straight down the ocean cliffs and witnessed the birth of spring babies just a few feet away. The guide is actually a local and grew up working on the property before it was ever turned into a luxury lodge, so he's got the history and the experience to take you on an unforgettable adventure.
Hawke's Bay Sunday Farmers' Market
If you are looking to bring home some locally grown and produced goods, head to the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market held Sundays from 8:30-12:30. There's music and a ton of delicious artisanal delights to try and a great way to spend a Sunday morning like a local.
Wine Tasting/Napier's Art Deco
We planned one day to drive around to do some wine tasting and explore Napier, the Art Deco capitol of the world. After trying some wonderful wines at dinner, we decided to visit the vineyards of our favorites in the area, have lunch and check out the town. The wineries here are lovely, all featuring true New Zealand hospitality. Everyone we encountered was friendly and excited to tell us about the grapes grown in the region and the wines that have been gaining respect and recognition worldwide.
My personal favorite wineries, especially for the Chardonnay, are Te Awa and Vidal. We went a little overboard and ended up buying 15 bottles to ship home. It's actually easier than you might expect to ship wine (depending on where you live) - for just over $100, we filled out a slip, brought all of the wines we collected to a nearby winery to be shipped; six weeks later all of our bottles arrived in one piece and we've been enjoying sips of New Zealand from home ever since!
We took a quick drive around Napier where we gazed at their rare collection of Art Deco buildings that have gone untouched since the 1930s, when much of the city was rebuilt after a major earthquake. There are not many unique shops or restaurants in town that require a stop, so a quick drive is really all you need.
After just four hours of being away from the lodge, we were definitely ready to head back. While the city really is beautiful, when you're staying at The Farm there's nowhere else you'd rather be!