It’s a hefty trek up from Wellington to Gisborne so we've thrown down some options that will make your roadie an adventure, including a night of freedom camping and a selfie at the longest place name in the universe (that we know of but you can't trust aliens to be forthcoming with intel). There's bombs in rivers and breweries on the way up and hot pools and burgers in Haumoana to get your home again.
Most good roadies start with coffee so brothers and sisters of the revolution grab one at Fidels on Cuba street, where the coffee is Cuban, the hospitality is pure New Zealand and the atmos is always utterly bohemian. Their smoothie bowls or eggs bene with homemade hashcakes will kick start your day too.
Everyone needs candy on a roadtrip and a sugar hit will keep the driver focused on the important job of keeping everyone alive. The family run Kapiti Candy Co in Paraparaumu have been making hand crafted sweets for 20 years. They know their fudge from their sherbets, and they also have gluten free and sugar free candy in their range. Make sure you pick up a giant lollipop to pull out at R&V when you can’t face another drink at 2am and your taste buds want a change.
When it’s hot and the car is stuffy a swim fixes everything. Kimberly Road Reserve is a secret just off SH57, full of native flora and fauna but not too many of the loud human variety. Running through the park is Ohau River with some ace swimming holes. This is the home of the Organic River Festival every February so its kitted out with public toilets and plenty of flat grass for lounging while you dry off.
Just over a bridge at the north end of the gorge (check to see about alternative routes while the gorge is closed) is a lunch spot where you can kick the shoes off. Set in gardens, the café is in an old house creaking with character. There isn’t a huge selection but the food is tasty and varied from Turkish poached eggs to pulled pork burgers. And the peppermint chocolate cheesecake is a must.
Te Paerahi is the best old school beach. It’s vast, with golden sand and sheltered by headlands at either end. Freedom camping here is the bomb; it’s big enough to cope with everyone, even at busy times around New Years (being an hour twenty off the main drag puts some people off). There are good loos on the beachfront for campers plus there’s an old-fashioned dairy and pub that serves up country style home cooking. Test out your tent putting up skills, wake, swim in the ocean and get cracking on the next leg.
A slight detour south of Te Paerahi/Porangahau township will take you to this tiny coastal community, famous for its hospitality (that’s what they say) and more famous for its name. You won’t be able to say it quickly but you will get a good snap by the sign. Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. (Taumata for short).
Roosters have been batch brewing sessional beer in Hastings since 1994, back when the only thing that came in batches were cookies. There’s a cracking range of craft beers but as you’re on a road trip you’ll want to eat here too and they serve up delicious hot food. Set in an old barn, Roosters has a good old fashioned, no fuss, rustic vibe.
Where else can you ride around in a gigantic five seater supped up motorbike, not wear a helmet (tiaras are OK), and tell the driver where to go? For a forty-minute ride you can tick off exploring Hawkes Bay in one trip. And the guy, Vic, who runs the tours, is super great and makes sure you have a fantastic trip. Make sure you choose an option to hit the open road.
You might want to go straight to Rhythm & Vines and nab your tent spot but if you need to cool down on your way through Gisborne then stop in at Sunshine Brewery for a cold one. In 1980 two surfing mates with a love of quality handcrafted beers started brewing their own beer to cope with Gisborne’s long hot summers. And they’re still doing it.
It’s a forty-minute drive from Waiohika Estate but you get to boogie board down a 60 metre long natural waterslide, so yeah, this is a oncer. The Rere Rock slide has been pummelled smooth by the relentless Wharekopae River, so grab yourself an inflatable mattress, boogie board or inner tube and go for it. If you don’t have anything inflatable then find some cardboard and see how long it lasts. The brilliance of this is that there’s nothing commercial about it, just people having a wild time in a natural wonderland and the rockslide is a one-minute walk from the parking lot. While you’re there you might as well have a gander at Rere Falls too.
There are hot AND cold springs at Morere set in hectares of rainforest full of mighty nikau palms. It’s worth taking a short stroll in the rainforest (you can choose from 10 minutes to three hours) then get your weary bones into a therapeutic spring and come out feeling nearly back to normal. The hot spring is ancient, healing seawater piped into public or private pools incase you can't find your togs in the jumble of the boot. Be sure to plunge into a cold pool before you leave so you’re pumped for the road.
This Hawkes Bay institution has been around since 1926. The first time Rush Munroe opened their doors they sold out by the end of the day. It was a total rush and has been popular ever since, even surviving the massive 1931 earthquake. Over the decades they’ve always stuck to their principles – to make natural ice cream with no additives, no preservatives, no funny stuff, just farm fresh cream and real flavours, including lots of local Hawkes Bay fruit. They also have sorbet for the dairy free peeps and their feijoa flavour is to die for delish!
It’s a fifteen-minute drive out from Hastings but the rugged beach views at Haumoana make the burgers taste that much better. Run by a team who get what a premium burger is they serve them up on a brioche bun with a cracking Haumoana slaw. The vegan option is good, or there’s local fish, free-range chicken or beef. The back garden is so good you might not even set foot on the beach. There’s also camping at Haumoana Holiday Park but book ahead.
The Waingawa River runs from one of the highest peaks in the Tararua Ranges, comes down through Masterton and flows into the Ruamahanga River. It’s cold on the hottest of days and Kaituna has been a local swimming fav since the 50’s because of the gigantic swimming holes. Check the river safety report (for that annoying algae), and if you turn up around two in the afternoon you'll be sharing it with locals. Lots of locals...
Run by a couple of artisan bakers, the Clareville Bakery is usually always packed (a good sign) but they’re super fast at serving customers. They’ve won pie awards and it’s home to the Clareville Cracker (which is fancy Lavash flatbread found at Moore Wilsons) plus their stone baked sourdough and range of breads are OMG. Don’t be put off by the number of cars in the carpark.