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 are bombs in rivers and breweries on the way up and hot pools and burgers in Haumoana to get your home again.
Hitting the road. 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 atmosphere 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 safe. 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.
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 it’s 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 if 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 burgers. And the peppermint chocolate cheesecake is a must.
Te Paerahi is the best old school beach. It’s vast with golden sand and is sheltered by headlands at either end. Freedom camping here is fantastic as it’s big enough to cope with everyone, even at busy times around New Years (due to it being an hour twenty off the main drag which 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)
Next stop, a perch at Roosters. Roosters have been batch brewing sessional beer 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 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 Vic, who runs the tours, is super great and makes sure you have a fantastic trip. Our pick is to choose an option that lets you hit the open road.
Gisborne is a great, sunny little beach town and you might want to head straight to the beach, but if you need to chill out on your way through Gisborne then stop in at Sunshine Brewery for a coldie. 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.
But if you’re more inclined towards grapes than hops, why don’t you pop along to Milton Vineyards, less than 15 minutes west of Gisborne. Not only was Milton New Zealand’s first certified organic vineyard but they’ve won numerous international awards and their Chenin Blanc is a bucket list wine, being included in Neil Beckett's, "1001 wines to drink before you die". Go straight to the cellar door for a guided tasting and then pick up a bottle, and a cheese and charcuterie boards and sit yourself in the gardens to sup, munch and reflect on the beautiful Gisborne countryside.
Eastwoodhill Arboretum, 30 minutes’ drive from Gisborne is New Zealand’s National Arboretum. On it’s 135-hectare site there’s a massive array of Northern Hemisphere’s trees, the largest collection south of the equator apparenytly. The Arboretum was founded by a rather eccentric chap in 1910 called William Douglas Cook. Cook apparently used to wander around, watering and talking to the plants dressed only in his gumboots and sunhat. Well thank goodness he was sunsmart. Ish.
Today there is a more conservative feel to the dress code, so you can wander amogst the 25,000 exotic and native trees, shrubs, climbers and flowers dressed in your normal roadtrip kit - although we reckon you should at least adopt Cook’s sunhat policy. It’s great to visit at any time of the year, but we reckon visiting in autumn is ideal as you’ll get those jaw dropping insta shots of all the autumnal leaves in their golds, reds and orange shades, as well as not getting too hot wandering the grounds. And for the bird spotters amongst you, there are more than 40 species of native and exotic birds who also come to feast on the seeds, insects and berries within the arboretum.
From the peace of the Arboretum, it’s only a 15 minute drive to the whoops of joy coming from Rere Rock’s 60 metres long, natural waterslide. But hell, you only live once. The 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 (just remember to take them with you when you leave!). 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 both hot and cold springs at Morere set in hectares and hectares of rainforest full of mighty nikau palms. The hot spring is ancient, healing seawater and is piped into private and public pools. 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 soothed. Be sure to plunge into a cold pool before you leave so you’re not too sleepy for the road.
This Hawkes Bay institution has been around since 1926. The first time Rush Munro’s 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 tragic 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 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 from Thursdays to Sundays, by a team who get what a premium burger the burgers are served on a brioche bun with a cracking Haumoana slaw. The vegan option is good, or there’s local fish, free-range chicken or beef to choose from. The back garden is so cute you might not even set foot on the beach. There’s even camping at Haumoana Holiday Park but book ahead. Go on! Book now.
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 massive swimming holes. Check the river safety report (for algae) first, and just remember, if you turn up around two in the afternoon it will be busy.
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. So don’t be put off by the number of cars in the carpark, just get on in there.