Victoria Tait takes a weekend away in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
On the central-eastern coast of the North Island, Hawke’s Bay is a genteel farming and vineyard region that covers an enormous valley flanked by two tumbling rivers. Since the 1970s, due to its fertile soil, the region has become home to a growing number of excellent wineries. It makes the perfect weekend getaway from Christchurch. With so much on offer, I’ve selected some of my must-do activities.
There is more to this lodge and golf course than just pure luxury. The experience starts as you enter through the gates to the 2428-hectare property and take a drive through the sheep and cattle station, native bush and cavernous gorges and gullies. The winding road and stunning scenery has been said to bring a tear to the eye of even the toughest of men. This possibly has something to do with the fact there is one of the world’s most prestigious golf courses at the top. Before you reach this, however, you’ll notice signs not seen on everyday roads: “mind the kiwis” – that is not us, but the actual flightless bird. American philanthropist and multi-millionaire owner Julian Robertson has spent a fortune protecting New Zealand wildlife and built a bird sanctuary on the property, complete with a large predator-proof fence that sinks a metre and a half into the ground.
Te Mata Peak
One of the most loved attractions by locals and tourist alike, the famous peak stands at 399 metres above sea level at the western boundary of the bountiful Heretaunga Plains. The panoramic views are breathtaking in all directions. On a clear day you can see as far as Mt Ruapehu. The peak lies on the edge of the dramatically uplifted limestone hill country, cut through by the Tukituki River.
Wine Tours and Tasting
Hawke’s Bay has many of the country’s most renowned wineries, many with exquisite restaurants to match. Craggy Range, named Best New World Winery 2014, is situated at the base of Te Mata Peak and surrounded by views of the rugged cliff face. The famous Terroir Restaurant is reminiscent of the French countryside, with a view of the rambling hills and vineyard. Black Barn, a small, exclusive vineyard situated on the Te Mata hills, faces north. Best known for its premium Bordeaux-style red varieties, such as merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet fran, as well as a fabulous farmers’ market, cheese shop and gourmet gift store. It’s
certainly on the must-visit list. Te Mata Estate was established in 1896 and is one of New Zealand’s oldest wineries. They produce some of the country’s top
quality reds. They don’t have a restaurant, but a visit to their cellar door is a must. Elephant Hill was designed by Queenstown-based architect John Blair in 2008. The winery’s distinguishing feature is the exterior cladding in natural green pre-patinated copper. The design was inspired by the Pacific Ocean. The stunning outdoor restaurant overlooks the vines with the coast beyond.
If you are staying with someone ‘in the know’, head to the Hawke’s Bay Club. Take a step back in time – where women are only allowed in the front parlour – and enjoy genteel provincial New Zealand at its best. Mister D Dining is a rock ‘n’ roll style diner where the emphasis is on fresh and local produce. The salmon is to die for, as is the pulled pork, with white polenta, apple and fennel salad, and pollen salt.