Devon On The Wharf

Devonport has always been one of my favourite places in Auckland. When I was studying at Auckland university, and later working in downtown Auckland, there was always something liberating about boarding the ferry to Devonport. The feeling that all of the hustle and bustle and stress of study and work was blown away by the sea breeze as the ferry chugged its away across the water. I loved wandering through the art galleries, and visiting the Stone Oven Café for one of their delicious muffins. When my husband and I decided to get married in New Zealand, we got married in Devonport. We still have stunning wedding photos on our wall, from the top of North Head looking out over the water to Rangitoto. And later we took our kids to Devonport, to eat freshly cooked fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, while sitting in the park on the waterfront. Afterward the kids would play on the slides and swings, while eating Hokey Pokey ice cream, and we would watch the boats sail past, and sip on a glass of local Sauvignon Blanc. Bliss.

But the wharf itself was always a bit of let-down. It was somewhere you hurried through on your way to the village, or to the boat. There was never really any reason to linger there. Finally, someone has seen the potential of this wonderful spot, and all this has changed. Introducing … Devon on the Wharf, opened 2 weeks ago, on the 25th of August this year.

A wonderful restaurant that seems to do it all. There is a kiosk providing freshly roasted coffee and fresh-pressed juices for commuters passing through the ferry building, as well as packed lunches for people wanting to take a picnic on the go. The main restaurant has delicious offerings including a full breakfast menu (with dishes like blueberry pancakes and truffled scrambled eggs on a crusty Turkish bagel) as well as lunch and dinner menus. The menus have a Mediterranean feel, with platters, souvlakis and Turkish pides, amongst other delicious meals on offer. There is also a bar where you can grab a beer after a hard day out and about, while admiring the Auckland city skyline through the window.

Devon on the Wharf is definitely worth putting on your list of things to experience while in Auckland. If you are staying in downtown Auckland, you could easily take the ferry over to Devonport for dinner one evening, and get the ferry back to your hotel afterwards. What a delightful way to leave the stresses of the day behind, and enjoy delicious food and a beautiful space right on the water.

You can find out more about this great new restaurant on their website: http://devononthewharf.nz

Here are some recent local reviews as well, which give you a good feel for this wonderful new place: The Denizen and Urban List.

 

 

North of the Takaka Hill

Many visitors to the Nelson region don’t make it over Takaka Hill up to Golden Bay, the northern tip of the South Island, but it is well worth a visit!! (Particularly if you are looking to go somewhere a little off the beaten track, and away from the mainstream of tourists at a busy time of year). State Highway 60 winds over and around the Takaka Hill, and there are some great photo stops along the way, with stunning views back over the plains towards Nelson.

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I also made a lovely stop at the Te Waikoropupu Springs (known as the pupu springs by the locals!), which is about an hour and a half north of Motueka. There is a beautiful bushwalk to the largest spring in New Zealand, with some of the clearest water in the world. The waters are sacred to the Maori, and it is forbidden to swim or otherwise touch the water, but it is nonetheless a very peaceful place to stop and stretch your legs.

It is a short drive from Te Waikoropupu to Collingwood, where I checked in to my room at Zatori. Zatori stands on a hilltop overlooking the Collingwood Estuary and village, halfway between Takaka township and the Farewell Spit. The beautiful setting of this retreat is totally private, with stunning views over the gorgeous Aorere River mouth out to the mountains of Kahurangi National Park and the ocean beyond. There are paddle boards, kayaks and bikes available if you want to further explore the area without having to get back in your car. As my room wasn’t quite ready (I had arrived an hour earlier than expected!) Tracey brought me a pot of tea and I sat out on the deck admiring the view, and wishing I could just sit there for the rest of the day. My room was beautiful, with large sliding windows which I could open on to a deck, with views out over the gardens and the sea beyond. A lovely retreat.

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I had a delicious lunch at the Courthouse Cafe in Collingwood, before heading out to explore Cape Farewell, and Farewell Spit.

Farewell Spit, at the northern tip of the South Island is New Zealand’s longest sand spit (35km) and a nature reserve. It is an internationally-renowned bird sanctuary with over 90 bird species recorded in the area. Every spring, thousands of wading birds arrive from the northern hemisphere. Other birds range from black swans and gannets to bar tailed godwits, knots, curlews, whimbrels and turnstones. Penguins also breed in the area.

Wharariki Beach is stunning. The crashing waves, huge cliffs, and sanddunes will blow you away. The caves, islands and arches of Wharariki Beach, where seals breed, are among the most dramatic in the country. There is a local horse trekking company with special concessions from the Department of Conservation to ride horses along Wharariki Beach – a unique way to explore this stunning part of New Zealand.

There are also lots of great walks you can do in this area, of various difficulty grades, across lush farmland, and with spectacular views of the rugged coastline. Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes! You can walk from Wharariki Beach to Cape Farewell (which is about a 3 hour walk). Part of this path crosses the beach, and you will need to make sure it is low tide when you set out, otherwise this part of the walk will be under water. After crossing a small creek and walking through farmland, and along cliffs with amazing views, you will eventually come to Cape Farewell.

Cape Farewell is the most northerly point on the South Island and is located just west of Farewell Spit. First mapped by Abel Tasman, it was named by British explorer James Cook in 1770 – it was the last land seen by his crew as they departed on the ship’s homeward voyage. Due to its remote location, it is one of the less visited of New Zealand’s major capes.  From here, the clifftop walk (3 hours one-way along the heights of the coast east of the Cape) joins the area with the beginning of Farewell Spit.

I had a magnificent 3 course dinner at Zatori that evening, and the lovely atmosphere in the stylish lounge area (complete with open fire) was the perfect setting for a delightful evening with delicious food and friendly locals. Tracey also recommended the perfect wines from the area to accompany the meal. A wonderful end to a wonderful weekend in Golden Bay.

A weekend in Nelson

I spent a delightful weekend in Nelson in May. As my plane landed at the small local airport, and I climbed down the stairs onto the runway, I looked around at the early morning light, the open skies, and the distant mountains, and felt that I had arrived somewhere special. After picking up my car from Hardy Rental Cars (very good friendly service) I headed into Nelson township, to visit the Nelson Market, which is held on Saturday mornings. It was a beautiful crisp sunny autumn day, and I had a very enjoyable stroll through the various market stalls – admiring everything from regional goods, fresh, seasonal and organic produce as well as handcrafted items from local artisans, and stalls selling mouth-watering freshly prepared food and coffee.

In the afternoon, I visited the World of Wearable Art Museum. I wasn’t expecting to be so impressed. The skill and talent involved in creating these stunning costumes is incredible. Many of the costumes on display won awards in the World of Wearable Art Awards Show, a two hour performance held annually in Wellington in September. The Museum also has a vast collection of classic cars in wonderful condition too. You can easily while away an hour or three here!

The next morning I visited some of the lovely vineyards in the Nelson area. Nelson is one of the sunniest region in New Zealand, and has a mild climate that combines to create some wonderful wines. Grape vines have been cultivated in this area from the time of the mid-1800s by German settlers to New Zealand. Many wineries in the area also offer lovely cafes at the vineyard, so as well as tasting wines, you can indulge in a platter of something delicious to go with the wine as well. As it is quite a small region, you can visit several vineyards within a few hours.

Afterwards, I ended up at the Jellyfish Cafe at Mapua Wharf for a late lunch. What a beautiful place. I had a delicious meal of grilled calamari, salad and kumara chips, with a glass of a Nelson Sauvignon Blanc, while admiring the beautiful Waimea Estuary flowing past the cafe. I could easily have spent most of the afternoon there, soaking in the sea air and the sound of gulls flying past, but decided I needed a bit of activity to round off the day.

So, after my late lunch I went for a bike tour on Tasman’s Great Taste Trail with Nicky McBride, from Wheelie Fantastic. They have a great arrangement there – Nicky and her team are based directly at Mapua Wharf, and will drop you (and your bikes) anywhere in the area on the Taste Trail (depending on how far and how long you want to bike, and how challenging you want your ride to be). I decided that after my wine tastings and lunch I didn’t feel up to tackling hilly areas, and rather wanted some downhill and flat biking. You can choose whether you want to bike on your own or whether you would like one of their guides to bike with you and show you around. Nicky loaded our bikes up on the back of their van, and we were dropped off on the Trail. Nicky showed me some lovely parts of the country on the way back to Mapua, and some good spots to stop for a break or two (Jester House looked lovely!) There’s something for everyone there, whether you’re a really keen biker or just someone who feels like a leisurely bike ride to work off lunch and a glass or two of wine!!

Moana the Albatross

Albatrosses are the world’s largest seabirds, spending at least 85% of their lives at sea. Fourteen varieties of albatrosses breed in the New Zealand region – more than anywhere else in the world. Several are extremely rare, like the Chatham Islands mollymawk which breeds only on one tiny island in the Chathams. (See the DOC website: DOC:Albatrosses)

New Zealand’s albatrosses include two species of royal albatross, the largest of all the albatrosses. Given that these huge birds often live in very remote areas, it can be hard for most of us to see them.  If you make it to Dunedin, you should definitely visit the Royal Albatross Centre, located on the Otago Peninsula. Pukekura/Taiaroa Head is home to the world’s only mainland royal albatross breeding colony. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these magnificent birds in real life, and a unique opportunity to view royal albatross parents and chicks. At the Royal Albatross Centre, visitors can watch the seasonal behaviour of breeding albatross including courting, egg incubation, chicks and adolescent hijinks.

If you’re too far away to pop into the Royal Albatross Centre, you can watch the development of little Moana, an albatross chick hatched on the 21st of January 2016, via a live stream web camera, placed directly in front of Moana’s nest: Moana: Royal Cam

This is an amazing opportunity to watch a baby albatross grow and explore its surroundings. Initially, Moana’s parents took turns guarding and feeding her. She is now left alone for extended periods while both parents head to sea to search for food. As she gets older and bigger, the parents spend more time out at sea. You may tune in and see an empty nest, but usually Moana’s not too far away. She needs to stay near the nest in case her parents come back to feed her.

 

James Cameron in New Zealand

Tourism New Zealand has a newly launched campaign which features filmmaker James Cameron (the famous director of Aliens, The Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, among other films). Cameron and his wife Suzy picked New Zealand as their second home 4 years ago.  James Cameron comments: “If you enjoy the outdoors and you enjoy a sense of adventure, you’re not going to be able to beat this place anywhere in the world.”

The campaign features a clip entitled “James Cameron’s New Zealand”, and a range of short films on the following themes: People and Culture; Local Wine; Journeys and Landscapes; Walking and Hiking; Cities and Arts, and Alpine Vistas.

You can see the campaign here: http://www.newzealand.com/int/feature/james-cameron-new-zealand/

Abel Tasman Webcams

For those of us who can’t get to the south island of New Zealand as often as we would like, we can now go online to see how each beautiful day in the Abel Tasman National Park unfolds. By looking at the web cameras posted on the Project Janszoon website, you can see a changing ten minute shot of Awaroa, Torrent Bay, Astrolabe and Anchorage throughout the day – and almost imagine you’re there yourself! Check it out: http://www.janszoon.org/the-park/webcams/  (The cameras take a still photo every 10 minutes, and you can scroll through a days worth of images!)

 

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(Project Janszoon is a privately funded initiative working in partnership with the Department of Conservation to help restore the ecology of the Abel Tasman National Park.)

 

New Banknotes in New Zealand

In May this year, New Zealand’s new $20, $50 and $100 notes were introduced into circulation by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. These beautiful new notes highlight some of the New Zealand native birds at risk from predators like possums, stoats and rats. Fortunately the New Zealand Department of Conservation and various community groups and trusts are working to help protect these special birds. Hopefully featuring them on the new banknotes will also highlight the risk facing these vulnerable birds, and contribute to the protective efforts already in place.

 

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The New $20 Banknote. Image: Reserve Bank of New Zealand

One of New Zealand’s fastest birds can be found on the new $20 banknote: the kārearea or New Zealand falcon. The bird can reach speeds of over 100 km/h and catch prey larger than itself. This species is at-risk and it is estimated only 5,000 to 8,000 birds remain. Community groups including the Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust and Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust are working to ensure the survival of this special bird. Also to be seen on the new $20 note is the Marlborough rock daisy which appears in front of Tapuae-o-Uenuku, the highest peak in the northeast of New Zealand’s South Island. (You can find this daisy on the Kaikoura coast, where it can be seen growing off many of the steep rocky bluffs.)

 

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The new $50 Banknote. Image: Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

The new New Zealand $50 banknote is the only note in the world to feature fungi (the blue mushroom, known as werewere-kōkako in māori.)

The kōkako (the native bird also featured on this banknote) are another bird species at-risk, specially known for the clarity and volume of their song which carries far across the forest. (In the mid 1990s the New Zealand Department of Conservation and the Auckland Regional Council started a joint project to protect the remaining 21 North Island kōkako in the Hunua Ranges. The population has grown slowly with the protection of nests from predators, close monitoring of nesting birds and trans-locations. A census in 2015 found 55 kōkako pairs!)

 

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The new $100 Banknote. Image: Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

The new $100 banknote features the South Island lichen moth, mohua and Eglinton Valley in Fiordland National Park.

The South Island lichen moth (also known as the zebra moth) is known for its unique colouration and camouflage techniques within Fiordland beech forests. The mohua (also known as the yellowed) is a small bird found only in the southern half of New Zealand. It nests in tree holes, which make it highly vulnerable to predators like possums, stoats and rats.  A predator plague in 2000 drove the last mohua out of the Marlborough Sounds and caused population crashes in many areas of the South Island. DOC’s battle for our birds programme this year aims to give birds such as the mohua another chance at survival through pest control operations.

 

For more detailed information on all of the new New Zealand banknotes, as well as the new $5 and $10 notes issued in October 2015, check out the following site: http://www.brightermoney.co.nz

Go the All Blacks!!!

Many clients have told me that they have been following the All Black games during the Rugby World Cup in England over the past month. And I can totally understand how even non-kiwis get drawn in by this incredible team! They were AMAZING! After each spine tingling Haka at the start of the games, the All Blacks convinced fans and opponents alike with their grit and determination and out-standing skill. There is a great video on the Rugby World Cup website: “Unrivalled Brilliance: New Zealand’s Golden RWC Moments”, which shows many of these magical moments – Unrivalled Brilliance: New Zealand’s Golden RWC Moments

It’s just awesome rugby! The All Blacks made history by being the only team in the world to have ever successfully defended the Rugby World Cup title, by winning two Rugby World Cups in a row (2011 and 2015). For a little country of four and a half million people, that is an amazing achievement. Go New Zealand! Go the All Blacks!!!

Stewart Island – J. Houtwipper

We had 3 nights and 4 days on Stewart Island in January 2014.  Many New Zealanders have never even visited there, but we knew we wanted to experience it – we had heard so many wonderful things about the clear waters and stunning native bush and birdlife.  It is different again from both the North Island and South Island. And like stepping back in time and “pace” – untouched, prehistoric, beautiful.  A very simple, nature lover’s paradise and I highly recommend it as a special lifetime experience.

A day trip to Ulva Island (10 minutes by water taxi) is a must.  We had a wonderful guide (Matt from Ulva’s Guided Tours – Ulva is a lovely lady who was named after the island and also takes the tours).   We can confirm that having a guide is totally worth it – you have a much richer experience learning all about the history of the island and the native birds and plants/trees, and being able to ask questions and tailor the trip to what you want to do and see.   We had a gorgeous little family of robins all around us for about 10 minutes or more  – totally unafraid.  The mother was feeding the baby right beside us and even flying close to sit on my husband’s foot while we stood watching. Continue reading

Coatesville and beyond – J. Rutter

Coatesville made a name for itself in 2011 when resident Kim Dotcom hit the headlines after a high profile Police raid on his rented property, the ‘ Dotcom Mansion’. Visitors still seek out Coatesville looking for photo opportunities on the driveway outside the Mansion, or a glimpse of the life size African animal sculptures grouped eerily on the hillside.

But there is far more to Coatesville than its most notorious resident. The village is only 10 minutes north of Albany, Auckland’s fastest growing suburb and a mecca for shopping (think large malls rather than small boutiques). A day trip to Coatesville has plenty to offer visitors.

Start with breakfast or a leisurely brunch at either Fernielea Café or Black Cottage Café, located side by side on the Coatesville Riverhead Highway. Both are recent award winners and are known for their friendly service as well as excellent café food. Fernielea is particularly popular with local families for its child friendly outside garden area complete with playground, trampoline and sandpit.

If you time your visit to Coatesville to coincide with the monthly Sunday market, you will be in for an extra treat. Although not a Farmer’s Market as such, there are delicious food stalls, craft offerings and second hand treasures to be found. The market is open on the first Sunday of every month (except January), from 10am to 2pm. Buy a coffee and enjoy wandering, exploring and experiencing the warm local culture of this rural community. Continue reading