It was a fantastic trip! Only the weather could have been improved.
Accommodations were lovely. Amber Court stood out for their personal attention. The Napier hotel gave us a fabulous corner room with a view of the beach on two sides. There was some electrical problem in the room, but we weren’t there long enough for it to be much of an inconvenience. The Wanganui hotel was very nice, also. The US Rugby team had stayed there for 10 days and was scheduled to return the night we stayed, but changed plans. Too bad.
The side trip to Napier was worth the long drive (from the one who didn’t drive the long curving route for 12 hours total on the unaccustomed side of the road). A detour over the mountain in the middle of a HUGE wind farm was interesting, but really not too much of a thrill. There had been a rock slide on the gorge route, which from the name I assume was probably not a better drive. Napier is lovely, and the wine tour was fun.
We enjoyed the Mission Winery visit and the Churchill Winery tour that we did independently for the individual attention from the “duty managers”. Grape Escape was fun, for the added camaraderie of the group. Our final conclusion is that, except for a syrah from Churchill and a port from each of two wineries on the tour (Moana Park and Crossroads), the whites were by far our favorite find. The winery buildings were a study in repurposing of structures, as was all of Napier. An old mission and former horse farm were transformed beautifully to winery use. The Napier trust buildings were a study in what can happen with a dedicated group effort to convert a community. It was surprising how many buildings throughout the town recreated the art deco theme.
Everywhere we encountered delightful people. This started with our first flight on Air NZ, where everyone accommodated us well for the long flight. As mentioned earlier, we became fast friends with Sandy and Carolyn at Amber court. We met Trevor at Newport through his wife who was security guard at the museum/ library. He took us to his social club, to watch opening ceremonies and the opening game on a big screen TV, while we had dinner with him and his friends. Designated volunteer ambassadors on the streets helped us find what we needed in town. A WWII vet started a conversation with us on the street at Napier. We met the author of a book on reclamation of Napier after the earthquake, as we were deciding to purchase the book. The manager at the Mission winery was particularly friendly. Our companions on the wine tour were a very congenial group—a Brit, a South African, a Welch couple and us.
The rugby game venue in New Plymouth was well managed, unlike reports we read about the venue in Auckland. New Plymouth was undoubtedly smaller, and as people accustomed to UT football, we knew what a big game meant inside and outside the stadium.
As an observation, we found prices of everything to be quite high. Gasoline by the liter translated to about $8 per gallon—in an island that has been producing oil since the mid 1800’s!! Mac Donald’s burger, fries and coke was $15, just for familiar reference. And tax was 15%, rounded up. Hooray for not having to count nickels and pennies!!
We appreciate your help and your tips, putting this great package together so quickly.