Jan 31 brought us to the Hawke’s Bay Region for a couple nights in Napier. The Hawke’s Bay area is known for beaches and wineries! It enjoys the perfect weather for making wine grapes- warm and dry. Napier has a large art deco theme since the town was rebuilt after an earthquake in the 1930’s. Napier is a bit smaller than other towns in the area but is full of quirky cafes and shops.

We made a stop at a waterfall on our short drive to Napier. The views were postcard New Zealand- rolling hills, blue sky, and sheep!

We stayed at Nautilus Napier. It was a great location! The beach was just across the street and had a boardwalk heading in both directions.  It was a short walk to the businesses, restaurants, and grocery stores. We had a ground floor room and were able to open the windows and take advantage of sea breezes. Bonus- spa tub! We arrived with time for a run prior to our dinner reservations. I had forgotten to look for NYE Dinner until the very last minute but was able to snatch a reservation at Bistronomy. Even though it was still light outside as we walked to dinner; it was at 9 pm. It is a lively but intimate bistro known for “fresh, fun, and foraged flavors”.  And I lucked out that the adults could have the multi-course dinner and the kids could have a simpler version. And we lucked out that we were able to watch the fireworks! The Bepko white cloud was with us. Hopefully it will continue to follow us into 2018.

Our night wasn’t too late since we had whitewater rafting the next day. Every year should be started in this way! Stephen, Ella, and I have rafted before; so Stephen (the 12 yo) was the most excited. We rafted with Mohaka Rafting  on the Mohaka River. We arrived in plenty of time to sign the waivers and get into wet suits. Although I was taken back when the guide asked if we had our “tongs” with us! Yup…..those are swimsuits. We spent several hours on the river. There were 2 rafts in our group but just the four of us in our raft. We started with some gentle rapids and slowly built up to a couple level three rapids. Throughout the day, we were able to take “swimming” breaks and rock-jumping. Meanwhile, we were surrounded by beautiful New Zealand scenery (trees, cliffsides, gorges, birds). Gwen, our guide, was international (he lived half the year in Canada and half in NZ). He was so patient with Stephen! In fact, he gave us the “family joke” for NZ. Just ask the 12 yo…”when do you get to guide?” Stephen asked Gwen, “the other raft is letting someone guide, when is it my turn?” and Gwen responded “after the bridge” without missing a beat. Our rafting ended right before the bridge. The look on his face was priceless. However, Stephen wasn’t disappointed for too long since there was hot chocolate and cookies waiting on shore for us.

We also met the sand-fly. The sand-fly is the only thing about NZ that I don’t like! At first, we thought these pests were gnats. The itchy bites lasted for days and drove us crazy…..definitely not gnats! Here is some further websites (in case you are interested): Sandflies. 

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We weren’t quite sure how to spend our second full day in Napier. We wanted to include a winery stop for lunch and tasting though. It would be a shame to leave the area without a winery lunch! We had noticed a wonderful paved path along the water and thought a bike ride would be nice. We made lunch reservations online and then headed to rent bikes. Well, we bit off a bit much! Our kids deserve huge praise and kudos for this enormous bike ride. Yes, there were a couple meltdowns and lots of eye-rolling, but we persisted. The bike path started along the coastline and some estruary water and then headed through orchards and wineries. Luckily it was essentially flat except for a long steep hill to our lunch! The winery food was delicious and the kids found some beanbags hidden amongst the vines and took a quick re-charge nap. We had sweetened the bike ride with the promise of ice-cream, so we headed into Hastings for ice cream and then back to Napier. We ended up taking the long way back as google maps kept misguiding us, but we did find our way back. At the end, the bike ride was over 35 miles! The kids were definitely impressed with themselves at the endo of the day.

It was time to leave Hawke’s Bay behind and move on to Windy Wellington.