Kiwi Fly Christmas

It’s been a while! Happy New Year and all that. While we’ve had plenty of adventures in the past few months, I haven’t always brought my camera along. In mid-December, my family came over from the US (my parents, my brother Aidan and his partner Tran) for a Kiwi Christmas adventure, something we’d been looking forward to for years. Covid had scuppered those plans a couple times, but it finally happened!

Having a camera on me is great, but sometimes it takes away from the actual experience since I’m too focused on capturing it. I made a point to take some short video clips on my phone instead, and ended up with some fun compilations at the end. Here’s the first one:

On a Thursday, Andy and I flew up to Auckland, where we met everyone near the ferry terminal. They’d arrived the day before, so had a little time to explore and stave off jet lag before we arrived. We hopped on a ferry to the paradise of Waiheke Island, where we had an Airbnb in Surfdale for three nights.

As you’ll have seen in the video, our time on Waiheke consisted of beautiful views and lots of food and wine. Oh, and we went zip lining! Here’s a fabulous vista looking across the Hauraki Gulf toward Rangitoto (an old volcano), taken from Mudbrick Vineyard. We did a wine tour one day and the cloudy, wet weather cleared just in time for us to enjoy classic Waiheke sunshine and vino.

After an amazing island getaway, we headed back to the mainland for our flight to Gisborne, on the east coast of the North Island. We were there for two nights, and our itinerary included a beautiful drive up the coast and celebrating my mom’s birthday. No visit to Gizzy would be complete without a journey to the stunning Tolaga Bay and its impressive historic wharf.

We gathered as many fresh fruit and veggies as we could from our abundant Airbnb garden, including lemons and avocados (perks of staying in such a lush region with a generous host), then made the three-hour drive to Napier in Hawkes Bay.

We’d rented a rural Airbnb in Havelock North, not far outside of Napier, since it allowed dogs. Andy drove up from Wellington to meet us after having flown home from Waiheke to finish up work for the year, and of course the pups had to come along to meet their extended fam. My parents had met Higgs on their last trip, but Fern is a newer arrival.

Since Hawkes Bay is a popular wine region (sensing a theme here?), we of course had to take advantage by heading to the famous Mission Estate Winery, after we’d explored the Art Deco haven of Napier. Dating back to 1851, Mission Estate was first established by missionaries for producing sacramental wine. Now, it’s a popular tourist destination, wedding venue, concert site and so much more. I saw The (Dixie) Chicks on the grounds here a few years ago, and it was wonderful.

Of course, we saved the best for last, and on our final evening before heading back to Wellington, we set out for Te Mata Peak. It would’ve been an epic hike, but we didn’t have time or energy for that, so we took the winding road up. You just have to go slow and hope no one is coming in the other direction!

At a rocky height of 400 meters (1,300 feet), the view from the top is incredible.

Can’t beat a family photo like that. Afterwards, it was time for one of the best meals ever at Craggy Range Winery. No evidence remains, since we were too busy inhaling the unbelievable courses and wine pairings, but here’s the view from the vineyard, looking back toward Te Mata. Bliss!

On a more serious note, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay have been devastated by Cyclone Gabrielle, which recently swept through the upper North Island, causing widespread flooding and leading to a National State of Emergency. People have lost their lives and homes, so please consider donating if you have the means. You can find some options here.

We were fortunate to see these beautiful regions of New Zealand before the terrible weather, and my thoughts are with everyone affected and having to rebuild their entire lives.

From Havelock North, we drove back to Wellington for a few more days with Aidan and Tran before they flew home on Christmas Day, and a couple weeks relaxing with my parents. Here’s a map of our trip for those who aren’t familiar with NZ geography.

I’ll leave you with our Christmas photo (we got to celebrate twice, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with some friends as well), and another video summary of the adventures we had. Stay tuned for an epic visit to Kapiti Island next!

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