Maybe I’m being unfair. We were in Feilding just after New Year and it seemed most of Feilding had left town. Or maybe it is always like that.
When we were looking to break the journey north from Wellington to Gisborne, I wanted to stop somewhere I'd never been before, Ideally somewhere on the coast. I found Herbertville on the map, and wondered why I had never heard of it.
Now I know.
It is old New Zealand there, which is great when you are talking with people at the pub, but not so great when you look around. The Tararua countryside was in stark contrast to Marlborough Sounds where we had stayed before. It is scarred by intensive forestry with conifers and bare, eroded hillsides. The valleys are dotted with cattle standing about and shitting in the lifeless rivers. On the road from Dannevirke to Herbertville, we saw few native trees and fewer native birds.
Herbertville is boatie heaven as the locals complain of being able to catch nothing but blue cod (something fishermen would love to be able to do near where we live). The campground is well equipped, but battles the prevailing wind. Our tent was buffeted despite having hedge windbreaks on three sides. And the sea looked too vicious to do more than dip your toes in.
Please leave a comment if you have had a better experience of being in Herbertville!
Bluebridge are a lovely company, but we bought the cheapest tickets way in advance to travel at Christmas. So when their ferry broke down and we had to get home, it cost way more to come back on the Interislander. Bluebridge refunded what we had paid, but not the extra $200 it cost to buy last minute tickets on the other ferry from Wellington to Picton. At least it was the only bad thing that happened on our Christmas holiday (let’s not mention when the boyf power-washed the Land Rover and shorted the electrics).
Normally we would never ever go away between Christmas and New Year in New Zealand. It often rains and isn't that warm. And everybody is on holiday, as this is the big summer school holiday. New Zealand is as busy as it gets (which, admittedly isn't busy by UK standards, but means crazy drivers on the roads and premium prices in accommodation). But one of my sisters was coming over from London with her family and the other sister had booked a bach for us all up in the north of the North Island, the Coromandel.
It used to be that ordinary Kiwi families had holiday homes ("baches", or "cribs" further south). But the increase in property prices, particularly near water, has meant that baches are becoming places that only rich New Zealanders (or foreigners) have. We were lucky to be able to find an old wooden bach that could accommodate all of us (bigger than the one above).
I haven't been to the Coromandel in 15 years and it has changed a lot. The old wooden baches have been replaced by much bigger and modern versions and any available land by the beach either had been built on or is being subdivided to be built on. There are very few beaches left in the Coromandel that don't have baches on their edges (New Chums is one and it is rammed with tourists because of it). The developers have their eyes on these. The money from Aucklanders and other rich outsiders (beachfront sections are retailing for $2 million) has changed the Coromandel. Places like Matarangi swell from 700 residents to 3000 and it feels like all of them have brought powerboats and jetskis.
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Dunedin is a small city (population 127,000), but it punches above its weight culturally, making it a fun place to visit for the weekend. There are plenty of galleries, including the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. The Settlers Museum has impressive displays that take you through the development of both Māori and Pākehā culture through the history of Otago.
Everywhere you walk in the city you are likely to come across some fantastic and often enormous street art.
And if you get tired of walking around the city and the cultural sights, you can always stop for a drink.
Last month we spent a weekend in Dunedin. The weather was terrible and maybe it is because of the often terrible weather that Dunedin has a lot of excellent places to drink . We ducked in and out of some great cafes and bars (Morning Magpie, Mazagran, The Standard Kitchen, Good Good, Starfish, Pequeño, Albar and we would have liked to go to the Inch bar). There's even a guy (Brendan Seal) who is making wine in the city itself at a place called Urbn Vino.
There are several breweries in town. There is the long-established Speights brewery and you can take a tour if you like. We drink plenty of the stuff in Lyttelton, but didn’t want to spend the time on a tour. I thought the best thing was the springwater that was available on tap outside (for a voluntary donation). We also visited the New New New brewery (it's quite new) and the Emersons brewery.
If you like to drink coffee, wine, beer, or something stronger, you can guarantee you'll find your kind of place in Dunedin. Just don’t expect the weather to be any good.