One of the motivators for my 2012 road trip around Northland was to revisit the birthplace of New Zealand – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – and in particular be there for our annual public holiday (Waitangi Day, 6th Feb.) that commemorates the 1840 event.
I’m thrilled to be going back again in about 6 weeks, not for a road trip, but for a few days staying in the hotel beside the Treaty Grounds and which I’ll visit again.
In the meantime, read some of my two weeks road trip blogs (and photos) written while travelling around New Zealands beautiful Northland – here’s one to start you off🙂
John Noakes, the bus stop artist of Dunedin, New Zealand started the idea of painting bus shelters after seeing children hiding from the rain in dark bus stops. He painted about 65 of them – a fine legacy and makes for attractive driving along, and around, the Otago Peninsula.
I stop again at Waipoua Forest to see Tane Mahutu in the daylight and it’s a popular site with a number of tour buses in the car park. The road winds its way through the forest of kauri and other natives making for pleasant driving. Heading north on the same road are many campervans and I know the travellers in them will have a great time here in the north of New Zealand.
This west coast is lined with spectacular beaches and petrified forests: 157 sailing ships were wrecked here which lets us know just how wild the Tasman Sea can be.
Checking in at Sunset View LodgeI have great rural views and can even hear the sound of the waves.
The Lodge has free Wi-Fi J and an honesty box in the bar – I’m sure some people would be happy with that but also suspect many travellers choose a B&B so they can spend time with their hosts – however with the honestly box I guess the choice is yours! With only 3 suites, this is a relaxed place to stay and the heated pool is an added bonus . . . especially after horse-riding as Pam, the owner, operates a horse trekking business but I’m not doing that but will be gazing skywards tonight. (Note – The Baylys Beach Horse Treks run from 25th October to 25th April.)
Rural areas in Northland, because of the lack of light and pollution, are good places to check out the night sky – and Astronomy Adventures is the place to start. (You can even stay here too)
The charity side of this observatory – the ‘Skydome Observers Group’ – is made up of locals and I get to join them at their Valentine’s Day meeting where the focus is on Venus – after the goddess of love. In the lounge of our host, I learn Venus is the hottest planet and so not surprisingly has the most volcanoes of any planets. Named after the Roman Goddess of beauty and love, Venus, and other planets or stars, were not visible to us because of the clouds. If you like the night sky, this would be a great place to visit – as is Tekapo just south of Christchurch, and the Carter Observatory in Wellington.
Next morning I head for Dargaville and stop at the Kauri Coast Info Centre and Woodturners Studio and Galleryon Murdoch Street – just north of Dargaville town-ship.
I meet award-winning carver Rick Taylor (and his wife, Sue, who runs the info centre) and I hear that Rick harvests ancient Kauri from swamp land on the Kauri Coast and creates it into the stunning pieces that surround me in the gallery – no wonder he wins awards!
They show me how the kauri is recovered from local swamplands and then the Kauri paper (and soap) is handmade from the kauri shavings. Along with beautiful kauri lidded treasure boxes and bowls rick also turns pens on his lathe. I watch as he goes through the many processes and at the end of the demonstration, when its’ been sanded and oiled many times, he gives me the pen! I was (am!) thrilled with it, and have had many, many comments on my fabulous reminder of his skill and the fabulous kauri coast. The kauri he uses has been taken from an area of swamp which has been carbon-dated as 3860 years at which means my pen is about that old too!
My father was a hobby wood-turner and I know he too would have loved visiting this gallery. Rick is appalled that NZ kauri is sent to China to be made into products for the New Zealand market. “Make sure your things are made in New Zealand’ he said. “Get something that’s good stuff, cheap, not cheap stuff cheap!”
He’s a perfectionist and his work reflects that and he suggests to travellers that NZ-made kauri products are the perfect gift for yourself or friends. Wood-turning for over 30 years Rick is arguably NZ’s leading artist and has travelled to many parts of the world to demonstrate his skills and offers individual tuition. (email him for details – kauri4u AT xtra.co.nz)
Tonight is the last of my two-week Northland road-trip and I cannot believe that so many spend so little time in the area – even with my 14 nights up here I have had to miss out on much the area has to offer.
But now, onto my last bed for this wonderful trip – at the heritage-listed The Commercial Hotel, Dargaville.
Lonely Planet has just released its first European guidebooks for its successful Best Trips series, with the publication of France’s Best Trips, Ireland’s Best Trips and Italy’s Best Trips which has 38 road trips planned for you.
These Best Trips are ideal for travellers who want to explore a specific region by car and each guide is packed with more than 30 road trips; inspirational trip ideas; exciting regional detours; and detailed directions and map – including a pull-out map.
I have a copy ofItaly’s Best Trips and am sure we would have discovered more had I had this when exploring the non-tourist area I stayed in a few years ago, on my last trip. (We stayed near Fabro Scalo in the hilltop hamlet of Carnaiola, Umbria.
Many travellers restrict themselves to Italy’s star cities, but with a car you’ll discover there’s more to the country than Michelangelo masterpieces and Roman ruins. The 38 trips in Italy’s Best Trips run the length of the country, from the northern Alps to southern Sicily, and cover a range of experiences.
On my travel bucket list would be Route# 35: the Sicilian Island Hop which starts at Mt Etna and ends at Salina and which it seems has jaw-dropping views and homes that climb the hill side … ‘steeply stacked” is how the book describes them.
Of course I also want to add Historic Sardinia (#38) to my bucket list with its ‘isolated towns known for feuding and bandits’.
So, if you are heading for Italy (or elsewhere) check out this latest offering from Lonely Planet.
My copy will be available for viewing (to dream over before you buy your own) while you have real coffee at Caffe Italiano – in the Plaza, 719 Whangaparaoa Rd. (NZ of course)