Approximate Driving Time: 2 hours 30 mins
Tom Parker Fountain, Napier
Our delicious cooked breakfast was delivered to our rooms at the Comfort Inn Kauri Court the next morning. The generous portions set us up for lots more exploring on day two of our road trip. That’s once we could pull our youngest away from the luxury of a king size bed all to himself!
The Square in Palmerston North is the central hub of activity for the city. Before hitting the road for the second day of our trip we swung by The Square for some frosty fun on the temporary ice rink. The kids had never been ice skating before and were keen to give it a go. Though there were plenty of Bambi legs at first, they soon got the hang of it and had a great time – bruised bottoms aside!
Palmerston North: Left to right – Ice skating, chess in The Square, fountains and the clock tower at The Square.
On the road from Palmerston North to Napier we were fascinated by the sight of the huge wind turbines across the hills at the Te Apiti Wind Farm. After negotiating the Manawatu Gorge, energy levels started to flag so we got some car games started. Car bingo is our usual go to game. This time we played a game where you have to spot signs or number plates starting with each letter of the alphabet in order from A to Z. It started well then became frustrating around the letter Q! A quilt store in Dannevirke was our saviour but by this time the kids were asleep and Paul and I were just trying to finish the game for our own sanity. We stopped in Dannevirke for lunch and then travelled on through Norsewood which will definitley require a return visit some time for our medieval-mad child.
As we approached Hastings we took a back road that took us past an amazing amount of famous vineyards – it was like a shopping list of New Zealand wines and the sun was out as we reached Napier.
MTG Hawkes Bay
The MTG in this fascinating visitor attraction stands for Museum, Theatre and Gallery. We started our tour with a video presentation of memories from survivors of the Napier earthquake. It was both interesting and moving to hear their stories though I could sense that our youngest was getting a little anxious seeing the massive destruction that was caused.
Heading upstairs to the gallery area the kids were well involved in trying to complete the fun questionnaires that they had been provided with. This was an awesome idea as it really kept the kids involved with the displays and they loved the little reward they received at the end. Downstairs was a commemorative first world war exhibit. The soldier’s dress up was impressive – if only for how uncomfortable, heavy and scratchy it was! The Napier earthquake exhibit is housed on the lower floor for those who wish to learn more about the tragedy that struck the area in 1931.
MTG Hawkes Bay: Left to right – Height and age check for being sent off to war, Ready for deployment, the Bather statue.
Leaving MTG we took a stroll along Napier’s picturesque Marine Parade and found the famous statue of Pania. Of course, the kids referred to her alternatively as “the mermaid” and “the woman wIth the shiny boobies” for the remainder of the trip! Marine Parade is well worth a visit for lots of activities including mini golf, a massive skate park, hot pools, beautiful gardens to explore and pathways to walk, cycle or scoot along. And of course there are the extraordinary Art Deco buildings that Napier is famous for.
Napier: Clockwise from top left – Beach, Pania statue, Spirit of Napier fountain, Beachfront pathways.
A friendly welcome
Our accommodation for the night was also our stop for dinner. The owners and staff at the Econo Lodge Napier were so friendly that we instantly felt at home. Our units were beautifully appointed and super comfortable with modern fixtures and decor. In line with its environmental awareness, our unit keys turned off the lights when we took them out of the slot to leave the rooms – I think I need that at home! One unit had a full kitchen, the other had a toaster and kettle and an adjoining door between the two made the accommodation perfect for families like us. The kids snuggled into the recliner chairs to watch TV in style. Just a short walk away there was a great kids playground, right near the beach, alongside the cycle and walkways.
Econo Lodge Napier
On the same site is the Westshore Beach Inn Bar and Restaurant. The restaurant prides itself on using locally sourced fresh produce in its meals. Lee and I had the fish, caught that morning by the fisherman sat at the table next to us! It’s a real community feel and wonderfully relaxing. Paul made sure he sat on the right side of the table so he could see the All Blacks on the big screen while we ate! Jason reckoned that the homemade lasagne from the kids meal was better than mine – even when given the opportunity to rethink that statement! Dessert was fresh and delicious and even the ice-cream was from a local company.
Westshore Beach Inn: Left to right – LP covers adorn the walls, word search for the kids, the freshest fish ever!
This blog was written by Julie Scanlon of Kidspot. Julie and her family were sponsored by Choice Hotels Asia-Pac on their 5 day road trip of the lower North Island.
We acknowledge the support of Hawke’s Bay Tourism in providing activities during the road trip and thank them for their assistance.