Tag Archives: family adventures

Exploring the Hawkes Bay

We started our Hawkes Bay tour on the day after Cyclone Cook passed through. We had planned our road trip 4 months earlier and weren’t going to let a Cyclone get in the way. Strangely enough the planning started in the back of the car in the rain when we were supposed to be sitting on the beach. In hindsight we maybe should have checked the roads were open and campgrounds were fully operational before we headed off but we were a bit excited about getting on the road.

It was fun exploring some new territory on the way to Napier, lucky it was fun as it was quite a long drive but the sun was shining after the storm and the scenery was stunning on the Napier Taupo highway.

As we drove into Napier we were detoured round a back road as a tree had fallen across the road and that’s when we realised that although Auckland had dodged the storm some parts of the country had still been hammered by strong winds and we had just driven into one of them.

After setting up the camper we decided to make the most of the Hawkes Bay sunshine and jumped on our bikes to explore the cycle trail along the waterfront that started right from our campground. The after effects of the storm made for an impressive swell crashing onto the beach which only added to the stunning views as we rode along the waterfront. A lovely flat trail and mesmerising views meant it was hard to turn around but as the sun sunk low in the sky we headed for home, well the camper.

The next day we planned to hit the Eskdale Mountain Bike Park. A tourist in the campground saw us in our bike gear and asked where we were off to and when we told him he said that the Mountain Bike Park had been pretty hard hit by the storm with lots of trees down. Undeterred and forever in denial we headed out anyhow. We probably only got 5 minutes ride into the forest before the path was blocked by fallen trees, and I don’t mean one tree lying across the path more of a stack of trees making the path impassable. Still undeterred we started carrying our bikes straight up the hill over and around all the obstacles. We met a local coming back down, chatted to him for a bit and then he grabbed one of our kids bikes and started carrying it up the hill for us.

Turns out he was part of the Club committee and seemed to take everyones enjoyment of the Mountain Bike Park very seriously so he gave us the inside word on what tracks could be ridden after the storm. Not many were unfortunately but we still had a great time ‘sessioning’ ( his word not mine ) a few of the trails and after a couple of hours riding we decided to head back to the carpark a different way, only to be meet by more broken trees.

After a quick lunch at the campground we headed out to explore Napier on a sunny afternoon and took in the beach at Ahuriri, then wound our way up Bluff Hill and watched the workings of the port below as the sun set. We then wandered along the Napier town centres waterfront gardens and experienced the big waves crashing onto the new pier.

The next day dawned sunny and clear which made for great views from the top of Te Mata Peak. You could drive all the way up but we decided to park half way and walk up which took about half an hour ( maybe more as we got distracted by the views ) along sheep tracks. As we walked back down my son spotted mountain bikers so decided he wanted to come back and check out the trails the next day. We had planned to ride some of the cycle trails but figured we had all day and we love riding so why not ride two places in one day.

So the next morning we headed back to Te Mata Peak for our ride. Its fair to say these rides would have been more enjoyable if they hadn’t been hit by a storm a few days earlier and as they were on the side of a mountain they were quite steep and muddy. After Te Mata it was back across town to ride the Puketapu Loop, part of the Hawkes Bay Cycle trails. These trails cover most of the Hawkes Bay in different sections that can be ridden separately or all together. We did a loop from Otatara Pa to the Puketapu pub and back again. It was easy riding along the riverbank with the bonus of a pub lunch but if wineries are more your style there are rides that include them as well, in fact there is a trail called the Wineries trail.

All in all we loved the Hawkes Bay and the East Cape adventures didn’t stop there…next stop Tolaga Bay!!

Tarawera Trail

Update April 2017:  Unfortunately the Tarawera trail is currently closed due to recent weather events. Check the Department of Conservation website for further updates.

After walking the Tongariro Crossing with our 7 and 12 year old, we were on the look out for our next adventure and were delighted to find it in the Tarawera Trail.

The first thing to organise is the water taxi to drop you off or pick you up, unless you wanted to walk both ways. I booked the water taxi online about a month before and didn’t find the website that easy to use. In fact our friends had a toddler that we didn’t have to pay for but there was nowhere on the booking system to note that we were bringing a toddler and I thought they might like to know. So I rung the next morning and was told that they didn’t have our booking. Upon further investigation it turns out that when the booking was transferred to a spreadsheet the booking was put down for the wrong day. So I am certainly pleased I rung.

The weather forecast for our walk wasn’t too good but the day dawned with a beautiful sunrise over Mount Tarawera and turned out pretty good. There aren’t a lot of carparks at The Landing where the water taxi leaves from, so I am not sure what you would do if you turned up and the car park was full but we didn’t have to worry about that.

The water taxi ride was awesome, the views stunning and the skipper was very informative and jovial.

I spent a lot of my childhood kayaking in the Tarawera River so was quite excited to go to Hot Water Beach but like many things high expectations can lead to disappointment. I wasn’t prepared for so many people camping there. There isn’t a lot of flat land beside the beach so all the people that were there made the spot seem quite cramped. Still very interesting to visit though and the kids had a great time playing in the warm water. Strangely the hot water entering the lake “floats” on the surface of the cold water lake so the temperature can fluctuate dramatically and burn rings around your ankles.

So after a little foot soak we were off on our hike. I should mention we got dropped off at Hot Water beach and walked back to the landing so we didn’t have to rush with the kids to meet the water taxi. That did mean we couldn’t soak in a hot pool for long but having rushed for a pick up before I enjoyed being able to walk at our own pace.

Its an awesome walk with a little hidden gem that we haven’t seen mentioned anywhere and it was very kind of the seasoned campers at Hot Water Beach to share the fact  that there is hot water running in a stream that has been dammed to create a pool. Its about 1 hours walk from the campground to the amenity / rest spot.  Then take a short side track towards the lake its about 15mins walk. The kids loved that pool and so did we. Enjoy this treasure.

I like a scenic spot for lunch ( whether road tripping, mountain biking or hiking ) and the amenities area had picnic tables but in the direction we walked this was more of a morning tea stop. So we were on the look out for a lunch spot and as we came over a hill we spotted a gorgeous white sandy beach not far off the track so we bush crashed a little to get to the lakes edge. Beautiful. It was only small but it was nice to be by the water for lunch, although our friend who got two mossie bites probably didn’t think so.

The rest of the walk has stunning scenery and was very achievable as it’s mostly undulating terrain ( bearing in mind our kids had walked the 20km Tongariro Crossing the year before and we have maintained their fitness with walks and mountain biking ).

We are back at The Landing at 4pm after setting out from Hot Water Beach about 10am. This included stopping at the hot spring stream pool and a lunch break. The Trail is not too steep and you can keep up a steady pace. We passed quite a lot of trail runners along the way too. Also our friend walked all the way with a 2 year old in a baby backpack.

We would love to do this walk again.

Top tips:

Check your booking with the water taxi.

If you are concerned about making a pick up time like we have been in the past ( and I think this particularly applies when you are walking with kids)  get dropped off at Hot Water Beach and walk back. This did mean we couldn’t enjoy a long dip at Hot Water Beach, but it was so much more relaxing than other adventures when we have been rushing for a pick up.

Check out the dam in the hot stream near the amenities block ( directions above ).

Although the full walk is 15km, if you park at the Landing, water taxi out and return there, it is a shorter walk because you don’ walk back to the tracks main car park start/finish point. Not sure exactly how much shorter, maybe 2km, but you do avoid the final hill.