Hawke's Bay Wine Country
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Hannah Klein
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Hawke's Bay Wine Country

Yet Another Excuse to Eat my Way Around NZ


Words by Emma Fenton-Wells

Blog #4 of her solo trip in NZ




If you’ve been following my journey through NZ so far, you would have learnt three things:

  1. I am a reforming city slicker driving solo around NZ, living in a camper for the first time

  2. I cannot drive past a museum without going in

  3. This entire two month adventure has been 100% dictated by food. And my god, New Zealand has some incredible places to eat and drink. 

Initially Hawkes Bay was going to be a one night stop for me, but honestly, I feel just a little bit (a lot) with it. Having never been there before, I think I had pictured it a lot like Waiheke, you know, sea and vineyards. I discovered so much more and was beyond grateful for my very flexible schedule so I could stay a bit longer. 

The drive from Rotorua took a few hours, including a leisurely lunch on Lake Taupo. The weather was hot and I was keen to undertake some van cooking with my growing pantry of artisanal groceries. Using Okay2Stay, I had a chat with the lovely couple who run Askerne Winery, just outside Havelock North, who let me camp next to the vineyard for the night (free of charge, too!). 



I pulled up a tad late and picked an unbelievable spot looking over the vines and bushes of lavender. Honestly, it was a heavenly spot. Unfortunately, the highly reviewed cafe and tasting room had already shut so I wasn’t able to grow my pantry more. But I’ll definitely be returning. 

After a big sleep in, I woke up and made my way into Havelock North. Now, Havelock North is cool. Like incredibly cool. It’s another town overrun with eateries and boutiques. I swear the kiwis do understated bougie like no other. I picked Wright & Co to set up shop for a few hours and lived for their cheese scones and slices. A slightly unglam reality of doing #vanlife is knowing that once a week I need to take a few hours away from exploring to do some emails, writing and life admin (oh, and laundry!). 




What I love about travelling New Zealand is asking Kiwis where their favourite parts of the country are. Instantly, they light up as they recount these gems of places. Every Kiwi seems to be an ambassador for their own backyard. 

I drove into Napier that afternoon, full of cheese scones and good vibes, to just wander around. Rebuilt in the rubble of the 1931 7.8 magnitude earthquake, Napier was reborn an Art Deco heaven. With pastels and geometric motifs, vintage stores galore, I fell in love immediately. And I, of course, continued to grow my movable feast of a pantry. Particular highlights:

  • Chantal Shop: for organic food and delicious local products

  • Boyd-Dunlop Gallery: with the art and ambition of a big city gallery, it’s a must see for art lovers

  • Napier Antique and Jewellery Centre: you may as well buy Art Deco when you’re in the city of it

  • Music Machine: if guitars are your thing, they’ve got you covered

  • Deco City Cellars: Your go-to for boutique wines of the region. This was a pop-up at the time, however, a permanent store has opened not too far away in the picturesque Ahuriri

  • And every single bookshop (of which, there were many)




When I dropped into Deco City Cellars to pick up a bottle of their local finest, I had the pleasure of chatting to the owner, Carl, a recent returnee to the region. His local pride of the wines of Hawkes Bay and their global potential really encapsulates so much of what I saw here: Hawkes Bay is a destination with the passion and output to be a global player when it comes to food and wine. It’s a must-see if you, like me, want to eat their way around NZ.




That evening, I took another leisurely drive through the mountains to Waimarama, staying at the local holiday park. I was due to have dinner with some old family friends and was keen to check out the area regardless. It’s pretty spectacular: more pristine beaches (great for surfing) tumbling onto white sand. Plus, the proprietor, Ed, is a real character and worth a visit just to have a chat with. 


Photo credit: Hawkes Bay Tourism


Photo credit: Hawkes Bay Tourism


In the morning, I inhaled another cheese scone in Havelock North and took off down State Highway 2 towards Wellington. Spoiler alert: I ate more.

If I had longer these are the things I would have added into my itinerary: 


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