Hastings to Wellington Road Trip

Hawkes Bay Farmers Market

In the morning the sun is shining again. We skip breakfast and head into Hastings for the Sunday Farmers’ Market at Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds. Here we enjoy hot bacon and egg rolls washed down with freshly roasted coffee before we shop in the old-fashioned way, meeting the growers and producers and chatting about their products. From handmade cheeses, to bread, ice cream, chocolates (again!), meat and seasonal fruits and vegetables, there’s plenty on offer.

We buy cheese and a selection of breads to join the raspberries and avocados already in our picnic basket. “We’ll have a health day today,” announces Bob, averting his gaze as we pass the chocolate stand en route to the car.

We leave town and drive south on SH2 through Waipukurau, Dannevirke and Woodville where a side trip on SH3 leads through Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve. Here we enjoy a picnic from our basket on tables overlooking the river before continuing to Palmerston North, where The Rugby Museum has a comprehensive collection of rugby memorabilia and reflects the passion New Zealander’s have for the game.

Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre Tauhou

Back on SH2 we head south to the Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre some 28 kilometres north of Masterton. It was started to breed the Takahe after its rediscovery in 1948 and is home to many other endangered native birds such as black stilts, North Island Kokako, Saddleback and Kiwis. However it’s the colourful Takahe that we’re here to see and so we watch a breeding pair in an adjoining enclosure while enjoying a pot of tea.

Then it’s on to Masterton, the so-called heart of the Wairarapa with its early childhood museum, to Greytown, where Victorian buildings line the main street of New Zealand’s first planned inland town, established in 1853. As we pass the Cobblestone and the Toy Soldier Museum Bob comments that it’s somewhat of a trend in these parts.

“We’re following a museum trail that leads to the mother of them all in Wellington,” he says, referring to Te Papa.

In Featherston we discover two further unique museums: the Fell Engine Museum which houses the only fell engine in the world and the Featherston Heritage Museum which commemorates the Featherston military camp from WWI and its role as a Japanese prisoner of war camp in WWII.

Te Papa

We’re tempted to stop but Te Papa’s pull is too strong. We drive over the windy, bush covered Rimutaka Ranges and through Upper and Lower Hutt before arriving in the capital city. Te Papa, New Zealand’s National Museum, stands proudly on Wellington’s waterfront.

“Good,” says Bob checking his watch at the entrance, “there’s a couple of hours ‘til closing.” Within moments of our arrival we are lost in the taonga (Maori cultural treasures), history and stories of New Zealand. There are five floors spread over the equivalent of three rugby fields and we’re halfway through the photo gallery when a curator approaches.

“It’s riveting,” Bob tells the man.

“Indeed it is,” says the curator with a smile, “but we actually closed half an hour ago.”

Bob forlornly checks his watch. “We open again at 10 o’clock tomorrow,” says the curator helpfully, “You’re welcome to return.”

“Oh we will,” says Bob reverently as he turns to me, “let’s schedule it in.”