Overnight in Napier

Napier boasts its Art Deco architecture and wine country. For us, it will be forever remembered as our first overnight trip from Gisborne. We left on Friday afternoon and began the curviest drive that I’m pretty sure I’ve ever done. Seriously. It was kind of unreal. It was a 3-hour drive on a narrow road with no shoulder, constant switchbacks over rolling hills and then up and down a mountain, against on-coming logging trucks, continuously fluctuating between 6o mph and as low as 5 mph depending the treachery of each turn. All on the lefthand side of the road. It was exhausting.

But even despite all that, it is probably the most beautiful drive I’ve ever been on, just constantly gorgeous. Sean drove us there, and so I got to ride shotgun. With each rolling hill that we crested or rounded and a new horizon came into view, I was letting out exclamations like, “Oh my god. Just look at this!” But of course Sean couldn’t look away for even a second. So I snapped picture after picture, and exclaiming like a broken record, “Holy Lord,” “Gahhh! I just can’t take it!” “Kids will you just LOOK at this?!?” I’m sure the following pictures won’t do the views justice. But even though I was taking these through the closed window of a moving car, I hope they give you a sense of the natural beauty that is here.

Auric sacks out.

The early part of the drive were filled with fields and hillsides of sheep and lambs. Here’s one of the thousand of sheep and lambs we saw. (I’m not exaggerating.)


rolling hills

The green was intense.

more overwhelming green

He’s awake!

The man who took me on an adventure to New Zealand.

Lake Tutira

more Lake Tutira

Coming up over the large mountain, about 2/3 of the way to Napier, if you’re not driving, you can look back and see down the cleavage of all the previous valleys. (There are probably other ways to have worded that, but why?)

We glimpse the ocean!

We arrived, stayed in a very nice place (Motel de la Mer), ate dinner, and then crashed out! Upon waking, I got out on the grass next to the beach and ran a few miles out and back, showered, packed, and then checked us out, while Sean took the kids for pancakes in downtown Napier. We all met back up at the hotel where they let us leave the car for a couple hours while we went to the National Aquarium. It’s a nice aquarium and very reasonable priced for the whole family.


Napier’s legend explaining the reef shaped like arms reaching to embrace the shore.

In the aquarium, we saw tons of great underwater creatures, including a hallway that takes you under and through the shark tank. Also, we saw our first kiwi bird. It’s a nocturnal creature, and so the lights in their habitat are kept very low. Subsequently, my pictures didn’t come out. But we were surprised to realize that they are the size of raccoons! They are a large, flightless bird with a long, pointy beak and fuzzy brown feathers (the fruit is named after them). We were glad that our walk through the kiwi habitat happened to coincide with their feeding so we could get a good look at them.

After the aquarium, we walked along the beach, which is beautiful, but sadly is rocky (rather than sandy) and is unswimmable (too strong of a tide?).

We played at a beachside playground before calling it quits for lunch.

Thora takes a stab at her new identity, a typical barefoot Kiwi Kid. (Seriously, kids seemingly NEVER wear shoes. Not in restaurants. Not in grocery stores. Not in school! Obviously, not outside!)

We walked to our car, and then after missing the turn into town, decided to follow signs up to the Bluff Lookout. And it was worth it! Stunning views!

After an INSANELY good meal (savory muffin and a bowl of seafood chowder for me [from now on, EVERY bowl of seafood chowder will be compared to this one], creamy porridge and an apricot date scone for Sean, and a second meal of pancakes for the kids) at the appropriately named Divine Cafe, we walked back to Marine Parade, the boulevard that parallels the beach, and took a long dip in the heated pool at the awesome Ocean Spa.

It was late afternoon now, and so we wandered through the garden, lush and bright with flowers

the kids posed for some pictures

Thora’s current favorite thing is to climb trees and then pose for pictures.

Pania, the Mermaid of Napier

and then we had a final look around before finding a friendly pub for dinner. (Divine Cafe closed its door at 5pm, sadly.)

Then it was back in the car for our 3-hour drive home. This time I offered to do it and lucky me, I got to do the last hour of it in the blackness of country road after nightfall. But we got home, crawled into bed, and slept the sleep of the exhausted. We look forward to future trips to Napier, and hopefully not having to do it in 30 hours next time.

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4 Responses to Overnight in Napier

  1. Allison B says:

    I just spent a good hour reading through your blog (while at work, opps!) But ohmygosh this is such a great story. It has been a dream of mine to pick up and move to NZ. I actually did last year for a study abroad trip but it was a trip with an expiration date, now I just want to finish my undergrad and get a job out there. I lived in Wellington and never made it up to Gisborne but I did have a flatmate from Napier!

    Also your daughter not wearing shoes thing, it’s not just kids! I’ll never forget sitting in my anthropology tutorial and seeing a 20-something year old guy walk in barefeet. No one batted an eye, it is definitely a strange thing to get used to.

    I cannot wait to follow more of your adventure living in NZ. Definitely visit Wellington, Rotorua, and Queenstown! Thanks for such a great blog!

    • expatmomof2 says:

      Thanks for the positive feedback! It feels really great to know that the posts get read (other than by immediate family) and are enjoyed. Your comment made my day. 🙂 My daughter and I are just about to sit down for “tea” (we’re getting the hang of pretending to be Kiwis) but I look forward to checking out your blog. Thanks again for the comment. Cheers! (Again, putting on my Kiwi.)

  2. Julie P says:

    Mountain cleavage. That is such a perfectly Sarah phrase. Made me smile.
    Love the pictures.
    Lots of Halloween prep here and it’s not the same without you all.

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