Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Kerikeri Capers

Paunch compost is not for the faint hearted.  It features in a large street sign in the Northland township of Moerewa and is one of the many things I noted on our three day trip to sub tropical Kerikeri.

Suffice to say it is several decades since I last visited Kerikeri and it has undergone a major transformation.

Where once there were dusty roads, forlorn farms, brightly painted and semi-derelict weather board houses, there are now organic farms, a smart cafe culture and wineries.

We deliberately timed our visit to beat the heat of summer and the peak tourist season.  Late March always has more settled weather and the region is not called the 'winterless North' for nothing.

Banana palms in fruit, magnificent nikau palms and tropical foliage grows with wild abandon in these parts and we were fortunate to sample the season's newly picked mandarins.  Kerikeri has been well known for citrus fruit and the fruit we tasted were some of sweetest I have ever had.

The town is far more laid back and less touristy than its near neighbour, Paihia.  I remember a summer holiday in Paihia when I was ten years old.  Our family tented in the local camping grounds and had the beach front largely to ourselves.  I first learnt to row a dinghy from these shores and got as brown as a berry -  skin cancer was largely unknown at the time!

The camping ground has disappeared and has been replaced by a rows of motels, each vying for custom in what has become a Bay of Islands mecca for the tourist trade.  Being only fifteen minutes drive from Kerikeri we decided to spend a morning in Paihia.  Some T-shirts caught our eye as these were heavily discounted to $NZ8 at the end of the season.

The rock oysters were as plentiful as ever and the old ferry from Paihia to Russell still plies its trade. Russell was formerly known as Kororareka. During the whaling and sealing days it became known as the "Hell hole of the South Pacific" with rampant prostitution and a complete absence of any laws.  It is a much more sleepy place now.

We stayed in three and half star accommodation in Kerikeri; the Colonial House Motel.  The place was nestled in the trees and a tui sang each morning and evening from the highest branches.

Our cabin was clean and comfortable for the two of us and our deal provided for a free continental breakfast tray and 20 Mb of broadband.  Our affable hosts Alan and Andrea whipped up a batch of complementary cookies for us as guests which was a nice touch. All for the princely sum of $NZ120 per night.

It took us four hours to drive from our home in Auckland to our motel, allowing for a good break enroute.

Kerikeri and it environs are best known as the first place of European occupation in new Zealand. The Mission House or Kemp House as it is often known is the oldest building in the country and was constructed in 1822. The adjacent Stone Store is also one of the first.  Both have been lovingly restored by the Historic Place Trust.

It is also the home of Makana chocolates which offers free tasting which were yummy but pricey.  Best value for money along the Kerikeru Road leading into town, was the bakery at Reeds Vege Express.  Their filled rolls and savoury muffins were great value.

For those who enjoy a stroll through native bush, there are several interesting walking tracks to suit all levels of fitness.

If you are visiting New Zealand and fancy experiencing our heritage, natural beauty and some of the best that New Zealand has to offer in local produce then don't miss Kerikeri.  It is an easy car journey from Auckland.

All in all for us, a very pleasant three days away from city life. 
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