Travel

My Travels Through new Zealand

Magical Central North Island

If you are driving from New Zealand’s Wellington to Auckland, Auckland to Wellington, or any points in between, on driving through Taupo in the centre of the North Island, you will pass by a Millennium Hotel, which has been on that spot for years. In fact back then it was known as Manuel’s and still retains that part of the name.

It is a beautiful looking place, right on the lake front. Recently on my major road trip (1400 km, 870 miles) I decided as a treat for myself for travelling alone, I would spend the night there.

Now, I had just driven from the Wellington ferry, non-stop through the spectacular countryside over what is called the Desert Road, a section of State Highway 1, which at times reaches altitudes of 600+km. This section of the country has few trees, mostly tussock and is the home of the Kaimanawa Horses, a feral variety of horse which roams free on the Kaimanawa Ranges.

Due to the unproductive nature of the land and the extreme winter climate, the region is largely uninhabited. The town of Waiouru, with its army camp and Military museum, lies to the south and much of the southern part of the desert is used for training purposes.

After two days driving north from Otago in the South Island, first day driving 12 hours with stops only for petrol and coffee. I just stayed to sleep in a motel near the Picton Ferry depot. It would be best if travelling this distance to stop in Christchurch or Kaikoura for the night. In the cooler months, about June to October, you will have wonderful views of the snow on the Port Hills, or the Seaward Kaikoura’s.

Second day I relaxed on the ferry for four hours, “bliss”, and for a small extra payment when booking was able to spend the trip in one of the lounges, where you could relax in the peace and quiet and, if you didn’t want to go out on deck, enjoy the views of Cook Strait through the windows while you ate the lovely food provided for passengers.

When I got off the ferry, I drove north for a further four hours, the last hour and a half on the road down from the Desert Road, which contained, apart from glorious views of the National Park with its volcanic peaks, several 35km, 45km, and even 25km bends frazzling my nerves even further. I defy anyone to deny that the scenery is magnificent.

Still, note to self, never drive that road again when tired.

I arrived at the hotel pretty worn out and had a mishap just outside the front doors. Very embarrassing, but receptionist treated this as just another normal day, provided a large towel and guest laundry to rectify problem.

Lovely shower in beautiful room overlooking the enclosed outdoor pool.  For an even better experience, book a room overlooking the lake.

Then (in bathrobe, clothes still not ready) down to Lakefront bar for a drink, Baileys and Cointreau, a new favourite.

The beautiful restaurant where I finally went in to dinner, overlooked the very large Lake Taupo (of 238 square miles), in the caldera of the Taupo volcano (mostly benign). As an added pleasure, I was able to look through the floor to ceiling windows across the lake which was speckled with reflected lights from the town and houses across the other side.

Breakfast in the lake front restaurant was a dream. I had chosen the full breakfast, and discovered on entering that not only was there a full table of cereals, fruit, yoghurt etc., but there was an even larger array of cooked food. Funnily enough however, I couldn’t find any eggs (horrors) so, after loading my plate with bacon, sausage, hash browns to mention just a few, I asked about eggs. “Oh yes”, I was told, “You just choose how you like them and we will cook them for you”.

My heroes –  and heroines.

Yes, I will DEFINITELY stay there again, just need to find an excuse.