Best NZ Day Trips: Whitecliffs Boulders Mangaweka

I’ve spent a lot of time doing day trips around New Zealand over the years so thought I would start to share some of them here. I recently visited Whitecliffs Boulders and it’s definitely one to add to the list.

My brother, Daniel and his partner Caroline found this awesome spot just out from Managaweka. You follow winding roads to an unassuming parking area and make your way down the countryside (literally through paddocks with cows and sheep) to the bush area. As you enter the bush, you start to see the giant moss-covered boulders that make this piece of the land so special.

I would try and write how the boulders arrived there in my own words but the website does a great job already: ‘It is believed that millions of years ago rivers carried sediment from eroding land out to sea. Shells and trees were also carried out to sea and were trapped in the sediment. The sea water contained dissolved chemicals and formed a cement around what was left of the buried shells and plant material. The cement in this case is calcium carbonate. The organic material seems to create a node for this process to occur.’

Some of the boulders are really giant, easily as tall as me and they are all covered in a beautiful green moss, it’s like the magical playground I had imagined in my childhood. There’s a path winding through, but as always, if you jump off the beaten path you’ll find something better.

Highly recommend taking a picnic down and enjoying that down there too. Not to be missed if you’re in the area.

Directions can be found HERE.

Charley Noble Wellington – Delicious Dining in the Capital

If you’re looking to enjoy world-class dining with quality New Zealand produce while you’re in the Land of the Long White Cloud, then you’re in luck. Charley Noble in Wellington has long held a reputation for being one of the best restaurants around and if my dining experience was anything to go by, it certainly holds up to its name.

We chose to sit at the bar for lunch for a bit more of an entertaining experience, watching the chefs expertly prepare the meals. I would absolutely chose to sit there again, I may have even picked up a few new chopping techniques!

We explored the menu and soon called over Justyna to help us choose – everything looked good. She pointed out a few items (some I would never have chosen without her suggestions) and we put together a few complimentary plates.

To start, we ordered the market ceviche, venison carpaccio and the pig’s tail salad. Yes, you read that correctly, the pig’s tail salad! Right there is one of the menu items I would have never chosen without Justyna’s influence. It is not what you would expect, well it wasn’t what I expected! Mandarin provided a perfect burst of sweetness contrasting the texture and taste of the crunchy pig’s tail (almost like crackling) and slightly acidic dressing. I highly recommend giving it a try.

The market fish ceviche was beautiful and light, with a lovely orange flavouring and delicious sweet and spicy candied chillies! The candies chillies were a first for me and I was both surprised and delighted with their flavour and texture – slightly crunchy, still with a nice chilli bite but also sweet from the sugar.

The venison carpaccio was a classic dish, well delivered. Quality, fresh local produce. The meat literally melts in your mouth. Must try.

The Charley Noble somelier, Jordan, was very knowledgeable and personable – my favourite! He perfectly matched my wine (Colere Pinot Gris – Pinot Blanc from Marlborough) with my entrees so that it didn’t clash with the candied chilli in the ceviche. The wine was lovely and oak-y, aged four years. Beautiful pairing to bring out the flavours.

For my main wine pairing I sampled two reds, ultimately going with a Waipara Pinot Noir from Greystone. Jordan said that particular wine is very popular, he can pair it with almost anything.

Again, Justyna was called in to help us chose our mains. We went with the super juicy and flavoursome house made pork sausages with had some wonderfully charred radiccio and pears to accompany them. The meat is sourced from the Wellington region and always free range. We couldn’t go past the risotto with zucchini, pecorino, house pesto and smoked baby tomato. Full of flavours and still quite light. Finally, we chose a side of eggplant, zucchini, parmesan and mozzarella bake, which as you can imagine was cheesy greatness.

On my next trip to Charley Noble I’d like to try their fish of the day. When I visited, snapper was sitting pretty on ice, sustainably caught, in the restaurant within a few hours. Actually, my list to try next time is quite large. There is the fire grilled cauliflower steak (looked amazing), anything from the woodfired rotisserie (dinner only) and their steaks are legendary. Can you see why I had so much trouble choosing what to eat?!

You’d think I would have no room left, but I couldn’t miss out on dessert! To sample some of everything I went with the petit fours. I loved the fluffy marshmallow with raspberry. The yoghurt panna cotta with crunchy ginger snap and caramelised pineapple was absolutely suburb, but the winner for me was the peanut butter and chocolate bar. I washed these down with a Passage Rock late harvest Cabernet from Waiheke. It was silkier than a port but still sweet in flavour, without being overbearing.

Amazing food, knowledgeable staff, lunch with a show, fantastic local wines, I was in a happy place.

Side note – I also wish I had tried the house made pasta. I was daydreaming watching the Chef making the pasta, when a waiter came over and asked me if I was done. I was so mesmerised that I nearly jumped out of my chair! The poor guy got such a surprise. Ha!

Charley Noble Eatery & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*While this dining experience was complimentary, this review is true and authentic. I will be back at Charley Noble on every trip to Wellington that I have an opportunity. And I’m starting with the pasta!

What Food & Drink You Must Try In New Zealand

That’s right, what food and drink, not where! If I was sharing restaurants, we would be here a VERY long time. If you’re visiting New Zealand and want to try some typical Kiwi foods that are unique to Aotearoa, give these a try!

  • Charlie’s Feijoa Fizz
    I just found this bad boy today, it’s delicious and fresh without being overpoweringly Feijoa-y or too sweet. Try Feijoa anything really, it’s a native New Zealand fruit, both sweet and sour.
  • L&P
    The classic fizzy drink from New Zealand, Lemon and Paeroa is a taste sensation. Created in none other than its namesake, Paeroa and now manufactured by Coca-Cola.
  • Fish & Chips
    Best enjoyed on the beach, New Zealand are well known for their fish and chips, beautifully fresh and usually wrapped in newspaper!
  • Double cheese Sizzlers
    Don’t judge me. I know what you’re thinking. They’re not even totally meat! But damn are they delicious! These super processed sausages have cheese oozing out of them and are especially delicious. They’re enjoyed at BBQ’s all over New Zealand and are great for breakfast too! I blame these for majority of my weight gain on every visit to NZ.
  • Venison and Kiwi Lamb
    Kiwi venison and lamb are succulent and more flavoursome than other countries. Don’t believe me? Try them and then let me know. That’s why Kiwi lamb drives such extreme prices overseas.
    – My dad piped in at this point to let us all know that people are switching back to hogget as it has more flavour… thanks Dad!
  • New Zealand Wine
    I feel like this is so obvious it should even make this list. I love a good Haha red wine, Ata Rangi Pinot Noir and apparently the Kiwi Sav Blanc’s are amazing. I cannot attest to this, I’m not a fan of white wine. If you’re heading to Martinborough to taste test, check out my blog on where you should visit!
  • Confectionery from the Dairy
    What’s a Dairy you ask? It’s the local cornerstone. They have ice creams and essentials and usually magazines and crap you might want when you can’t be bothered going to the supermarket or feel like a treat. Anyway, the food: Squiggles biscuits, Twisties (yes they are different and more delicious than the Australian ones), Rashuns, Buzz Bars & Chocolate Fish.
  • Tui Beer
    Now well known for their wicked advertising campaigns, check THIS out, Tui beer is still one of the most consumed beers in New Zealand. It’s a refreshing lager, perfect for a sunny day!
  • The Original Kiwi Dip
    This is a funny one but very well known and at almost every New Zealand get-together. You buy a Maggi onion dip mix and mix it with reduced cream (comes in a can), you can add a squeeze of lemon or some vinegar to stop it browning and give it a little snap. It’s delicious with chips, celery or carrots…. mmm I might make some now, actually.
  • Bacon & Egg Pie
    Any great Kiwi bakery willhave their take on the bacon and egg pie. These can either have whole egg or scrambled egg with bacon (and sometime, cheese, onion, tomato) in a flaky puff pastry case. Not to be confused with a quiche, these are great for breakfast when you’re short on time. I was shocked recently when buying a bacon and egg pie in Australia and I took a big bite only to find that was filled with mince meat too!! Why??? So unnecessary.

Of course there’s Hangi’s (harder to come across, a local might be able to help you out or maybe at a market or tourist attraction), fantastic steaks, epic seafood, pinky’s (little pink lollies), Kapiti cheese, pavlova with Kiwifruit and a wheelbarrow full of other items but that’s a great start.

Did I miss anything? Comment and let me know what!

Best NZ Day Trips: Martinborough Vineyards

Why is it one of the best NZ day trips? Well first of all, there’s wine. Do I really need to keep going?

Okay fine, so there’s also great views, excellent food and a whole heap of fun to be had exploring! If you’re looking for a fun day trip around the lower north island of New Zealand than this should be a high contender.

We hired bikes from Green Jersey Cycle Tours (random name, don’t you think?) and the ten of us jumped on approx 11am. The vineyards are just a few minutes bike ride away and you pass one approx every four minutes or so as you cycle the outskirts of the Martinborough township.

We started at Schubert (an excellent place to start) before heading to Ata Rangi, Tirohana Estate (couldn’t fit us in), Poppies Martinborough, Margrain Vineyard for platters and then back to Poppies for platters. Tastings are approx $5 for five wines and generally if you buy a bottle you don’t pay.

My favourite wines were Schubert and Poppies. Schubert was very professional, lovely wines and great explanation of the varietals. Poppies was bursting with energy, Shayne (winemaker’s husband) provided unique and fun insights into each wine and most importantly the wine was delicious. I enjoyed the Pinot Noir and the Rose as well as most of the others. They had already sold out of a few of the varietals, it’s a popular place! Their platters are infamous so we made our way back there after lunch for a platter and I couldn’t resist the truffle cheese too! I’m a sucker for truffle anything. And a sucker for cheese. And wine… you get the point!

Margrain Vineyard venue was lovely with beautiful grounds. They were busy during the tastings and rushed through. I would suggest going when they’re quiet and doing the five wines tasting.

The bikes Green Jersey Cycle  were so much fun! They’re cute with little baskets at the front to store your goods, and they even had a free wine pick up service! Anddd you could choose which colour bike you’d like. I loved riding around with my friends, it was such a beautiful day too. Plus you don’t have to worry about driving or getting to each vineyard. The locals are obviously used to the bikes and keep a wide berth on the road.

If there’s a large group of you and you have your heart set on a certain winery or somewhere for lunch, I do recommend making a booking. We struggled to find somewhere that could fit the ten of us for lunch and were sure to make some tasting bookings. Otherwise just show up!

Get a group of friends together, hire some bikes (full day is $40), and get to some tastings!

 

Mount Maunganui Motorhoming

Yes, I know motorhoming isn’t a word, but I couldn’t think of a better title. They’ve put the purple sleeping lights on in the plane and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. Planes do that to me in the best of times.

Anyway, the last two days in Mount Maunganui were probably some of my favourite from this trip. The camp was nice, the sun was shining and we stayed in one place for two nights. Not to mention it was great to be nearby shops, food, the beach and hot pools.

I was pretty damn exhausted after that fateful fishing trip where we caught zero fish. I spent half the day lying on a towel in the sun reading marketing magazines. The other half I went browsing around the shops then tried to nap.

Our extended family joined us for BBQ burgers and Alice, Mum and I kicked back in the hot pools. They were lovely and I think what I needed to get a good night’s rest. It was the first night I managed to sleep majority of the night and man did I need it!

No fishing this morning, we leisurely got up and packed ready to check out at 10am.

I had been really keen to walk around the Mount, unfortunately due to Cyclone Cook, most of the path was closed off. Luke, Alice and I went as far around as we could and a little up the summit before giving up and getting ice creams. Good job I say!

The remainder of the day was mainly spent travelling and working remotely. I had the rest of the week as leave but today I was back at my laptop which was fairly easy as we were on the road and then I flew from Rotorua to Auckland, with a few hours in the Koru Lounge and back on a plane to Brisbane.

It’s always saddening saying goodbye to my family, I’m lucky to love where I live and was missing work (yup I love my job that much) so it wasn’t as hard this time to head back. I’m lucky to be only a few hours away and have the ability to work remotely so can spend lots of time with them!

Excellent food, poor service at Hippopotamus, Wellington 

Having dined at Hippopotamus at QT Hotel (formerly Art Museum) with wonderful past experiences, it was disappointing to see such a decline in the service.
If this was a review purely on food, the restaurant would still sit very high in my books, however service accounts for much of the experience and they really let themselves down.

It was almost as if our table was just forgotten consistently. By the sommelier, the waitresses, the bar staff, the host. Other tables come and left while we were there over three hours.

They started off well. We were seated, poured water and drink orders taken. It took a while to get menus but they came eventually and followed closely by the amuse bouche. That was the end of the fast service, and the water filling now that I think of it.

With the help of the sommelier I had chosen an Italian red. They boast an extensive and international wine list, but only if you are buying by the bottle.

The amuse bouche was delightful, although I could not tell you what it was with the beautiful, thick French accents most of the staff have. It was salmon with poppy seeds and… a sauce, served with a sweet drink of cranberry and… other berries? It was fresh and light, a perfect start. Dad especially praised it to the wait staff to pass compliments to the Chef.

After asking for my water to be refilled three times with and without luck, I found the bottle and poured my own for the rest of the evening. At one stage the barman noticed I had tried to ask a waitress and she hadn’t heard so he came over to help. Great initiative but that was the end of it.

The bread took a long time to arrive (we thought they had forgotten), as did our entrees.

I had the King Ora salmon sashimi with soy jelly, wrapped in cucumber with wakame on top. Absolutely beautiful. The salmon melted in your mouth and the accompaniments went beautifully. Dad passed over two of his Bluff oysters, they were served shucked with the choice of a red or white wine dipping sauce. One oyster was questionable, the sauces had a nice tang to them.

We had another very long break while waiting for our mains. I chose the lamb rump and it was served perfectly rare. The eggplant was also lovely.

Earlier in the evening, Dad had enquired about what an item featured in one of the mains was, PicoPico (fern), and that he was interested in trying it. When his plate came out he couldn’t find the item on there, and asked the staff to point it out (it’s beautifully presented but you can’t tell what everything is) for him. The wait staff sheepishly came back over and explained it had been the most popular dish of the night and they had run out of the Pico Pico before he ordered. Considering this was why he had ordered that particular main and already enquired about that item, it was shocking to hear. Particularly as they hadn’t owned up to it earlier and wouldn’t have if it wasn’t questioned.

While we were at the table I had misplaced two rings. We were openly searching for them, with flashlights under the table and the staff came over during this time but never once asked if we needed help. I asked the barman to check downstairs which he said he would do immediately but then never came back to me.

I ordered the cheese for my dessert and the French cheeses were wonderful, as were the fig and pear that came with them. The sommelier helped my brother choose a limoncello to go with his dessert, the panna cotta, which although beautiful to look at, was unfortunately quite bland.

As you can imagine, with the four of us enjoying three courses each and multiple beverages, the bill was considerate. No words of condolances were expressed over the main muck up nor the long waits. In a place renowned for fine dining and where I have had many excellent experiences before, it was highly disappointing to have such poor service and I won’t be visiting again for some time. I hope it was just a one off.


Hippopotamus - Museum Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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