Just off the beaten track
When heading south from the twin cities there is still plenty of driving to do before crossing the border out of Hawke’s Bay. CHRIS ORMOND looks at what residents and tourists can see and do on the journey south without having to stray too far from State Highway 2.
The first thing you notice when venturing beyond the city limits in Hawke’s Bay are the rural cafes that are becoming popular with travellers and locals.
They vary in style from the Paper Mulberry Cafe and Art Gallery, set up in an old church at Te Aute, south of Hastings, to the unique Gumboots Licensed Cafe and Petting Zoo at Otane, and the historic Abbotslee Tearooms in Waipawa.
Just out of Waipukurau, heading toward Dannevirke, are the Hatuma Cafe on the outskirts of town and the Iramutu Cafe further toward Takapau.
Early Hawke’s Bay townships such as Otane, Waipawa and Norsewood are worth taking time out to drive around, while Waipukurau, with its new main street and liveliness, will surprise those who haven’t been there in the past year or so.
There are many historic places close to the main road heading south, including the oldest church on the east coast – Christ Church, built at Pukehou in 1859 – and railway stations that were built in the late 1800s.
Most of the 40 or so that were originally built between Napier and Woodville have closed, with alternative uses found for them.
Opapa Station, north of Te Aute, has been restored. Waipukurau Station, which at one stage had 19 staff, is now the Visitor Information Centre and an office for Central Hawke’s Bay Promotions, and Ormondville Station has been turned into boutique accommodation.
To get a grasp of what life was like during the years when the first settlers arrived, museums in Waipawa, Norsewood and Dannevirke are the places to go.
The CHB Settlers Museum, in Waipawa, and the Norsewood Pioneer Museum have got it all, right down to sections of houses laid out exactly as they would have been in the 1860s and 1870s.
The Dannevirke Gallery of History also contains a wealth of history on the town, and the volunteers who work there have a good knowledge of what any strange-looking bits and pieces were used for.
A wide range of accommodation is available throughout central and southern Hawke’s Bay, from motels to pubs, backpackers, bed and breakfasts and homestays. Pukeora Estate, an old sanatorium just off the main road heading south from Waipukurau, is now a winery and event centre set in a slightly wild environment, and capable of sleeping more than 100 people.
On a smaller scale there are plenty of other options and a visit to the nearest information centre is the best way to find out what’s suitable.
Flying planes and playing golf are popular pastimes for many Central Hawke’s Bay residents. Ten golf courses throughout the district and an aero club at Waipukurau – which makes trial flights and joy rides available – provide leisure options for visitors.
Ongaonga and Takapau are a couple of other historic villages in Central Hawke’s Bay worth a visit, and are not far from the beaten track.
Further south, Norsewood has an identity unlike anywhere else in New Zealand.
A visit to the famous Norsewear shop is a must, while across the road at The Depot – an old dairy factory – Jeffrey Harper makes copper-foiled bevelled glass windows and other glass crafts that create interesting illusions.
Driving into Upper Norsewood’s main street is like stepping back in time. There are crafts, antiques, the local pub and various other points of interest.
Just beyond the village one can visit cheese heaven at award-winning Rangiuru Farm, or Atholbrae Gardens and homestay, comprising six hectares. Here, visitors can get a wide range of massages or even clairvoyant readings during their stay.
In Dannevirke, the main street’s Fantasy Cave continues to grow in popularity as it moves into its 14th year of operation.
The cave has a mini railway and displays that bring to life classic children’s stories like such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White and Bad Jelly The Witch, along with outer space and underwater creations.
Native Woodcraft is another good place to visit, with Maori carvings, CD racks, chopping boards and other wooden items made in the factory.
Dannevirke Domain, off the main road at the northern end of the town, is a good spot to have a picnic, and is surrounded with bird life, trees and a small lake.
The journey to Dannevirke is a little over an hour from Hastings and 20 minutes more from Napier, but allowing the best part of a day to see what’s on offer is worthwhile.
Plenty of people who have lived in the cities for years may be surprised at what is in their own province – and that’s without even venturing more than 10 minutes off State Highway 2.
Photos captions –
RIGHT: The Norsewood Pioneer Museum gives a glimpse of how the first settlers survived while adjusting to the harsh conditions in the area in the 19th century.
PICTURE: CHRIS ORMOND
TRANQUIL SPOT: The Dannevirke Domain provides an ideal spot for a picnic.
PICTURE: CHRIS ORMOND
EARLY DAYS: The CHB Settlers Museum in Waipawa is full of tools, furniture and other relics dating back to when the district was first settled.
HBTODAY PICTURE: WARREN BUCKLAND
LEFT: An example of a bevelled glass design by glass artist, Jeffrey Parker, at The Depot in Lower Norsewood.
PICTURE: CHRIS ORMOND