Ticking off the Bucket List – part 2

We are dropped back off at the lodge and spend some time sitting out on the front porch, drinking pinot, with some home made shortbread, looking out at the ocean, watching the day become night. I do enjoy living in the city, but the peacefulness of being out in the country is rejuvenating.

Pre-drinks and canapes are being served at 6:30pm so I decide to go for a quick swim before dinner. Unfortunately for me, the heating system is broken so the water is a little chilly. Not nearly as freezing as the ‘plunge pool’ in Queenstown, but cool enough that it takes me a while to actually get in.

The pool room is a tropical oasis (except maybe for the water temperature) It is next to a courtyard filled with tall trees and citrus fruits. The ceiling is glass and I swim a few laps (or should I say float awkwardly around with a pool noodle) looking up at the sky.

Time for drinks and canapes. We get dressed up and walk over to the lodge. The walkway is lit up and the lodge looks very grand. We take a seat and give our drink orders. Wharekauhau have their own Gin called Lighthouse, made with natural spring water taken straight from the grounds at the lodge. I have never tried a G&T so I decide now is the time to give it a go. It’s quite a refreshing drink and I am a fan.

We are served several delectable morsels of food while chatting to the hosts who are naturally some of the friendliest people I have met. We are then seated in the dining room ready for our 4 course Trust the Chef culinary experience. The food was all amazing. I am a vegetarian and I am always wowed by how they can serve a meat meal to Daniel and a vegetarian meal to me and have them still looking the same. When they served my main course I double checked that it is in fact vegetarian, as my egg plant looks so much like a lamb steak. While I am not usually a big fan of eggplant, this is delicious.

All the guests are chattering away and a lovely elderly couple make their way around all the tables, introducing themselves and getting to know everyone. They even start a couple of rounds of ‘happy birthday’ for some of the guests. They were meant to be on a Mississippi River Cruise celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, but as we all know, travel plans this year have been turned upside down. I think Wharekauhau was a great choice.

We head back to our cottage to find our free mini bar restocked and a chocolate truffle beside the bed. Yum. I could get used to this service.

Its a cool night, but it also means that it is a clear night and the sky is lit with stars. Wrapped in a blanket with lantern and camera in hand, I take my chair out into the night to sit and stare at the stars. This time I manage a somewhat OK photo of the night sky. It really doesn’t do it justice, but if I keep practicing, I might be able to take some great astro photography shots one day.

Its getting late so I head back inside to find Daniel stretched out on the couch in front of the gas fire, fast asleep. He assured me he would be wide awake to watch the MotoGP live, but sleep has won him over. I on the other hand want to make the most of our 1 night stay, so at around midnight, I run a bath filled with bath salts. Its right next to the window so I can soak in the bath while gazing at the stars.

Finally sleep wins me over and I take myself off to bed listening to the soothing sounds of the mighty ocean near by.

The morning arrives and our time hear is drawing to an end. We do have a late checkout though so while Daniel sleeps I make myself a peppermint tea to sip in the sun while I read my book. We make our way to the conservatory for breakfast. I love porridge. I know, it’s one of the cheapest, easiest meals to make, but I love it. And so I ordered it. Smooth and creamy, topped with nuts and poached pears from the garden, it hits the spot.

We have a quick game of croquet before it’s time to put on our gear and pack up the bike. At check out we are given a (rather large) bottle of their Lighthouse Gin to take home. Our bags are full but I manage to make room.

It’s time to say goodbye to this Grand Olde Lady. She is full of charm, decadence and warm hospitality. I hope we will return one day.

Ticking off the Bucket List – part 1

For the longest time, we are talking around 10 years, I have wanted to stay at Wharekauhau. A residents special made this possible so I booked this back in May and have been patiently waiting ever since.

Today a big tick is going on the bucket list. The day is finally here. We are heading to Wharekauhau, at Cape Palliser in the Wairarapa.

We have been here a couple of times for lunch, it’s where Daniel proposed and holds a special place in my heart.

It’s a beautiful still day so we decide to travel up on our Motorbike. I kinda like the idea that we are traveling to a luxury lodge on our rough looking, beaten up, but much loved Fireblade.

We arrive. She is such a grand old house. We are greeted with the warm, friendly hospitality we have always experience here. Our bags are taken to our room on a little golf cart and we start our night away with a cool drink on the front porch, looking out across green pastures and the rugged, but very charming Cape Palliser.

Jackie then gives a tour of the property. There is so much attention to details. The artwork, the decor, it’s a feast for the eyes. We go to the games rooms, the dining room, my heart flutters a little when I spot the room where Daniel got down on one knee. We then head outside to the courtyard and are shown where to find the petanque set, croquet clubs, tennis court and swimming pool.

We arrive at our cottage, it’s very private, set among trees and decorated to the highest standard. Yes, I think this will do quite nicely.

We are booked in for clay target shooting (first time for both of us) so we change out of our motorbike gear and head back up to the lodge where our guide, Dougal is waiting for us. We jump into the 4wheel drive and head out into the country side.

We arrive at our first stop, the station is nestled into the bush. We get some instructions on how to hold the gun, what to expect and how to stand.

Daniel is up first.

Pull. The bright orange target soars through the air.

Bang.

He hits it first time. And then again and again and again.

He is a natural and I am desperately hoping that I also manage to hit some.

Its my turn now. There are 2 shotguns. I start with the smaller one, a Buretta 4/10. I take my time getting used to holding it, it’s weight, and making sure I am tucking it into my shoulder.

Then it gets loaded.

Pull. I spot the disk and follow it with my eyes. Then it starts dropping.

Bang. But I have left it too late. A clear miss. But now I have taken the first shot, experienced the kick back and know what to expect, I am feeling a little more relaxed about it.

I fire a few more misses, but then, contact. Yay!

Now I have the hang of things I move onto the bigger shotgun, a 12 guage German Beretta semi automatic. This one is so much heavier and I struggle to hold the gun up for more than a few seconds, but this holds 2 shots which increases my chance of hitting the targets. Which I do.

We then move 2 a second site. The machine at this site can fire out 2 targets. So now we are firing at 2 targets. I could hit the first one but then I was so quick looking for the second one that I had to keep asking if I hit anything. Surprisingly I am quite good at hitting the first target, not so much the second.

Daniel is doing quite well so he is then challenged to start with the gun to the ground and to then pull it up into position after the target is released. This helps even up the scores between us.

We are now at the last station. What a beautiful place. Trees, birds and a milky blue river flowing below us. Again, 2 targets are sent out at once, but the difference here is that instead of being sent straight out in front of me, they are coming around to the left and dropping quite quickly. These ones are rather challenging. I think it was more luck than skill, but I am pleased to report that as I got better, Daniel got worse and we ended the experience with the same amount of hits.

Pretty darn proud of myself.

As Dougal said, ‘for a city girl who works at a bank, you did pretty good!’

The Bucket List – North Island Edition

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called The Bucket List, my 5 top New Zealand experience I want to have. After writing it, I realised that every item on that list was in the South Island. Correction, I mean the South Island and Stewart Island.

What I am getting at is that there were no North Island experiences on my list, and it’s the Island I live on. Shame on me!

Te Ika a Maui, aka, The North Island, has some stunning beaches, natural hot springs and some interesting Geo thermal areas. It is certainly a place worth exploring.

So, without furthur ado, here is my top 5 North Island Bucker List items:

Staying a night at Wharekauhau Lodge

This one has been on the bucket list for 11.5 years! An Edwardian style lodge, set up on a hill, it looks out towards stunning views of Palliser Bay and farm land in the Wairarapa. I first came here in 2009. It is where Daniel and I got engaged and has always held a special place in my heart. We visited again late last year, again just for lunch. When Daniel proposed, he had looked into staying a night, but at over $3000 a night, it was off the cards. A bucket list item for sure, but perhaps more of a dream.

Not anymore. In September we are making this dream a reality. I managed to grab a bargain when they were offering a ‘Back your backyard – NZ residents special’. It was too good to pass up.

Wharekauhau is luxury at it’s finest. The food is exceptional, the location stunning and the staff are so warm and welcoming. To say I am excited about staying here is an understatement.

Tongariro Crossing

I actually had plans to do this walk in March with my sister-in-law. The trip was all booked and then Covid-19 happened. The first weekend we spent in lockdown was the weekend we were meant to be hiking this trail.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is in the Tongariro National Park, located in central North Island in the Manawatu-Wanganui region. The walk is just under 20km and is often described as being NZ’s best day walk. The walk is said to be challenging but incredibly rewarding. The trail takes you past craters, lakes and landscapes like no other.

I am yet to rebook this one but will need to do some fitness prepping first. I will confess that I didn’t do much exercise during lockdown and took up the hobby of baking. Needless to say, I have put on a bit of lockdown weight.

Northern Explorer

One of New Zealand’s great train rides. This journey goes between Auckland and Wellington, stopping at some great locations along the way. The journey takes around 10 hours, but I would take the opportunity to get off at some stops along the way to further explore.

Fancy staying in a Chateau or visiting Hobbiton? Black water rafting at Waitomo or a trip to Kapiti Island? These are all locations that are accessible from the stops it makes along the way.

The Northern Explorer is not currently operating, I am waiting for that email it’s back up and running and then (if I haven’t already spent all my money on other trips) I will make a booking.

Camping with the pups

I have wanted to do this for a while now, what’s stopping me I hear you ask? Well the main thing, I don’t own a tent. An essential piece of equipment for this adventure.

I have always loved camping but haven’t done it in ages. I would love to take Frankie and Eddie camping with me too. There are a few campgrounds around that allow dogs.

The other issue stopping me is that Frankie and Eddie, AKA The FrEddies, although small and cute, are very vocal. The love to alert us of people arriving, birds on the porch and neighbors turning on their lights. We would need to trial the camping somewhere close, like Wainuiomata, so if The FrEddies felt the need to alert us to everything going on at the camp site and we needed to make a quick exit in the middle of the night, we wouldn’t need to drive too far.

First thing I need to do is locate a tent I can borrow. I don’t want to invest in one if it’s going to be a disastrous family outing.

Wanganui River Kayak

I have a thing for kayaking, I am certainly no pro and I don’t do it very often, but given the chance I love to jump in a kayak and go exploring.

This Wanganui River tour is a multi day tour, I think actually in canoes, rather than kayaks. I haven’t done too much research into this, so I don’t have a tour company picked out, yet.

This would be a tour with stunning scenery and informative local history in a area that I am not too familiar with.

What’s on your bucket list?

Wharekauhau Country Estate

It was a wet stormy day. I’m talking rain so thick and heavy it was causing flooding and landslips. We were in the car, already running late, stuck in traffic, trying to make it to our special lunch reservation.

Wharekauhau Country Estate in the Wairarapa was on our radar today. It’s where Daniel and I got engaged and we decided to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of this by returning there for lunch (not in a helicopter this time!)

We arrived at the lodge, late, and rushed in. Instantly the frantic hours of the morning left us as we were warmly welcomed by the staff, shown to the lounge room and served a glass of bubbles. The staff are wonderful. Warm, friendly and attentive – they are a real testament to the place.

The place was just as exquisite as I had remembered. Beautifully decorated and luxurious yet still retaining a casual air to it which instantly makes you feel relaxed and at home.  It was December, but not a warm balmy summer day. All the doors and windows were open though and they had the fires going. A beautiful warmth within the walls, while letting the wild mood of the outdoors in. So great!

We were shown to our dining room (you get the whole room to yourself) and introduced to our host Grant, who, throughout the afternoon, while serving our meals, shared proposal stories with us from his time at Wharekauhau. A nice personalised touch.

Our room contained a model of the Estate, being able to view the property from above gave me flash backs to that magical day when we arrived on the front lawn of the property by helicopter.

Guys, let me just say, if there is a special lady in your life that you are wanting to spoil (or propose to) Wharekauhau is the place to do it! The Helilunch is an awesome experience.

Wharekauhau operate a 5 course, ‘trust the chef’ menu. They will cater for dietary requirements, but other than that, what you eat is the chef’s choice.(For the main course you do get a couple of options to choose from.)

The menu packed a punch from the start; curry spiced carrot soup with coconut, macadamia, fennel and labneh. Full of flavour! ‘From the sea’ was next on the menu. Now I am a vegetarian and my husband is a big meat eater, so I was interested to see what they would do with this. Our meals came out looking identical, but Daniel’s was made with line caught trevally, and mine made from tofu. I was so impressed. I am sure it must take quite a lot of skill and creativity to do that. This was followed by 2 more delectable courses and finished off with my favourite, dessert. White chocolate and drunken nanny goats curd cheesecake with balsamic strawberries, pink peppercorn and garden mint. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Wharekauhau is not fine dining. It’s a step above. It’s luxurious dining.

After lunch we were shown a couple of the other rooms, one that was set up with a whisky bar another that was a games room. Board games, couches, a pool table, we were encourage to stay a while and use the facilities while we were there. The first time we were at Wharekauhau the weather was much more agreeable so we are able to have a wander around the extensive grounds. This time we chose to stay indoors and play a couple of games of pool. (And help myself to the lolly jars.)

The afternoon went way to quickly, but wow!

What a special place it is. When dining at Wharekauhau, you will relax, indulge your taste buds in an explosion of flavours and most import, leave with some special memories.

This place is quite dear to my heart and I am pretty certain we will return again.

The Details

Wharekauhau Country Estate is located in the Wairarapa, approximately 1.5 hours drive from Wellington. They provide luxurious accommodation and dining. A 5 course, Trust the Chef meal will cost you $165 per person. There is also the option to add on a 3 or 5 wine paring package to your meal if you wish.