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.