PS: Gannets are banned. This postscript to my writing brief could have thrown me into the sort of flat spin you'd see deployed by that very thing I'm not allowed to mention. Cape Kidnappers? Yep, it's got a great big colony of ... Dammit. Gannet. Ban it. I feel a bad poem coming on.
Luckily, the Cape, on that pokey-outy bit at the base of Hawke's Bay, has a lot going for it besides you-know-what. For a start, you can't drive there without passing a handful of very fine wineries, including Clearview Estate where I bought a bottle of the almost-sold-out 2010 Old Olive Block Bordeaux-style red for my nephew-minding brother. He was delighted.
In fact, you could get waylaid by vine-encircled cafes within wineries and never get to the cape, but that would be a pity. Should your budget run to it there's a lot of hedonistic fun to be had at five-star luxury lodge The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, which is set far enough back from the famed cliffs that you've got little chance of seeing any large white seabirds.
Architecturally, The Farm is the somewhat international rural property of your dreams. There's not a draughty corrugated-iron lean-to or an outside dunny in sight.
Instead it's all sumptuous stonework, solid beams and high ceilings, with distressed-looking farm implements and cowhide rugs everywhere. There's a "snug" shaped like an American grain silo and a table made out of a carpenter's bench. Just about everything has had active service elsewhere - there are carriage lights, casks, saws and spades, grain bins, rakes and weather-vanes.
You can sit on a large, lived-in sofa that used to rest the bottoms of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, who'd presumably gaze at their moose-antler chandelier (also here).
Or you can read the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club's Golden Jubilee book.
With a pretty clear idea of what sort of farm it isn't, you need to turn that idea on its head. The Farm is, in fact, a farm: it's a lodge set in the middle of a 2500ha sheep and cattle station. But, unlike most agricultural holdings in New Zealand, this one also has a globally acclaimed 18-hole golf course and a well-respected native wildlife reserve that plays an important part in national breeding programmes. And there's a very fine kitchen that makes the most of the property's extensive vege gardens and yummy local offerings.
On my last day I'd opened many gates on a farm tour, walked and mountainbiked and been pummelled by a fine, strong masseuse. I was country-hungry.
Their "tasting" menu was more like five proper courses: roast beetroot with orange; crayfish raviolo with sauteed vegetables; John Dory with crushed potatoes and Hawke's Bay lamb with panisse. And then a dessert I just can't stop thinking about: a coconut mousse and caramel shortcake, coconut sherbet and gula melaka (which is coconut palm sugar to you and me). With wines thoughtfully matched by the sommelier.
What a spread. I ate like a very hungry gannet.
GETTING THERE: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is a five-hour drive from Auckland. Or Air New Zealand has regular flights from Auckland to Napier and Hastings.
Activities include golf, 4WD farm tours, gannet colony, quad bikes, kiwi discovery tours and more. Facilities include a health spa, infinity pool and gym. Lodge suites or the Owner's Cottage are available, from $740 (excluding GST) each a night.