Weekender: Havelock North

Watch gannets from a tractor at Cape Kidnappers. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today
Watch gannets from a tractor at Cape Kidnappers. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today

Where: Havelock North is about 4km southeast of Hastings; 30 minutes' drive from Napier airport or five hours' drive from Auckland.

What to do: Located as it is in the heart of Hawkes Bay's food and wine area, Havelock North is a mecca for anybody with a healthy appetite. You can find Black Barn, Craggy Range and Te Mata Estate vineyards right on your doorstep, as well as St Andrews Limes and the famous, ever-growing Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market held every Sunday in Hastings. But this pretty tree-lined town is also a great spot to base yourself for some of the Bay's other delights.

One of the more unique Hawkes Bay experiences is a visit to Cape Kidnappers gannet colony.

Located at the southern-most point of the bay, there are many ways to reach the colony, but the most fun has to be via the old-school tractor and trailer option, which trundles along the rock beach front from Clifton.

While in Havelock North, take a drive or walk to the top of Te Mata Peak, particularly if you strike one of those gorgeous crisp, clear Hawke's Bay days.

The views take in the multi-coloured patchwork of the Heretaunga Plains, right out to the Ruahine and Kaweka ranges, even Ruapehu on occasion. There are also several forest walks and mountain-bike trails through the surrounding Te Mata Trust Park.

If you have the kids with you, or are simply something of a trainspotter, head to Keirunga Park, on Pufflett Rd in Havelock North. Here, on every third Sunday of the month, the Keirunga Park Railway operates miniature train rides along a 850m track through the park, through several tunnels and across four high viaducts. Steaming good fun for kids of all ages.

Where to eat: Terroir at Craggy Range should be near the top of your list, but The Peak restaurant on top of Te Mata also offers fine dining with spectacular views. Bradshaw Estate Winery is another good choice. For something more casual try Jacksons Bakery & Cafe, or if you're headed to Cape Kidnappers, make a refreshment stop at Clifton Cafe.

Where to stay: There's a good range of accommodation in and around Havelock North from the top end through to holiday parks. Black Barn Vineyards and Craggy Range both operate a collection of "retreats" or if you want budget and to be handy to the gannets, try Te Awanga Point Holiday Park.

Further information: See hawkesbaynz.com.

- Herald on Sunday

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