Hawkes Bay: The right place to do nothing

By Rob Cox

Peace, quiet, breathtaking views and a top golf course await guests at Cape Kidnappers, writes Rob Cox.

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is a luxurious getaway that's also home to one of the world's top golf resorts.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is a luxurious getaway that's also home to one of the world's top golf resorts.

Forgetting to book flights from Auckland to Hawkes Bay was a surprise blessing. This was a no-kids weekend, and once I had calmed Kate down about having to spend five-and-a-half hours in a car with me - and once we started the drive and experienced the bizarre lack of screaming coming from the back seat where our rascals normally sit and fume - we started experiencing the novelty of actually enjoying a journey somewhere. No panic, no rush, just cruising.

My wife and I hadn't been to Cape Kidnappers for nearly five years and there is a good reason for that. I hold that resort entirely responsible for ending up with our third child. Can't prove it, but I have to live with it every day.

When you arrive at the entrance of The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, you still have a hike before you get to the farm - about 10km worth of driveway through 4046ha of stunning gorges and forest, through the sanctuary gate, into farmland, past the golf course and up to the resort - sorry, the farm.

We stumble out and are ushered into the dining room for a spot of lunch while magic fairies sort out our car and baggage. Kate and I could have spent the rest of the day in that room, where the view looks out over the entire cape, across to Napier and Hawkes Bay and, on a clear day, right up to Gisborne.

I was booked in to play golf that afternoon and Kate had a spa, but we both found it hard to get up. This was the perfect spot for doing absolutely nothing.

I did make it to the golf course - it's ranked 33rd in the world and The Farm is rated among the world's top golf resorts. Not wanting to appear out of place, I made sure my shirt was tucked in and I had new-looking golf balls. I had a good half-hour on the practise range simply because they had one, and it felt like a bit of a novelty - like I was a pro all of a sudden.

My first tee shot took care of any false sense of grandeur. Those fairways are like playing on carpet (not that I hit them all that often) and the rough is like losing your ball in a giant's combover. There were five separate tees on each hole - five! Being a hacker, I'm used to just two tees - men's and women's - but these tees went from amateur all the way up to international. I swear, the longest tee was for make-believe only. No one hits the ball that far surely.

It's a course with a view. The fairways, especially the back nine, sit right on the cliff edge of the cape, taking in breathtaking - and rather intimidating - views. One hole gave me vertigo. The cliffs are a straight drop and it looks about 100m to the bottom. Your golf does improve when you're concentrating on not passing out. It's a huge course without a cart; I would still have been out there at midnight.

Photos: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers

I finished my round by putting in for par on the 18th, right in front of the club pro. I suppressed jumping for joy and instead tried to project a calm demeanour in front of this seasoned player. As we walked back to the lodge, he told me he'd just completed a round left-handed - for a laugh.

Kate's spa treatment had left her extremely happy - it's not often you get to have a massage in a room with real Picassos on the wall. But dinner time tops the other experiences. First you're welcomed into the lounge for cocktails and canapes, then later you're taken into the dining room and seated for dinner. How not-normal-but-cool is that?

Not being a regular at a place like this, Kate and I typically got the giggles, pointed out all the awesome touches to the table, the perfect 2m-tall French waiter in his immaculate uniform with his wine recommendations, the interior decor, the lighting and the gigantic fireplace that I was dying to light.

The food and wine selection was outstanding. I had the degustation - a bit of everything was a novelty I couldn't resist.

After a peaceful, no-children-in-the-building sleep, we spent the morning cruising through Napier, driving up Bluff Hill. It's the best view you will get looking out over a port, particularly if you're into container spotting.

We checked out Napier's Museum Theatre Gallery, with its fantastic touch-screen, virtual pottery-making room where you create your own clay vase, which then gets displayed on a wall along with dozens of others. After our 10th vase we did the Art Deco walk down Tennyson St and up Emerson St.

We popped into Mister D's for one of their famous doughnuts, which come complete with syringes full of cream and sauces. You inject your doughnut to the point of it exploding, then dig in. You should see the look on faces of children in that place. Best of all, they were other people's children.

Back at The Farm we struggled to find any good reason to leave the view from our bungalow. However I still had one expedition I needed to do that day.

We probably should have walked there, but the staff are so obliging that we accepted their offer to drive us across the farm to the far end of the cape. There are about 5000 gannets in the colony at Cape Kidnappers. Luckily we timed our arrival perfectly as they were just getting ready to head off for the year.

The only other time I have seen gannets was at Muriwai beach from about 500m away, so when we walked through the scrub and came out into a clearing on the slopes of the cliff, to find the gannets no more than a couple of metres away from us, we held our breath for a few seconds, wondering if we'd crossed some line further back up the path.

They didn't appear at all fussed by our arrival so we sat quietly for a couple of hours and watched the mums fly in at a million kilometres an hour and crash-land right next to us, then feed their squawking babies before their departure in the next few days.

Being close to nature like that is a special experience - seize it if you get the chance.

It was getting dark but we stayed there perched on the clifftop, doing nothing but watching gannets until dusk.

It summed up our entire weekend: Cape Kidnappers, the best place in the world to just sit back and do nothing at all.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is at 446 Clifton Rd, Te Awanga, a 40-minute drive from Napier.

Accommodation: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers has a winter special for New Zealand residents until September 30, which includes dinner, breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and choice of unlimited golf or a 50-minute massage in the spa for each day. The deal starts at $725 (plus GST) per person, per night.

Chef Michael Van de Elzen hosts a fabulous weekend of Hawkes Bay food and wine starting on Saturday, July 19. He promises a gourmet, regionally inspired, five-course menu paired with wines from Te Mata Estate winery. For bookings call: (06) 875 1900.

The writer stayed as a guest of The Farm at Cape Kidnappers.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 30 Aug 2014 14:10:35 Processing Time: 1115ms