It may have been a rocky start to 2022, but there's so much to look forward to with the Easter break next weekend.
This is the first public holiday in two years that many Kiwis will take full advantage of the time off and get out and about.
Travel plans were foiled in 2020 and last year due to the various snap lockdowns, and now, with Covid restrictions easing and New Zealand's high vaccination rate assuring confidence, people are starting to go back to more regular holiday and social activities.
For a look at what you can do to celebrate locally, we've put together a family-friendly guide.
Fill your plate
As well as an obligatory chocolate overload, this year is all about feasting on new memories, and the prelude to Easter is the inaugural Flavours of Plenty food festival.
Having started on April 7 and finishing tomorrow, the weekend's events include a plant-based luncheon at Sugo; Bay to Plate at Clarence Bistro; Mata Brewery visit; cheese rolling; fashion, music and much more. Many events have already sold out so don't delay booking at flavoursofplentyfestival.com
Come Easter weekend, consider a night out at one of the Bay's best restaurants. Recommended to essence by local tourism gurus are Lantern in Pāpāmoa; Solera and Fife Lane in Mount Maunganui; Clarence Bistro and Sugo in Tauranga; and Clarke's Bar at Novotel Rotorua Lakeside. This gem has plush high-back chairs, a 360-degree open gas fire pit, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Rotorua so that you can catch the sunset.
We also hear the Barrel & Co lounge, inside the 5-star Pullman Rotorua Hotel, is a great place for cocktails. And a top tip for parents and grandparents is that D Bar at Distinction Rotorua Hotel has a kids' room next door.
Treat the family
While this year's 58th National Jazz Festival has been cancelled due to Covid, there are still plenty of other activities.
Kick off the long weekend, by heading to the Rotorua Night Market on Thursday from 5pm at Tūtānekai St for entertainment, international cuisine and boutique-style shopping.
Then, on Easter Friday, wrap up warm for the Kiwi Trust Night Walk in the Mokorua Bush Scenic Reserve in Whakatane.
The walk from 7pm to 9.30pm allows families to learn about native taonga. Listen for the call of the kiwi and weka, and see creepy crawlies and glow-in-the-dark fungi. Best for children 8 and over. To book, visit
Come Easter Saturday, a favourite for young and old is the stockcars, and both TWS Paradise Valley Speedway and Baypark Speedway are bringing all the action.
Baypark has its final meeting on Saturday - The Oval at the Bay 20th Anniversary, which will close with a fireworks extravaganza. Classes include sprint, super saloons, midgets and saloons. Tickets at
In Rotorua, races run on both Saturday and Sunday with the Hickey Contractors Easter Meeting and Advance Steel Engineering Demolition Derby.
This is the Bay of Plenty championship titles for superstocks, stockcars, streetstocks, production saloons, saloons and TQ midgets and both classes of the youth ministocks. Gate sales only. For more info visit
For something totally treat-worthy, book in for the Waimarino Glow Worm Kayak Tour under crisp autumn skies; or an unforgettable trip to Te Maunga o Tarawera - famous for its eruption in 1886. There are two ways to get to the mountain's crater rim, before taking a guided walk to the summit - either booking with Volcanic Air, or 4WD with Kaitiaki Adventures.
Immerse yourself in nature
Lace up your sneakers and trek or mountain bike to the top of Rotorua's Mt Kakaramea (Rainbow Mountain), which is 2.5km, and takes you past two crater lakes.
There's also the mythical and short Mt Ngongotaha Nature Loop Track boasting gentle grades and even surfaces. Ten minutes into the bush, you can see one of the largest rata trees in the Bay of Plenty.
If that's not enough footslog, the Echo Walking Festival is on until April 24 in Katikati and Waihī Beach; or meander around McLaren Falls Park, a 10-minute drive from Tauranga. Tourism Bay of Plenty describes it as "like walking into an oil painting".
Other places to explore in Tauranga include The Historic Village on 17th Avenue for shopping, dining, and a lesson in history. And The Elms - Te Papa on Mission St, offers entry and a guided tour for a small fee.
Another prelude to Easter, happening tomorrow, is the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro series, owned by Rotorua Mountain Bike Club. They invite riders to come and ride the Whakarewarewa Forest trail network at your own pace as an individual, or socially with mates. Register for one, two or all races at
If you can't make this event, you can still shred tracks over Easter. Download the
app for a map, and info on trail conditions, closures or detours.
After a ride, book a soak at Secret Spot Hot Tubs Rotorua. DJ Danley is playing on Easter Saturday, and Secret Spot's new kitchen at BaseCamp is also on track to open Easter weekend, offering street-style food.
Easter is the last break we have before winter sets in and if you aren't going away, it's a good time to fix things around the house that you've been putting off due to work, or been sick with Omicron.
Or, if you want a project for no other reason than something to do, consider something practical and useful like building an outdoor vegetable, herb and
, which will save you money on your grocery bill.
Bunnings has a great
to building a sleeper garden bed on its website.
Fill your Easter basket
Kids who face a real candy crush because they can't have gluten or dairy, have a saviour in local cookie queen Charlotte Townend.
The Papamoa mum and owner of Daisy Chain Cookies says it's important for kids with food allergies to experience what everybody else experiences.
"Especially treat foods, they're really hard to come by."
Townend has a variety of Easter cookies, including paint-your-own sets with plain Easter shaped cookies, and a mini icing painting palette.
She also does custom orders; and her "Easter egg hunt" box of cookies with 10 individually decorated and wrapped egg cookies is popular with parents who don't want to give out chocolate.
Priced from $24 to $48, nationwide orders have now closed for Easter, but Bay of Plenty residents can still order and collect from Pāpāmoa, or have their cookies shipped, so long as you're fast. Visit
For more sugary goodness, check out the Bay's specialty luxury chocolatiers - Rotorua's Dangerous Chocolate, Scilla Chocolates in Whakatane, and Chez Moi in Waihi Beach.
Also, celebrity chef and Mount Maunganui resident Chelsea Winter has a luscious, soft
that's worth checking out on her website.
After all that ... Go get some rest
As we raise our "weary and wary" heads from two difficult years, this Easter feels extra special, lead pastor at Curate Church Joel Milgate says.
"For some, this will be the first time in three years they are able to celebrate Easter in a church service. For others, this will be the first time their churches gather together as a whole, without the effect of vaccine passes.
"Easter is an opportunity to reflect on the crescendo of the Jesus story - death giving way to life."
The Rev Craig Vernall, senior minister at Bethlehem Baptist Church, says it brings to mind the quote from protagonist Tevye, in the musical Fiddler on the Roof: "Without our traditions, our lives would be as stable as a fiddler on the roof".
"Most of us didn't relate to what he [Tevye] understood about traditions until these past two years crashed upon us, and our own traditions were sacrificed to the fear of Covid.
"With two muted Christmas holidays, and two cancelled Easter long weekends behind us, we're grateful that this year will be one where we can return closer to our traditions - albeit still a bit shaky."
Vernall says traditions result in people gathering for an event of significance - Easter being the most celebrated weekend of the Christian calendar.
"Remembering on your own is melancholy, but remembering together is a celebration.
"With Covid in retreat, we can anticipate this Easter weekend being a time of resurrection. Bringing back to life what we celebrate the most - our families, friends, favourite places and resurrecting our most sacred traditions."