COMMENT:

I drove 1000km over Labour Weekend. During most of that time I was realising how privileged I am!

My first destination was Hastings with friends I've known since kindy. We were at a Shapeshifter concert at Black Barn Vineyards on a beautiful Hawke's Bay evening with thousands of other people who love a good dance and a couple of vinos.

Sidenote: We REALLY need to step up our game on the outdoor music venues in the BOP.

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Like a field in Tauranga is nice, but Black Barn is this beautiful terraced, natural amphitheatre, fairy-light-covered little paradise that makes you feel like you're in a bit of a dream. The Baypark carpark doesn't seem as romantic somehow huh?!

The place we Airbnb'd in Hastings was a beautiful old wooden home, amazingly redone, with sprawling grounds and free avos in the fruit bowl. As a bay area, the Hawke's Bay is lovely.

The people are super friendly, even a little more down to earth than the rapidly growing 'swanky' areas in the Bay of Plenty. But we murder them when it comes to beaches. I almost feel sorry for them and those stone covered monstrosities they have to endure to get a little sea water.

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Then it was a long drive from Hawke's Bay all the way up to Tairua in the Coromandel.

During that five hour drive I went through a bunch of small-town NZ that is still as green, quiet and beautifully preserved in the 1950s as it's always been.

Such a contrast to the Auckland/downtown the Mount on a Saturday at brunch time. The most beautiful contrast. You'd be lucky to find anything open on a Saturday morning in small town NZ ... Except your next door neighbour's front door that you've just walked through for a catch up and the bacon is frying, and the jug is on for your Pams instant coffee. Beautiful indeed.

I made it to Tairua and, even having been there a couple of times in my life before, was once again blown away by how beautiful that beach and waterway really is. I decided to try and be a person who appears to look after himself and went for an early morning run on Monday morning and ended up on the beach there.

The people I bumped in to in Tairua, from the guy who let me pat his cute as hell dalmatian on the back of his ute, to the girls who served me my real fruit icecream, to the people I said a puffed and slightly high-voiced "hi" to while I was running were all people that seemed happy to be existing in a small beachside town in the sun, living a life of friendly human interaction and salt water.

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What a beautiful country it is we live in. Maybe don't book that cheap light to Bali in the next online sale, maybe get in your car and just drive and see what happens?

The worst that could happen is you end up in Auckland. And even that is fun for a bit. Until you have to pay their prices for the fuel to get home!

• Will Johnston is the local 9am-3pm host for The Hits Bay of Plenty 95FM. He's also a celebrant and MC.