The Chief Executive of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa, Courtney Johnston shares her fondness for a New Zealand holiday
What are your favourite memories from childhood family holidays in NZ?
I grew up on a dairy farm outside of New Plymouth. Every summer, in a break between two lots of hay-making, my parents would load the family into the station wagon and drive north before dawn for Auckland, where we would stay at my aunt and uncle's place in Remuera. For a week we lived with footpaths, bus routes, the fancy bakery in Meadowbank, the annual visit to Death By Chocolate and Rainbow's End, and the 277 mall in Newmarket, where one summer I had a memorable meltdown when my mother refused me a puffball skirt.
Where is your favourite off the beaten track/secret spot in NZ to get away from it all and what makes it so special?
Since Covid hit, my husband and I have been escaping whenever possible to a favourite Airbnb in the Tuki Tuki valley in Hawke's Bay. We'll run (that's the plan, anyway) every day up Te Mata Peak and then spend the rest of the day indulging ourselves. My life in Wellington is beautifully sociable – a holiday where we don't see anyone we know is a blessing. Hawke's Bay has so much to offer: to be frank, we load up on good food and good drink then shut ourselves away and avoid everyone and everything else.
If you were heading on a family getaway now, where would you go and why?
We take the kids to New Plymouth to stay with my family. My mum (provider of free accommodation, thanks mum!) has moved this year from a large riverside property that provided loads of space for the kids to her dream home on the waterfront, so we're now having to reconfigure family trips.
What's your dream NZ roadtrip and why?
I don't have a dream roadtrip so much as a favourite spot of road. Whenever I come down towards Taranaki from up north, just before you hit Mōkau there's a long straight where the paddocks fall abruptly off into the wild west coast beach, and the maunga floats before you on a haze over the sea. I love that moment. I've been known to drive it, then turn around and drive it all over again.
And if you could choose one ultimate, luxury, dream holiday in NZ, where would you go and why?
I like luxury as much as the next person, but the place I really want to get to spend some time is Rēkohu / Chatham Islands. I was lucky enough to be part of the delegation that attended the signing of the Moriori Deed of Settlement on Rēkohu in 2020, and I want very much to go back.
Courtney Johnston is the Chief Executive of Te Papa. tepapa.govt.nz
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