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Monthly Archives: October 2021

Check-in on our New Zealand travel blog for latest news, events and updates - along with a splash of personality from the whole team at Bella Vista!  

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Art and culture in Napier


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If you’re planning a visit to Napier (or perhaps you’re already here) you probably already know that it’s the art deco capital of New Zealand. So it makes perfect sense that you’ll find a fair bit of art and culture in Napier that’s unique to our fair city. That’s right – we’re not ALL about the wineries (although we do love them too!) – some of the most memorable Napier tourist attractions are all about discovering stories, creativity and imagination.
 

Take an art deco tour of Napier
Sources tell us that Napier has the highest concentration of art deco buildings anywhere in the world. Characterised by strong symmetry and clean, bold geometric shapes; art deco buildings are striking to look at and absolutely bursting with character. One of the most popular activities in Napier for art and culture enthusiasts are our art deco tours. You’ll join a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide who will take you around the inner-city’s art deco highlights and reveal the fascinating history of the charming Napier tourist attractions. Either stroll down from our Napier motel to join a walking tour or, for a real leap back in time, see the highlights in an open top vintage car. Finish up your tour at the Art Deco Trust Centre where you’ll find a range of goodies and gifts to purchase and take home.

 

Visit Napier’s Boyd-Dunlop Gallery
You haven’t experienced art and culture in Napier without a visit to the Boyd-Dunlop Gallery. The gallery specialises in contemporary New Zealand art and is absolutely bursting with colour, life and creativity. Artworks include intricate floral compositions, contemporary pop, realist painting, lost-wax casting and so much more. Visitors can purchase artwork to take home or simply enjoy marvelling at the skill and imagination on display throughout the fantastic inner-cty gallery. Artworks are rotated regularly so there’s always something new to discover at this Napier tourist attraction.

                                 

Join a workshop at Creative Arts Napier
If you fancy yourself an artsy type and you’re looking for creative activities in Napier, book yourself in for a workshop at Creative Arts Napier. The community arts centre runs workshops on a huge range of skills and hobbies from sewing to photography, weaving to print-making. They also host some great one-off events like open-mic poetry evenings and mesmerising musical performances—a great way to experience art and culture in Napier. And while you’re there, you can browse the locally-made arts and crafts and tick off your Christmas shopping early!

                                  

 

Visit Otatara Pa Historic Reserve
A 20-minute drive from our Napier motel is one of the best activities in Napier for those wanting to learn about the local history and culture. Otatara Historic Reserve is one of the largest and oldest Maori Pa sites in the Hawke’s Bay region. Visitors to the historical site are welcome to walk around and discover the precious remains, consisting of terraces, dwelling sites and food storage pits. The Reserve is located near the Tutaekuri River and is almost 58 hectares in size, so there is plenty of land to explore. To get the most out of your visit, book a tour with Napier Maori Tours. This way, you’ll hear all about the history and stories of the site and its significance to Maori culture.

                               

 

See something new at Napier Municipal Theatre
If you’re looking for evening activities in Napier for a date night or a special occasion, why not catch a concert, play or a performance at the Municipal Theatre – the ‘go-to’ place for performing arts in Napier. The venue presents a range of shows—plays, ballet, opera, orchestra, comedy, drama, dance and more. And the gorgeous art deco venue is only a ten-minute walk from our Napier motel, so you can leave the car behind.


The four best things to do in winter in Napier


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Napier is a beautiful part of New Zealand to visit at any time of year. In summer, the warm and dry weather has people flocking to our local beaches, enjoying icecreams by the sea and cruising the long, winding coastal cycling trails. But there’s plenty to do in winter in Napier too! If you’re looking for a New Zealand destination for a winter getaway, give Napier a try! Let this list of Napier attractions guide you as you plan for your Napier escape.

Warm up at a winery
Our wonderful city is surrounded by some of New Zealand’s best wineries. People flock here from all over to enjoy the region’s finest drops, and our wineries here have some serious character. So which are the best wineries to visit during winter in Napier? To get you started there’s Mission Estate, the country’s oldest winery; the Urban Winery, conveniently located less than ten minutes drive from our Napier motel; and Elephant Hill, with its floor to ceiling windows framing a simply stunning view.  And if you’re looking for places to visit in Napier where you can stay cosy for a few hours and enjoy a beautiful meal, we highly recommend Craggy Range. The restaurant is warm with a modern, luxe feel and the food is fresh and delicious. There are fireplaces in the courtyard, the living room and the library too, so no matter your choice of wine-tasting setting, you’re sure to be nice and toasty.
 

Visit the National Aquarium of NZ
Who doesn’t love watching penguins, sharks and other sea creatures go about their daily business? The aquarium is one of our most popular Napier attractions and a great place to spend some time indoors on a wild and wintry day. Just a ten-minute walk from our Napier motel, the aquarium is open from 9am until 5pm daily. There’s reef fish feeding to see at 10am, little penguin feeding sessions at 9.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm, and shark feeding at 2pm. You can even hand-feed a little penguin if you book in advance! There’s a cafe on site so you can grab a coffee while you’re there, and a gift shop stocked full of souvenirs to remember your fun-filled holiday in winter in Napier.

                                                                      
 

Go on a bush walk to a waterfall
Don’t let a bit of frost or a sprinkling of rain keep you indoors the whole time. During winter in Napier after a bit of rain the waterfalls are in their prime, so we suggest you rug up and get out for a hike! Rumour has it that Shine Falls is the region’s most spectacular waterfall, but you’ll need to have a few hours up your sleeve to see it for yourself. The drive from Napier takes an hour and the return walk about an hour and half—but we promise the experience will be worth it! The waterfall stands at an impressive 58 metres high and the route there and back is full of other scenic wonders, so make sure you pack your camera!
 

Visit Ocean Spa hot pools
Is there any better feeling than easing into a steamy hot pool on a chilly winter’s day? We certainly don’t think so! Ocean Spa is just a ten-minute walk from our Napier motel and one of the best places to visit in Napier whether you’re travelling solo or with kids in tow. The outdoor pools at the popular Napier attraction have fantastic views of the ocean and are shielded by a glass fence to keep out the cold wind. One of the great things about Ocean Spa is that it’s open until 10.00pm, so you can even cruise down for a post-dinner dip underneath the stars.

                                     


Hamilton’s top restaurants for every occasion


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If you’re looking for great places to eat, Hamilton has plenty of options. But we know that trawling through website reviews can be tiresome. Maybe you’re looking for something for a specific budget, a special occasion or you’ve got a hankering for a delicious buffet! Whatever it is you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.
 

For the special occasion
Do yourself a huge favour and pay a visit to Gothenburg or Palate. You’ll experience exquisite food, beautiful views and delightful service in these Hamilton restaurants. Best to book in advance too, they’re popular and can book out on the weekends!

                                     
 

For the best cheap eats in Hamilton
There are lots of good contenders for the best cheap eats in Hamilton, and your preference might just depend on your preferred cuisine. But Hamilton cheap eats, we don’t think you can go past Dumpling House. It’s quick, delicious and won’t break the bank!

                                                


For the best Asian cuisine in Hamilton
If you’ve got a hankering for some Chinese food, try Sichuan Style on Collingwood Street. As with many Asian restaurants, the menu is extensive and caters well to vegetarians. Popular dishes include the pork Sichuan dumplings, steamed buns and handmade noodles.
 

For the best burgers in Hamilton
Sometimes you just need a big, juicy, delicious burger to fill you up and a cold beer on the side. Burger Bro in the city is the only licensed burger joint in Hamilton and on Thursdays you’ll get both burger and a beer for just $20, offering Hamilton cheap eats at great value for money. This little Victoria Street eatery is hard to miss—just look for the orange façade!
 

For the best pub meal in Hamilton
We’re lucky enough to have a Speights Ale House just ten minutes walk from our Hamilton motel, and we often send hungry guests there when they’re looking for a hearty meal and a relaxed vibe. It’s just by Waikato Stadium too, so ideal if you’re attending an event! A great choice if you want something to eat in Hamilton where you know there will be all your favourites on the menu.
 

For the best high tea in Hamilton
Zealong Tea Estate is in Gordonton, just outside of Hamilton, and is renowned for its high tea experiences. Gather a group together and venture out for selection of tasty treats served among out on the patio overlooking the gardens. And if you’re a tea fan, you can even take a tea tour while you’re out there.
 

For the best takeaways in Hamilton
If you’re looking for the fastest and best cheap eats in Hamilton that you can take away to enjoy, look no further than Oxford Takeaways. The fresh is fish, the chips crisp and salty and the meal packs are great value if you have a family to feed.


The best eateries in Hamilton for breakfast, lunch and dinner


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Breakfast / Brunch: THE KIRK CAFE. 6 Te Aroha Street, Hamilton
Take one quick look at the Instagram grid for The Kirk Café and you’ll be straight on the phone to make a booking! The Kirk is known for its impressive presentation, serving up creative and colourful dishes that look like they belong firmly in the pages of a food magazine. Described as the ‘best little gourmet café and brunch spot in Hamilton’, The Kirk Café is open from 8.00am until 2.30pm from Monday to Saturday and opens at a leisurely 9.30am on Sundays to cater to the later risers. With a welcoming interior and a gorgeous sunny outdoor area for warm and bright mornings, The Kirk café is one of the many nice places to eat in Hamilton within walking distance from our motel, and a lovely spot to begin your day.

On the menu are options for healthy and not-so-healthy dishes. They cater to keto diets, gluten free diets and diets that are yet to begin. The sticky fried chicken eggs benedict is a popular choice—but you’ll have to get there early to lock it in. Because it’s always in hot demand and when it’s gone, it’s gone! For something lighter, there’s a delicious superfood vegan granola or eggs with your choice of sides. No matter whether you’re after sweet or savoury, The Kirk Café has something delicious to offer. Make sure you take your phone too – Instagram awaits!

                             

 

Lunch: GOTHERNBURG. 17 Grantham Street, Hamilton
Looking for lunch restaurants in Hamilton for a special occasion, a birthday surprise or just because you deserve a fantastic meal with impeccable service to boot? You won’t be disappointed with Gothenburg—it’s the highest rated Hamilton restaurant on Tripadvisor and the reviews are what restaurateur dreams are made of. Located in central Hamilton overlooking the Waikato River, Gothenburg has a beautiful dining room with floor to ceiling windows. Gothenburg is fabulous for dinner too, but during the day it has such a beautiful outlook that it’s a tier above other lunch restaurants in Hamilton.

Gothenburg has an extensive tapas menu, evenly split into vegetable tapas, meat and poultry tapas and seafood tapas. There is a huge range and we can tell you now that you’re likely to have a tough time choosing! Some of the options include spicy Kim Chi and pork dumplings, a brioche crayfish roll and sundried tomato and mozzarella arancini. And if you’ve got room, the dessert and cheese menus will be the icing on the cake of your Gothenburg experience.

                                
 

Dinner: PALATE. 20 Alma Street, Hamilton
If you have an anniversary or a birthday coming up and you’re looking for Hamilton dinner places that offer something special, jump on the Palate website and make your booking now. There’s a seven course degustation menu with matching wines, and if you choose this experience you’ll get VIP where you can see the talented team at work. Otherwise, the a la carte menu offers two courses for $60 or three courses for $75—a very reasonable price for the outstanding quality of the dishes.

The Palate experience is all about top quality food and wine. All the staff are passionate about what they do and this becomes clear from the minute you step through the door. Palate has won multiple awards since it was established in 2005 and has become a bit of a Hamilton institution… Hamilton dinner places don’t come much better than this!

                                  


Hamilton’s top four hikes


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Hiking is incredibly popular here in New Zealand, and we often have visitors staying at our Hamilton motel who make it their mission to complete at least one hike in every city or town they visit. While our city is relatively flat, we’ve got plenty of great hikes to try out in the hills and countryside that surrounds. Here, we’ve rounded up the top five best hikes near Hamilton based on popularity, accessibility and reviews from our guests.
 

Hakarimata Summit Track
This hike kicks off in the outskirts of Ngaruawahia, about 25 minutes away from our Hamilton motel. While the Department of Conservation calls it an ‘easy’ track, it’s worth keeping in mind that the summit is 335 metres high and there are 1349 steps to climb. But if you’ve got a moderate level of fitness and are keen to try out hikes around Hamilton, please don’t let the steps put you off! Rumour has it that some people even run the track for fun. When you reach the top after about one and a half to two hours, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views across the Waikato Basin and all the way down to Mt Ruapehu on a clear day. The Hakarimata Summit Track is a must if you’ve got a few hours spare and are after cheap things to do in Hamilton.

                                   
 

Nikau Walk, Kaniwhaniwha
The Nikau walk can be found near the small township of Pirongia. From our Hamilton motel, you’ll drive for half an hour on State Highway 3 and then Te Pahi Road until you reach the Pirongia Forest Park / Kaniwhaniwha Reserve. The Nikau Track is a three-hour return walk and there are lots of highlights to enjoy. It’s a great choice for hikes around Hamilton that come with a side of adventure—the Kaniwhaniwha Caves are located near the start of the Bell Track, 5 minutes from the junction with the Nikau Walk, so take a torch and explore them while you’re here. On your seven-kilometre walk, you’ll follow a trickling stream around a loop surrounded by lush green with nikau palms, ferns and plenty of birdlife.

 

Wairere Falls, Okauia
It’s a bit of a drive out to Okauia—just under an hour to be exact—but it’s worth the trip if you love a good waterfall! Wairere Falls is actually the highest waterfall in the North Island, sitting at 153 metres high. The walk to the viewing platform at the base of the falls take around an hour and a half, but it’s a lovely walk through the cool bush and over little wooden bridges. If you’ve still got energy when you arrive at the base, you can spend another 30-45 minutes climbing to the top of the falls which will give you epic views over the valley and the Waikato Plains.

                                            

 

Hamilton Lake Domain
Ok, so it doesn’t strictly fall under the best hikes near Hamilton, but Hamilton Lake Domain is still a great place for a long, leisurely walk in the fresh air. It’s perfect if you have kids, a pram or require a smooth and flat surface for wheelchair access. The path around Hamilton Lake Domain is almost four kilometres long and you’ll enjoy watching the birdlife in the area including ducks, Pukeko and geese. If you’re there are the right time, you might even be lucky enough to see little ducklings or goslings on the lake. Cheap things to do in Hamilton don’t come much better than this!

                                   

 


New Plymouth’s top attractions


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When staying in a new city, especially for just a short time, it’s well worth researching the most
popular attractions to make sure you get the best out of your visit. Our list of the four must-do
things to do in New Plymouth has something that will appeal to everyone - couples, families with
children and those travelling solo…

Mt Taranaki
As far as New Plymouth attractions go, Mt Taranaki has to be at the top of the list! For those who
are used to seeing mountains as part of a group or within huge stretches of alps, the conical Mt
Taranaki standing solo near the coast almost looks surreal. Ski season on Mt Taranaki is at
Manganui ski field from around June to October—and at only $50 per person it’s among the
cheapest in the country. And if you’re looking for places to visit in New Plymouth outside of these
months, Mt Taranaki and the surrounding Mt Egmont National Park still have plenty to offer…
Stroll through the lush Pukeiti Gardens, chase nearby waterfalls and explore more hiking tracks
than you can shake a walking pole at.


Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre
You can’t drive past the building that houses the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre
without doing a double-take, but there’s so much more to be seen inside. Behind the shimmering
mirrored façade lies a collection of contemporary art including film, sculpture, painting and
photography. An entire wing is dedicated to the work of local artist Len Lye—the legend behind the
famous Wind Wand on the Coastal Walkway. The major exhibitions change out every four months,
so it’s one of those things to do in New Plymouth that you can experience more than once and
enjoy something new and different every time. Bonus: It’s just a couple of doors down from our
New Plymouth motel!

Todd Energy Aquatic Centre
The Todd Energy Aquatic Centre is one of the best places to visit in New Plymouth if you have
children or you’re looking something to do on a rainy day. Kids will have hours of fun zooming
down the hydroslides and frolicking in the wave pool. There are also inflatable toys, tarzan ropes
and a toddler pool indoors—and a diving board, picnic areas and a playground outside. When
you’ve had enough of swimming, relax in the spa pool or hit the sauna for a good sweat session.
And if you really want to burn some energy, you can leave the car behind… The Todd Energy
Aquatic Centre is only a ten-minute walk from our New Plymouth motel.


Brooklands Zoo
Looking for more New Plymouth attractions that cater to children? Well, what child (or adult)
doesn’t love watching cute animals go about their daily business? The animals at Brooklands Zoo
are mainly of the lovable and furry variety.. Think meerkats, squirrel monkeys and friendly
farmyard animals. There’s also a playground on site and a delicious ice cream shop to sustain you
as you browse the exhibits. Entry to the zoo is free but if you can make a donation, you’d be
supporting a very good cause! The Zoo rehabilitates injured or orphaned native and protected
birds and has on-site breeding programmes for their cotton-top tamarins and capuchin monkeys.
 


The four best free things to do in New Plymouth


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New Plymouth is one of those great cities where the best things to do are free! The unique natural
surrounds play a big part in this; personally, we think that all the best free things to do in New
Plymouth are in the outdoors. So if it’s a cold day, just make sure you rug up for your Taranaki
activities. And if you need any more tips or ideas, just come and see us at the Bella Vista New
Plymouth Motel reception – we’re always happy to help!

Coastal walkway
The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway is so good that it has won countless awards for its
functionality and innovation. The 10 kilometre-long walk and cycle path passes through farmland
and along the coastline, offering incredible views of rugged rocks, powerful waves and the striking
Mt Taranaki looming in the distance. The walkway is home to the famous Len Lye Wind Wand—a
48 metre sculpture that bends with the wind and is lit up in the evenings. In fact, seeing the Wind
Wand is one of the best free things to do in New Plymouth in its own right. If you’re short on time,
skip straight to the middle section of the walkway to check out the New Plymouth icon*.

Surfing
If you’re an avid surfer, you’ll know all about New Plymouth’s reputation for great breaks. Surfers
flock to New Plymouth from all over the country to experience the waves—and it’s not just Fitzroy
Beach in the city where you’ll find swarms of surfers. There’s Back Beach, Kumera Patch, the
Rockies and Stent Road too. Or travel a bit further to Oakura or Ahu Ahu for some more great
spots. You can hire a board if you didn’t come prepared or take a surf lessons if you’re just starting
out. Anyone who has been lucky enough to experience the surf here on a good day will tell you it’s
definitely one of the best New Plymouth things to do!

Pukekura Park
Pukekura Park is one of the best free things to do in New Plymouth for families. In prime position
in the middle of New Plymouth, Pukekura Park is a lush 52-hectare space featuring lakes,
gardens, playgrounds and more. It’s a great place for children to burn some energy—they’ll love
running over the arched bridges, spotting different wildlife and barreling down the flying fox. There
are also other New Plymouth activities hosted here intermittently throughout the year – concerts,
sporting events, festivals and art installations. We suggest checking the events calendar regularly
to see if there are any Pukekura Park activities in New Plymouth that coincide with your visit.


Egmont National Park
We know it’s not technically in New Plymouth, but it’s so close that it definitely deserves a mention
in our list of free activities in New Plymouth. Egmont National Park is where you’ll find the
spectacular Mt Taranaki. Experienced hikers can make their way to the top and there are
kilometres upon kilometres of other walks for less ambitious explorers to wander.There are 13
entrances to the national park, eight huts to sleep in and hundreds of photo opportunities—from
roaring waterfalls to quiet swamps and dense rainforest.

*The Len Lye Wind Wand is being removed for maintenance in 2021 and is expected to be back in place by
June 2021.


Fill up at the best restaurants in New Plymouth


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If you’re spending time in New Plymouth, be sure to make time to experience the city’s lively
dining scene. The relatively small CBD means that most of the top restaurants in New Plymouth
are in walking distance, and at Bella Vista Motel we’re lucky enough to be just steps away from
one of the very best places to eat in New Plymouth! Which one is it? Read on to find out…


Arranged Marriage
This popular CBD eatery has a five-star rating on Tripadvisor, making it one the the best places to
eat in New Plymouth based on hundreds of customer reviews. Locals and visitors have nothing
but good things to say about the outstanding service and the authenticity of the delicious South
Indian cuisine. The dishes hail from the Kerala region where strong spices and plenty of coconut
deliver flavours that are powerful, unique and oh so more-ish. And the menu has plenty of dishes
where veggies, lentils and cheeses are the hero ingredient, making Arranged Marriage one of the
best restaurants in New Plymouth for vegetarians.


Social Kitchen
Social Kitchen has quickly grown to become of the the top restaurants in New Plymouth, and a
quick look at their Instagram page will have you instantly sold. The moody pictures showcase
immaculately presented dishes and a warm, luxurious atmosphere accentuated by a roaring
charcoal oven. True to its name, the cuisine at the award-winning bistro is all about sharing. Each
plate offers a delightful fusion of flavour with elements that intrigue—salted fennel, beer mustard
and bone marrow butter to name a few. Social Kitchen is just a five-minute walk from our New
Plymouth motel, so we recommend taking the opportunity to try a couple of their tasty cocktails
while you’re there.


Monica’s
Our New Plymouth motel is lucky enough to have the wonderful Monica’s Eatery right next door!
And this one is our top pick for daytime delights. Open from 6.30am on during the week and
7.30am on weekends, Monica’s is one of the best restaurants in New Plymouth if you’re looking
for creative, substantial meal to enjoy in a light-filled setting. The menu offers sweet and savoury
dishes with some exciting twists… Enjoy your oats with peaches, chocolate and coconut cream or
opt for eggs with hummus, zucchini and olives. And for lunch, you’ll find far more interesting
choices than predictable burgers and steaks. There’s a selection of flatbreads, pastas, seafood
and tasty vegetarian dishes—there’s something for everyone at this top restaurant in New
Plymouth.


The Federal Store & Bakehouse
All the New Plymouth locals know about The Federal Store—it’s one of those hard-to-find places
where the cabinet food is equally as good as the dine-in meals. The Federal Store is one of the
best places to eat in New Plymouth if you’re looking for a fun and quirky vibe. There are retro
tables with mismatched chairs and those tomato-shaped sauce bottles that’ll make you nostalgic
for decades passed. The Federal Store is a five-minute drive from our New Plymouth
accommodation and the ideal place to pick up some tasty food if you’re planning a beachside
picnic or a road trip up the coast.