Author Archives: Rob Burnell
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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Palmerston North is a great place to visit. The 8th biggest city in New Zealand has a modest population of
around 88,000 so it’s not too busy, it’s easy to navigate and there’s a great mix of cultural, sporting and
outdoor activities to be found. As far as Palmerston North attractions go, there is far more to explore than
just the famous clock tower! As proud local residents, we’ve listed our top Palmerston North things to do to
help you plan your stay here.
Te Manawa Museum, Gallery and Science Centre
Situated in the heart of Palmerston North, Te Manawa museum celebrates art, science and heritage
through its exhibitions, gallery and interactive family activities. Open daily from 10.00am to 5.00pm, Te
Manawa offers something for everyone and often has international exhibitions on display—making it one of
the best things to do in Palmerston North for all ages. Art-lovers will adore browsing the gallery and its
collection of spellbinding photography, painting and other crafts by New Zealand and international artists.
And kids will be captivated by the many hands-on activities that introduce them to elements of science in a
fun and engaging way—water play, digging for fossils and more. No matter what your age or interests, Te
Manawa is a great place to kill a few hours—and it’s only a 15-minute walk from our Palmerston North
Victoria Esplanade gardens
Looking for free things to do in Palmerston North? The 26-hectare Victoria Esplanade is easily Palmerston
North’s biggest and best park. It includes an incredible playground, paddling pool and wildlife recovery
centre—but one of the Esplanade’s biggest drawcards by far is its spectacular gardens. The colourful
Dugald MacKenzie Rose Garden features upwards of 5000 roses in hundreds of different varieties.
Whatever your favourite colour or class, you’re to find it here! Grab a pamphlet online and weave your way
around the different beds, picking out your fresia from your diamonds forever. Visiting Palmerston North
during the winter? The roses are only in full bloom from November to May, but the camellias mean the
gardens are still worthy of a visit over the winter months.
This one’s a bit outside of Palmerston North but if you love walking and wildlife and you’re in search of
Palmerston North things to do, you must make the short trip to complete the Manawatu Gorge Track! The
closest entrance to the 11.2km track is in Ashurst, about 20-minutes drive from Palmerston North. The
track climbs upwards and follows the gorge through native forest towards the town of Woodville, offering
breathtaking views of the Manawatu river below and the dramatic wind turbines that sit atop the ranges. If
you don’t have a few hours to spare or you can’t arrange transport to meet you at the other end of the track,
a shorter 4km loop can be accessed from the Ashurst end. Whatever your choice, you’ll love the fresh air
and natural beauty you’ll discover on the gorge walk.
New Zealand Rugby Museum
Ok sports fans, listen up… Palmerston North has you covered! The New Zealand Rugby Museum is
something special that you won’t find in any other part of our footy-mad country. Learn about the history of
rugby in New Zealand, hear the stories from past players and see the incredible collection of memorabilia
that dates back to 1870. As far as Palmerston North attractions go, this is one of the best. There’s also an
interactive space too with a scrum machine, tackle bags and sprint timer—the perfect place to show off
your skills or see if you’ve still got it! The New Zealand Rugby Museum is open to the public for a small
entry fee from 10.00am-4.00pm daily.
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Travelling with children can often be a challenge, especially if you’re not sure how you’re going to entertain
them for days on end! But rest assured, there are plenty of fun things to do in Palmerston North that will
absolutely delight children and probably put smiles on the faces of adults too. Read on to discover the four
best kids activities in Palmerston North that have been frequently tried, tested and given the big ‘thumbs up’
by our youngest guests…
Lido Aquatic Centre
The Lido Aquatic Centre is one of the best kids activities in Palmerston North for water babies! The indoor
hydroslides and outdoor water park (closed during winter) will have children entertained for hours. There’s
a lazy river, inflatable toys and diving pool, and a café available with a range of hot and cold food options. If
you’re really organised, you can even bring in your own food for a picnic or to cook up on the BBQ. Kids
keen but you’re not sure if it’s quite swimming weather? The indoor pools are heated, and there’s also a
spa and sauna available if you’re really feeling the chill.
Cloud 9 trampoline park is a one of the ultimate fun things to do in Palmerston North, and it’s a great one
for those dreaded rainy days! All ages are welcome here—there’s a special toddler and baby play are, a
zone for under fives and a full-size Olympic trampoline for the big kids. Parents and caregivers love Cloud 9
because they can sit back and enjoy a coffee with a view of the entire park while they watch the children
burn some serious energy. It’s not just trampolines here either—there’s a ninja assault course, climbing
wall, rolling log, tumble tracks and an arcade too!
Looking for free things to do in Palmerston North? There are so many activities on offer at the Esplanade,
we’re not quite sure where to start! You could easily bring a picnic and set up here for a full day of family
fun. Begin at the enormous playground which caters wonderfully for kids for all ages, then take the wheels
over to the junior road safety park and watch the children pedal or scoot their away around the miniature
road, learning about road rules and safety as they go. If it’s a hot day, make your way to the paddling pool
and let the children cool off while you sit and enjoy the colourful surrounding gardens. Then finish your
esplanade experience with a ride through the grounds on the scenic miniature railway.
Robertson Holden International Speedway
Kids activities in Palmerston North aren’t that hard to find, but this one is a real novelty for those into cars,
noise and dirt! The speedway season runs from October to April and races start from about 6.30pm on
Saturday nights. Watch a range of different stock cars scream their way around the track in spectacular
fashion, skidding, sliding and squeezing their way through the pack to be crowned the winner of their race.
If you’re lucky there might also be a demolition derby on the night—where the last car standing is the
winner! Crashing is encouraged, so watching this is a real blast for the kids. No matter what’s on the
program, we recommend bringing earmuffs for the little ones… To say it gets loud is an understatement!
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Whatever your reason for travelling to Wellington, you simply must find the time to enjoy some of our city’s fabulous eateries. The range of cuisine is nothing short of impressive and there’s no need to fork out hundreds of dollars for the privilege of enjoying a good meal. We think we’ve got a pretty good handle on some of the best places to eat in Wellington, so here are our top five picks for when you’re dining on a budget…
Little Penang, Victoria Street
Little Penang on Victoria Street in Wellington city is incredibly popular. This unassuming little eatery pops up on all the lists of the best cheap eats in Wellington and it has hundreds of five-star reviews on Tripadvisor. The cuisine is Malaysian, so the menu features lots of noodle and rice dishes with all your favourites like laksa, mee goreng and roti on the side. And if you’re hoping to try something different, give one of the curries a go! They’re all either chicken or vegetable based, simmered in tasty Malaysian spices and you can choose from mild, medium or spicy… This is one of the best restaurants in Wellington for those on a budget and it’s the type of food that’s good for lunch or dinner any day of the week. (Don’t go on a Sunday though—they’re usually closed).
Lucky Chicken, Courtenay Place
Looking for fast food that’s a tier above all your usual haunts? Lucky Chicken is the place for you! It’s conveniently located on Courtenay Place which means it’s ideal for a quick bite if you’re on your way to or from an event in the city. The menu is small—but what they do here, they do very well. And what is it that they do, you ask? Burgers, fries and popcorn fried chicken. That’s it! It’s a no-fuss kind of establishment offering cheap eats in Wellington and it’s open every day for lunch and dinner. Do yourself a favour and drop in!
1154 Pasataria, Cuba St
OK pasta fiends, listen up… This Cuba Street gem is none of the best restaurants in Wellington if you love Italian! You won’t find a better pasta in this price range in our fair city. 1154 (Eleven Fifty-Four) Pasataria make all their pasta in-house daily, they use super fresh ingredients and there are some surprising combinations on the menu in addition to your trusty favourites. If you can’t decide what to pick (we have that trouble too!), their Instagram is full of mouth-watering, aesthetically pleasing photos of pasta plated to perfection… Good luck!
Greta Point Café, Hataitai
We just had to throw a breakfast option in—and we’re lucky enough to have Greta Point Café just down the road from our Wellington motel on Evans Bay Parade. Places to eat in Wellington that boast water views are always popular—and even better if the service and food is equally impressive! If you’re craving an eggs benedict or searching for good coffee, Greta Point Café has you sorted. From Bella Vista Motel Wellington, it’ll only take you three minutes to walk here, so with all that time you save you can top off your meal with another coffee or a sweet treat from the cabinet… We recommend the carrot cake!
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Whether you’re looking for family fun in Wellington, a cultural experience or an opportunity to get out and about in nature, you’ll find there’s plenty to do in the windy city… There’s culture, cuisine and adventures for all ages, and a long list of both paid and free things to do in Wellington. So what are our top four suggestions? Read on to find out!
Te Papa is one of the most popular things to do in winter in Wellington – you could just about fill in a whole day at this amazing place! The Museum of New Zealand is open every day from 10am to 6pm (except Christmas Day) and admission is free for everyone. So what is there to see and do here? You can see the only colossal squid on display anywhere in the world, delve underground to explore the innovative technology that keeps our modern buildings safe during earthquakes and immerse yourself in New Zealand’s natural environment, where children can dig for fossils and marvel at luminous glow worms.These experiences are all permanent – but there are also some famous exhibitions that make their way to Wellington for a stint at Te Papa for a limited time—think modern art, light installations and fascinating collections of goods, memorabilia and artefacts. Some of these exhibitions have costs associated but they’re in no way essential viewing—Te Papa is widely known as one of the best free things to do in Wellington with fun for the whole family.
Zealandia is described as an ecosanctuary in the heart of Wellington. It’s a picturesque, 225 hectare space in the suburb of Karori where you can see some of Aotearoa’s most special wildlife thrive in a lush and open setting. There are a range of private tours and group walks available—you can see the nocturnal species that only emerge at night or experience the sounds of the birds that sing as the sun goes down. What might you see? Well, the elusive Kiwi for one! And also the Tuatara, Kaka, Takehe, Weta and more native trees and plants than you’ll find anywhere else this close to the city (just a ten minute drive from the CBD, to be exact!) There are 32 kilometres of walking tracks so it’s a great place to take the kids to burn some energy too. Another great option for family fun in Wellington!
This one is mainly for the kids… But we bet you adults will enjoy it too! The little red carriage runs up and down the Wellington hillside from Lambton Quay up to the suburb of Kelburn. It’s family fun in Wellington that’s available rain or shine! Grab return tickets and jump off at each of the four stations if you wish—or just take the cable car straight to the top and explore the shops and museums that sit atop the Hill. The Cable Car Museum will teach you all about how the Wellington icon has evolved since it was first introduced in 1902. And the Cable Top Eatery boasts an impressive view and a bright, sunny deck to take it all in while you enjoy your coffee, cocktails, brunch or dinner. There’s locally-made gelato, handmade pizzas and often live music too. Kids will love the novelty of the cable car experience, gliding high above buildings and among treetops with glimpses of glorious Wellington Harbour below.
Weta Cave Workshop
Ever wondered just how the most mind-blowing special effects are created? We’re lucky enough to have the world-renowned Weta Workshop here in Wellington, and they’ve opened their doors to the public to reveal some of their secrets through a series of fun and informative tours! You can’t get inside the actual Weta Workshop, but these tours are as close as it gets to the real deal. Learn all about the memorable props, costumes and creatures that were created for hit films like The Lord of the Rings, and hear about the huge role miniature effects play in film-making magic. You can even check out the incredibly detailed miniatures that were created for Thunderbirds are Go and marvel at all the lifelike creations. This unique indoor activity is perfect for winter in Wellington and the Weta Cave is just over the other side of the bay in Miramar – less than a ten minute drive from our Wellington motel.
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Rotorua is not really known for being a ‘foodie’ destination—but that’s just because we’re better known for our culture and natural beauty. It certainly doesn’t mean we’re lacking in the eatery department… In fact, we’ve got some really impressive restaurants that have built cult followings both locally and across New Zealand. If you’re wondering where best to go for a special occasion, a holiday night out or a wholesome family meal, read on for our picks of the five best places to eat in Rotorua.
If Atticus Finch sounds familiar, it could be because it’s also the name of the hero in famous novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Or maybe you’ve just overheard people constantly saying great things about this top Rotorua restaurant! Atticus Finch describes its vibe as ‘speakeasy meets metropolitan bistro’. It’s fun, lively, unique and conveniently placed in Rotorua’s Eat Street—the go-to destination for those in search of a great meal and atmosphere to match. The food at Atticus Finch is designed to share, featuring tasty morsels like crispy mozzarella risotto balls and cauliflower and spinach bhaji fritters as well as larger plates like fennel salt crusted pork belly and dry style aubergine curry. Yum! Heralded as one of the best restaurants in Rotorua, Atticus Finch is definitely worth a visit!
El Mexicano Zapata
Another popular restaurant on Rotorua eat street, this Mexican cantina claims to be the best Mexican restaurant outside Mexico. A bold claim, yes, but you mightn’t find it such a push to believe once you’ve visited and tasted the delicious food. Open seven days a week, El Mexicano Zapata is currently rated the best restaurant in Rotorua on Tripadvisor. What’s popular? Pretty much everything! Chimichangas, empanadas, tacos, nachos and all our favourite little Mexican treats like jalapeno poppers, guacamole and churros. And diners don’t just rave about the food—but the service, music and margaritas always get a mention too. The menu here is quite substantial and everything is delicious, so don’t be surprised if you find yourselves returning for round two!
The Factory Smokehouse and Grill
The Factory Smokehouse and Grill is one of the best places to eat in Rotorua if value for money is what you seek! They serve up huge, juicy burgers, melt-in-your-mouth ribs, charred corn on the cob and tender wings with a huge choice of sauces. 98% of their menu is gluten-free and it’s clear they know a thing or two about catering to children too; the kids menu features dishes fittingly called the “I’m not hungry” and the “I don’t know.”
Sometimes nothing beats a trusty serve of fish and chips, and we’re lucky enough to have one of New Zealand’s best fish and chip shops right here in Rotorua. As with many great takeaway restaurants, the Devon storefront is friendly and unassuming. The fish is fresh, the chips crisp and fluffy and there’s a great selection of burgers, toasties and other deep-fried foods too. Devon Seafoods is one of the best places to eat in Rotorua if you’re looking for something cheap, quick and delicious to take home and enjoy.
Skyline Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar serves up breathtaking views alongside incredible food. Located on Mt Ngongotaha which is where you’ll find the gondola, luge and ziplines, the views from Stratosphere are epic at any time of day, whether you’re going for a nice long lunch or a romantic dinner above the lights of Rotorua. This is one of the best restaurants in Rotorua to celebrate a special occasion. There’s a dress code, which always makes dining feel a little bit more special, and you can pay extra when you make your booking to secure yourselves a table by the window. So what’s on the menu? Too much to list! It’s a buffet restaurant, so there are Asian dishes, salads, seafood, pasta dishes and so much more... You'll never leave dissatisfied with the quality or quantity of food at Stratosphere, and the ride to and from the restaurant on the gondola just adds to the excitement of experiencing one of the best places to eat in Rotorua.
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There are lots of great places to eat in Whangarei and we’ve got all the most popular cuisines covered—from Asian to modern European, burgers to banh mi. If you’ve burnt some energy checking out the Whangarei attractions and you’re looking for a good meal to recharge, try one of our four Whangarei restaurant recommendations below…
Suk Jai Thai Restaurant
Suk Jai Thai Restaurant is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in Whangarei. It’s so good that it even received an award from the Thai Prime Minister for its quality and authenticity! The menu is extensive with curries, stir fries and rice dishes galore—and there are set menus and banquets too for those dining as a group. And the excellent food isn’t the only great thing about this Whangarei gem; the owners are a real hit with the locals thanks to their warm, friendly nature and service that exceeds expectations. If you only visit one restaurant in Whangarei while you’re here, make it this one!
Looking for ocean views with your beef carpaccio? Topsail sits in prime position in the suburb of Onerahi, near the Whangarei airport. Perched at the very end of the peninsula, Topsail overlooks the bay and offers an intimate, elegant dining experience to rival some of New Zealand’s top restaurants. Topsail is an excellent choice if you’re looking for places to eat in Whangarei that serve top-quality modern European cuisine with a carefully assembled wine list and service that can’t be faulted. Almost everything that can be made in-house has been created on site—breads, pates, terrines, chutneys, jams, sauces and dressings—and the eggs come from the owners’ chickens. Topsail is one of the best restaurants in Whangarei to watch the sunset over the harbour—make your booking now!
If you haven’t had Israeli food before, you are missing out! But you’re also very lucky, because Fat Camel Café serves up some of the best middle-eastern food in Northland and there’s no better place to sample your very first dish than right here in Whangarei. Everything here packs a real flavour-punch.There are pita pockets packed with meat, salads and authentic Israeli spices; hot soups; plates with meat or vegetables and rice, hummus and sauces; and a dessert menu that will have you miraculously finding room for one more dish. Fat Camel is only a 13-minute walk away from our Whangarei motel, right in the middle of the city and easily accessible from most of the popular Whangarei attractions. It’s one of the best restaurants in Whangarei for a casual bite with friends.
Tonic is one of those restaurants where you think that you’ll probably just have a main, but end up devouring an entrée, main, sides, dessert and a couple of glasses of wine. It’s the menu that does it; it’s so hard to choose just one dish! And the intimate, cosy atmosphere makes you eager to settle in and extend your experience for as long as you can. The menus at Tonic change twice a year, but always offer a handful of equally-appetising choices. Choices like Spiced roasted pumpkin and coconut soup with crushed salted peanuts; Slow cooked masala lamb leg with fried shallots and kumara purée; and toffee crème brûlée with vanilla bean ice cream. Tonic has been one of the best restaurants in Whangarei for a couple of decades now, so it’s safe to say they know their stuff! Seats are limites here, so book early to avoid any disappointment.
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The Taupo dining scene has grown to become something quite special in recent years. There’s no shortage of eateries serving up incredible meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner—and many of the best restaurants in Taupo are just a hop, skip and a jump from Bella Vista Motel Taupo. We’ve listed a few of our favourites here to help you make your choice—just remember to book well in advance if you can to make sure you can secure a table.
Every good motel needs a great spot for breakfast nearby—and we’re lucky to have the fabulous Zest Café tucked just around the corner! Zest serves up generous portions with friendly hospitality and you’ll see all your favourites on the menu—eggs benedict, omelette, French toast and the always-popular big breakfast. Open daily from 8.00am until 3.00pm, their all-day menu includes plenty of lunch options too. Plus, the word on the street is that Zest serves some of the best coffee in Taupo… Give it a try!
The Brantry Eatery is just a short, five-minute walk from Bella Vista Motel, and we’re not the only ones who think it’s one of the best restaurants in Taupo. Diners consistently rave about the flavoursome modern New Zealand cuisine and the pleasant ambience that welcomes you as soon as you step foot inside. The Brantry is set on the lower level of a remodelled 1950s townhouse, with the top level home to ZeaYou Gallery. Diners are welcome to take their beverages upstairs to peruse the artwork before or after their meals—you might even find something special to take home with you.
Malabar Indian Restaurant and Bar
Malabar is one of the best places to eat in Taupo if you enjoy Indian and Nepalese dishes. Situated in Tuwharetoa Street, right in the town centre, the menu offers most of your favourite, recognisable Indian meals and some new and surprising dishes to discover… Creamy lentil curries, Nepalese dumplings and spicy Indo-Chinese style chicken, to name a few. Malabar Restaurant and Bar is rated one of the top restaurants in Taupo on Tripadvisor—this one is not to be missed!
Vine Eatery and Bar
If you like an extensive wine list or a tasty cocktail with your meal, Vine Eatery and Bar is the place for you! With over 150 wines, 25 single malt whiskies and 17 cocktails to choose from, the beverages alone are reason enough to visit this gorgeous venue. In terms of food, Vine specialises in flavoursome New Zealand and Mediterranean-influenced tapas. There’s a great selection of vegetarian, seafood and meat options and an equally varied choice of dining settings… Sit around the fireplace, choose a cosy booth or book a private dining space upstairs if you’re looking for top restaurants in Taupo that cater well to larger groups.
There are some fantastic places to eat in Taupo and we all love dining out every now and then—but for a view that can’t be beaten, we highly recommend packing a picnic or picking up some fish and chips and eating down by the lakefront. It’s just a ten-minute walk from Bella Vista and when the sun is out and the lake is calm, it’s a Taupo dining experience you’ll never forget.
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