Lower North Island road trip: Palmerston North to Napier (Day 2)

The Square

The Square is the city’s central recreational hub, and someone happened to mention to us that it was currently home to a temporary ice rink! As the kids had never been ice skating before, they were keen to give it a go. There were plenty of ‘Bambi legs’ at first, but they soon got the hang of it and had a great time – bruised bottoms aside!

Napier (177 kilometres)

On the road from Palmerston North to Napier we were fascinated by the sight of the huge wind turbines across the hills at the Te Apiti Wind Farm. After navigating our way through Manawatu Gorge, energy levels started to flag, so we got some car games started. Car bingo is our usual ‘go to’ game, and this time we played a game where you have to spot signs or number plates starting with each letter of the alphabet in order from A to Z. It started well, then became frustrating around the letter Q! A quilt store in Dannevirke was our saviour, but by this time the kids were asleep and Paul and I were just trying to finish the game for our own sanity.

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The city center of Napier the Art deco capital of New Zealand
Explore Art Deco Napier. Image: Bigstock

We stopped in Dannevirke for lunch and then travelled on through Norsewood (which will definitely require a return visit some time for our medieval-mad child). As we approached Hastings, a turn down a back road took us past an amazing number of famous vineyards. It was like a ‘who’s who’ of New Zealand wines. The sun came out as we reached Napier. Here are some of the many things to do in Napier.

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Hawke’s Bay wine region. Image: Bigstock

MTG Hawke’s Bay

The MTG in the name of this fascinating visitor attraction stands for Museum, Theatre and Gallery. We started our tour of the facility with a video presentation of memories from survivors of the Napier earthquake in 1931. It was both interesting and moving to hear their stories, though I could sense that our youngest was getting a little anxious seeing the massive destruction that was caused.

Heading upstairs to the gallery area, the kids were completely focussed on trying to complete the fun questionnaires they had been given. This was an awesome idea as it really kept them involved, and they loved the little reward they received at the end. We went back downstairs to see the commemorative World War I exhibition (the soldier’s dress up outfit was really impressive – if only for how uncomfortable, heavy and scratchy it was!), and spent some time in the Napier earthquake exhibition on the lower ground floor.

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Pania of the Reef

Leaving the MTG, we decided to take a stroll along Napier’s iconic Marine Parade to find the famous statue of Pania. The kids referred to her alternatively as ‘the mermaid’ or ‘the woman with the shiny boobies’ for the rest of the trip!

Palmerston North to Napier road trip
Pania of the Reef, Napier. Image: Bigstock

Marine Parade

Marine Parade is well worth exploring and there are lots of things to see and do along this strip. You can play mini golf, hit the massive skate park, soak in the oceanfront hot pools, or enjoy a walk through the landscaped gardens. We loved seeing the extraordinary Art Deco buildings that Napier is renowned for.

The historic building in Napier the town known as the capital of Art Deco (New Zealand).
Napier is famous for its Art Deco architecture. Image: Bigstock

Where to stay

Our accommodation for the night was also our dinner stop. The owners and staff at the Comfort Inn Westshore Beach were so friendly that we instantly felt at home. Our interconnecting suite and twin room were beautifully appointed and super comfortable.

In line with the hotel’s efforts to promote environmental awareness, our room keys turned off the lights when we took them out of the slot to leave (I think I need that at home!). The suite had a full kitchen, while the twin room was equipped with a toaster and kettle. An adjoining door between the two made the accommodation perfect for us as a family. There was a great kids’ playground just a short walk away, along with beach access, bike paths and walking trails.

The Westshore Beach Inn BrewBar and Bistro is the hotel’s onsite eatery (along with the PAK Asian Kitchen). The bistro prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients. Lee and I had the fish (caught that morning by the fisherman at the table next to us!). Jason reckoned that the homemade lasagne from the kids’ menu was better than mine – even when he was given the opportunity to rethink that statement! Dessert was delicious and even the ice-cream was from a local company.

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Day 2: Palmerston North to Napier

Day 3: Napier to Rotorua

Day 4: Rotorua to Taupo

About the writer

This blog was written by Julie Scanlon from Kidspot. Julie and her family were sponsored by Choice Hotels Asia-Pac on their five day road trip of the lower North Island. We acknowledge the support of Hawke’s Bay Tourism in providing activities during the road trip, and thank them for their assistance.

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