28th November
written by Hope

A note from H&J: We’re experimenting with how we approach/organize these blog posts. If you have an opinion one way or another as to what works, please let us know! Otherwise, thank you for your patience while we get the hang of this blogging thing while we’re on the road. :)

Otaki Beach

After our scenic drive down the 45, Jeremy and I were jonesing for some beachside camping for the night. We were headed for Martinborough, which is a small wine-producing region about 1.5 hours east of Wellington, but we pulled over for the night since Martinborough was still 3 hours away. Our map showed that Otaki Beach, which is about 60 km north of Wellington, had a holiday park where we could stay so we pulled off the main road to settle for the night. I believe you can officially mark this as the point at which we became holiday park snobs. After our gorgeous beach-side camp spot in New Plymouth, the holiday park in Otaki, while perfectly adequate, was not close enough to the beach for us (two blocks away from the shore rather than directly wave-side). So, we decided to find a nice spot along the shore and “freedom camp.” This is what Kiwis call it when you just pull over to the side of the road and settle in for the night, and we haven’t done a lot of it since our van doesn’t have a toilet or shower. But hey, life’s too short for two-blocks-from-the-beach camping.

freedom camping!

In general, it seems that the further south we go, the nicer the holiday parks get in terms of location, amenities, etc. At this point, the holiday park in Raglan seems almost like a dump compared to some of the other locations we’ve stayed in!

For our first time freedom camping, we did a pretty darn good job picking a spot. We sat on the beach, cooked our dinner, and watched the incredible sunset over Kapiti Island. We’ve subsequently seen this exact same scene replicated in art prints and paintings! Hey, when it’s good, it’s good.

sunset at otaki
Sunset over Kapiti Island from Otaki Beach.


The next day we headed straight for Martinborough. This area is mostly known for its Pinot Noir, but like Marlborough (on the northeastern side of the south island), it also produces a pretty darn good Sauvignon Blanc.

vines in martinborough
Vines in Martinborough.

It was a very different experience tasting here vs. the Northern California wineries. First of all, the wineries are tiny here! You can walk from vineyard to vineyard (though we were the only people doing so), and some of the wineries are as big as the Napa Valley parking lots! Overall, we didn’t love the Pinots here…they tasted young to us, almost grassy. And while we don’t usually like the super-bold Napa or Sonoma valley varietals either, we wished there was a little more richness to the wine in Martinborough.

We tasted at Schubert Winery and the popular Ata Rangi, but the one standout was Alana Estate, where we stopped for lunch as well. They had a 2006 Pinot and a 2008 Pinot they were tasting, and both were incredible. I was skeptical about the 2008 since I am usually suspicious of wines produced in the same year you are tasting them, but for a hot summer day, Alana’s 2008 Pinot was perfect. The food here was great too.

lunch at alana
Moroccan chicken leg and Beef Bourguone Pie at Alana Estate.

BTW, we stayed at Martinborough Village Camping (www.martinboroughcamping.com), which was fantastic. Though it was not beachside, the grounds were in a beautiful rural setting, and the place was super clean and well kept.


The next day, we headed for New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington. Wellington is a super compact little city (they advertise that you can walk from one end of the CBD—Central Business District—to the other in 20 minutes), and it is known for having a thriving arts culture. As you can see, they really do pack those buildings in there:

downtown wellington

Our first day in the big city, we checked out Te Papa museum (www.tepapa.govt.nz/), which is a museum about the history, art, and culture of New Zealand. The exhibits and signage are all in English as well as Maori, which I thought was really cool. The art floor is really well curated, and I loved seeing historical colonial vs. Maori art and how each influence the other. The interesting thing was that colonial art from New Zealand was executed in pretty much the same way as it was in Europe (just with a different landscape), whereas Maori art immediately began taking on some European flavor. There was some really interesting modern art in the museum as well.

We also really enjoyed the floor with native Maori art. The photo below was taken in a reproduction of a Maori hut:


The city of Wellington is really cool. We walked up and down Cuba Street, which is a long street full of vintage shops, design stores, and boutiques full of refashioned clothes—very similar to the Haight. I LOVED this street, though it was a bit torturous, as there were tons of cute clothes and design-y type curios but I couldn’t buy anything. In particular, I loved Iko Iko (cute design store), Hunters & Collectors (amazing vintage shop), Madame Fancy Pants (all handmade goods), and Frutti (really amazing refashioned clothes).

cuba street
A vignette from Hunters & Collectors, a vintage shop on Cuba Street in Wellington.

The coolest part about this cool city was its proximity to an amazing coastline. Jeremy and I drove along the shore out of the city, along several different bays. When we got to the end of the road, there was a large park with hiking trails and an incredible rocky shore. Jeremy and I kept saying that if Wellington was in California, a gorgeous place this close to the city would be overrun with people (on a Sunday, no less!). But the beach was practically empty. Jeremy went for a run down one of the trails and I hung out, checking out the tidepools.

beautiful coastline

We adore Wellington and of all the places we’ve been to in New Zealand so far, this is the one place we could see ourselves living. Hmm…maybe when we retire? :)

view from wellington harbor
View from Wellington Harbor from the city.


  1. sacha

    hey kids

    fun reading your blog, its motivated me to do the rss thing so i can read it on my new phone whereever. glad to hear you’re bandit camping, all you need is one of these:


  2. 28/11/2008

    ok, so i finally grabbed time between baby feedings and naps and blah blah blah to read everything so far. excellent stuff! yay for you. really makes me reminisce about our trip. :) brings back many great memories reading your stories, even though you’ve only just started! we also thought NZ was awesome, and certainly added it a possible long term or retirement place. i’ll keep our other possible choices secret for now to see if we agree on them, too. in any case, it’s awesome to read and see what you’re doing. we miss you, stay safe, and we’re looking forward to more posts.

  3. Hope's Dad

    Nice to know that you are fine and what you have been doing.
    I remember that many years ago (probably 32 +or- 2)there was a letter to Dear Abby saying: “I am 30 years old, and I do alright. But, i really want to do more, like being a physician or something, but if I focus on that, then I may not be able to live the life standard like now. What do you think I should do”.
    Dear Abby answered: “If you do not take the risk, you can be sure what you will be. But if you do not try to explore, then you will not know what you can become to be….”
    In our life, there are many opprtunities that we have to make decisions, and even we do not face the opportunity change, but we always have had some ‘dreams’ to pursue.
    When you are young, you can chase your dream and rainbow. When you have more obligations, then you need to prioritize the dreams and present conditions.
    After you went to UC Berkely, I was thinking about my “mid-age crisis”, and I said to Mom that I may go back sailing the world. (You know I graduated from Maritime College and held the license of deck officer as navigatior). Mom said, “if you intend to go, you get life insurance to cover for us” first, which reminded me about my obligations. The dream of sailing the world is what I should do at 24. But I chose a different route of life. At almost 50, it was not as important any more.
    When Eddo came home on Mother’s Day this year, I told him to take back a book (printed in Chinese) with the title of “The 30 experiences everybody need to do before being 35 years old”. His immediate comment was ” I don’t think I can read it and understand”. But I insisted “even you may not understand, take it. Maybe someday you will read it or someone else will read it for you. I just want you to have it and in case”.
    The desire to sail the world is not impossible. I almost volunteered to join a group of ‘crazy’ people to sail trans-Pacific on a 350 ton wood Chinese junk this year. I think it over and over, debating myself for a long time, yet I am sitting at home writing this comment to you.
    I know it is my decision not to go, and I will not regret my decision. Sometimes a dream is a dream, and maybe it’s better to be just a dream. Because we ought to always treasure what we already have.
    You have planned the trip for awhile, you are actually carry out the plan to achieve your dream. I admire you.

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