November 12th 2016
We had all decided to take a day to explore, Paul and Trish wanted to do a mystery tour, meaning you take turns to decide at each junction which way to go, left or right. No maps just drive in whatever direction takes your fancy and see where you end up. This is not how Bob usually does things, he likes to be organized, have a plan and use a map. However, we convinced him this would be fun and he eventually agreed, not really having much choice, it was three against one.
We had planned an early start with the idea being to find somewhere for breakfast. We headed out at 9am (this is an early start for Paul!) from Opua. Following the process of random turns we ended up at the Kawakawa Cemetery, which was situated on the top of a hill with the most glorious green countryside on all sides, absolutely beautiful.
From Kawakawa we took a side road/gravel track up over the top of the hills, we climbed higher and higher with the views all around becoming gradually more and more spectacular. With absolutely no idea where we were going yet throughly enjoying the drive we just carried on. The scenery was reminiscent of the most glorious English countryside, emerald green, with cattle and sheep grazing freely in all the fields. After about an hour the gravel track eventually brought us back down onto a more major road which led to Hukerenui, where we discovered the “Jack Morgan Museum”.
This wonderful museum shows the pioneering spirit and ingenious transitions from etching a living gum digging, bush felling, farming and mining through to the main industry that prevails today – pastoral farming. They also had a wonderful display of quilting from two local ladies, it reminded me a little of Tennessee.
Following “Pigs Head Road” we arrived at one of the original settlements, the tiny old sheep-shearing town of Opuawhanga, where we stopped at a little cafe for a late breakfast of coffee and pastries. The little town with just a handful of stores gives you a feeling of stepping back in time.
For the rest of the day we drove around following mostly the coast road looking for a restaurant to stop for lunch. The drive was spectacular with absolutely breathtaking scenery, but no restaurants! We came across the Ruapekapekan Pa battlefield, where we got out to walk around and read the history of the area. But by now we were all starting to feel more than a little peckish, so determined a restaurant had to be our next stop, easier said than done in these parts! We spotted a sign for the Paroa Bay Winery, well we had to stop and visit that, no matter how hungry we were. Having tasted and bought some of the wine we set off once again.
Still unable to find any restaurants or cafe’s, a new plan was discussed, the time was going on so we decided to go to Russell, a quaint seaside resort town where there would obviously be restaurants and we could take the ferry back to Opua.
We arrived in Russell just after five, which was a little too early for dinner and too late for lunch, so we stopped at the Marlborough Tavern for a drink before going on to “The Gables” at six, for dinner. This turned out to be a good decision, the restaurant was fabulous, right on the sea-front with lovely views over the water, the food was absolutely superb and the service, friendly and efficient.
The return to Opua was fast, just ten minutes, and we were the only car on the ferry. Home for an early night. Tomorrow we go shopping in Kerikeri.