Heretaunga's Secret

Alexia Santamaria enjoys two days of bliss in Havelock North

Imagine - 48 hours in Havelock North in a lovely boutique hotel! For a mum with very little time to herself, it seemed too good to be true, - and I was sure someone might call to say there had been a mix-up and whisk me back to Saturday morning cricket.

As I push the door open to my room at Porters, I thought there really had to be some mistake - surely not this lovely room with gorgeous linen, a big bath and all this quiet just for me? I decided I had better take advantage of it before I realised it was just a dream.

When you arrive somewhere at 6pm, there's not much else for it but to find somewhere for a relaxing drink. Turns out I didn't need to go anywhere - downstairs at my hotel was Malo, an award-winning restaurant. And what better way to start my two days of bliss than with a local Clearview Beachhead Chardonnay?

The food was outstanding too, and I'm still thinking about the kingfish crudo with coconut kaffir cream, sake cucumber, macadamia, avocado and coriander and the Cook Strait ocotpus with chorizo, olive, tomato jam and bean puree.

After a wonderful night's sleep in my cloud of a bed (with no-one coming in to tell me there's a weird noise in their room), I woke feeling a like I was an entirely different person - almost!

First, I had to suss out the local coffee at Hawthorne Roastery and was thrilled to find it was excellent - so excellent in fact, I had to buy two packets of their beans. I'd been told Wright and Co was the place for brunch and was spoiled for choices with everything from Buddha bowls and red velvet hotcakes to sticky pork belly bao buns. Auckland and Wellington often think they have the monopoly on good cafe action, but that's clearly not true.

I spent the morning pottering around the shops discovering the gorgeous Wardini for books, Salsa, Hanger and Lolita for clothes and shoes; and Cadeaux for gifts. The bliss of not having someone small trying to extract me from shops was almost overwhelming.

The day was lovely so I decided to head up Te Mata Peak for those gorgeous views. It only took 10 minutes by car, and walking through a mix of beautiful native trees and imports, such as redwoods and eucalyptus, was simultaneously peaceful and invigorating.

I had to stop by Birdwoods Gallery & Sweet Shop on the way home. A fabulous eclectic mix of homewares (mainly from Zimbabwe), cafe, small sculpture garden and an old-fashion sweet shop - an absolutely fascinating place.

I met up with a friend in the evening and she couldn't decide whether to show me the great local pizza or great local Mexican - so we did both. Plum margaritas, ceviche and soft prawn tacos did not disappoint at the vibrant, fun Mamacita, and the Regina Margherita Pizza from Alessandro's was amazing too. Their dough proves for three days, so it's the proper Italian deal.

After yet another amazing sleep, I had a lie-in until it was time to check out. I felt a bit wrong to be in Hawke's Bay and not visit a vineyard, so drove to nearby Black Barn for a tasting. I loved everything and had to buy a bottle of their Syrah. There was also a wonderful kitchen shop with a world of treats to rifle through. my credit card was clearly going to need a rest post-trip.

I didn't have long till I had to catch my plane, so returned to Havelock North for one last look around the shops and a coffee and doughnut from Maina, savouring every last bit of what it felt like to be a solo traveller. It was so lovely to see my cheeky kids at the airport, but I'd be lying if I said the peace and quiet in such a lovely village setting had been anything but truly wonderful.

An insider's guide to Havelock North...

Porter's Boutique Hotel is located right in the middle of Havelock North, a short walk to all shops, cafes and restaurants.

Jetstar flies to Napier several times a day. It's a 25 minute drive to Havelock North.

Hawthorne's - no contest!

It's truly lovely in Summer, but also consider October for the Hawke's Bay Arts Festival as many of the shows are in Havelock North.

Mamacita has an extensive margarita menu and sangria in carafes.


Written by Alexia Santamaria for New Zealand Woman's Weekly