• Te Mata Peak, Hawkes Bay.
  • A stroll on Paraparaumu Beach, Kapiti Island in background.
  • A well earned break, Raumati Beach, Kapiti Coast.
  • Tui loving Airbnb life, Havelock North.
  • Petone waterfront, Wellington.
  • Boarding our Bluebridge ferry in Wellington.
  • South Island at last! Arriving in Picton.
  • Barkers Foodstore, worth a stop in Geraldine.
  • Lake Pukaki with Mount Cook in behind.
  • Lindis Pass, between Omarama and Cromwell.
  • Butel Park, only a short stroll from central Arrowtown.
  • Lake Dunston Cycle Trail, central Otago.
  • Cycle trails have brought Clyde alive over the past decade.
  • Lake Whakatipu, Frankton, Queenstown.

Auckland to Arrowtown via Hawkes Bay!

The great Kiwi road trip. It’s been reborn over the past couple of years. After spending most of the 2021 in the Auckland region Michelle and I decided on a ‘roadie’ during March. We packed up one of our Benefitz branded utes and set out on a journey by road and ferry to Central Otago. Arrowtown would be our home for three weeks before we journeyed back again, in early April.

We left Auckland on a Saturday morning all loaded up – including Tui our much-loved pooch, bikes etc. – bound for our first destination, a 600km leg to Paraparaumu Beach, staying in a dog-friendly Airbnb close to the beach. We shared the driving. The plan was a one night stay and then next morning we were booked on the Picton ferry from Wellington, then a drive to Waipara (North Canterbury) for a two-night stay at another dog-friendly Airbnb in amongst the vines. Then the next day on to our destination in Arrowtown. All very well planned.
Until InterIslander cancelled our Sunday morning ferry to Picton at 9pm on Saturday night due to Covid-19 staff shortages! And they were unable to rebook us! Plan B was needed. We decided that was off to Hawkes Bay. We quickly booked three nights at another dog-friendly Airbnb near Havelock North and spent a wonderful few days in the Bay.
So our road trip was becoming quite an adventure! What was also proving to be surprisingly easy was finding dog-friendly Airbnb’s. We thought it may be tougher!
Having been an electric vehicle driver now for five to six years, the fright we got every time we filled up the diesel ute was a new experience. We quickly learnt to search for the smaller lesser-known brand stations with their prices usually 20-30 cents cheaper. There was a self-service option at Paraparaumu Beach for less than $2.00 per litre.
We enjoyed our short stay on the sunny Kapiti Coast which included two walks on Paraparaumu Beach and dinner looking out to Kapiti Island from Raumati Beach.
On leaving Paraparaumu Beach for the Hawkes Bay we went up around the edges of Palmerston North, past the impressive Te Apiti Wind Farms to Woodville and on to Havelock North. A 250km three hour trip.
What a great place the Hawkes Bay was for an unscheduled break. Lovely mid-20s temperature days with lots of sun and things to do. We stayed at a cool Pete Bossley designed Airbnb just a 10 minute walk or three to four minute bike ride from central Havelock North where there are some great shops and eateries.
The next two days we cycled on some of the area's excellent trails (that seem to go everywhere), did walks up Te Mata Peak and tasted the treats at local Hawkes Bay wineries and Havelock North eateries. A great substitute for Waipara!
While there we received the good news that we were waiting for, we were able to get a booking on a ferry to Picton for the middle of the day on Wednesday on Bluebridge – we were originally booked on the InterIslander.
We then quickly got online and booked another dog-friendly Airbnb on the waterfront at Kaikoura for Wednesday evening, with a plan to then drive right through to Arrowtown on Thursday.
We were up early on Wednesday morning for the 300km drive to Wellington, via Masterton, with a coffee stop in Greytown and then over the Rimutaka’s to the capital. Michelle was happy that we had a perfect summers day with a calm sailing over to Picton.
We had a quick pit stop to stretch the legs on the Petone waterfront and filled up with diesel at a self-service station for $2.10 a litre!
Tui our pooch had to stay in the vehicle for the four hour Cook Strait crossing. The boat crew were really organised in ensuring all those with pets in vehicles were parked in the best spot to ensure a cool area and that we could get off pretty quickly at Picton.
Once in the South Island there was a noticeable drop in traffic volumes with the evening drive from Picton through to Kaikoura being very pleasant. Very noticeable was the amount of remedial work done on the coastal route both north and south of Kaikoura as a result of the earthquakes. Lots of impressive engineering work on retaining and making things safer.
The next day was a big drive to Arrowtown, 650kms. I drove down the south coast from Kaikoura to see more of the remedial road work before inland a bit to the rich farmlands of north Canterbury.
We can highly recommend a breakfast stop at Cheviot, the Number Eight Café’s ‘The Great Eight’ was sensational – no need for an early lunch on this leg of the roadie!
It was Michelle’s turn to drive after brekkie and our trip took us through north Canterbury and around the north-western edge of Christchurch using their great motorway network. They’ve built lots of impressive motorways in Christchurch since the earthquakes of a decade ago. What also blew us away was the amount of housing construction going on around the outskirts of the garden city. There seem to be new developments and subdivisions everywhere.
We continued down through state highway one (SH1) through Ashburton before turning off on SH79 towards Geraldine –  always a lovely little town to stop at. We made a late lunch stop that included a naughty pie at Barkers Food Store & Eatery, an impressive cafe with other foodie finds, including relishes, chutneys, honeys etc. Michelle loved it!
The next leg through to central Otago is maybe the loveliest drive in the country. Light traffic and wide open country roads. We went through the town of Fairlie where we filled up with diesel, as their $2.20 per litre price was as good as we had seen in the South Island, and on to Tekapo. The temperature in Geraldine was 16 but by the time we had traveled through SH8 to Lake Tekapo it was 25!
Our next stop was a quick comfort stop on the shores of Lake Pukaki. The drab coolish day in the Canterbury region had turned into a lovely day as we traveled further towards central Otago. The view of Mt Cook was sensational. Michelle moved back into the driver’s seat as we headed past Twizel, through Omarama and the Lindis Pass to Cromwell. Our plan was to stop at the Jones Family Fruit Stall to stock up before heading through the Kawarau Gorge to Arrowtown. They have great real fruit ice-creams at Jones’ as well, yum!
The temperature was 28 degrees as we headed through the Kawarau Gorge, on to the Gibbston Valley (where lots of road works and construction are taking place), past the Crown Range turnoff and then right towards Arrowtown. There’s something special about driving into the historic village of Arrowtown surrounded by the lovely late summer/early autumn colours and sensational landscape views. After a road trip of 2,000kms we were pleased to arrive!
During our time in Central Otago our aim is to relax, enjoy the many good wineries and eateries, maybe play some golf, walk, and do a few kilometres on our electric bikes on the many trails that are close at hand. First up was the new Lake Dunstan Cycle Trail. From Cromwell to Clyde. What a special ride. As I write this in mid-March we’ve also done the trail from Arrowtown through to Queenstown via Lake Hayes, Speargrass Flat, the Lower Shotover River and Frankton. It seems like trails go everywhere here and you can see new trails being built. Fantastic!
This two year Covid-19 period has been tough. If there is one positive it has been that New Zealanders will have re-discoved how beautiful our country really is. And there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned roadie to see it!