Veneer Travels to New Zealand
A special treat here at the Veneer blog, something we don't get too often -- a travel guide. Our very own Phoebe just got back from visiting New Zealand and she is sharing a designer's look into New Zealand, along with her stunning photos. Thank you Phoebe!
New Zealand has a deep and abiding love for nature, and it’s tangibly reflected in their design. The expansion of the Auckland Art Gallery resembles a light-filled canopy of trees and won the World Architecture Festival’s 2013 World Building of the Year. In New Zealand you’ll find plenty of outdoor seating, floor to ceiling windows, skylights, indoor walls adorned with plants, and even malls that are designed around an open atrium. It’s all very unsurprising for a country whose favored pastime is tramping. We had ten days, so we just spent it around the North Island.
Of course one highlight has to be a hike. We did the Tongrariro Alpine Crossing, which is twelve miles over unexpectedly varied terrain under the shadow of Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom).
The glowworms in Waitomo are astonishing, but the means in which you visit them can be just as memorable. We opted to take a page from the adventurous Kiwis and do a 300 rappel into a vast cave system that is aptly named the Lost World. An underground river flows through it, sometimes with caverns as high as 100 feet, so when you turn off your headlamp it looks like you’re under a starry night sky (of glowworms).
The beaches are beautiful (and this is coming from a Californian). The water runs slightly warmer than our part of the Pacific and there are strange and interesting spots like Hot Water Beach. A hot spring runs under this beach, and when you dig in the right spot in the sand, that hole fills with water and becomes your own private Jacuzzi. We went when it was rainy and chilly, and it was a perfect weather for soaking.
Hobbiton is unavoidable if you’re even remotely a Tolkien fan, but rather than getting shuffled from one hobbit hole to another under the hot, hot sun, it’s a great deal more fun to immerse yourself through either the banquet tour or, what we did, the annual Summer Harvest Festival. There’s something a little magical about watching the sun set over this place filled with music, people and Hobbit-sized (read: very abundant) food and drink.
Rotorua is the most touristy of the lot (which earned it the dubious nickname of “Rotovegas”), but a stop that can’t be missed because of the amazing volcanic formations and mineral colors. Lots of people flock to the Polynesian Spa (but I confess we only went there to eat hokey pokey ice cream, which is a New Zealand staple of vanilla ice cream and honeycomb).
Art and design was everywhere, from high end shops like Douglas & Bec in Ponsonby to little art galleries found beachside in Hahei.
Food was also an unexpected surprise. We found charming restaurants with good food and coffee everywhere we went (I think I had a flat white almost every single day I was in New Zealand). While avoiding some tropical rain in Hahei (a very small town in the Coromandel Peninsula), we ducked into the Church Bistro (which looks exactly as it sounds like), at which I discovered a love for a grilled halloumi cheese and watermelon salad. Café Fresca in Hamilton serves a mean breakfast, and it’s housed in a plant lover’s dream space. We also visited New Zealand’s only tea estate, which mixes modern design with traditional practices. Certified organic, they originally weren’t taken very seriously but now have won a few international awards and have their primary exports in China and Japan (which should tell you how serious of a contender their tea is).
Things I wished I had seen
The Tree Church in Ohaupo is a very special place and something I very much wanted to see, but it’s only open two days out of the week. Gibbs Farm, which boasts some amazing large scale sculptures by the sea, is only open one or two days a month and requires very advanced booking.