With the Tongariro Crossing conquered we didn’t have much time to stick around in Taupo. Whilst it seemed like a nice chilled out town, on the northern edge of the huge Lake Taupo, we were on a whirlwind tour of New Zealand with loads more left to see. We did have a chance to visit one of the world’s more unique McDonalds though…
And take a nice stroll around the shore of the lake (well, part of it, it’s 193km fully around!) where there were some cool sculptures around the pathway. We returned to grab our bags and hop on a bus to our next destination, Napier.
We were travelling on New Zealand’s regular coach service, Intercity (think their version of National Express or Greyhound), and this was the first journey on a regular coach where we came to appreciate the awesome service they provide. The drivers are fantastic goldmines of information, essentially acting as free tour guides on every trip. We drove through some spectacular scenery between Taupo and Napier – rolling hills, forests and mountainous valleys – and throughout the journey the bus driver was telling us about the rivers, the farming practice, the history of the country, when and where to look out for the best views. It was great! We thought we might miss out by not booking transport with one of the more expensive backpacker services, but I’d wager we probably ended up even better informed than on a real tour.
We arrived in Napier a couple of hours later and searched out Toad Hall Backpackers where we were staying. A friendly lady checked us in and gave us the run down on the accommodation and the town. We only had one night in Napier so we dumped our bags and headed out quickly for a look around town.
Napier is famous for being one of the best kept examples of art deco architecture in the world. A devastating earthquake in 1931 destroyed most of the city, allowing huge parts of it to be rebuilt in the then-current art deco style. To this day Napier has avoided significant redevelopment and stuck with their signature style, which draws in visitors from all over the world.
I am a fan of the art deco style, but a quick look around revealed Napier as not quite living up to expectations. A lot of the buildings look a bit run down and drab, I guess it suffers from the same problems that UK seaside towns do. After some photos and a supermarket re-supply it was time to chill and get some dinner.
We found a nearby Indian restaurant that had really good reviews, in particular I noted they had a lamb shank on the menu. Given my love of a good lamb shank and the fact we were yet to try some New Zealand lamb whilst there it was a no-brainer! The restaurant was called Indigo and definitely met our expectations!
The following day we were due to travel on to Wellington at 1pm so had just enough time to squeeze in a trip to the National Aquarium of New Zealand in the morning. Located right on the shorefront the aquarium is well kitted out and whilst it’s not the biggest aquarium by any stretch, what they do they manage very well. It was particularly cool to see the indigenous kiwi bird up close and personal, as well as feedings in the big reef tank and penguin enclosure and my personal favourite, the always intriguing pacific octopus.