Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Zealand's Far North...

Caroline Gladstone, for The Sydney Morning Herald Traveller, discovers subtropical seclusion at a remote resort in New Zealand's far north comes with great local wine, fine food and stunning views.

Those Kiwis certainly have some confusing place names: there's Wanganui, Maunganui and Mangonui, for starters. There's also Kerikeri, Kawakawa and the Karikari Peninsula, the latter trio all in the Northland region where I happen to be heading.

Luckily, I work out the difference before I jump in a hire car and head out from Auckland.

Many people get lost; at least that's what the receptionist tells me when I arrive at the Carrington Resort on the Karikari Peninsula after a 4½-hour journey.

This is almost as far north as you can go in New Zealand. A further 110 kilometres along a mostly rough road and you reach the iconic lighthouse at Cape Reinga, the most northern point accessible by car.

However, if you sit in the hilltop Karikari Estate winery, part of the sprawling Carrington Resort, you can see all the way to North Cape - the geographically most northern point - and enjoy a tasting "platter" of five good wines. This remote peninsula, 382 kilometres from Auckland, is perfect for solitude and long walks on empty beaches.

Carrington Resort occupies about 1200 hectares of this patch of subtropical seclusion and, apart from its neighbour, a tiny settlement with the name Whatuwhiwhi (pronounced Fot-o-fe-fe), there's little else on the peninsula.

Fortunately, the resort has everything one would need, along with a clutch of two- and three-bedroom self-contained villas.

The resort is huge and, although I don't want to play golf, there are so many activities at my fingertips: bushwalks, a four-kilometre beachfront to explore and an acclaimed winery sitting atop a nearby hill.

The lodge rooms are big and comfy, modern and minimalist, with warm wood panelling, throw rugs and Maori artefacts adorning the walls. The verandah is furnished with rustic Balinese chairs and benches and is the ideal place to have a drink and soak in the view before dinner.

That night, we splurge at the on-site restaurant. The menu is laden with local produce including Angus beef from the resort's adjacent Carrington Farm, oysters from nearby Whangaroa and cheeses made at Fromage du Nord in Kaitaia, 30 kilometres away. The next day, we hop on a golf buggy, zoom over the paths that criss-cross the resort and head to the winery via a tunnel under the main road.

It's a glorious summer day and the view is magical. We start with a tasting of five wines, a bargain at $NZ12 ($9.60), and nibble antipasto and a salad.

The climate is perfect for red wine (the winery produces cabernet merlot and pinotage), as well as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.

From this high point we can see the 40-odd hectares of grapevines that lap this most northerly of New Zealand's wineries. They were first planted in 1998 and produced the first vintage in 2004.

The resort, owned by US entrepreneur Paul Kelly, opened in 2000. He retained a section of a cattle property, turning it into an Angus beef farm, and restored ravaged former wetlands to their natural state.

The result is a resort for all seasons and tastes.

To read the full article visit The Sydney Morning Herald Traveller

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