Day 45/46 of 138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise, Napier/Cape Kidnappers, Wellington, New Zealand
Oh what an adventure we just had! Wow!
Getting ready to leave on our big adventure!
Yesterday, the Neptune arrived into the working port of Napier, just before noon. Since there was no cruise port terminal, Viking had arranged for shuttle buses to take us into the town of Napier. We wanted to be on one of the first shuttle buses into town so we went down to Level 1 to wait for the ‘all clear’ to disembark and catch a shuttle bus to town. We had with us one large golf travel bag that had both sets of our golf clubs in it, plus one AWAY carry on suitcase. The shuttle bus driver was great and let us stand up on the shuttle, because there were many other anxious people who also wanted to get into town.
Napier is an amazing place, being the ‘Art Deco Capital’ of the world, but more on that later. We were standing around downtown Napier admiring the buildings and shop windows, but trying to figure out how to get to the airport. Being the Sunday of a long weekend, the bus driver had told us where to go and stand for a taxi, but no taxis were coming our way. I saw that a hotel was just across from us, so I said to Richard hotels always know how to call a taxi. He left me with our bags and proceeded to find a museum across the street and the person working at the museum told him that they had Uber in Napier, so Richard turned on his roaming and hailed an Uber for us to the airport. The Uber driver with his Prius, fit our clubs and luggage perfectly.
After the Uber driver dropped us off at the Hastings/Napier airport, I waited outside in the beautiful sunshine, while Richard went to get our rental car. I had booked all of our reservations after we had gotten our tee time, which was sometime last summer. I’m so glad I did plan so far in advance, because we had no idea that it was a long weekend in New Zealand.
Hasting/Napier airport waiting with the luggage outside.
Our rental car was a KIA Sorrento and we had tons of luggage space. I hooked Richard’s phone up to the NAV system in the SUV and set the destination. We would have about a 45 minute drive from the airport to the golf course.
A good driver on the wrong side of the road!
Now for some back story. A long time ago, probably 16 or 17 years ago, I heard about this golf course called ‘Cape Kidnappers’ in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Back then I was probably an 18 handicap, but I was still as passionate about golf as I am now as a better golfer. It was always my dream one day to play Cape Kidnappers because even the name of the golf course sounds so exotic and remote! Since I had always planned to retire when I turned 60, the goal was to be playing Cape Kidnappers on March 20, 2021, which was to be my 60th birthday. We had actually diarized in our calendars to book the tee time 6 months in advance, when the tee time reservations opened up for Cape Kidnappers, but guess what? A thing called the Covid 19 pandemic hit, and the rest is history. Instead of playing Cape Kidnappers on my 60th birthday, we were in Tofino, British Columbia on a whale watching expedition (we didn’t see any whales either)! So this adventure has been something I’ve been dreaming that might happen one day, if we ever found a way to get to New Zealand! And then we booked the World Cruise and saw that we would only be in Napier for about 5 hours. That’s when we had to start to get creative about getting off the ship overnight and figuring out how to make this greatly anticipated adventure come true!
As we drove along the beautiful coastline from Napier, south to Awatoto, Clive, Haumoana, Te Awanga, and Clifton (Hawke’s Bay area) we were very much enjoying the New Zealand countryside. We could see wineries, apple orchards and the region looked a lot like the Niagara Peninsula where we live in Ontario, Canada. The Hawkes Bay Area is called ‘Food and Wine Country New Zealand’. Hawke’s Bay is a culinary destination, with fertile soils and a warm temperate climate, it boasts thousands of acres of farms, orchards, and vineyards.
Corn growing by the side of the road.
The area is a 5.5 hour drive southeast from Auckland and a 4 hour drive northeast, from Wellington. Hawkes Bay is situated on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. With more than 200 vineyards, 70+ wineries and 30+ cellar doors, Hawke’s Bay is the second largest wine region in New Zealand specializing in Syrah, Chardonnay, Merlot Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc. (The Marlborough Region, situated on the South Island of New Zealand is the largest wine producing region of New Zealand).
Just as we were almost at our destination, we saw a Viking bus off to the right hand side at the Gannet Safari location. Cape Kidnappers has a Gannet Colony where there are over 20,000 gannets. This sea bird is a sight to see and some people from the Neptune had obviously signed up to see some gannets.
A gannet in flight.
Our GPS told us to make a right turn and we really didn’t see much to look at, but we did see a gate and a call box, so Richard punched the number for the golf shop, announced us, and the next thing we saw was the gate opening.
Dial 1002 please!
The small gate started to open for us!
The sign that we saw at the entrance to Cape Kidnappers, was 8km to the golf shop. The road was immediately twisty, windy, and extremely narrow and it took 20 highly anticipated minutes to reach the top.
8 km of this….
And it kept going and going!
Given we were driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road for us, Richard was a ‘champ’ to ‘keep it between the ditches’ as he likes to say as we steadily rose up, and up and up on the narrow road.
We could see sheep grazing all around us as we drove up this 8km road. About half way up the road, we saw another gate, which opened slowly as we approached it. We finally reached a parking lot and the sign said to keep on driving for the Bag Drop area. We arrived at the Bag Drop and we were met by 3 people.
Cape Kidnappers Golf Club. Not at all what I expected. Very low key. Inside was gorgeous though!
Our caddie Grant, and two other guys were there to help us with our clubs. We asked where we should park the Kia and were told to give them the keys and they moved the SUV about 200 yards and left the keys in it. We thought that was strange that the car was not going to be parked in the parking lot we had seen as we drove up, but we were told by Grant that “You have the last tee time, there is no one else on the golf course today”, so that was why our car was parked on the road, near the club house!
Richard ordered a couple of delicious homemade sandwiches to be made while he went to hit some balls with Grant who watched him swing. I perused the pro shop and bought a few souvenirs to remember our day, spending way too much money on a few items, but as someone who taught me well named Ron told me “In for a penny, in for a pound!”
The understated elegance of the Cape Kidnappers golf course club house.
Cape Kidnappers Golf Course was designed by architect Tom Doak. The golf course was ranked #17 in the world in Top 100 Golf Courses to play. The course sits 4 times as high as Pebble Beach above the water, on very high finger like cliffs that come into play on the back nine.
Extremely high cliffs!
Stunningly beautiful golf holes!
Finger like cliffs on the back nine.
We drove right up to the first tee, with Grant hanging off the back. There was no cart path on the first hole, so we drove right over the grass to tee off. The first hole was a crazy par 4 with a very narrow fairway at about 83 yards to the hole. I was over the green in two and had to try to figure out how to chip down off a hill and get the ball to stop somewhere near the hole. Unfortunately I did not hit the chip hard enough and I still had a long putt, which I missed so a bogey was my score. Oh well. It was a tough hole.
We had so many outstanding moments playing Cape Kidnappers. It is so hard to capture all of the good shots and the views, since everywhere we looked was another stunning vista. We were frankly in ‘awe’ of the place so much that it was difficult to focus on the fact that we were also there to play golf! Here are a bunch of photos from our day at Cape Kidnappers:
1st hole. Hit the fairway or your dead!
Which way am I going?
Good form on that swing! Look at what is behind me!
Par 3. Very windy. Grant was a great caddie but kept over clubbing me. He would say it is 115 playing 120 and I would hit my 120 club and be off the back of the green. After 2 par 3’s where this happened, I took my 110 club and hit it stiff to 10 feet. I quickly learned.
It was really hard to focus when this kind of scenery was at the tee box!
13th hole. Heading out to the ocean. Par 3.
There is a green up there somewhere!
Our caddie Grant did an amazing job taking some crazy trick photos too. I guess he has been caddying his whole life and he has learned and seen a thing or two. Richard took a bunch of videos and Grant played along nicely with Richard commenting on my swing and shots. It was funny to listen to the stuff he came up with! I’m not sure I can get the videos to load, but I will try. If not they will be on my Facebook page.
Looking one way…
And the other way…
Grant’s trick photography! I think one of me is all Richard can really handle!
I didn’t need this wedge. Thank you very much!
A really great caddie and a lot of fun!
I had a very decent round today. Shooting an 84, and not losing a ball. 41, 43. I missed 5 legit birdie putts too. Frankly, it was so hard to concentrate, I’m surprised I played as well as I did. Richard enjoyed the views and lost a few balls…quite a few balls….but who is counting?
As we were close to finishing up our round we looked out to sea and sure enough we saw our ship the Viking Neptune go sailing away! It was a bit surreal even though we had planned it, to see our ship go sailing off and us not on the ship, since it has been our home for over 40 days.
Grant had told us that the best place to get some photos and videos of the entire Hawkes Bay Area was to drive up past ’The Farm’ at Cape Kidnappers (lodging) and where the road ends, the views from the top, would be outstanding. After we packed up our golf clubs and jumped in our KIA, we did just as Grant instructed and drove up to the top of The Farm. And this is what we saw! Bye Bye Viking Neptune! We will see you tomorrow!
Bye Bye Neptune!
We started the 8km drive down to the entrance to Cape Kidnappers and we saw a few friends close to the car on our drive down!
We call that a posing sheep! What a poser!
I could see from the GPS that the shoreline was very close to the entrance to Cape Kidnappers and I wondered if when we got to the main road, we could turn right and catch a glimpse of the Neptune again from sea level. Sure enough, we turned right outside the entrance to Cape Kidnappers and we came to the beach town of Cape Kidnappers where there was some RV camping going on as well as an amazing vocalist and band playing outdoors. I jumped out to take some photos, and the sea swells were crazy at this point. I was wondering what it was like onboard the Neptune, because I could sea waves crashing onto the shore over barricades, with very big sea swells. We found out from Facebook that someone had said the swells were very high going around the point of Cape Kidnappers. Interesting we caught it in photos too! Unfortunately the photo will not load, so maybe I can put it on Facebook. The internet is still a struggle on board.
We headed back along the coast for our drive into Napier and checked into our hotel for the night. I’m so glad I had booked us for one night at the Hotel Te Pania in Māori or The Beautiful Maiden in English, because every hotel we drove by on the way into town had their NO VACANCY signs up, given it was a long weekend in New Zealand.
Richard asked at the check in desk if there was a converter for a North American plug to New Zealand and unfortunately they did not have a converter. After dropping the luggage upstairs in our room, Richard went out looking for a converter going to 3 stores, and even having a lady behind him in the store, offering to give him one because she has relatives in Canada who she has visited before. Unfortunately she called her husband and they had given the converter away, so Richard was out of luck for a converter for his CPAP machine for the night. OH NO! That is not going to go well….
I had wifi at the hotel so I was texting Richard that he better come back to the hotel, if we wanted to go and get some dinner. It was about 8:45pm and the restaurants in Napier closed at either 9:30pm or 10pm. Luckily we were in the mood for Thai food and we had passed the Thai food restaurant on Marine Parade drive as we were driving back to the hotel, so we knew exactly where to go. We were able to get a window table and ordered our food quickly. We were next to a table of female spouses who were facing their husbands, who were eating out on the sidewalk facing their spouses. It turned out the men were a part of a cricket club who had come for some tournaments and one of the men was the hero of the day, so as everyone from the team walked by these guys on the sidewalk, they would stop and offer to buy him a beer. It was quite entertaining for us listening to their chatter about the cricket matches and since we only learned in Auckland how crIcket is even played, it was kind of fun.
We headed back to our hotel and Richard actually slept ok despite no CPAP machine. Breakfast was included with our room, so we had a hearty English style breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, tomatoes, potatoes and hash browns with toast, jam and marmalade.
Since we had been in such a rush to try to get to Cape Kidnappers yesterday, we did not have the chance to explore the beautiful City of Napier, so it was time to walk around this morning before we had to go to drop the rental car. On February 3, 1931 Napier was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed 256 people and injured thousands. It remains New Zealands’ deadlisest natural disaster. Centred 15 km north of Napier, it lasted 2 and a half minutes. Nearly all of the buildings in Napier and Hastings were levelled and the local paper said “the town of Napier has been wiped off the map”. The landscape changed dramatically after the earthquake with the uplifting of 40 square kilometres of sea-bed which became dry land. Within minutes of the earthquake, fires broke out in chemist shops on Hastings Street in Napier, causing the Masonic Hotel to catch fire. With water mains broken, the fire brigade was unable to save many buildings. Only a few buildings in the central Napier survived. The government quickly realized that the Napier borough council would be overwhelmed with organizing the rebuilding and appointed two commissioners for the task. The earthquake prompted a thorough review of New Zealand building codes and to this day there are only four buildings in all of Hawke’s Bay that are over five storeys tall. Since most of the region’s rebuilding took place in the 1930’s when Art Deco architecture was fashionable, Hawke’s Bay architecture is regarded today as being one of the finest collections of Art Deco in the World. What do you think?
Napier is having an Art Deco Festival which is held February 16-19, 2023 and there are more than 200 events, including entertainment, outdoor concerts, vintage car parades, fashion shows, dining experiences, great Gatsby picnics and so much more. The entire region steps back in time to experience what life was like between 1920-1940 as part of the Napier Art Festival and tens of thousands of people revelling in the 1930’s atmosphere gives that sensation that you have travelled back in time to an era of glitz and glamour. The store windows on some of the shops were already decorated for the upcoming festival and I have to see we both love Art Deco architecture, so wandering around Napier this morning was an outstanding punctuation mark on what had already been an amazing day yesterday!
I’m sure this will be a lot of fun!
The Roaring 20’s!
We drove to the cute little Hawke’s Bay airport after walking around downtown Napier. There was no rental car return person in the parking lot, so we parked the peppy, diesel Kia Sorrento in a vacant Eurocar parking spot, grabbed our luggage and headed for the terminal. Richard went to drop off the car keys while I went with the bags to use the self check in kiosk to grab our bag tag for the golf bag and get paper copies of our boarding passes. There was no line up for check in and we easily dropped off our golf bag.
We saw there was a very cute shop in the airport, but the prices were astronomical wanting over $12NZD for a bar of dark chocolate. I wasn’t that desperate, since I have a stash in our cabin. Dark chocolate is my thing, so I usually pick up dark chocolate from wherever we travel, so I can try different kinds of dark chocolate from different countries.
Next to the cute shop was a beautiful looking cafe so we ordered some drinks, connected to the wifi and waited for our flight to arrive. We were scheduled out of Napier to Wellington on Air New Zealand at 10:10am. I had booked our flights sometime last summer and I think they were only $79CAD each when I booked them. The odd thing about waiting for the flights was that there did not appear to be any security screening that we had to go through to get to our gate. We saw the sign that said ‘All Gates Enter Here’, so we decided to wait at the cafe until we saw the plane arrive.
Once the plane arrived, we made our way to the ‘All Gates Enter Here’ and saw that there were a couple next to us waiting to board the flight, with Canadian flags on their luggage. We asked them were they were from and they said “Hamilton, Ontario”. I said I was born there! They then said they were actually from Waterdown, Ontario, and I said I knew where that was too! Their daughter lives in New Zealand as she married a Kiwi and they come to New Zealand for 2 months every winter (summer in NZ). Cool.
We boarded our Air New Zealand flight for Wellington, which was to be a one hour flight.
We were on a Dash propeller plane and we climbed to 17,000 feet enjoying the New Zealand countryside from the air as we flew.
Leaving Hawke’s Bay Area
Beautiful rugged terrain
Arriving into Wellington
The seas look rough in Wellington
The landing strip was out into the sea. What a crazy, windy landing!
Our flight attendant was a lovely lady who had recently joined Air New Zealand. When she heard that we were flying to meet up with our ship because we had left for a night to enjoy a round of golf, she was thrilled for us. We had a great experience today on our first ever Air New Zealand flight.
Wellington airport was definitely a lot larger than Napier airport, but that is to be expected with Wellington being the Capital of New Zealand.
Wellington airport this morning. A very busy spot!
As soon as we arrived at the luggage belt, our golf bag was on the belt, safe and sound! We found the ‘App based Pick up signs’ which we figured would be for Uber, and Richard ordered us an Uber and within 3 minutes a Toyota Prius had picked us up. The issue we had was where do we take the Uber to? We had not checked where the Neptune would be docked in Wellington, or if Ubers were allowed to drop off at the port. Luckily our friend Sharon from Canada had sent us a screen shot from her stateroom tv which identified which streets in Wellington had shuttle service to and from the Neptune, so we found Brandon Street, had the Uber drop us off and walked up to what looked to be the main shopping street. We waited about 15 minutes and sure enough we saw a bus with the Viking logo pasted to the front of it, and we ran across the street to catch the shuttle back to the Neptune. A bit of a loose end, but we figured it out after all. In future we would make sure we knew where the ship was docking, were Ubers or taxis allowed to drop off? and where exactly was the shuttle dropping and picking up as we didn’t have a cross street as a reference point, despite Brandon Street being a very short street.
We found the shuttle back to the ship finally!
Walking back to the ship in Wellington. It was a very windy port, but that is what Wellington is known for!
We arrived back around 1pm and promptly dropped our luggage in our cabin and went for lunch at the pool grill. It was nice to be back to our ‘home’ away from home on the Neptune and our little vacation escape.
Hot dog for lunch! I did not eat all of that! Trust me!
It was the thrill of a lifetime being able to play such an amazing golf course! We will have to come up with the next bucket list golf course so we can plan another trip to play golf. I think for me it will be St. Andrews, in Scotland, the home of golf. Richard agrees with me too! So we will have to make that happen sometime in the future! We’ve already got Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs booked for Richard’s big milestone birthday later this year.
We have two sea days now to relax from our recent adventures on the North Island in New Zealand. We both really loved New Zealand since neither one of us had ever been to New Zealand before. The country is so beautiful and geographically different than anything we’ve seen before. The people are very friendly, the food is great, it feels very upscale, people speak English, which makes it easy to get around, and the culture is really amazing; the combination of Māori and English is neat. I keep saying ‘KIA ORA’ to Richard and he laughs. Anyway, its been a slice! I wish we had the chance to go to the South Island too, but this cruise does not go there. Something for the future then! Another chance to come back to do some more exploring in this beautiful country!