A sunny day and an early start to the north to explore what you can see an hour out of Wellington. First up Highway 1 towards the Kapiti coast which faces Kapiti island - a mountain in the sea, amazing. If Wellington is like San Francisco then this coast road was like the American coast roads around Hollywood you see in films. That may be doing New Zealand a disservice but it was the way the road swept around headlands to reveal houses nestling along the shore and secluded yet exposed beaches. We stopped to look at a few (Pukerua, Paekakariki) and then headed up to Te Horo to visit a cookery school and shop on a beautiful farm plot - it was how I imagined Victoria Somerville's place in Aus might have looked.
Then heading back south down the road to Waikanae, Sasha said this was the furthest up that road that people commute to the city from and I reckoned it scored another hit for NZ! A fabulous beach and a great lunch in 'The Front Room', family friendly, airy, great food, happy kids and light bright and breezy, not on the beach but close enough to hear the waves. I had a quick peek at the beach and it was pretty stunning, miles of sand, surf, and a major feature of the beaches here - driftwood. We saw some houses whose whole perimeter was fenced with it.
After lunch we headed up a steep valley on the 'back road' to Upper Hutt, the most fabulous road following a gorge up to a high pass and then down the other side, tropical, lush forest on all sides and warnings to look out for logging trucks, which you would not want to meet as the passing places are few and far between. Our destination was a nature reserve Staglands www.staglands.co.nz which is set on both sides of a wonderful river, shallow and rocky with a swinging rope bridge to cross(this is my picture) - although Oliver and I took a short cut on the way back and waded across - I was re-living my childhood! He was delighted that we were there, it's a particular favourite place of his and I can see why - another tick in the box! Frankly, if it was simply a case of Kent vs NZ it would be a no brainer, but there is the small matter of the distance which makes it all rather more complicated - but as Sasha and Rich said that's why it is so empty and unspoilt! AAGH.