Cul­ture Shock

En­rich your get­away to NEW ZEALAND’S North Is­land with ec­cen­tric art, historic ar­chi­tec­ture, and first-class wine.

S/ - - BEAUTY -

With its var­ied ter­rain of moun­tains,

vol­ca­noes, abun­dant for­est, and Pa­cific Ocean coast­line, it’s no sur­prise that New Zealand has be­come known for its breath­tak­ing nat­u­ral beauty. But the coun­try of­fers much more than mag­i­cal scenery. The lo­cals have an en­ter­pris­ing spirit that shines through in their unique ap­proach to art and de­sign, and treat every en­tre­pre­neur­ial project—from har­vest­ing grapes to craft­ing the per­fect flat white—as a new ad­ven­ture worth their un­di­vided at­ten­tion. Add New Zealand’s North Is­land to your bucket list to wit­ness the art­works, winer­ies, and ho­tels of their cre­ation, and hope a lit­tle of the lo­cal

joie de vivre rubs off.


Pic­ture a busy me­trop­o­lis with an un­usual mix of Euro­pean charm and lush trop­i­cal vege­ta­tion and you’ve imag­ined Auck­land, the city with the largest Poly­ne­sian pop­u­la­tion in the world. With non-stop ac­cess from the west coast of North Amer­ica, it’s the per­fect jump­ing-off point for vis­i­tors crav­ing a dose of cul­ture.

Start with a tour of Auck­land’s shop­ping districts such as Pon­sonby and Brit­o­mart, and sift through NZ de­signer la­bels at Work­shop, The Shel­ter, World, and Zambesi. Take a walk through the Auck­land Art Gallery and book din­ner at Amano, a mod­ern Ital­ian restau­rant and bak­ery that boasts a 2017 Auck­land Ar­chi­tec­ture Award for its busy-yet-bal­anced space and var­ied use of ma­te­ri­als.

Plan a day trip with Matakana Tours to ex­plore the rich arts scene lo­cated 45 min­utes north of Auck­land and make Brick Bay, a win­ery and sculp­ture trail, your first stop. Its idyl­lic restau­rant, The Glass House Kitchen, is nes­tled amid for­est, farm­land, ponds, and vine­yards, and a two-kilo­me­tre trail of raised board­walks weaves through over 45 sculp­tures and sound­works from con­tem­po­rary New Zealand artists. A re­cent show­stop­per? Olivia Webb’s Mis­erere Mei, which fea­tures a for­est al­cove sur­rounded by 16 speak­ers, each be­long­ing to an in­di­vid­ual voice that con­trib­utes to a haunt­ing choral per­for­mance.

Next, take a stroll through the nearby Sculp­tureum, a sculp­ture garden and art gallery that opened in spring 2017 with over 400 works from around the world. Lawyers An­thony and San­dra Grant cre­ated the multi-use prop­erty (it also houses ex­otic birds) to in­spire peo­ple to make their lives and sur­round­ings more in­ter­est­ing. With every­thing from pink plas­tic snails by the Crack­ing Art group to a hang­ing blown-glass sculp­ture by Seat­tle-based artist Dale Chi­huly, adults and chil­dren alike will be charmed by the Grants’ flip­pant dis­re­gard for tra­di­tional cu­ra­tion and meth­ods of art val­u­a­tion.

Dur­ing your stay in the re­gion, rest your head at 25-room Ho­tel DeBrett in Auck­land, lo­cated just min­utes away from the har­bour and Auck­land Sky Tower. The rooms are colour­ful and quirky and, should you de­sire an early break­fast or late-night cock­tail, there are three food-and-drink venues on­site.


Napier in Hawke’s Bay is the sea­side city with an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of Art Deco ar­chi­tec­ture and is just a one-hour Air New Zealand flight from Auck­land. Af­ter a dis­as­trous earth­quake in 1931, the en­tire city cen­tre was re­built in a record 22 months with re­in­forced con­crete made to with­stand fu­ture tremors.

Each struc­ture was de­signed and dec­o­rated in Art Deco, which is known for geo­met­ric pat­terns, zig­gu­rats, sun­bursts, sym­me­try, and rep­e­ti­tion. Take a tour through town in a vin­tage Packard or visit in Fe­bru­ary to see the city come alive with 1930s mu­sic and the­atrics dur­ing the an­nual Tre­mains Art Deco Fes­ti­val.

The re­gion is also known for its vast ar­ray of vine­yards, which criss­cross the softly hilled landscape. Take a bike tour with Takaro Trails and visit Ele­phant Hill, a fam­ily-run win­ery that started as a Ger­man cou­ple’s pas­sion project and has since been passed into the hands of their son. Stay for lunch—each art­ful dish will have you scram­bling for your cam­era— and en­joy wine such as the 2016 Ele­phant Hill Rosé, which is a cus­tomer favourite.

Be sure to book your stay at the Art Deco Ma­sonic Ho­tel, which first opened in 1861 and has slowly been re­mod­eled since 2010 by the cur­rent own­ers. They main­tained the struc­tural in­tegrity of the build­ing, which means that each room has a unique lay­out, and en­sured that no two rooms would have the same dé­cor by mix­ing and match­ing a wide range of op­u­lent wall­pa­pers and tex­tiles with eclec­tic fur­ni­ture.

The ho­tel lies across the street from the city’s wa­ter­front prom­e­nade and the MTG Hawke’s Bay, a gallery and mu­seum with per­ma­nent ex­hibits on the earth­quake and Māori cul­ture (the history and art of NZ’s indige­nous pop­u­la­tion), as well as tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions in seven gal­leries. Check out the “Pin Wall” public art­work on the ex­te­rior of the mu­seum, which was in­spired by a 19th-cen­tury pin­cush­ion and made by artists Sara Hughes and Gre­gor Kre­gar with 4,500 glazed porce­lain balls.


Con­tinue south­west on an­other one-hour flight to Welling­ton, once named the coolest lit­tle cap­i­tal in the world by Lonely Planet for its culi­nary cul­ture and vi­brant arts scene. Im­merse your­self in ec­cen­tric­ity from day one by stay­ing at the QT Mu­seum Welling­ton, a glam­orous boutique ho­tel with a fas­ci­nat­ing con­tem­po­rary art col­lec­tion that fills every nook and cranny with some­thing to de­light the eye. Take a self-guided tour be­fore sit­ting down to high tea in the lav­ish Hip­popota­mus Restau­rant on the sec­ond floor.

Just across the street, the Mu­seum of New Zealand Te Papa Ton­garewa houses lo­cal ar­ti­facts and sto­ries of the peo­ple—es­pe­cially the Māori. Com­pare the tra­di­tional wharenui, or meet­ing house, in the Mana Whenua ex­hi­bi­tion with a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion that was cre­ated by Dr. Cliff Whit­ing, a re­cently de­ceased Māori mas­ter carver who broke with tra­di­tional carv­ing styles and ma­te­ri­als to cre­ate a new meet­ing place for the lo­cal com­mu­nity. If you wish to con­trib­ute to the fu­ture of Māori artists (and to your per­sonal art col­lec­tion!) make a pur­chase from Kura Gallery on Allen Street, which has every­thing from paint­ings and prints to tra­di­tional weav­ing and carv­ing.

Lucky enough to visit in May? Round out your stay with the 10-day LUX Light Fes­ti­val, when the en­tire city pours into the streets to wit­ness light sculp­tures and in­stal­la­tions pop up along the wa­ter­front and through­out var­i­ous precincts in the ur­ban core. Sip a flat white from Mojo Cof­fee or lick a glow-inthe-dark gelato from Gelis­simo Gelato as you ex­plore and, if you’re in town on a Fri­day or Satur­day night, grab a bite to eat from a food truck at the Welling­ton Night Mar­ket.

Clock­wise from left: Ele­phant Hill win­ery. Sculp­tureum gallery. Brick Bay sculp­ture trail. Art Deco build­ing in Napier. Ho­tel DeBrett court­yard.

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