Hawke's Bay

Bounded by the Kaweka and Ruahine ranges, Hawke's Bay is known as the fruit basket of New Zealand. You can't travel far without seeing a vineyard or an orchard, and the region produces some of the country's finest wines. Roughly 25 years ago, a dry, barren area known as the Gimblett Gravels was about to be mined for gravel. Then an enterprising vine grower took a gamble and purchased the land. The stony soil turned out to be a boon for grapevines because it retains heat, and now several wineries benefit from its toasty conditions. Chardonnay is the most important white variety here; you'll also find Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux varieties, and Syrah.

On the coast east of Hawke's Bay is Cape Kidnappers and its colony of gannets, a fascinating area that is home to as many as 15,000 of these large seabirds. To the south, the architecturally notable town of Hastings sits near the adorable town of Havelock North, known locally as "the Village," with the Te Mata Peak rising dramatically beyond.

Farther south, a hill near Porangahau is the place with the longest name in the world. Take a deep breath and say, "Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhehuakitanatahu." Now, that wasn't too hard, was it? Just remember it as "the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees who slid, climbed, and swallowed mountains, known as land-eater, played his flute to his loved one," and it should be no problem at all!

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