New Zealand beach communities are dotted along the country’s coast. Until recently, I thought I’d experienced the best of them – but then I found Waikanae.
In a roundabout way, I have my husband to thank for this discovery. If he hadn’t wanted to spend “at least one full day” at the Southward Car Museum, I wouldn’t have gone on a search for someplace nearby where I could hole up. But that’s exactly what he said – and what I did.
The Southward Museum is in Paraparaumu about an hour north of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. I wasn’t inspired by a quick online search for lodging in Paraparaumu, but I did notice a cute B&B homestay just to the north in Waikanae. A quick call to host Helen Anderson and I was convinced I’d found a good place to commune with my laptop while Car Guy was at the museum.
Wonderful host, great New Zealand beach
Helen’s modern two-story house overlooks a long, lovely, uncrowded stretch of sand. Our room was upstairs with a nice ensuite bathroom, plenty of privacy, a balcony, and a big New Zealand beach view.
I loved the location, but just as much – I loved Helen because she reminded me of the wonderful B&B hosts I’d met when I wrote Bed & Breakfast New Zealand many years earlier. I’ve often said that Kiwis – the people not the birds – are New Zealand’s greatest wonder, and Helen exudes the best qualities of New Zealand hosts.
Her hospitality began when we arrived late-ish, and she called her favorite local restaurant and asked them to stay open so we could have dinner. It continued the next morning with a wonderful breakfast of homemade muesli (granola), eggs cooked to order, and her very special home-baked ginger gems. Later in the day, while I was laboring over a hot computer, she brought me a gorgeous lunch and whisked away our yucky laundry.
An authentic New Zealand beach resort community
So until I discovered Waikanae, I thought campervans, fish and chip shops, and kids’ playgrounds were the hallmark of every New Zealand beach community. Sure, I’d been to plenty of stunningly beautiful deserted beaches, but the beach communities always seemed, well, kind of touristy.
But not so in Waikanae. The tidy streets in this upmarket beach town are lined with attractive homes belonging to retirees and the holiday houses of Wellingtonians – with nary a tourist in sight.
Dining near a New Zealand beach
The first night, we had a great meal at The Front Room, which seats about 25 and is best described as “casual chic.” Here, all veggies were fresh and local and the menu was super creative. Highlights included my starter (appetizer) of asparagus, thin-sliced courgettes (zucchini), and buffalo mozzarella in a light mint-lemon vinaigrette dressing. Car Guy’s main course was also a winner: braised lamb flatbread with harissa, labne (kefir cheese), pomegranate, and mint. My main included pan-fried fish, grilled green beans, soba noodles, edamame, and miso dressing. Beverages? A Pinot Noir from Central Otago for me; a Marlborough Pinot Gris for Car Guy.
The next night, we ate at the beachfront Waimea Café, where the owners (one Greek, one Sicilian) use a combination of locally-sourced ingredients and items imported from Italy. My starter of beetroot (beet) gnocchi with broccoli, pistachio, and goat cheese was delicious. Car Guy enjoyed his Nelson scallops with kumara (native sweet potato), black pudding, cauliflower, and feta puree.
If we’d had a third night, we would have walked over to the fish ‘n chip shop Helen recommended, picked up takeaway, and enjoyed a feast and a cold lager on our beach-view balcony.
Native gardens, native birds
Not only is Waikanae an upmarket New Zealand beach community, it’s also home to some gorgeous natural gardens that stretch out along a large, wandering estuary. Here we saw swans, ducks, shags, herons, pukeko and many more majestic birds and water fowl. Plant life included natives such as pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), flowering flax, and stunning displays of hebes.
Authentic New Zealand at its best
I loved the estuary gardens in Waikanae and the almost deserted beaches, the amazing food, and the sense that I was experiencing a real community – not a place created for tourists.
But most of all, I enjoyed staying at Waikanae Beach B&B with a New Zealand beach view and warm Kiwi hospitality.
Category: New Zealand