It’s been a rough week for many New Zealanders and, with the clean-up in flood-ravaged areas continuing and heavy rain warnings in place for parts of the country, many of us aren’t going to have the Waitangi weekend we’d hoped for.
While cleaning up and lodging insurance claims will be on the cards for a lot of Kiwis, you might find it helpful to take at least some time to mark the national day with one or more of our favourite national summer pastimes.
Some of the ‘Kiwi as’ activities listed below won’t be suitable this weekend if you are affected by the wild weather, while others can be done safely indoors. And if you’re lucky enough not to have been affected, feel free to go all out.
Pack away some pavlova
Given we Kiwis claim to have invented this queen of desserts, it’s only right that we devour one on our national day. If only to add weight to the argument that it is a New Zealand and not an Australian dessert.
Whip up your own and top it with your summer fruit of choice, or treat yourself to a top restaurant version. Cibo, in Auckland’s Parnell, offers three different, supersized versions: salted caramel, chocolate and peanut; scorched lemon and passionfruit; and pineapple lump, Valrhona chocolate and pineapple curd. One TripAdvisor reviewer described Cibo’s “giant pav” as a “tour de force” which “resolves once and for all which nation first conceived the pavlova”.
Floriditas in Wellington does a famously good brown sugar version, this time featuring slow-roasted strawberries and blackberry custard, while Queenstown’s Public Kitchen and Bar is also onto a winner.
Scare yourself silly on a water slide
Getting your butt bruised on a farmyard water slide is a rite of passage for many Kiwi kids, and it’s just as much fun when you’re an adult.
If you’re keen for something fairly extreme, try the Conical Thrill slide at Hanmer Springs with its near-vertical drop. Or, for some all-day family fun, head to Cromwell’s Kiwi Water Park, which features an obstacle course, floating trampolines, a giant floating ram and a human catapult.
See more of our favourite water slides around Aotearoa here, but make sure you check the conditions before heading out.
Jump off a wharf
Nothing screams Kiwi summer like popping a perfect manu off a wharf.
If you’re in an area affected by heavy rain, this isn’t the time to partake. Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) says many swim spots in affected areas will have a high or very high risk of contamination during or after heavy rain. You can check whether it’s safe to swim at locations around Aotearoa here.
If you’re lucky enough to be near calm, clear, swim-friendly waters this Waitangi weekend, the ocean’s your oyster. When perfectly executed, the manu (or dive bomb) is a thing of beauty. The key is to make a fast, straight-bodied descent and swing your legs up in time to ensure your bum is the first part of you to hit the water.
Scream for ice cream
Kiwis are said to be some of the biggest ice cream eaters on the planet, with each of us putting away 23 litres a year on average.
Grab yourself a hokey pokey cone from the dairy to keep it Kiwi as, or indulge in some of the top-quality artisan versions on offer throughout our fair isles.
Our favourites include Duck Island in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington, whose imaginative flavours include the likes of fairy bread, peanut butter cookie dough and black sticky rice; the plant-based frozen treats at Little Liberty Creamery in Inglewood; and the real fruit ice cream at Motueka’s Toad Hall.
Swim at a secret local swimming hole
Make the most of local knowledge, and head to the secret swimming hole visitors and influencers don’t know about.
Being secret, facilities are likely to be non-existent, but that’s all part of the charm (provided, of course, you don’t take a dip unless you’re confident in the water). It could be a secluded beach, a waterfall pool, or just a particularly swim-friendly lake or stretch of river but, once again, make sure to check whether it’s currently suitable for swimming before heading out.
Our favourites include the Blue Pools in Mt Aspiring National Park, Wilkies Pools in Taranaki, and Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve in Marlborough.
For a supremely Kiwi experience, ride a tyre tube or bodyboard down Gisborne’s Rere Rockslide. Stuff travel journalist Brook Sabin described it as “the best free fun you can have in New Zealand”. Be careful though: Serious injury and even death have occurred there in the past and water pollution levels can sometimes make it unsafe to swim. Check the levels here before visiting.
Take part in Waitangi Day celebrations
Waitangi is pushing ahead with its free annual festival despite the wild weather in Northland earlier this week, having already put a huge amount of work into the four-day event.
Highlights include the dawn ceremony at Te Whare Rūnanga, the waka parade in front of Te Tii Waitangi Marae, the kapa haka contests, and the delicious kai. You can also catch performances from the likes of Don McGlashan and Paige, winner of 2021’s best Māori artist award.
If you’re in Wellington, check out Te Rā o Waitangi at Waitangi Park from noon to 6pm on February 6: get there early for the hāngi and stay for the award-winning line-up of Māori performances and food trucks and stalls.
There are loads of other events happening around the motu, so do your best to get amongst it.
Have a big feed of fish and chips
We Kiwis mightn’t have invented this epicurean delight, we have mastered it. So much so that summer just isn’t summer here without enjoying at least one fish and chip feast (order locally caught fish and kūmara chips for a supremely New Zealand flavour).
Stuff journalists’ favourite places for a feed include The Craypot in Jackson Bay on the West Coast (also famous for its crayfish and whitebait and seafood chowder), Stoked in Whitianga, Kai Kart in Oban; Dulcie’s Takeaways and Porky’s in Hokitika, Fresko and Mt Vic Chippery in Wellington, Marsic Bros in Auckland and Wacko Burger Bar in Hamilton.
Visit The Ohiwa Oyster Farm in Ōhope and you might spot the owner feeding stingrays with off-cuts.
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