For me personally, 2020 has been quite limited regarding travel, as I returned to my homeland, New Zealand, last Christmas, intending to stay for just a couple of months. With the outbreak of Covid, and flights being cancelled, I ended up staying, and working from there, for six months.
Prior to being in lockdown there, I did manage to spend time on Waiheke Island, which is definitely one of my favourite NZ destinations. Just a 35-minute ferry crossing from downtown Auckland, the island is a paradise of beautiful beaches, native forest, and around 30 vineyards, which can be visited for wine tastings, many with excellent restaurants as well.
Casita Miro is a restaurant I have returned to several times now over the years, and I am never disappointed!
Sitting among olive trees and vineyards, and Gaudi-like mosaic tiles, it feels as close to being in Spain as you could possibly imagine (being on the other side of the world!).
The menu features Spanish classics, such as paella and patatas bravas, as well as a wider range of Mediterranean dishes. Guests can choose from a menu of tapas, and or larger main courses – and the vineyard’s wines and sherries are very palatable too.
As well as visiting wine estates, one of my favourite activities during my stays there has been the Sculpture on the Gulf exhibition, which takes place every two years (the next one is scheduled for March 2021).
It involves a 2.5 km coastal walk around the beautiful Matiatia headland with its hills, and indigenous trees, and large well-placed sculptures by New Zealand artists, all against the spectacular backdrop of the sea.
I have stayed at the beautiful Palm Beach villa several times now, and it is absolutely perfect for a family holiday.
Situated in an elevated position overlooking the sea, a path leads down to the sandy beach below – ideal for spending days basking in the sunshine and dipping in the crystal clear turquoise waters. In the evening, the property's large terrace is the perfect place to enjoy an outdoor barbecue dinner and the island's scenic sunsets.
The spacious and light open-plan living area and open-plan kitchen open up to terraces, on two sides, and there are three bedrooms, and two bathrooms (the third bedroom has two sets of bunk beds and a double sofa-bed, perfect for children).
At the time of writing, New Zealand has a strict Covid policy, with anyone arriving from abroad having to quarantine at a designated hotel for two weeks (and also pay for their stay).
But for guests looking for summer weather, and can stay longer, there are a lot of advantages. Many will be tempted by the America’s Cup, which takes place every four years, and is going ahead this year (6th – 15th March).
The race covers a stunning area which stretches all the way from the Tamaki Strait (between Waiheke Island and Maraetai), to the Waitemata Harbour and harbour bridge in downtown Auckland, to the beautiful north shore beaches.