How to Have a Wellness Day in Wine Country

Writer Bonnie Munday shares how she spent a day in New Zealand enjoying all her favourite feel-good activities: cycling, hiking and tasting wine.

Photo Credit: Hawkes Bay Trails
Photo Credit: Hawkes Bay Trails

The grapes had just been harvested when I arrive on two wheels to taste a couple of beautiful Bordeaux-style reds at Te Mata Estates. The winery is at the edge of Hawkes Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand’s breathtaking North Island, where I’m visiting with my husband. I look up and see the imposing Te Mata Peak, always visible in the region—it rises almost 400 metres above the big blue South Pacific—and soak in the spectacular setting of this renowned wine region that I’m about to explore. We’re spending our day doing feel-good activities: cycling, hiking and tasting wine—and appreciating all the moments in between.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Munday

Getting there

Air New Zealand flies at least four times a week direct from Vancouver to Auckland. It’s a 14-hour flight. If you can, grab a Premium Economy seat for amazing service and comfort. But this airline has a well-deserved reputation, so even an Economy class seat is a cut above most other airlines. In my experience, the ANZ staff can’t do enough for you.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Munday

A bike ride to mindfulness

“You’ll love trying the e-bike,” Jamie, my tour guide from nearby Napier City Bike Hire & Tours, reassures me before we set out. I’m not convinced; I’ve always thought of e-bikes as “cheating”—cheating myself of some good exercise. I’m an honest rider for most of our 24-km ride, past acres of vineyards filled with grazing sheep, but then we hit a strong headwind on a stretch along the ocean, and I appreciate being able to just flip a switch to get an extra boost of power. It allows me to enjoy the scenery more than I may have if I had to think about pedaling harder to make it through.

This Hawkes Bay area has a large network of smooth-surfaced bike routes, with wineries to stop at along the way. We choose the grandiose Elephant Hill winery. I get a crisp chardonnay and acknowledge its sharp notes as I gaze into the green, just-harvested vineyards surrounding me.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Munday

A moment of hygge

After cycling farther, we stop in at Hygge Cafe, which is on Clifton Bay. It’s a comfy spot for a rest and suitably named—“hygge” is the Danish term for coziness. It’s located at the foot of the notorious Cape Kidnappers (it was named after a 1769 incident in which local Maori kidnapped one of Captain Cook’s ship crew members—and then gave him back unharmed).

We grab a picnic table by the ocean to sit at while we sip coffee—the coffee culture in New Zealand is second to none. (Do you know the best time of the day to drink coffee?) We enjoy salads made with fresh local ingredients, including locally-made grilled halloumi, organic greens, figs and apple.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Munday

A calming hike

Later, we ditch our bikes and drive up along the twisting road to the top of Te Mata to walk one of the trails. There’s a large network of walks, all quite steep, and all offering incredible vistas of mountain peaks and ocean. There’s even a hang-gliding launch platform from the peak.

Te Mata is revered by locals, in part because of the Maori myth surrounding it: When the giant chief Rongokako died trying to prove his love for the beautiful Hinerakau, his body became the high peaks of this range, forming the ridgeline known as The Sleeping Giant.

Everywhere I turn, there’s a scenic picture that captivates me—and there are also lots of photo opps (see above!).

(Planning on going hiking? Here’s everything you need.)

Photo Credit: Bonnie Munday

An evening for living in the present

After a day of cycling and hiking under blue skies, it’s a pleasure to head to our own retreat called Poplars, one of many bespoke accommodations offered by Black Barn Vineyards. Ours is a spacious luxury two-bedroom bungalow complete with wood fireplace, top-of-the-line kitchen and Scandinavian-styled dining area. My husband and I each take a glass of Black Barn’s pinot noir out to the terrace overlooking the Te Mata range and the vineyards below, with not another person or building in sight. Despite the many excellent restaurants in the area, we know that cooking dinner for ourselves in this place that feels like home is a no-brainer.

Next, check out 6 wellness secrets Bonnie learned in Taiwan.