The past two months have been spent exploring the north island of New Zealand to work out if it’s better than Worthing or not. After my review of the south island, some people in the north have been trying to stop me in case the north island doesn’t score as highly. It’s true! I narrowly escaped jail in Katikati.
But Worthing versus the World cannot be stopped. Is New Zealand’s north island better than Worthing? Is the north island better than the south island? Am I going to have to go into hiding or risk being hunted by a gaggle of kiwis holding pitchforks wearing checked shirts, all intent on turning my body hair into a merino jumper? Sharpen your sheep shearers, because we’re about to find out.
1. Is the weather better than Brighton?
In a word, no. While you lot were baking in 28 degree April sunshine yesterday, we had to put up with a mere 20 over here. I have even got my jeans out of my backpack, just in case the temperature plummets any further!
It’s coming into autumn now, and after over a year of almost non-stop summer it’s actually quite nice to get a change of season. We’ve even had some rain, a weather condition we had almost forgotten about. Fortunately New Zealand is the only country in the whole world where you look like a knob if you’re not wearing a fleece or an anorak, meaning it was completely socially acceptable for me to go to the liquor shop (off-licence) looking like this:
The weather isn’t bad here, but this section is all about the weather being better than Brighton, so sorry north island of New Zealand, you can’t get the max score as you don’t have the max temps – 7 points
2. Proximity and quality of the seaside (a pier must be present for full points here)
It’s a long time since I’ve been able to drive along a beach. I think the last place was Spain in 1999 when me and a couple of scraggly-haired mates drove around Europe in this van.
A large chunk of the north island has the same apparent disregard for public safety as our paella-loving cousins, declaring New Zealand’s Ninety-mile Beach a public highway. It’s pretty insane – you can drive the length of it, swerving around sunbathing tourists and avoiding seagulls. Actually, most people aim for the seagulls and fair play to them for that. The main danger though is that the tide will come in and wash you and your wheels out to sea. That’s why the company we hired our NZ van from don’t let you drive on the beach, and why we took a bus instead.
The best thing about our bus trip was seeing where the Tasman sea meets the Pacific. This is at the northernmost part of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, and it is proper amazing. I could honestly have looked at it all day trying to comprehend how wicked it was.
Cape Reinga has a lighthouse, but it doesn’t have a pier – a major oversight in my opinion. It could be a great tourist attraction with a pier on it, rather than just a lighthouse at the northenmost point of the country where two seas meet. Tourism NZ is missing a trick there. Someone have a word.
On the same trip, I tried something that you wouldn’t want to do on Worthing beach – sand tobogganing. Proper fun, as long as you keep your gob shut!
The most beautiful waterside that we encountered in New Zealand was here in Taupo.
Even though that’s a river not the sea, it was so beautiful it scores some pointage for the north island. And to redress the balance slightly, here’s some freshwater running into the sea at sunset.
New Zealand’s north island is completely pier-free as far as I could gather, but the sea and beaches are big and impressive. They’re more natural wonders than sunbathing beaches, but that’s fine by me – 7 points
3. Local delicacies and quality of food
Remember the pies I talked about in the south island? Well the north island has them too. We had a tip off from locals about an award-winning pie shop, so obviously we went. It took a bit of finding, but find it we did. This true Kiwi meal was the result.
L&P (the drink) is proper nice and tastes like lemonade lollipops. Their tagline is ‘world famous in New Zealand’ which warms my heart.
The award-winning pie was really good. Really, really good. Actually a bit too good. I’ve grown used to my pies being a bit old, made with ingredients of questionable origin and slightly disgusting. This one was fresh, made with premium meats and truly lovely. It may be an unfortunate measure of my chavvy palette that I prefer the ones from the corner shop than the gourmet ones.
My chavvy palette may also explain this nutritious and delicious dinner.
Kiwi food isn’t entirely about meat wrapped in pastry though, as Skipper Steve demonstrated when he took me fishing for dinner.
I caught quite a few snapper and some big kawahai. The fishing was great fun, and the eating was even better. I didn’t really get involved in the bits inbetween (killing, bleeding, chopping the heads off, filleting, cooking) but the fish tasted seriously, seriously good.
Fish and chips here, even from a dodgy shop in a quiet part of town, is always good and cooked to order rather than sat in the warmer for decades like at home (and unlike pies, fish and chips is always better cooked to order). The only weird thing was seeing this on the menu:
My favourite thing I’ve eaten in NZ? Easy…
New Zealand is a top place for food. It’s always good, and often great. Mind you, I might be singing a different tune if I’d eaten the blood and guts! – 10 points
4. Friendliness and attractiveness of the locals
People up in the north are just as lovely as people in the south, so that’s nice. I have made some good friends here, like this lot:
Northern Kiwi’s also like to put helpful signs up like these:
and they even make people with funny names famous, just to give us all a giggle:
But my favourite is this shop in Napier.
The only people that aren’t friendly aren’t actually people. They’re ducks. In the north island I have been really getting into feeding the ducks, or trying to anyway.
In Wellington I carried a couple of slices with me over to where a load of ducks hung out on an island. I climbed up onto a railway bridge and chucked the bread at them, but they just look at me like I was an idiot.
Unperturbed I moved to the next bridge where there were loads of ducks, and chucked my bread towards them. They paid me absolutely no attention, so I edged a little closer and threw the bread as hard as I could. Then I crapped my pants as all the ducks turned into pigeons, started squawking and flew towards me, seemingly with murder on their minds.
I was a bit put off by that, but up in the Northland I decided to have another go. A couple of ducks were coming and quacking hello as the wife and I were supping on an afternoon beer by our van. I got into the van and grabbed the bread, then chucked it not to the ducks but to the wife. At this point she was completely set upon by our feathered foes. I feared I would be cooking my own dinner that night, but she kept her head, ran really fast on the spot and screamed which is definitely what you should do when ducks attack.
As my niece would say, naughty birdies.
Your people are lovely, but your wildlife is…erm…wild. Nobody attacks my wife and gets the full score, doesn’t matter how many Maori’s I rub noses with – 8 points
5. Availability and quality of real ale
It’s getting to desperate times in the ale stakes. Last time I declared Monteith’s Summer Ale as my favourite NZ brew. Well, now summer is finishing, the Summer Ale is finishing too. In fact, it’s finished. Nowhere sells it anymore. Woe is me.
As a result, I have been reduced to drinking this cheap, lagery lager:
and this non-alcoholic (not a typo) ginger beer.
You know if I’ve been reduced to drinking non-alcoholic bevarages then something needs to change, so we’re quitting New Zealand as soon as possible in search of some proper booze.
Sorry New Zealand drinks. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m at a place in my life right now where I really need some ale time. To drink something warm, brown, flat and alcoholic. I hope we can still be friends – 5 points
Well, well, well. The north island of New Zealand scores 37 points, meaning it doesn’t claim the top spot and also putting it a full 4 points behind the south island. I’d better skip the country sharpish before I get turned into a comfortable, warming garment for the cold winter months ahead. Join me in a week or so for the next instalment of Worthing versus the World when we’ll see if Mickey Mouse is more hospitable than Tom Wye, if Pirates of the Caribbean is more scary than Teville Gate at night and if the butter beer at Harry Potter land is as good as Harvey’s Best. Have a nice day!