Sometime between Lockdown 2.0 and Christmas my feet get itchy and I pine for sunny climes. Halcyon days mooching through shops. Sipping macchiato while people watching. Lounging about after a long lunch, alfresco. Relaxing by the pool, or on the patio with a shandy.

It’s not safe to stray too far for holidays these days and all disposable wedge got used up this year on PPE and craft supplies. So I’m taking my break close to home … in the perfect destination for a relaxing staycation. With its romantic river-side setting in the heart of urbane hubbub, it’s practically the Paris of the East Coast … Clive.

Clive is the unsung hero of Hawke’s Bay. Stuck between busy, high-flying parents it’s the humble middle child quietly overachieving. Not Napier and hardly Hastings, Clive is a principality all of its own. 

A week might be a tad too much, but a long weekend is jam-packed when spent in Clive. To begin, a brisk Saturday morning jaunt. Town hall, war memorial, old church, historic home: the self-guided heritage tour is high on the list of must-dos. Up there too is the bike-ability of the Shire of Clive. A sojourn along the river includes a landmark bridge, the apex of which presents a panoramic view of the delta right down to the sea. On a good day you can see all the way to the majestic geodesic domes of the East Clive Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Saturday night serves up a jet-setting smorgasbord. With diverse international gastronomic eateries from Holland to Thailand, it’s possible to stay a whole three days without dining in the same place twice. Box Coffee punches above its weight with right-on woke baristas popping out joe faster than you can say, “Please may I have a single origin fair trade organic cold brew with an oat milk chaser”. 

Clive Pub is the conjoined twin of River Bar Restaurant famous for its deep-fried Beer Platter (prawn twisters, fish bites, chicken bites, broccoli bites, onion rings). The two venues couldn’t be more different and with various in- and out-side spaces offer a bona-fide pub crawl without leaving the premises.

Sunday, hit the river. Summer is a particularly exciting season with busy boat clubs filling the Clive Riviera with bustle. On these waters winners are made, with multiple golds at the 2021 Olympics having Clive River in their origin story. Waka ama paddlers lift the hoe and get jiggy with the out-riggers while across the river the fine fellows of the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club (established in 1876) set to with the sculls, the stroke setting the rhythm and coxswains warbling orders through their cox-box. Hit the river in January and enjoy the HB Rowing Cup Regatta. It’s exactly like Henley.

Clive isn’t just for fun. It has a serious role in pan-city negotiations. With no real dog in any fight, it’s the DMZ, The Hague of Hawke’s Bay. It’s in Clive all top secret deals between our two major metropoles take place. The infamous Romans retired regularly to the Pub after council skirmishes. Over a surreptitious samosa at the Fruit and Vege drive-thru, amalgamationists once met to strategise referendum ploys. Regional arts, regional sports, regional public-works projects are plotted and planned in the carpark behind Bom Dia. 

Clive’s not just for getaways either. Personally, I have both my mechanic and my vet in Clive. Not because I live there, but because I don’t. Clive people are neutral … like the Swiss. They see it all and they say nothing. I am now on the hunt for a dermatologist and an accountant based in Clive. 

Often when we holiday we explore lanes and nosey through neighbourhoods imaging our everyday-selves situated in the holiday setting. So too with Clive. From its Clive Terrace row of charming fencible cottages to its lavish riverside mansion-ettes, it’s a desirous locale within an easy walk to the quaint general store (or 4-Square as we say in the colloquial parlance). 

We aren’t leaving NZ anytime soon, and planning’s pointless with Covid’s Zeta strain just over the horizon. Sydney’s light years’ away. Paris? Impossible. Even Auckland could lockdown at any moment leaving us stranded. 

We need to look locally for the adventures we yearn for. We need to find new angles on the familiar. Our own backyard has plenty to offer if you know where to look – or you know how to look – to find what you need. To muck with an old trope: If you can’t be in the place you love, then love the place you’re in. 

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