While you’re here, you won’t want to miss –
You may have difficulty deciding what to do when you first set foot in the Hawke’s Bay. This sunny east coast section of the North Island has numerous attractions, but the main thing you need to know is that it is all about the wine!
This is New Zealand’s oldest wine making region and features over 90 wineries, many of which have consistently won international awards.
The region is distinguished by wide fertile plains and a dry climate, which makes it great for grape growing and perfect for a year-round vacation destination. Napier and Hastings are the most populated towns in this area and also known as ‘the twin cities.’ Visitors, local and international, flock here for the Art Deco architecture, museums, fine dining, wineries and festivals.
Art Deco in Napier
Beautiful Napier has seen a few upheavals in its time, quite literally.
It’s famous for having a large concentration of Art Deco buildings, a consequence of being rebuilt after the earthquake that flattened both Napier and Hastings in 1931.
Along with Miami Beach in Florida, Napier is considered to be the best preserved Art Deco town in the world. The best way to learn the history of this gorgeously ornate place is to stroll through town on one of the daily walking tours available from the Art Deco Centre.
For something different, try the Vintage Deco Car Tour, where you get to travel in a 1930s Buick to check out the Art Deco highlights around town.
You might like to plan your trip to Hawke’s Bay to coincide with the Annual Art Deco Weekend. The third weekend in February, locals and visitors alike don elegant deco costumes, 1920s and ’30s cars are dusted off, and the skies are filled with aerobatic flying displays. The festive partying goes on for 3 days with dances, progressive dinners and a general good time.
Not just in Napier either – over 200 events are hosted around Hawke’s Bay, including a Great Gatsby picnic, free outdoor concerts and steam train rides. It’s a wonderful chance to celebrate a bygone era with these die-hard Deco-ites, if only for a weekend.
Wineries Around Hastings
Celebrating and wine go hand in hand, so lovers of winery trails will enjoy Hawke’s Bay. Long hot summers and cool winters produce some of the best grape growing in the country and the region has award-winning wines to prove it.
Located just a short distance away from Hastings are some of the best New Zealand brand names including: Mission Estate, Trinity Hill, Villa Maria, Church Road and Esk Valley. Expect wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay – with Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling also popular varieties.
Most wineries offer cellar door tastings and many also have fine dining restaurants. Some like Sileni Estates will offer a ‘destination experience’ with a winery and vineyard tour, wine tasting, gourmet food store and restaurant.
Mission Vineyards goes one better by holding one of the country’s most popular summer concerts on its grounds. The Mission Estate Concert attracts thousands of people and is staged at the end of February each year. It has featured well-known performers including: Rod Stewart, The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton and Sting.
After you’ve exhausted the wineries, some fresh sea air could be in order. For an interesting scenic day out, book a tour to Cape Kidnappers for a look at its ancient cliff formations and gannet colony.
This headland was named long ago after a local Māori attempted to kidnap one of Captain Cook’s interpreters – but failed.
Today, the area is best known for its 32 acre Gannet Reserve. In November and December you can see up to 15,000 birds nesting there. In February, the babies begin to spread their wings and take off to Australia for a few years’ overseas experience before returning home to Cape Kidnappers.
For marine life, Napier’s impressive National Aquarium on Marine Parade has a wide range of sea creatures and New Zealand wildlife. Marine Parade is also a great place for a stroll along to enjoy the sea breeze and meet the locals.
Hawke’s Bay Souvenirs
Woolly animals also feature largely in Hawke’s Bay. Sheep and wool production are a thriving business here, only marginally eclipsed by the wine. If you’ve always wanted a soft sheepskin rug, Hawke’s Bay is the place to pick one up.
Head out to Wool World at Clifton Station in Te Awanga for a great range of quality wool souvenirs, as well as an ‘authentic farming experience’ featuring sheep shearing. It also has a café for relaxing, after you’ve watched somebody else do the hard work.
For souvenirs reminiscent of the Art Deco era, the shop in the Art Deco Centre in Napier stocks a wide range of beautiful 1920s and ’30s ornaments, art and knick-knacks. Treat yourself to a special memento to make sure you won’t forget visiting this unique city.