Napier, Hawke's Bay
In Hawke's Bay you'll find some of the best wineries in New Zealand, perfect terrain and weather for refreshing outdoor adventures, and cultural encounters that bring history to life. Added to this is an abundance of delicious local produce, which has generated a delectable range of cafés and restaurants. Whether you base yourself in Napier, Hastings or Havelock North, a Hawke's Bay holiday promises to be gloriously indulgent.
Pedal from place to place in Hawke's Bay, blissed out by the ocean views and rolling landscapes covered in battalions of grapevines.
Where to go and what to see in Napier and Hawke's Bay
You'll need some form of transport to get around all the fun things to do in Napier and Hawke's Bay. We recommend hiring a car or making arrangements with one of the many private tour operators. Biking is also an option, though maybe for just one or two days - while Hawke's Bay is relatively flat, distances aren't small. Napier to the farthest cellar door, Trinity Hill, is a journey of 30 kilometres.
Riding the Hawke's Bay Trails
There's no better way to find Hawke's Bay attractions and immerse yourself in a landscape than pedalling a bike, slowly taking in the sights, smells and sounds with no barriers between you and nature. With more than 200km of easy-riding trails, you can enjoy a delightful day sampling local world-class wines and restaurants while working on your fitness. As you ride from place to place, you'll be blissed out by distant ocean views and rolling landscapes covered in battalions of grapevines.
Follow the Hawke's Bay biking map and either take a set trail or free-flow to wherever you want to go. Along the way, you'll discover historically significant sites; part of the Māori and colonial past.
Be sure to pause at the Ōtātara Pā to explore the historic Maori settlement. Another good stop is Roy's Hill Restoration Reserve, with its tracks and native plantings. For bird watching, visit the Ahuriri Estuary and Waitangi Regional Park.
If you have young children, the Russell Park track in Central Hawke's Bay is a short flat ride along the top of the riverbank. It ends at a playground with a great place for a picnic and swim. For older kids, there are other trails in the area that lead to a cycle skills track and a BMX park to blow off some steam. More about outdoor adventures in Hawke's Bay.
Hawke's Bay wineries and restaurants
Do you like long lunches amidst lovely landscapes? Or maybe a hearty dinner in a gastropub alongside the locals? Known for its Mediterranean climate, the bay has hot summers and mild winters that are just perfect for growing wine and a huge range of delicious produce.
There are wineries dotted right across the plains; all up there are more than 30 cellar doors to discover. Ask a local for their favourites, or make the Mission Estate Winery your starting point. This elegant property was established by French missionaries in 1851. For a special occasion or a divine retreat, book into Craggy Range for a couple of days. The winery has luxurious cottages that you can rent, all with stupendous close-up views of Te Mata Peak, and the two-hat restaurant does an amazing job of showcasing local produce.
The burgeoning Hawke's Bay restaurant scene ensures there are plentiful choices for delicious food in relaxed surroundings. Bistronomy, one of the best restaurants in Napier, offers a six-course degustation with small-but-perfectly-formed dishes that display the chef's creative talent. Other highly-reviewed possibilities include Mister D and Hunger Monger.
Make sure you get to a farmers' market to sample and buy local artisan food products. The Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market - held on Sunday morning at Hawke's Bay Showgrounds, Kenilworth Rd - has been in operation for 17 years. And Napier Urban Farmer's Market is on every Saturday morning in the heart of the city. You'll find fresh produce, baking, bread and a range of amazing specialty products. Try lemon honey mulled cider to warm you on a winter's morning or seasonal fruit ice creams on hot summer days.
If you love enjoying wine and food in amazing locations, the twice-yearly F.A.W.C! Food and Wine Classic, held in June and November, celebrates Hawke's Bay's culinary credentials with 60+ unique dining experiences. More about food and wine in Hawke's Bay.
Cape Kidnappers isn't as dangerous as it sounds. When Captain Cook sailed past in 1769, the local Maori traders thought the cabin boy was being held against his will, so they 'rescued' him. Cook's crew fired at their waka (canoe), allowing the boy to escape and climb aboard the ship again.
Aside from that, the area has a peaceful past and is now known for its picturesque nature-sculpted cliffs and large gannet colony. The colony has a population of 20,000 in peak times, ensuring there's always an aerial display going on. You can view the gannets from September to April by walking 8km along the beach at low tide or hitching a ride on a tractor with Gannet Beach Adventures. The journey takes you alongside sculpted cliffs that display fault lines and fossils - a geographer's dream.
For birdies of the golfing kind, Cape Kidnappers has the 17th greatest golf course in the world, according to Golf Digest. The par-71 course has stunning, highly-distracting views and its 15th hole is one of the most dramatic golf challenges you'll ever encounter. You can stay locally at The Farm, a luxury lodge set on 6,000 acres of lush green fields.
From rubble and ruins, an art deco delight
In 1931, Napier city was hit by a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake, one of the worst natural disasters in New Zealand's history. Following the quake, all the destroyed buildings were rebuilt in the style of the time - Art Deco. Napier also did away with prohibition and shirked the Great Depression, building a stylish city of geometric shapes, clean lines and vibrant colours.
Today, Napier revels in its amazing architecture. The city hosts an Art Deco Festival every February that's attended by Art Deco enthusiasts from all over the world. Women dress up in kitten heels with tee-straps and the dropped-waist dresses that are typical of the era. Men look dapper in suits with wide lapels and wingtip shoes. If you're heading to Napier to revel in Art Deco, don't forget that hats are the exclamation point for any outfit.
If you're not in Napier at festival time, you can take an Art Deco city tour in a vintage car. It lifts Napier sightseeing to a whole new level. For maximum Art Deco impact, stay in the iconic Art Deco Masonic Hotel; its exterior hasn't been altered since it was rebuilt following the earthquake in 1932. More about history, art and culture in Hawke's Bay.
Best time to visit Napier and Hawke's Bay
Any season is a good time to visit Napier and the Hawke's Bay region. It's busiest over summer, especially during the Christmas and New Year period, so consider spring and autumn if you want to have more space. While winter is cooler (average of 11°C), the attractions are just as enjoyable and you'll find off-peak rates for most accommodation.
How much will it cost
This will depend on your tastes and what you want to do. As a rough guide, not including air travel and hotels, you should allow about NZD $100 to $150 a day per person for food and entertainment.