South Pacific

Hawke’s Bay and Napier: 
Art Deco delights

Napier is home to one of the largest concentrations of Art Deco architecture in the world. | Photo credit: Russell James Smith

Located in the beautiful Hawke’s Bay wine region of the North Island, Napier is a friendly city at the edge of the glittering Pacific Ocean. The town is 332 kilometres (about four hours) northeast by road from Wellington. Twenty-two kilometres to the south lies Hastings, Napier’s twin city.

With unspoilt beaches and plenty of outdoor activities to offer, it’s an ideal holiday spot to either begin or conclude your visit to New Zealand.

But, surprisingly perhaps, it’s also where you’ll find one of the world’s finest collections of Art Deco buildings.

And it’s all thanks to Mother Nature. At 10:47 AM on February 3 1931, Napier was shaken by an earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Richter scale. It ended in a fierce fire that destroyed most of the centre of the city, and the locals had little choice but to rebuild. And rebuild they did – in the Art Deco style that was fashionable at that time. Slowly, out of the ashes and rubble, grew the Napier that we know today.

From hotels and shops to civic buildings and theatres, Napier was practically rebuilt from scratch, and a stroll through the streets is like stepping back in time. Even if architecture’s not your thing, you can’t help but be fascinated by this living museum of artful architecture as you enjoy swimming with dolphins, lounging on the beach, or playing a round of golf in the beautiful surroundings …

Hawke’s Bay Wine Country is New Zealand’s leading food and wine region. Hawke’s Bay is also a year-round holiday destination with an eclectic mix of visual and sensory experiences.

Located on the east coast of the North Island, the landscapes of Hawke’s Bay begin with the high, forested Ruahine and Kawkeka Ranges. From the mountains the land sweeps down towards the coast, flattening out to become the Heretaunga Plains. A number of wide rivers, excellent for fishing, run swiftly to meet the blue Pacific Ocean and beaches which stretch from Mahia in the north to Porangahau in the south.

Hawke’s Bay is the country’s oldest winemaking region and is New Zealand’s leading producer of award winning red wines. Hawke’s Bay is can boast of a vibrant arts scene and a rich Maori culture.

Did You Know?

  • Captain Cook first spotted the site where Napier now stands back in 1769.
  • The city was nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2007.
  • Napier has one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the country, a statue on Marine Parade called Pania of the Reef. The statue is regarded in Napier in much the same way that the Little Mermaid statue is regarded in Copenhagen. In October 2005 the statue was stolen, but was recovered a week later largely unharmed.

How to Get Here

Hawke’s Bay / Napier Airport (NPE) is Hawkes Bay’s main commercial airport serving domestic flights from Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch, as well as smaller centres such as Gisborne, Tauranga, Hamilton and Palmerston North . Hawke’s Bay Airport is situated on State Highway 2 approximately 10 minutes from the Napier and 20 minutes from Hastings.

Shuttle services to all area hotels operate from the Terminal, and taxi companies have cars in the rank to meet arriving flights. As well, several nationally known car rental firms maintain counters at the airport.

However, many people drive from Wellington to spend a few days in the Napier and Hawke’s bay area. The drive is approximately 194 km.

New Zealand Dollar

The most convenient way to access cash in local currency is to use a debit or credit card in an ATM in New Zealand. All banks have ATMs accessible 24-hours a day, generally outside the branch or in the foyer.You might be charged a fee by your bank, and you may need a new PIN number, so contact your bank or credit card company before you travel to make sure you’ll be able to access your account.

For locations of ATMs you can visit these VISA and MasterCard Web sites.

Travellers cheques are becoming less popular in New Zealand. If you do use travellers cheques, take cheques in NZ$ not Canadian or US funds. Travellers cheques can be exchanged for cash at banks, exchange houses and large hotels, or used to settle accounts in some, but by no means all, retail or dining establishments.

Credit cards are accepted in most establishments in New Zealand. Be aware you may be charged a fee to use credit cards abroad, and you should let your issuing company know what countries you are travelling to, as their fraud departments can sometimes freeze cards used in foreign countries.

What will the seasonal weather be like?

New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere so summer is from December to February, while winter falls in June, July and August.
Napier / Hawke’s Bay enjoys a near-Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild winters. The average maximum daily temperature during the Winter is 16-17 Celsius. The average maximum temperature during the Summer is 23 Celsius. The combination of heat and humidity can cause a little discomfort in summer for some people.

Rainfall is common throughout the country and provides New Zealand its lush, green countryside.

Be aware that the weather can change unexpectedly, even in summer, so be prepared if you’re heading off on an outdoor adventure.

Getting Around

Walking is perhaps the best, and most efficient way to see Napier. It’s the ideal way to view and appreciate the unique buildings at their best. Taxis however are plentiful in Napier. Only ever get into a licensed taxi, which should have a meter running. You can flag taxis in the street, or call private hire car companies to arrange a pick-up time and location.

If you want to go further afield, several buses operate to nearby towns. Services are limited on weekends and buses will only stop at designated bus stops.

If you want to rent a car, free maps are available from the Hawke’s Bay Visitor Information office located at 100 Marine Parade in Napier. Car rental agencies will usually provide maps also, but, investing in a handheld GPS system featuring turn-by-turn voice directions could be invaluable. GPS systems today also feature points of interest that are nearby your location, and many other features that will provide a level of confidence while navigating in a foreign country.

New Zealand has a wide range of ferries and water taxis which operate from Wellington and travel either locally or to several coastal areas throughout the country.

Note You can purchase a New Zealand Travelpass, which provides several options to travel by coach, ferry and rail nationwide. Passes are valid for 12 months.

What not to miss …

World Heritage Site(s)

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world. There are currently three World Heritage Sites in New Zealand
One of the main attractions of Napier is the city itself. Walking through the streets almost feels as if you’re on a film set, thanks to the astonishing collection of Art Deco buildings. To many visitors, it often comes as a jolt when you realise this is a real city with real people.

Visitors travel from all over the world to see this unique place and it’s easy to understand why. A great way to get the most from your stay is to join a tour, or ask for a self-guided walking map from the Hawke’s Bay Visitor Information office.

The Hawke’s Bay Museum & Art Gallery has interesting exhibits about the earthquake of1031, and the subsequent redesign of Napier, but also unusual collections of everyday art that focus on the style and fashion choices of the last two centuries.

Marine Parade overlooks the Pacific Ocean and out towards Cape Kidnappers, home to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony. A full day can be taken visiting the Ocean Spa hot pools and swimming complex.

For a truly unique experience, time your visit to attend the annual Brebner Print Art Deco Weekend. This world-famous festival takes place on the third weekend of February. The entire city goes Art Deco. And that means cars, clothes, music, dancing and theatre. People set up camp along Marine Parade with striped deckchairs, picnic hampers stocked with 1930s fare and old gramophones playing jazz records. Some even transport 1930s furniture from their homes to recreate formal sitting rooms under striped gazebos. And everyone wears clothes from the era. It’s truly a sight to behold. Children play with old-fashioned toys, men shine classic cars and women look like they’ve just stepped out of a vintage magazine.

Hawke’s Bay is the country’s oldest winemaking region and is New Zealand’s leading producer of award winning red wines. All year round, wine tasting right at the cellar door is on offer at the many wineries across the region and food trails lead to outstanding taste experiences.

In the beautiful rural Havelock North Wine Country lies the Arataki Honey Company and a few thousand bees to show you what they get up to in those hive boxes you see in the country.

For the kids …

The National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier opened early in 2002. It is as close to the waters edge without getting your feet wet. The magnificent architectural design imitates the form of a stingray, while the glistening Pacific Ocean constantly laps the shoreline. The National Aquarium has a reef tank, a travelator which spirals its way beneath the enormous Oceanarium, creating the impression of a true underwater experience, and a typical New Zealand rocky shore environment. There are sharks, stingray and hundreds of fish species, many of them representative of the catches from along the East Coast. As well, you can see eels, trout, sea horse, turtles, octopus, tropical marine fish, kiwi, tuatara, water dragons, native frogs and crocodile  also on display.

Marineland of New Zealand is where sick marine life found in the area are taken to recuperate. Those who get better are released back into the wild, but those left unable to care for themselves stay at the center. Take the family for a swim with the dolphins, get up close and personal with fur seals and penguins, and take a behind-the-scenes tour to find out more.

Marine Parade is perfect for a pleasant stroll beside the ocean. This outdoor public space is home to gardens, fountains, sculptures and the Sound Shell – an Art Deco-style stage where small concerts and events are held. You’ll find mini golf here, and the Ocean Spa – a water complex with outdoor heated pools where you can enjoy a dip while overlooking the ocean. Marine Parade is also where Napier’s most famous and most-photographed character lives – Pania of the Reef. This famous bronze statue tells the legend of the sea maiden and her Maori lover, Karitoki. She was stolen in 2005, but found relatively unharmed and returned to her rightful place by the ocean.

Napier after dark …

Although small, Napier has an interesting mix of bars, pubs and restaurants. The best way to find what may suit your tastes is to simply stroll around and see what strikes your fancy. From the iconic Masonic Hotel – the largest Art Deco hotel in town – to intimate wine bars and lively Irish pubs, you can sit over a glass of the local wine and chat with either the locals or other visitors from anywhere in the world.

It’s a pleasant drive into Hawke’s Bay, where you will find a variety of restaurant, including many fine dining establishments located at area wineries.

When you’ve exhausted the choices in Napier, head a short distance to nearby Bluff Hill and Ahuriri. This vibrant seaside village was one of the earliest settled areas in Napier, and is now a food lover’s paradise thanks to its wide selection of upmarket restaurants and cafes. Dine at West Quay and sample some of the freshest seafood around as the sun slips into the ocean.

Sports / Outdoor Adventure

It seems that there’s an expression across New Zealand – For the “mild to wild” you can pretty much try almost any outdoor adventure or activity. You can take a jet boat or cycle between wineries, experience hot air ballooning at sunrise or surfing in Mahia, paraglide off Te Mata Peak, hike or take a leisurely journey along one of the 17 heritage trails around the region, or fish for brown and rainbow trout or play golf at one of the 20 local courses.

Local Customs and Etiquette

As a rule Kiwis are a laid-back, friendly bunch. You’ll probably hear the phrase “How’s it going bro?” between friends and strangers alike, and if something’s good it’s often described as “sweet as”. Don’t be alarmed if you see two people pressing noses in the street – it’s a traditional Maori greeting.

New Zealanders tend to be outgoing and often express an interest in overseas visitors. It’s hard to offend a Kiwi, unless you see them as a second-class Aussie – there’s great rivalry between the two nations, particularly in the sporting arena.
A fairly liberal, forward-thinking country – New Zealand gave women the right to vote back in 1893 – most Kiwi etiquette rules relate to issues of equality. There is little class structure and not much racial tension between the many different ethnic groups.

Most Kiwis are very environmentally conscious and treat their land with a sense of respect that stems from the traditional Maori view that everything in nature has a life force. Damaging that life force hurts both the object and the offender. Actions that flaunt this belief are frowned upon.

Tipping is not expected in New Zealand. If you have received good service at a restaurant and want to show appreciation, five to 10 per cent of the bill is fine. There is no need to tip for every drink you order in a pub, although some bartenders in the flashier joints will try and encourage this by placing your change on a tray. If you don’t tip, it doesn’t usually affect how quickly you get served.

Above all, New Zealanders are honest and open, and appreciate the same from you.

All content © 2011-2018 Great World Getaways unless otherwise noted