The words wine country aptly describes Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand’s oldest commercial wine-growing regions and home to more than 80 wineries. But, there’s more to the region than its wine. Hawke’s Bay is the venue for the country’s oldest (and one of the best-loved) farmers market. It is New Zealand’s art deco centre, rebuilt in the 1930s after a huge earthquake, and plays host to the country’s most elaborate Matariki (Maori New Year) celebrations. It also has extensive cycle trails, a New Zealand Great Walk and the world’s largest ganet colony – plenty to keep everyone fully occupied.
KEY TOWNS AND REGIONS
In 1931, the city of Napier was flattened by a devastating earthquake, destroying nearly all of the buildings in Central Napier. The following two years saw Napier rebuilt in the style of the times – fashionable art deco, stripped Classical and Spanish Mission, with a Kiwi twist using Maori motifs. The Marine Parade is one of Napier’s most picturesque highlights, with many attractions such as the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Enjoy the sea breeze and stunning seascape with a wander along the Rotary Pathway. The Sunken Gardens and Marine Parade Gardens are perfect for whiling away the afternoon. A Napier landmark is Bluff Hill, which overlooks the Port of Napier and provides views of the town beaches of Perfume Point and Westshore.
Nearby Mohaka River, about half an hour from Napier, provides excellent scenery, canyons, gorges and plenty of rapids to be rafted.
The Hastings District is world famous for its wine and food. The dry climate and soil provides the perfect recipe for growing grapes and crops, and orchards and vineyards surround the urban area. This region alone boasts over 140 vineyards and numerous food options. The country village of Havelock North, a five-minute drive east from Hastings City and known as The Village, offers boutique shopping and a thriving cafe culture. Nearby, Te Mata Peak offers stunning vistas with well-maintained walking tracks providing access to the surrounding forest areas.
To the east of Hastings is Cape Kidnappers, an extraordinary sandstone headland, home to a world-class golf course and the largest accessible mainland gannet colony in the world. Handy to Cape Kidnappers is the sunny beachside settlement of Te Awanga, a popular spot for both golf lovers and bird watchers.
Central Hawke’s Bay
Central Hawke’s Bay stretches from the mountain slopes of the Ruahine Ranges to vast beaches of the Pacific Ocean. The towns and villages of Central Hawke’s Bay provide enchanting traces of early settlement to the region with historic homesteads and stately gardens to wander through. The town of Waipukurau is a rural service town with a passion for aviation, and is home to the grand and historic Mt. Vernon and Woburn homesteads settled in the late 1800s. Nearby Porangahau is famous for being home to the world’s longest place name, and just five minutes from Waipukurau is the small town of Waipawa, with the noted features of the memorial Clock Tower and the Municipal Theatre. The Waipawa River has excellent trout fishing as well as a 12-hole golf course.
Midway between Napier and Wellington is the rural town of Dannevirke, accessible over the Saddle Road through the Te Apiti Wind Farm. Dannevirke boasts an interesting Viking on its welcome sign, due to the fact that the town was founded by Scandinavian settlers from Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Getting here and around:
Hawkes Bay Airport is located 10 minutes from Napier City and is well serviced by daily direct Air New Zealand flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Rental car companies, shuttle buses and taxi companies operate from the airport providing transport to destinations in Hawkes Bay.
Passenger cruise ships arrive at the Port of Napier predominantly over summer. Shuttles are available from the port to Napier i-Site.
Scheduled bus services connect Hawke’s Bay’s main centres to major North Island destinations. Coach/bus tours are also available.
Rental cars are readily available and the most flexible way of getting around.
Spring (Sep-Nov) – warming up with sunny days and showers clearing, 9-19°C; Summer (Dec-Feb) – dry and sunny days, 23-30°C; Autumn (Mar-May) – rainfall possible in east and south-west, 10-20°C; Winter (Jun-Aug) – wear a rain jacket, heavy rainfall, 11-16°C.