One of the most pleasant cities in New Zealand, Napier has unusually managed to retain much of it’s past, in particular the many art deco buildings built after a devastating earthquake in 1931. It also makes a good base for exploring the Hawke’s Bay region, one of the sunniest in the country, famous for it’s food and wine.
A good place to start is the surprisingly large MTG Hawke’s Bay, an excellent free museum with an eclectic range of exhibitions, from the obvious on the earthquake, to an unexpected samurai suit of armour.
The museum sits across the road from the beautiful Marine Parade, a 3km stretch of seafront filled with things of interest, including the Veronica Sunbay, Sound Shell, Tom Parker Fountain (best when lit up at night), Sunken Gardens, and the Napier Reef Garden.
It is also home to the National Aquarium of NZ, which isn’t huge but is nicely presented with a varied range of species, including unexpectedly very much not aquatic kiwis.
A huge number of the 1930s art deco buildings have thankfully survived and fill the city centre.
Waiapu Cathedral is built in art deco style but dates from the 1960s, replacing a temporary cathedral which lasted nearly 30 years. It is apparently home to one of the finest pipe organs in New Zealand, but on none of my three visits to Napier were the cathedral doors open.
St Patrick’s Catholic Church is the other large church in the city centre, with an expansive interior.
On my last visit time in July 2020 there was significantly more street art than I’d previously seen, a great addition.
The best views of Napier are from Bluff Hill Lookout, particularly of Napier Port, the second largest exporting port on the North Island thanks to the region’s huge agriculture industry.
At the base of Bluff Hill are the Centennial Gardens, an attractive spot with a man made waterfall.
Heading out of the city there are some wonderful places nearby, including the Otatara Pa Historic Reserve, which I mostly missed due to a Google Maps error, but what I did see was stunning.
As was the view from the wind swept Te Mata Peak.
My favourite place in the Hawke’s Bay region though are the fabulous and very photogenic Pekapeka Wetlands.
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