Napier city guide
Classy Napier is ‘Food and Wine country’s’ showpiece. The attractive city is framed by the sea, cliffs and a dazzling waterfront. Norfolk pines march along a marine parade with brightly painted houses heralding the arrival into town. Victorian facades are rare in a town where devastating fires, the result of a major earthquake, destroyed much of the town’s buildings.
Art deco Napier emerged out of the burnt remains of the earthquake, complete with soft pastel colouring. Napier is home to several significant museums, art galleries, established parks and gardens. The busy Napier port remains a key transport highway for a premier food bowl economy. Town and country merge creating fertile ground for a fusion cuisine. The joy of edgy menus in innovative cafes and restaurants truly supports the ‘food and wine country’ motto.
7 TOP SIGHTS
- Art Deco architecture & period attractions. The style’s surface embellishment draws heavily on early modern art and continues to captivate our attention. Get into your flapper dress and enjoy the vibe of the heady pre-war period.
- Marine Parade amble visiting National Aquarium, Soundshell Pavilion and Sunken Garden. This is a promenade for everyone with dancing in ground water features, playgrounds, lookout points and a beach / town landscape. The perfect location for the marriage made in holiday heaven, takeaways / fish n chips at the beach.
- Sea walls street art walking trail from Napier Prison to beaches and lookout points. The art works narrate the story of the location, the people and the history of Napier. The core message is about the fragility of the marine environment and the importance of sustainability practices.
- Nearby vineyards are a flat easy bike / walking trail past cafes and small villages. Wineries are wrapped around small villages creating a magical holiday experience. Apples feature in crisp fresh cider drinks and craft breweries buffs will not miss out either.
- Food experiences where Aotearoa NZ ingredients meld into creative dishes. The bounty of the Hawke’s Bay is realised in award winning restaurants, roadside stalls and creative foodie talents whisking up sauces and dressings from limes, figs and the fruits of the season.
- Summer exploring the great outdoors from parks, beaches to scenic vistas. The diversity of the scenery invites visitors to lace up the tramping boots and explore from Bell Rock to waterfalls and rock pools.
- Immersive Maori heritage & archeological tours explain the importance of the stars to the navigation stories of early east Polynesians. You will be introduced to the native plants and their role in traditional medicine and as a food resource.
BEST TIME TO GO TO NAPIER
- Summer charms include stable warm summer weather ideal for leisurely brunch / lunches in vineyard courtyards and cafes facing the sea
- Spring is when the bounty of orchards, gardens bloom and the lush landscape is aptly described as the ‘fruit bowl’ of New Zealand
- Autumn foliage, less crowds and wine harvests
- Winter with its brisk breezes and rain offers visitors the chance to visit the fascinating museums, galleries, cafes and shops that abound in the area
Weather in Napier
- Summer, dry warm consistent weather
- Winter is crisp with blue skies and moderate rainfall
- Spring and autumn are distinctive seasons creating a lush landscape as well as encouraging new shoots on vineyards and orchard trees laden with fruit buds
Hawke’s Bay rivals Nelson for the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand. The climate is Mediterranean. Warm temperatures year round with characteristic long dry summers and mild winters. In winter the temperature seldom drops below 10c.
MUSEUMS, HERITAGE ATTRACTIONS IN NAPIER
Marine Paradelearn more
National Aquarium of New Zealand - KIDS FRIENDLYlearn more
Art Deco Tourslearn more
Napier prisonlearn more
Faraday Centre Hawke's Bay Museum of Technology - KIDS FRIENDLYlearn more
Sea Walls artists for oceanlearn more
MTG Hawke's Bay - KIDS FRIENDLYlearn more
Otatara Pa Historic Reservelearn more
MARKETS & SHOPPING IN NAPIER
Opossum World - RETAIL THERAPYlearn more
Napier CBD is a shopping havenlearn more
Napier Urban Farmers' marketlearn more
FESTIVALS IN NAPIER
Art Deco Weekend Festivallearn more
New Zealand International Film Festivallearn more
Summer concerts, Summer intertainmentlearn more
NIGHTLIFE IN NAPIER
Warm summer evenings create an outdoor / indoor flow to the bars and nightclubs of Napier with the long twilight lasting until 8.30 – 9.00 pm. Napier’s Marine Parade is a destination for night owls with the lit Norfolk pines, the beacon guiding you to dancing backlit fountains, strings of lights around the gardens and the softly lit ocean viewing platform.
Vineyards and wineries offer night entertainment:
- Moana Winery is a well known local vineyard hosting regular gigs and live music
- Godsown Brewery introduces visitors to their craft beers to the beat of live entertainment
Ahuriri has a reputation for bars with dance floors and live music:
- ROXOF nightclub, Roxof Night Club (Formerly known as The Harpoon Room) at The Thirsty Whale Bar is the place to party from 10.00pm till late. Meet up with friends and enjoy a night of Hip Hop, Drum & Bass and Ministry of Sound.
- The Main Room at The Thirsty Whale in Ahuriri, Napier has the top 40 hits as well as a wide range from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s to dance all night long. Non-alcoholic drinks available as well as a wide selection from the bar.
Napier is home to several nightclubs and bars:
- The Three Doors Up and Fourth Door Bistro combine the sound of an acoustic guitar softly playing, accompanying a well thought out menu and relaxed courtyard atmosphere. The well ventilated venues are a local favourite.
- MONICA LOVES. An inviting laneway heralds the entrance to a tapas style bar and live music venue. The bright neon sign, “Who shot the barman?” is a sure indicator you’ve found the right place. Cocktails and local craft beers are a speciality.
- EMPORIUM EATERY & BAR (MASONIC HOTEL). A definite Napier art deco atmosphere from the cocktail lounge with its plush furnishings offering light bites and bar menu, cocktails and locally sourced drinks to the adjacent Emporium lounge with dining under the spell of the 1930’s.
ROMANTIC MOMENTS IN NAPIER
Soft dusty pink or perhaps duck egg blue invokes romantic images of a bygone era. Napier is a city where romance is woven into the city. There are numerous nooks and crannies to spend quiet moments together. The array of foodie destinations from world class wineries to craft brewery pubs nestled in a rural landscape offer plenty of places to choose. There are walks to explore Bells Rock where extraordinary limestone formations provide a great photo opportunity or a day at a Napier beach watching the container ships pass by as you laze on the sheltered sandy beach. Read more Romantic moments, things to do in Napier and get inspired about your next weekend escape destination.
GARDENS, PARKS & RESERVES IN NAPIER
BEACHES IN NAPIER
PORT SANDY BEACH
A Napier hot spot for locals north of the Napier hill with views of the busy port. The beach is reminiscent of Mt Maunganui’s Pilot Bay. The sheltered beach is dotted with jet skiing, swimmers and lifeguards in summer. There are public outdoor showers, changing rooms. Port Napier has set aside safe swimming in the designated zone inside the orange buoys.
AHURIRI ESTUARY & BEACH (NAPIER)
Immerse yourself in the story of a wetland, discover fun at a safe, sheltered beach and pop over the road to the many cafes and restaurants for a coffee. Don’t worry about a picnic lunch, it’s sorted. The pretty little beach and the boardwalk leads to Spriggs Park playground.
Read more about Hawke’s Bay beaches, where to go and things to do.
THINGS TO DO WITH FAMILIES IN NAPIER
Napier city has a number of attractions designed for the young at heart. For outdoor enthusiasts the wider Hawke’s Bay beaches and outdoors offers plenty of walking tracks to waterfalls, rock pools and extraordinary rock formations. Check Hawke’s Bay regional guide for more holiday inspiration for families and kids.
SPORTS FIELDS – MACLEAN PARK
McLean Park is a sports ground in Napier, New Zealand. The two main sports played at the ground are cricket and rugby union. It is one of the largest cricket grounds in New Zealand and, together with brilliant summer weather, is an international favourite for cricket lovers.
Joy. Imaginative jumping, climbing or sliding apparatus. A flying fox, swings that rock sideways and round and round and functional artwork that is tactile with braille messaging. There are water play areas and drums to create sounds. On the weekends local kids have model boats in the ponds. The park also has mature shady trees, flat easy paths perfect for impromptu family picnics and community events such as concerts, festivals and markets.
8 ideas to get the kids into the holiday spirit…
- FARADAY TECHNOLOGY CENTRE appealing to everyone young at heart. Jump into the driver’s seat of a vintage tractor and pull the knob to start or answer the telephone in a vintage bright red phone booth.
- National Aquarium travelator 50 metre journey through an underwater viewing tunnel that takes you through the centre of the 1.5 million litre Oceanarium is a highlight
- Marine Parade playground complete with a road system the waterfront is the place for kids of all ages to hang out. The Junior bike track for kids near the Napier Playground both have road safety in mind meaning spills are not a problem. Kids are introduced to stop and go signs, traffic lights and give way signs with not a car in sight.
- Swimming in the Ocean Spa complex at the end of the Marine Parade with its views of the city and ocean
- Par2MiniGolf on deco drive is crafted to offer the challenge of curves and long greens against art deco features and coastal native plantings. Kids will enjoy the water hazards as they put their ball. There are views of Cape Kidnappers and the ocean.
- Hire a bike, the city has two great offerings for kids. The Cycle Pump Track is at one end of Marine Parade. The pump track has a series of rollers and berms creating speed for the rider without pedalling. The pump track is cleverly designed for a wide range of skills, abilities, and ages. Kids can bring their skateboards, scooters and scooter riders too. There’s seating for parents and toilet facilities.
- Join an art deco tour designed for kids with the Napier earthquake walk a highlight
- Napier prison tour for kids with the super scary bits edited out is fun, especially when little fingers are asked for their fingerprints. The kids will hear the story of the resident cat ghost, Basil.
- Former historic Borough Council Building is now the Creative Arts Centre and manages school holiday programmes encouraging kids’ creative talent
- Silky Oaks Chocolate Factory Find a chocolate factory, cafe and shop. Silky Oaks Chocolates, Taradale, is home to a chocolate factory, chocolate shop and factory as well as a cafe where all things chocolate are served.
Check out … Things to do for free in the Hawke’s Bay.
WALKS IN NAPIER
Art Deco Napierlearn more
Bluff Hill Lookoutlearn more
Historic Napier Cemeterylearn more
Ahuriri estuary walklearn more
Hawke’s Bay offers a wealth of walking tracks. Read more, Walks – North Hawke’s Bay and Walks – Central Hawke’s Bay. Explore heritage gardens, stunning rock formations, swim in lakes and rivers to cool off after a warm summer’s day and enjoy the coastline and beaches.
Napier’s neighbourhoods from Taradale where McDonalds is nestled in an art deco building to Ahuriri estuary boardwalk and art deco architecture are definitely worth a visit. Shopping in repurposed warehouses for collectables, homeware and original objects or a leisurely lunch by the waterfront is the makings of a great holiday memory moment.
The local suburb has a village main street vibe. The main shopping street is a mixture of second hand stores, up market clothing stores, delis, bookshops and cafes. There are a number of significant art deco buildings to view …
- The original Taradale Town Hall was destroyed in the Napier earthquake. The Town Board raised a £2500 loan for the rebuilding of the Hall. The re-opening was held over 3 days starting on the 27th July 1932 when the new hall, built in the new Art Deco style, was officially opened by W. E. Barnard M.P. concluded on Friday with a grand ball.
- Check out the current National Bank building and the square art deco clock on the top of the building
- Criterion Art Deco Backpackers is Hawkes Bay premier hostel. The Criterion is Napier’s largest Spanish Mission / Art Deco style building. Built as a luxury hotel in 1932 and it is one of the most photographed Art Deco buildings in Napier. The Criterion continues to offer accommodation to backpackers.
SELFIE MOMENT AT MCDONALDS
- Taradale Hotel is now a McDonalds. The only McDonalds located in a heritage art deco building
- The Taradale and District Soldiers’ Memorial survived the earthquake and is still in its original location just down the road from our motel location on Gloucester Street. The memorial was completed in 1923 after a £9,000 loan was approved. The loan also paid for the widening of Gloucester Street, the construction of a women’s rest, and the purchase of Taradale Park.
AHURIRI – NAPIER SUBURB
Traditionally offered shelter and food resources for the Maori inhabitants and in the nineteenth century was the site of the town’s harbour and industrial heartland. The 1931 earthquake forced the relocation of the port with the decline in warehousing; the area is now experiencing a new lease of life. Today Ahuriri renaissance sees repurposed warehousing into retail outlets, shops and art stores. While Ahuriri architectural layers reflect the history of Napier, revitalised Ahuriri is a place of relaxation and entertainment. A quintessential weekend destination for visitors keen to relax at the many cafes makes Ahuriri a popular choice.
NATIONAL TOBACCO BUILDING
Ahuriri is home to the well known, numerous Instagram photos National Tobacco building 1932. Perhaps it is the region’s most beautiful art deco building with motifs of art nouveau. Roses, bulrushes (native raupo) and grapevines are elegantly positioned around the curved entrance. Unmissable grace and it once was the headquarters for Rothman’s.
Check out Weekend in Napier – Best Bits for couples and families who need a break from the bustle of daily life. WESTSHORE beach and coastal shared cycling and walking is a great place for summer outdoors. Being adjacent to Ahuriri means bikers are sure of a coffee on their next stop.
Ahuriri former tram shelter on the corner of Battery and Shakespeare Rd restored facade is part of the Ellison & Duncan building and a great place for a photo.
Hawke’s Bay Tours, “Experience real New Zealand Maori culture with a unique insight into a day in the life of a Maori elder. Kaumatua are the elders in Maori society, and are respected for their knowledge of tribal history and traditions. They are the keepers of the accumulated history of the tribe. Their guidance is often sought on all manner of topics in daily life as well as ceremonial matters of Maori tradition. There is an excellent gift shop with one of a kind crafted artisan goods.
MAORI NAVIGATION (POLYNESIAN MIGRATION & PACIFIC OCEAN)
On your way to Waimarama visitors will enjoy an opportunity to examine a celestial compass and learn about ancient navigational tools. Star Compass, the spectacular ATEA A RANGI STAR Compass, is one of Hawke’s Bay’s latest waterfront attractions. Similar to Stonehenge the stars are a critical navigation map for polynesian seafarers. More than 220 stars were used by early Māori for navigating, and the star compass is a traditional way of referencing them to help seafarers get their bearings.
DAY TRIPS FROM NAPIER
Napier is an ideal base to explore the wider Hawke’s Bay Region. Unpack the bags and explore the mellow village atmosphere of Havelock North or spend the day in Taradale on the art deco trail. A day trip to Hastings for kids and family members, New Zealand’s popular water park, Splash Planet is a holiday success story.
CAPE KIDNAPPERS AND THE GANNETS
A popular day trip exploring the headlands and the gannets, ocean birds whose nesting site is a canopy of sound, distinctive bird odour and enough gannets for photo moments. CAPE KIDNAPPERS is a must-do tour for visitors where you get to meet the locals on their sharp, barren clifftop home. The spectacular rock formations are impressive. Gannet Safaris offer a guided tour that takes guests for a comprehensive, yet fun look at the cape and the Gannets themselves.
TE MATA PEAK
A culturally significant hilltop with extensive walking trails. Havelock North, Hawkes Bay activities, things to do & see is a great location to explore nearby Te Mata Peak with a cafe stop in the village afterwards.
EXPLORE MARAETOTARA FALLS
Approximately 15 minutes drive from Havelock North is the well known falls and swimming hole. There is additionally a heritage walk to a former power station.
BELL ROCK (North Hawke’s Bay)
It is a breathless upward climb to a limestone formation with extraordinary shape and form. Check out Walks – North Hawke’s Bay for details.
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TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
Hawke’s Bay Regional Guide has a series of regional heritage trails. This is a fabulous resource with a detailed description of each trail included as part of the guide.
GETTING AROUND NAPIER
Napier is a regional town with a scattered infrastructure making it difficult to get around the town without some form of personal transport. A rental car or bike is recommended.
Cycle your way through the weekend with Takaro Trails Tours operating self-guided cycle tours, mountain biking packages and bike hire from their Ahuriri base. Tours range in duration from a few hours to several days. Arrange with Takaro Trails to deposit e-bikes or manual bikes at the East Pier hotel for your weekend use.
Takaro allows visitors to explore the Hawke’s Bay Trails at their own pace. Choose from the following self-guided day tours along easy, flat cycle pathways to world class wineries or just ride to relax and enjoy the amazing Hawke’s Bay outdoors. Takaro offers pick-ups from accommodation and will collect weary cyclists from pre-arranged locations.
Napier is the home of Hawke’s Bay regional airport 8 km north of the city centre. There are regular domestic flights from major New Zealand centres. There is a shuttle service from the airport.
Arrives and departs from Clive Square bus depot with connections to Hastings.
GoBay bus service connections between Hastings and Havelock North run several times a day. Local buses are fitted with bike racks.
HOW TO SPELL THE NAME OF A PLACE?
Hawke’s, Hawkes and Hawke…
Hawke’s Bay – apostrophe or no apostrophe? James Cook, who came up with this name in 1769, first recorded it as ‘Hawke’s Bay’. A day later he used ‘Hawkes Bay’, and the official map of the voyage uses the latter form. In those days spelling and punctuation were often inconsistent. Despite the fact that apostrophes are discouraged in place names, Hawke’s Bay became the official name for the region because this form was used in early statutes and official documents. Even so, many people spell the name without an apostrophe. Further complicating matters, the bay itself is called Hawke Bay, following conventional naming practice.
BOUNDARIES – HAWKE’S BAY
Hawke’s Bay is a long tract of land, bound by mountain ranges to the west and north, coast to the east, and the similar landscape of Wairarapa to the south. The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council covers the Wairoa, Hastings and Central Hawke’s Bay districts, and Napier city. The area from Woodville, near the Manawatū Gorge, to Norsewood is now officially part of the Tararua district. However, it has strong historical links with the rest of the region and is commonly seen as southern Hawke’s Bay.
From Hawke’s Bay region
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