5 Things to do in Hawkes Bay

The shore of the Hawkes Bay, Napier is a seaside city with a dramatic history and plenty to offer a visitor. The 'Fruit Bowl of New Zealand' produces wine as well as stone and pip fruit. Napier's twin town, Hastings, is a mere 11 km away.

1) Learn the History of Napier

Otatara Pa was occupied about 1400-1500, and despite quarrying destroying a portion of the original pa, there is still a substantial area of earthen structure ruins that can be viewed today. It is New Zealand and the rest of the world. Considered to be one of the best archaeological sites in New Zealand, on clear day views from the Pa site are incredible, even as far as Ruapehu on the Central Plateau. The township of Napier was founded in 1855 and was an unexceptional town until in 1931 when a tremendous earthquake devastated the region. 256 people died and most of the buildings were flattened, flooded and then burnt. The town was rebuilt in the style of the era- Art Deco, buildings which today give Napier its unique character. Tours of the Art Deco buildings are offered in Napier, and the guide will point out features you may not spot yourself. Buildings to look out for include: Masonic Building, Daily Telegraph building, Criterion Hotel, Deco Centre and the Temperance & General Building. Frequently the buildings have Maori motifs to decorate the structures. Check out the koru on the ASB Bank building.

2) Meet the Animals of the Hawkes Bay

One of the most advertised attractions near Napier is the Gannet Colony at Cape Kidnappers. As the world's largest colony of these large seabirds, with as many as 6500 pairs in this Gannetry, it is an awesome sight. The stark landscape and the breath-taking dives of the feeding birds make a dramatic scene. Visit National Aquarium of New Zealand, with over 100 land and aquatic animals from New Zealand and the rest of the world. Special experiences are available to enhance your visit and include close encounters with Sharks, Kiwi, Tuatara, Penguins, Alligators and Piranha. The latest attraction at the Aquarium is a display of Moa bones, being the second biggest species of Moa, a bird that could stand as tall as 3 metres. There is also Hawkes Bay Farmyard to visit, with baby farm animals making their entrance during spring. See sheep and lambs, cows and calves, pigs and rabbits. Pony rides are available, as are train rides.

3) Try the Produce of the Region

The sunny warm days of the Hawkes Bay weather promotes the growth of fruits, and at least 100 vineyards in the area produce quality wine. Chardonnay and Bordeaux are the wines of choice in the area and there are many options on which of the cellar doors to visit. Mission Estate Winery is the oldest vineyard in New Zealand, established in 1851, it terms itself as the birthplace of NZ wine, while Craggy Range was named best winery in the world 2014. Established in 1944, the Aratiki Honey Company runs over 20,000 hives throughout the country and their Visitor Centre features Bees and their life cycle, and the products made from honey wax, and royal jelly. A glass observation hive allows close observations of the bee's activity. Silky Oak Chocolates offer both a museum 'Chocolate thru' the Ages' and a factory experience, enhanced with tastings and samples of the tasty treat.

4) Visit and Explore Hastings

The 1931 Earthquake also hit Hastings hard, although it missed the tsunami that flooded Napier. A self-guided Audio Tour of Hastings leads you through the areas that were damaged and informs you about the effects of the quake and educates you with survivor's stories. The replacement buildings in Hastings are different from Napier with a 'Spanish Mission' character. The kids will have a ball at Splash Planet, but there is plenty for adults as well. With indoor heated pools, this attraction is year-round fun, with rides from the sedate Never-Ending River to the serious thrills of the Master Blaster. Celebrate the fruit of the Hawkes Bay at Pernel's Fruit World, with 12,000 trees and 87 varieties, including apples and pears as well as stonefruit. Tours of the working orchard offer a chance to see and understand the world of fruit production, both for the local market and for export.


5) Get Close to Napier

Get informed about the earthquake at the MTG Hawkes Bay (Museum, Theatre, Gallery). Together with the exhibition on the local disaster, there is a Tenei Tonu display, featuring collections of Maori treasures, such as 9 metre Waka (Canoe), and a display on New Zealand's giant flightless bird, the Moa. The museum complex is housed in a group of three buildings, the oldest of which dates from 1865. They stand on the Marine Parade, the foreshore of Napier which edges the Marine Parade Gardens and the famous bronze statue 'Pania of the Reef'. Pania is a mythical girl lured away from the land to the sea by her sea-man lover. Other features of the Parade include the Veronica Sunbay, and the HMNZS Tui's Anchor. The Napier Prison, one of New Zealand's oldest, was founded in 1862, has day and night tours. Follow the history of the inmates or explore at night to try and see a ghost.

BONUS: Art Deco Tour by Hawkes Bay Express

For a tour of Napier with a difference, grab a seat on the Hawkes Bay Express, a novel road train offering a trip into the past, and showing the best Napier has to offer.


Guided tour Napier Art Deco $55

National Aquarium of New Zealand Adult $20 Child $10

  • Close Encounters $70
  • Swim with Sharks or in Main Tank $100

Hawkes Bay Farmyard Zoo Adult $10 Child $7

  • Animal Food $1; Pony Rides $5; Train Rides $4

Silky Oak Chocolate 'Chocolate Thru' the Ages' Museum Adult $8.50 Child $4

  • Chocolate Factory tours Adult from $20 Child from $17.50

Hastings Audio Tour from $28.50

Splash Planet Super-pass Adult $29 Child $19

  • Swim only Adult $19 Child $13

Pernels Fruit World Adult $9.50 Child $4.75

Napier Prison Adult $20 Child $10 Ghost tours $25 pp

Hawkes Bay Express POA


*Please note: Prices listed here are for reference only and it might change without notice. We recommend you call or visit the attraction's website for current pricing

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