to See and Do in Hawke's Bay
Key information for the intending
visitor to Napier, Hastings, and Havelock North
click image for a larger map
Hawke's Bay has
something for everyone, and good weather and beautiful
scenery for all.
The Hawke's Bay region
is centered on the twin cities of Napier and Hastings.
of a series on travel to and in New Zealand -
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column for more articles.
Most visitors to New Zealand
never go to Hawke's Bay, which is perhaps a compelling reason
for you to visit!
You'll be immersing yourself in
a more genuinely New Zealand part of the country and culture,
and an area of great beauty and with wonderful weather for most
of the year.
Why Visit Hawke's Bay
The undiscovered secret that is Hawke's Bay is clearly indicated
by the need to have a 'Why Visit Hawke's Bay' section - no
justification is needed for places such as Rotorua and
Queenstown, but fewer international visitors know of Hawke's
Bay. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, and this web
page, you're now joining the elite few who are 'in the know'.
Indeed, the lack of international tourists is one reason to
visit. The region is much less 'sophisticated' (or,
perhaps, much less spoiled) by the presence of international
tourism, and you're getting a much more genuinely New Zealand
experience, in shops, on the streets, in restaurants and bars, and in the places you'll
It is conveniently located more or less in the middle between
Wellington and Auckland, and if you're planning on traveling
between these two cities anyway, it isn't a huge detour to swing
through Hawke's Bay as part of your traveling.
You'll find a relaxed life style, good weather, beautiful
surroundings, lots of wineries, some fascinating architecture,
plenty to do, and will have the pleasure of venturing off the main tourist
trail through the country, widening your experience to encompass
some of the 'real' New Zealand.
Hawke's Bay bills itself as the country's leader in food and
About the Name
Confusingly, the body of water to the east of the Hawke's Bay
region is called Hawke Bay. But the region as a whole is
known as Hawke's Bay.
In case you wondered, it was so
named by Captain James Cook while sailing on his voyage of
discovery around New Zealand in October 1769; he named it for
Sir Edward Hawke, a prominent naval commander and then First
Lord of the Admiralty in England.
Getting to and from Hawke's Bay
Hawke's Bay is located on the east coast of the North Island,
more or less half way between Auckland and Wellington. But
because it is not on the direct route between the two main
cities, many people bypass this lovely area altogether.
Hawke's Bay is easy to get to and include in your New Zealand
itinerary. It is four hours drive from Wellington (200
miles Napier to Wellington), and three hours to Rotorua (140
miles). Auckland is 260 miles away, about a six hour
You can get to Hawke's Bay by rental car, scheduled
inter-city bus service, by air, or as part of a tour - either a
formal tour of NZ or a short mini-tour taking you only to
Train service used to run from Wellington to
Hastings and Napier, and extending on further north to Gisborne.
First the Napier up to Gisborne part of the service was
cancelled, and then a few years back, service to Hastings and
Napier was also cancelled. There are no plans for it to be
If you're driving yourself, we recommend you break a
journey to/from Auckland with a stop for a few nights in Rotorua.
If you're traveling to/from Wellington, you can easily
travel between the two areas in a single day, making only short
stops en route rather than adding any overnight stays.
If you're spending an extended amount of time in New Zealand,
you might want to consider adding Gisborne into your travels
between Auckland and Hawke's Bay.
If you're flying, there is one main airport in the area, on the
northern side of Napier (city code NPE).
Traveling around Hawkes Bay
We suggest you should consider having a rental car for your time
in Hawkes Bay. It is much easier to independently travel
around if you have a car, than if you're forced to rely on
infrequent public transportation, taxis, and if you're limited
only to tour options that include pickup/return to/from the
accommodation you're staying at.
A Quick Overview of Hawke's Bay
As you can see from the map at the top, there are two main
cities in Hawke's Bay - Napier and Hastings, located about 15
The region does extend as far north as Wairoa, and as far south
and inland almost as far as Dannevirke, but these are very small towns with
little to see and do in them, and most people will sensibly
choose to stay in the Napier/Hastings area.
Where to Stay in Hawke's Bay
Although Hastings has the slightly larger population, Napier is
by far the better city to stay in. Hastings is landlocked,
Napier is on the water. Hastings is flat, Napier has a
lovely hill to add character to it. Hastings has limited
shopping, Napier has much better shopping.
There is one other place to consider when looking for a place to
base yourself. This is Havelock North, a lovely little
town on the slopes of Te Mata Peak, a distinctive hill that
dominates much of the surrounding area.
Havelock North - the locals refer to it as 'the village' - is an
easy going lovely little town, with some nice restaurants,
plenty of wineries nearby, and conveniently close to both
Hastings and Napier. It makes for a wonderful base from which to relax and
recreate during your time in Hawke's Bay.
If you follow our advice, you'll probably choose to stay in
either Napier or Havelock North. In Havelock North most of
the accommodation is motel style accommodation, with some bed
and breakfast operators and some unexciting hotel choices too.
In Napier you have a wider range of accommodation styles, and if
you're staying in Napier, you might want to consider staying
somewhere with an ocean view. One of the better known
larger hotels with ocean views, right in the city centre, is the
Scenic Circle Te Pania Hotel. An art deco style hotel
with history and 'character' to it is
also very centrally located. The rooms are by no means
luxurious, but you might find it an interesting place to stay
One other interesting hotel in Napier is
the first class/deluxe
Hotel. This is in one of the very few buildings that
survived the earthquake, and is the former Hawkes Bay County
Council Building, erected in 1909.
If you choose to stay at a place with an ocean view, you'll
almost certainly be separated from the ocean by a moderately
busy road, and so you should ensure the property has in room air
conditioning so you can stay cool in summer without needing to
open the windows and be bothered by traffic noise at all hours
of the day and night.
Or for a very different type of experience, you could stay in
one of the more rural bed and breakfast establishments,
including very upmarket places such as
Mangapapa Lodge, or a
similarly upmarket ultra-deluxe boutique B&B on 'the hill' in Napier,
There is nowhere of particular interest or appeal to stay at in
If you stay in Havelock North, you should choose one of the
motels close to the center of the village so you can walk into
town for meals. There are several to choose from, with our
favorites being the
Motel and the
Consider motel choices
If you're staying a bit longer, consider staying in a
motel, the same way most New Zealanders do.
New Zealand are not the cheap and sleazy places with rooms rented by
the hour that Americans often associate with the word 'motel'. Instead they are usually of a high standard, and
offer some cooking facilities and possibly separate bedroom(s)
as well as a living area. A motel typically doesn't have
an on-site restaurant, although some motels will bring you
breakfast in the morning to your room.
Motels are great if you want to spread out in a more spacious
unit, and if you would like to be able to store and serve some
Motels are generally less expensive, per night, than hotels, and
offer more living space in their units.
Many motels belong to a national rating system called 'Qualmark'.
Look for a motel with a Qualmark rating of at least four stars
as an indicator of good quality.
There are many motels to choose from, throughout Hawke's Bay.
How Long to Stay in Hawke's Bay
To enjoy the essence of Hawke's Bay, you want to relax and take
it easy. For that reason, we recommend three nights as the
minimum time to stay there. Of course, you can stay for a
shorter length of time if you wish, and equally you can stay
Typically you'll arrive into the area in the afternoon of the
first day/night, and so if you are staying three nights that
gives you two full days plus the balance of the day you arrive
and some of the morning you depart to enjoy the area.
What to See and Do in Hawke's Bay
There is plenty to see and do in the region, and one of the
valid activities to do is 'nothing at all' - just relaxing and
enjoying the beautiful area.
The following list represents activities that we have on our own
personal 'must do' list, and which other people have generally
found to be high quality experiences, too. Use this as a
suggested starting point for planning your own time.
Napier - Art Deco
New Zealand is very geologically active, and small earthquakes
are quite common in much of the North Island.
Occasionally, there is also a large earthquake, once such being
a 7.8 magnitude quake on 3 February, 1931, centered 10 miles
north of Napier, and lasting 2½ minutes. 525 aftershocks
were recorded in the two weeks that followed.
256 people were killed, more than 400 hospitalized, and
thousands more had minor injuries. Nearly every building
in both Napier and Hastings was destroyed, and more than 15
square miles of sea became dry land as a result of a 6 - 9 ft
rise in ground levels. The current airport is on part of
this new land.
Many of the buildings that weren't completely destroyed by the
earthquake in Napier were attacked next by fire. The
earthquake had destroyed the city's water supply, and fires,
aided by a breeze off the sea, burnt down much of the rest of te
As a result of the devastation caused by this earthquake,
Napier's entire downtown area needed to be rebuilt, which it
duly was, and predominantly in the style of the period - Art
Deco. Hastings was also rebuilt with a mix of Art Deco and
Spanish Mission styles.
We residents of Napier tended to take the Art Deco buildings for
granted in our city, and indeed many of them became dilapidated
with the passing of the years. But then some foresighted
person realized that Napier offered one of the most complete
'frozen in time' tableaus of Art Deco style architecture of
anywhere in the world, and the city has proudly restored many of
the buildings and now features them prominently as a tourist
attraction. There are various guided and self guided walks
and tours offered, Art Deco festivals in February of each year,
and other themed activities. Details can be found
Napier - Classic Sheepskins
As a New Zealander myself, I tend to take some things for
granted about my home country. One such thing is sheep.
NZ currently has a population of about 4 million people and 60
million sheep - there are sheep everywhere (almost).
As well as sheep everywhere, so too are sheep products - meat
and wool items being the most prominent. I was reminded of
this when leading a tour of Travel Insider readers to New
Zealand. As a 'filler' I included a stop at a company in
Classic Sheepskins, allowing people to tour through a
tannery to see how sheepskins are processed, and then to browse
through their gift shop.
To my surprise, this was one of the highlights of the tour, and
almost every person staggered out of the gift shop with lots of
purchases. Prices seemed very fair and quality very good.
The company is in an unassuming building, in an industrial
district close to Napier's port. It might make a fun type
of 'different' thing to see/do as part of your Hawke's Bay
experience, and you could follow it up with a wander around the
port of Ahuriri, currently undergoing a massive revival and
gentrification, and perhaps a meal or drink at one of the nice
Havelock North - Te Mata Peak
On a clear day the view from Te Mata Peak is breathtaking, with
wonderful views over the entire Hawke's Bay region. Now
that the road is sealed all the way to the top of the Peak, it
is an easy drive, but take it slowly and carefully, especially
around the corners, and be on the lookout for stray sheep on the
There are some walks that you can enjoy around the hill -
there's a map and starting point by the cattle stop below the
restaurant as you drive up. And talking about restaurant,
Peak House Restaurant, much of the way up, is a lovely place
for lunch and dinner [update, 2010 - it seems they are not
serving dinner any more, just lunches, morning and afternoon
teas]. You can eat outside on their deck as
well as inside, with good food and fair prices.
An interesting adjunct to the restaurant is the owner's
Barbeque Gourmet cooking courses. As well as courses
that are held once a week for five weeks, he also has intensive
weekend courses that would be more suitable for visitors only in
the area for a short time, and single three hour workshops.
Regional Wine Trails
Hawke's Bay is a wine lover's delight. There are some 70
wineries in the region, and you can readily put together your
own self-drive wine trail, or you can go on a wine trail tour
(and leave the driving to someone else).
It is hard to recommend specific wineries to visit, because most
of them are good.
One of my favorites however is
Clearview, founded and owned by a former schoolmate of mine,
Tim Turvey. They are best known for Chardonnay wines that
are almost overwhelmingly intense, and they also have an
excellent on-site restaurant, open for lunches but not dinners.
Close to Clearview is Kim Crawford Wines, and if you're going to
Clearview, you'll enjoy a stop at Kim Crawford too.
Another notable winery is New Zealand's oldest winery
(established in 1851),
Mission Estate. It was the first winery in New
Zealand, and for a very long time the only one to make a methode
champenoise sparkling champagne style wine, and is owned by the
Marist Brothers - a religious order (also known as the Society
of Mary). Now wholly a winery, but still owned by the
Marist Brothers, the winery offers tours twice a day of the
former seminary building.
Close to Mission Estate is the
Road Winery, which also has a wine museum.
The best way to plan a wine trail of your own is to get a wine
trail map from any of the Tourist Information centers in Hawke's
Bay (or download a pdf copy from
here) and then decide which part of the region you want to
tour. The region west of Hastings is particularly well
suited for a lazy afternoon's touring through several lovely
wineries in the Gimblett Gravels, Roy's Hill and Triangle areas.
If you're staying in Havelock North, you've plenty of wineries
close by to your east.
If you look south across the bay from Napier (great views from
the Bluff Hill lookout) you'll see the white cliffs of Cape
Kidnappers. This beautiful area is notable for having the
largest mainland gannet colony of anywhere in the world, and a
safari along the beach to where the gannets live is a wonderful
way to spend half a day. You can either walk (but not at
high tide) or take one of the organized tours (here's
one such tour operator).
The gannets are best seen between about early November and late
February, and the colony is closed between July and mid October
You are never very far from the water in Hawke's Bay, but
surprisingly there aren't many classic beautiful beaches.
Much of the beachfront has stones rather than golden sand, and
perhaps the best beaches are to be found at Waimarama and Ocean
Beach, both situated east of Havelock North.
Other Sights and Attractions
There are plenty of other things to see and do in the region.
For example, you might like to visit the
Arataki Honey factory just out of Havelock North - founded
in 1944 by two brothers, the better known of whom is Sir Edmund
Hillary, the first man to climb Mt Everest (you'll see his
picture on the NZ $5 bill). Sir Edmund Hillary, born in
1919 and still going strong, is without a doubt one of the
greatest New Zealanders ever, and is a man of highest
principles. His honey is very good, too.
Close to Arataki is the
Cheese Company. This company makes its own cheeses
from fresh cow, sheep and goat milk; it probably isn't worth
making a special visit, but if you're in the area with spare
time, it is an interesting short stop - or a longer stop on a
nice day if you choose to sit at one of the outside tables and
enjoy some fresh cheese and perhaps a glass or two of wine to go
Just around the corner from the Te Mata Cheese Company are a
couple of the more esteemed restaurants - the
Black Barn Bistro (open for lunches only, Wed - Sun - and
there's a farmer's market on site on Saturdays, too), and
Range Winery's Terroir restaurant, described by Conde Nast
Traveller magazine as offering 'a meal as close as you can get
to perfection'. Terroir serves lunches and dinners most
days of the week.
There are several good golf courses, some with very reasonable
green fees in the area. Fishermen will enjoy fishing in
the Tuki Tuki or one of the other nearby rivers. And if
you're feeling very adventurous, consider parapenting (aka
paragliding - sort of a cross between a parachute and a hang
glider) down the almost vertical east face of Te Mata Peak.
A less threatening form of air travel is a hot air balloon ride,
offered out of Hastings. And a sedate form of ground based
travel is to ride a bicycle - much of the region is flat, making
it ideally suited for bike riding.
For more information
See this website - the official
Hawke's Bay Tourism website - for
more information about Hawke's Bay.
More About NZ Touring and
information on other destinations to visit during your NZ
travels will be coming in future articles in this series.
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2 Mar 2007, last update
30 May 2021