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5 Must-Do Things in Napier, New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 2 September 2011 | Views [9273]

Napier, fondly referred to as Napesville by many of its younger inhabitants, is an almost 60,000-person town, is on the East Coast of the North Island.  While it's not a big city, it has plenty of wineries, cafés, fruit, and Art Déco buildings.  The following is my view of the five most important things to do while you're in my backyard, Napier, and its environs.

Hire a car. 
In New Zealand, especially in small towns, we're not so good at public transport.  However, if you've got a car to cruise around in, you'll be able to see a lot more.  Plus, several of the things which I am now going to recommend will require, or be a lot easier with, a car.
If arriving by plane, there are several car hire agencies at the airport.  Othewise, the staff at the Napier i-Site on the Marine Parade will point you in the right direction.

Get up on a hill somewhere and check out the nice views. 
Take some fish and chips from 'The Frying Dutchman' with you for a real Kiwi experience.  I'd recommend either:
- heading up to the lookout on Bluff Hill,
- going up Sugarloaf in the suburb of Taradale (work it in with your visit to Church Road Winery and the Mission Estate),
- or going to Te Mata Peak in Havelock North.  I admit that Havelock North is not Napier, but Te Mata Peak is really worth a look, and it's only about 20 minutes' drive away.  Plus, you can go to Craggy Range winery while you’re there.
If you feel like being sporty, you could make an afternoon out of it, as there are walking tracks around all three of these sights.

Prove you were there: take photos with all the tourist attractions.
You shouldn't leave Napier without photos of yourself in the following places:
- In front of the Rothman's Building; every tourist in the city does it.
- Next to the statue of Pania; you're lucky to be able to see this icon, as she was stolen in 2005, but later found and reinstated.
- In the Soundshell; built in 1931, centre of many a celebration in Napier.
- The Art Déco McDonald's in Taradale; it's the only one in the world.
Bonus points if you can score a photo with 'Bertie,' the town's art déco ambassador, or a photo by the Tom Parker fountain lit up at night.

Go to a winery.
Napier, and the surrounding area, is full of wineries, so it would be a travesty to leave without sampling at least some.  There are plenty of options at the wineries: browsing the cellars, tasting, having a meal accompanied by some of that local wine…  You may even strike some live music.  If you can find someone who is willing to stay sober, this is a time when your hired car will come in very handy.  Otherwise, you can take part in an organised tour.
A few winery ideas:
Crab Farm, part of which is on land which emerged from the ‘estuary tidal waters’ after the 1931 earthquake,
Church Road Winery, popular for weddings, just in case you want to tie the knot while you’re here,
Mission Estate, NZ’s oldest winery, hosts a very popular annual concert,
Craggy Range, it took 10 years of searching for the owners to find the perfect place, and Vidal Estate, home of the oldest winery restaurant in NZ.
If you’re more of a beer-lover, you can go on a tour which includes our local brewery, and spend some time sampling and snacking at the Filter Room.
There are more wineries than this in the region, but it’s important to drink responsibly, so you’ll have to leave them for another visit.  Or, at least, another day.

Appreciate the Art Déco Ambiance.
In 1931, the region of Hawke’s Bay, and especially Napier, was hit by a devastating earthquake measuring 7.8 in magnitude.  As if that wasn’t enough, fires followed, burned for 36 hours due to the lack of water to extinguish them, and destroyed the buildings that the earthquake didn’t get. 
However, it’s an ill wind which blows nobody any good.  The decision was taken to rebuild the city in the Art Déco style which was in fashion at the time, as well as being cheap, and safer in the case of future earthquakes.  These buildings have now become an important part of Napier’s identity, and visitors can take tours of the city centre with a guide who will explain their history and architecture.  There’s also a self-guided option.
However, the best time to appreciate all things Art Déco in Napier is undoubtedly mid-February, during Art Déco Weekend.  You will truly feel you have stepped back into the ‘30s, as the town fills with period dress, vintage cars, air displays, trolley derbys, swing bands, and more!
As Bertie, the Art Déco ambassador, would say, “Well, chaps, pip pip!”

Tags: #blogyourbackyard, art deco, art déco, art deco weekend, hawkes bay, napier, new zealand, tourism, what to do in napier, wineries


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Moi, up Mont St Clair in Sète, with my wee Kiwi, Kingi.

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