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Napier - Hawkes Bay

  

Hawkes Bay

Often overlooked by the travelling and backpacking community in New Zealand, Napier is a beautiful town on the East Coast of the North Island. The original town was devastated by an earthquake in the 1930s, but has been rebuilt again in art deco style and is now a haven for foodies and wine enthusiasts, boasting some of New Zealand's best wine and cuisine.

The largest tourism draw to this little town is the wine. Hawkes Bay is the second largest wine region in New Zealand, and probably the most diverse. The area is a particularly good place for producing Syrah and Chardonnay, although a variety of different climates, soil conditions, and natural factors means that the area is producing almost every kind of wine you can imagine. New Zealand is most famous for it's Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough, but if you would like to expand your tasting palette past this iconic flavour, then Hawkes Bay is the right place, and you will immediately know that you are in wine country as soon as you enter the region as vineyards spring up all around you. From historic vineyards with tasting rooms in old churches at The Mission, to modern contemporary oceanside wine tasting at Elephant Hill, there is enough variety to satisfy even the most stubborn wine hater.
And what better way to enjoy wine than with some fantastic food? Hawkes Bay is also a large agricultural area, producing a lot of high quality vegetables and stone fruits, and often you can buy your produce directly from the guy who grew it in his back garden. Because of the local supply of such fantastic quality food, many nationwide famous chefs have set up their restaurants in Napier where they compete as friendly rivals to put out the most interesting and delicious food. From a five course degustation prepared by the fantastic Maori chef Jeremy Rameka, completed, of course, with matched wines and detailed descriptions by the knowledgable staff at Pacifica, to top quality barista prepared and perfectly presented coffee at Georgia's on Tennyson, you really can't go wrong with eating in Napier. Not only is there a meal for every taste palette, but it is likely to really exceed all expectations.
For those looking for something a little natural, while Napier and Hawkes Bay may struggle to keep up with the rest of New Zealand's exceptional standards, there are some wonderful hidden gems to discover. Te Mata Peak looks over the whole region and provides unbeatable views of both the sunrise and the sunset, as well as a plethora of small walking trails to suit all abilities, and also offers the option to drive to the top for those who are feeling a little more casual. To the north of the town there are walking tracks at Tongoio Beach and Tongoio Falls, and slightly further away you can easily access Shine Falls in the Boundary Stream Reserve. There is also a particularly good lookout at Bluff Hill which can be accessed from walking from the town centre or by driving which overlooks the busy container port and towards the north of the bay,
The architecture of the town is particularly unique as it is in the Art Deco style, in fact it is the second largest collection of art deco buildings in the world after Los Angeles. There are multiple tours where the guides will describe the history of the unusual and interesting buildings and will show you all of the highlights of the town. Every year, around the anniversary of the earthquake in February, the whole town celebrates with Art Deco Weekend, where everybody dresses up in vintage fashion and celebrates everything about Napier that makes it what it is. Vintage cars take to the streets, bi-planes decorate the sky, and the whole town is bursting with vintage jazz music, food and wine.
If you're looking to add a unique flavour to your New Zealand experience, and to dig a little deeper than most tourists who follow the geothermal route down the middle of the North Island, a stop in Napier is well worth considering. While a little out of the way, it is filled with surprises waiting to be unearthed.

 

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