Tucked away in the East of New Zealand’s North Island, the Hawkes Bay is often overlooked by the hurried visitor. Wrongly so, as it is one of the most magnificent places this country has to offer. The last decade or so has seen the quaint valley transforming itself into a hub of arts and food. There are 80 wineries in the Hawkes Bay region. However, it is quality, not quantity, that sets the area apart. Lose yourself among swaths of vineyards carpeting green hillsides and fuel up on some glorious summer sun. If fine food doesn’t quite do it for you, you are in for an intrepid treat as you venture out into the lush surroundings, gateway to Te Mata Peak, Te Urewera, and Lake Waikaremoana. The many scenic tracks will keep any globetrotter happy for days. Whether you opt for an idyllic cottage stay, a grand wine estate or a tent in the midst of Kiwi rainforest, the soothing qualities of Hawkes Bay do wonders for all.
As usual, click on the bold headings and a second tab with the Google Maps location will open for your convenience.
Cape Kidnappers It was the year of 1769 when Maori traders seized Captain Cook’s Tahitian cabin boy who they thought was being held against his will. When Cook’s men fired on the Maori canoe, the cabin boy escaped the kidnappers and returned to the ship. Today, Cape Kidnappers is not only home to this story and some of the area’s best views but two more monumental sights well worth the hike or half-hour drive from Hastings or Napier.
Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony Right up the top of the Cape’s dramatic cliffs, you have the rather unique opportunity to make friends with gannets. Yes, that’s right. Cape Kidnappers hosts the world’s largest, most accessible mainland gannet colony in the world. Get there overland with Gannet Safaris or by tractor along the beach. The season starts early September and goes right through to April.
Cape Kidnappers Golfcourse Set 140m above sea level with vistas no less than spectacular, there is no surprise this golf course was ranked in the world’s top 50 by the International Golf Magazine. Click here to find out more.
Mahia Peninsula Paradise awaits right on the Northern tip of Hawkes Bay. Stay for a couple of days and fuel up on life.
Te Mata Peak Grab your mates, take a picnic and connect with Mother Earth as you walk along the giant Redwood forest up the cliff until you reach Te Mata Peak. If walking up a cliff doesn’t get you excited, no need to worry as there are plenty of walking tracks for all levels and ages.
Waipatiki Beach Another one of these paradisiacal New Zealand beaches not too many seem to know about. If you’re lucky, you might just get to enjoy it all by yourself.
Shine Falls A gentle one to two-hour return walk through the Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve guides you to the region’s highest waterfalls (58m, to be precise).
Napier Albeit being the region’s largest town, Napier feels equally laid back and refreshingly unique. Its fine-food kitchens and Art Deco buildings are reason enough to spend a fair amount of time wandering the streets. If you need some guidance, the local Art Deco trusts offers excellent twice-daily walking tours departing from the Art Deco Shop or the Napier i-SITE Visitor Information Centre on Marine Parade.
Waimarama Beach A 20-min drive from Havelock North, past the spectacular Craggy Range winery, yet another perfectly laid out beachside Wonderland gives space to do nothing much and dream away the day. Once all Vitamin D levels are replenished, it’s time for some history. Waimarama is also home to Hakikino – where there was once a mighty fortress protecting a settlement of several thousand people. You can book tours of this historic site in advance with Waimarama Maori Tours, which will provide great insight and understanding of the traditional ways of life and the rules by which those indigenous to New Zealand live.
Lake Waikaremoana The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk within Te Urewera is classified as one of the best scenic walks in New Zealand. The full track is 46 km long and takes three to four days to conquer. Te Urewera is the North Island’s largest remaining tract of native forest, and is not only of utter importance regarding its physical presence but also its spiritual meaning to the Maori people. Meaning so impactful that New Zealand law has come to represent it. The former national park has been granted personhood with its river system expected to follow suit very soon. Maori mindset understands their geographic environment to be part and parcel of who they are.
Birdwoods Gallery & Sweet Shop Art and candy make for a perfect match in this picturesque rural setting.
Wineries Church Road, Millar Road, Moana Park, and Mission Estate are all excellent wineries. For an overview of everything that’s on offer, click here to view the official Hawkes Bay Winery map or ask around to find the perfect match for your palate.
Hawkes Bay Cycle Trails In an effort to balance out those extra long lunches, a ride through the charming vineyards is a good start.
Morere Hot Springs Let the ancient hot (and cold) sea water do its magic while you continue with our Hawkes Bay theme of sheer relaxation.
all vegan-friendly, although it always pays to call beforehand to be extra sure
Bistronomy [Napier] There is a reason why this one-year young eatery continues to sweep up all kinds of culinary awards.
The Kitchen [Napier] Napier’s only vegetarian cafe delivers breakfast and lunch high in flavour, variety, and creativity.
Wright & Co. [Havelock North] Fresh, local and tasty.
Little Black Bird [Hastings] Raw Jaffa Cakes and flavour-packed salads are what Little Black Bird lunch dreams are made of.
Most wineries offer divine local foods to go with their wines. Book in advance.
Speciality supermarkets are plentiful in the region. If you are staying in an apartment, I would highly recommend going for a spree at one of the local markets (below) and browsing Havelock North, Hastings and/or Napier stores for local goodness.
Hawkes Bay Farmers Market Hawkes Bay was once marketed as New Zealand’s fruit bowl. It is said abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and everything in-between that crowds flock down to the Sunday farmers markets for. Rightly so!
Napier Urban Food Market On Saturday mornings (9am – 1pm), foodies shall be found devouring local freshness and stocking up on groceries in Napier.
Hastings City Night Market Grab a bite to eat while browsing locally made arts and crafts every Thursday evening (5pm-9pm) during summer (starting Oct 1).
Air NZ Hawkes Bay Marathon Take in the region’s highlights, with flat easy running through local cycle trails, vineyards, olive groves, and quiet country roads. Next date: 13 May 2017.
Tremains Art Deco Festival In late summer, Napier and its people take it upon themselves to live up to their city’s glorious Art Deco influences. On the third weekend of February.
Hawke’s Bay Toyota Winter Deco Weekend A weekend of Art Deco celebrations held each year in late July.
Millar Road This was easily one of the best stays away from home I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. A separate article is to follow and will be linked here.
Get There and Around
Fly into Napier, Palmerston North or even Wellington and rent a car to best experience the hidden corners of Hawkes Bay.
When to Go
While the summer sun attracts most visitors (and events), any time is a good time to visit Hawkes Bay.
Ever fancied seeing a 10m long sign for the longest place name in the world? Here is your chance. Head 5km down the track from 510 Wimbledon Rd, Route 52 and take it all in. Every single letter. Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapiki- maungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.
I hope you can make great use of my Quick Guide to Hawkes Bay. Click here to see my Hawkes Bay photo diaries.