Napier in New Zealand is one of the most untainted Art Deco cities in the entire world. Visitors to Napier will enjoy the architecture preserved from the 1930s that sets Napier apart from other cities in the country. In 1931 an intense earthquake shook Hawke’s Bay for over three minutes. This catastrophe resulted in the deaths of two hundred and sixty people and the destruction of Napier’s commercial center.
During the reconstruction phase, the buildings being rebuilt began to take on the styles that were popular during the 1930s: Art Deco, Stripped Classical, and Spanish Mission. Louis Hay, the architect in charge of the building was a great fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, and it showed in his designs. Maori themes were used to add character, unique to New Zealand to the buildings.
Things to Do
Napier offers several activities for visitors to partake in.
Deco Bus Tour- Visitors can enjoy discovering and exploring the heritage of Napier from a minibus. The minibus is driven by a knowledgeable local guide and includes the Inner Harbor, which was raised from the sea in the earthquake of 1931, the National Tobacco Building, and Marewa, a suburb of Art Deco architecture. The tours are available daily and usually take about an hour and fifteen minutes.
Art Deco Vintage Car Tours- Visitors can enjoy reliving the style and allure of the jazz era when the city was rebuilt through a vintage car tour. Visitors will meet their driver, who will be dressed in the Art Deco era style. The driver will provide interesting facts and commentary as visitors are driven through Napier and the areas around it. During the tour, the driver will stop in Ahuriri to visit the National Tobacco Company Building, which is one of the most popular buildings in Zealand for photos.
Art Deco Guided Walk- There are three different tours for visitors to choose from.
· The 10 am tour lasts one hour and leaves from the Napier site. It is concluded with the optional viewing of a twenty-minute film on the earthquake of 1931.
· The 2 pm tour leaves from the Art Deco Center and is an extended walk that offers intriguing insights into the Art Deco style and the city of Napier. It ends with a short video and complimentary coffee and tea.
· The 5 pm tour is available from October to March and is a ninety-minute walk around Napier.
Art Deco Center- Visitors to the Center will learn about the history of Napier and the earthquake that resulted in the Art Deco style of the city. “The Day that Changed the Bay” is a film that visitors can watch on the Hawke’s Bay earthquake and is played ever thirty minutes. The center also offers a gift shop with a wide range of souvenirs to remember a visit to Napier with.
The National Aquarium of New Zealand- This aquarium extends along the Marine Parade of Napier. It houses more than one hundred land animal, freshwater, and saltwater exhibits from around the world. The Oceanarium features the diverse aquatic animals that call Hawkes Bay home. In other areas of the aquarium visitors can explore more native species to New Zealand and deep-sea and exotic reef fish from all around the world. There are tuatara, kiwi, and penguin enclosures as well as exhibitions on species of animals from the Americas, Asia, and Australia.
Church Road Winery- This winery is one of the oldest in New Zealand with over 120 years of experience in winemaking. Visitors can explore the history of Church Road and learn about the winery’s philosophy during the Church Road Winery and Museum Tour. The winery offers a Behind the Scenes Sensory Experience where visitors can sample wines from the cellar and learn how the wines of Church Road are crafted.
Cape Kidnappers- This is the biggest, most reachable nesting area on the mainland for gannets in the world. Gannets are part of the booby family and are distinguished through the light gold crown and black eye markings. Visitors can watch the gannets in their natural habitat as both the young and the adults nest in serred rows. Also, observable are Gannets performing their Gannet recognition ritual. Cape Kidnappers offers Gannet Safaris which guided trips to the colony and the only way to come within a few meters of them.
The many guided tours and other activities offered in Napier serve to educate not only children but adults as well.
Napier hosts special events throughout the year.
Art Deco Weekend- This festival is held during the third weekend in February. The city dresses up in its best Deco costumes. Vehicles and planes from the Art Deco era, jazz concerts, picnics, street dancing, and parades are just some of the events that happen. Food and wine are also served to celebrate the unique heritage of the city.
Food and Wine Classic- This is one of the best outings for food and wine with both a summer and winter festival. Visitors during this time will get to sample ample amounts of food and wine that has been foraged, sourced, fished, and blended in Hawkes Bay.
Napier and the Hawkes Bay area offer a variety of shops for visitors.
Silky Oak Chocolate Company- The Silky Oak Chocolate Company offers a variety of chocolates for purchase as well a museum gift shop in their museum portion of the building.
Simply New Zealand Ltd- This shop offers a variety of gifts, arts, and souvenirs from New Zealand. It has been in business since 1965.
Classic Sheepskins- Visitors can tour the tannery and buy products.
Napier offers a variety of dining options for visitors. Various winery’s offer wine and some of them offer restaurants.
Clearview Estate Winery- This winery is known for it’s full-bodied red wines, chardonnay, and its “red shed” restaurant. The restaurant specializes in brunch and lunch and includes a thorough season menu full of creative dishes using local produce form Hawkes Bay.