Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of North Island in New Zealand is best known for the wines it produces, but even if you’ve little or no interest in wine, there’s so much else here that Hawke’s Bay is well worth a visit if you’re in New Zealand.
Rebuilt in the Art Deco style in the 1930s after an earthquake, Hawke’s Bay is also where the biggest celebration of the Maori New Year, Matariki, occurs. This happens in June and if you can time your visit to coincide with the celebrations, you’re in for quite an experience, with three days of music, song, dance, and food. Hawke’s Bay offers a wealth of sacred Maori sites. Hakikino, at Waimarama beach, is a 15th-century archaeological site with organised tours where you can find out more about Maori history and traditions.
An adventure through the wilderness
The Hawke’s Bay area is also ideal for walking and other activities. Ruahine Forest Park offers facilities for fishing, skiing, hunting, canoeing, and mountain biking. Of the many trekking trails, Sunrise Track is one of the most popular, offering superb views across the Hawke’s Bay plains. The Kaweka Conservation Park is another area of wilderness for those who want to get away from it all. A network of huts and bivouacs provided by the Department of Conservation is available to campers.
As its name suggests, Hawke’s Bay offers plenty of coastline and beaches to explore. The same climate that makes such great wine is also perfect for sunbathing during the summer months.
Napier is the Art Deco capital of the Hawke’s Bay area and fans of the style should visit in February or July for one of the festivals celebrating its Art Deco roots. Daily tours of the town are organised all-year round, however, with Marine Parade being one of the highlights. Attractions here include the National Aquarium of New Zealand, the only place in New Zealand where the brave (or foolhardy) can swim with sharks. Other highlights include Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery, the Ocean Spa Complex, the Pania of the Reef statue, and the Tom Parker Fountain. If you’re lucky you might even catch a live act at the Napier Sound Shell venue.
Wining and dining
The Hawke’s Bay region is a mecca for wine lovers, and its visitor information centres offer all the information you need for the various tours and tastings. Many wineries have restaurants and food events and some tours incorporate routes that allow you to experience much of the captivating scenery the area has to offer.
A golfer’s paradise
Hawke’s Bay is home to no fewer than five professional golf courses, mostly situated in and around the vineyards and wineries, so after a round or two on your favourite course, you can finish off the evening with a glass of wine or a meal. Cape Kidnappers golf course is thought to be one of the best in the world, although green fees tend to be lower at Cape Turnagain or Crownthorpe.