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A Napier cruise stop is famous for a couple of things, including the 1931 earthquake that essentially razed the city to the ground. From the disaster, locals rebuilt the city in the style of the day: colorful, bold art deco. As a result, Napier has a completely different vibe to other cities you’ll pass through on your New Zealand cruise. In fact, Napier even hosts a huge and colorf art deco festival each year to celebrate the city as a living monument of the 1920s and 30s.
Don’t miss the Napier Seawalls, a district of local street art highlighting the talents of local artists. Beyond the center of town, Napier is a gateway to winery tours and elegant tastings at local vineyards in Hawke’s Bay, making it an ideal stop for wine enthusiasts and would-be sommeliers. Napier manages to be just the right amount of outdoorsy, offering adventures like a trip to the Bluff Hill lookout, or to majestic Cape Kidnappers, which is home to the world’s largest colony of the quirky gannet bird.
It doesn’t take long to reach Bluff Hill Lookout, which offers one of the best views of Hawke’s Bay unfolding before you in the distance. It’s a half-hour walk from the center of Napier, and the top of the lookout point clocks in at nearly 335 feet high making a great spot to take photographs of the lovely 360-degree views. Just looking at the bay’s blue waters will soothe and relax you. It’s a steep walk to the top, which is refreshing for very active travelers, but many take the option of a car to the lookout point instead.
Every Saturday, the Napier Urban Farmers Market on Emerson Street immerses locals and tourists alike in the food, community, and culture of Napier and the productive Hawke’s Bay region. Veggies, fruits, fresh-baked breads and pastries, and more are offered here. Wake up early to stroll through the farmer’s market with a coffee, stopping to talk to vendors along the way. You’ll feel like a local.
Animal lovers shouldn’t miss out on a visit to the locals living at the National Aquarium of New Zealand while on a Napier cruise. The aquarium is renowned for well-kept habitats like Penguin Cove - home to little blue penguins, and the oceanarium tunnel with sharks, stingrays, fish and other local marine life. Spend a morning here admiring New Zealand’s most special species including the flightless kiwi and the ancient tuatara reptile. The aquarium is open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm.
From 10am to 5pm, the MTG Hawke’s Bay hosts some of the area’s best, most thought-provoking arts and cultural events. “MTG” in this case means “museum, theatre, and gallery,” and this museum really achieves this rare trifecta. There are permanent exhibits, like ones devoted to the history of Napier and the 1931 earthquake, but the shining stars of the MTG are usually the rotating, seasonal art exhibits and shows. The venue offers an ideal peek into the rich cultural fabric of New Zealand.
You might be surprised to learn that Napier and the Hawke’s Bay region are home to the world’s largest gannet bird colony at Cape Kidnappers. Hatching season starts in November and birds leave their colony in May, so the spring and summer months are the best months to witness the nesting process. Bird watchers, rejoice!
Hawke’s Bay is internationally renowned for its wine region, and some of the area’s biggest wineries are based just beyond Napier. A booked excursion, a private car, or a taxi are a few ways you can travel around to different regional wineries. There are over a dozen just beyond the city limits, and though you won’t have time to visit them all, you can certainly take in a few.
One of Napier’s biggest draws is the personality of its downtown and frozen-in-time quality, harkening visitors back to the 1920s and 1930s. The art deco buildings in central Napier make for a visually appealing walk where you’ll appreciate the city’s architecture, like the Art Deco Centre or the repurposed stores along Emerson Street.
Three Doors Up
Address: 3 Waghorne St, Ahuriri, Napier 4110, New Zealand
Come to Three Doors Up, open evenings from 5pm for a romantic, French bistro-style vibe mixed with New Zealand inspired dishes. Whether you’re looking for locally sourced, panko-fried scallops, the steamed duck buns, or the restaurant’s take on a T-bone cut served with garlic butter, Three Doors Up is upscale but approachable.
Address: 47 Tennyson St, Napier, New Zealand
For a relaxed lunch out in Napier, head to Mister D, a classic eatery that calls itself both “country” and “rock ‘n’ roll”. It’s a refreshing, down-to-earth café where you’ll shake hands with locals and regulars. The cheesy eggs are a cult favorite here for breakfast. Mister D bakes its own bread and pastries each day, as well as makes all its pastas by hand.
Te Awa Winery Restaurant
Address: 2375 State Highway 50, Hastings, New Zealand
Te Awa Winery has a restaurant that wants to quickly become Hawke’s Bay’s best dining experience. The lunch menu, which is available from 10am to 3pm, includes small and large plates, cheese and charcuterie boards, desserts, and all the classic espresso drinks. But where Te Awa shines is that it takes risks with food pairings. Think dishes like smoked eel with watercress, or slow-cooked lamb shoulder with cumin salsa and parsley.
Address: 40 Hastings St, Napier 4110, New Zealand
The modern sleekness of Bistronomy’s atmosphere gives the restaurant an air of mystery and sophistication. The dishes offer creative spins on classics using seasonally sourced ingredients, but never right on the nose of what you’d expect. Try the polenta fries with paprika aioli or the smoked beef carpaccio served with a Bloody Mary sorbet.
The Maori settled into the Napier area of New Zealand in the 12th century, and European and British influence came much later in the 1850s. Few destinations share in the tragic but meaningful history of Napier, New Zealand, where an earthquake destroyed the city in 1931. Residents had to rebuild Napier quickly and from scratch, which is why the architecture of the area reflects the era’s art deco style. In recent years, Napier has come into its own as a tourism destination thanks to its quirky style, and a vibrant food and wine scene fuelled by a productive fertile region that also happens to produce some of New Zealand’s best wines.
The port isn’t very walkable, so shuttles will take passengers into the city once they arrive on a Napier cruise to the i-SITE Visitor Center, where you can ask one of the helpful attendants questions about navigation and activities. It’s about a mile and a half from the port to the city center. Both shipping and cruising are big industries at the Port of Napier because the port opens up New Zealand’s best wineries and thriving vineyards to the rest of the world.
Getting around while on your Napier cruise is a breeze when you use the bus system. Route 13, for example will get you to Taradale, which is where many of the local wineries are based. Beyond the cruise port, the city is also fairly walkable. When your cruise ship berths in the Port of Napier, you’ll be ushered via a free port shuttle to the center of Napier. Of course, taxis and rental cars are also an option, and most take both cash and credit cards.
Head down Emerson Street in Napier for the largest concentration of shops and boutiques that offer everything from men’s fashions to souvenirs. It’s a memorable street known for being lined with towering palm trees and colorful art deco architecture. Of course, wine stores are a must-stop in Napier. Don’t forget to bring back a bottle of Bordeaux or Chardonnay from your New Zealand travels. They make great gifts for friends and family back home. For shoppers looking for markets and fresh produce, the lovely Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market is a short 20-minute ride from the center of Napier.
Use the official New Zealand dollar when you’re traveling on your Napier cruise. Tipping your taxi driver isn’t necessary, but it’s polite to leave a 10% gratuity for waitstaff and bartenders. Keep a close eye on the exchange rate as New Zealand is known for being relatively expensive for international travelers. ATMs are readily available in the city, and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere you go.