When you hear the words ‘Art Deco capital of the world’, where do you think of? Miami, Florida? Or somewhere in Europe, perhaps? What about Napier, New Zealand? No, we didn’t either. But it turns out that Napier actually has the highest concentration of Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical architecture of anywhere in the world.
This is all due to the city being practically levelled by a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 1931. This devastating natural disaster (still the most deadly in New Zealand history, killing 260 people) meant that much of the city had to be rebuilt. And so it was, quickly (within two years) in the contemporary style of the day, with added Maori motifs and flourishes that give the city a uniquely New Zealand look.
Art Deco Architecture Tour
The best times to see Napier in its full Gatsby glory is definitely February, when the Art Deco Weekend Summer Festival brings the town alive with a flurry of events, including a vintage car parade, masquerade ball, soap box derby and plenty of dinners, shows and family activities.
While the fabulous architecture and vintage style shopping draw plenty of visitors looking to put on the Ritz, Napier actually offers a whole lot more. Why not book a tour with Napier Classic Car Tours where you can experience Napier’s Art Deco culture while relaxing a chauffeur driven classic vintage car.
Plan a day trip to one of Napier’s many vineyards and sample some of the local wines. Hawke’s Bay is the oldest and second largest winemaking region in New Zealand, producing some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. There are many tours to choose from group tours to private tastings.
Napier is also home to the National Aquarium of New Zealand, Te Whare Tangaroa O Aotearoa. Explore the 1.5 million litre oceanarium from the safety of the viewing tunnel, or get up close and personal with the sharks, penguins or even piranhas (watch your fingers!) in an animal encounter. The aquarium is also your best opportunity to see the rare and native prehistoric tuatara, only found on offshore New Zealand islands.
White Water Rafting
If you’re after something a little more exhilarating, why not try your hand at rafting on the Mohaka River (around 40 minutes from Napier)? With river experiences to suit everyone from floaters and splashers to experienced grade 5 whitewater rafters, Mohaka Rafting offers visitors the chance to raft through pristine river gorges, with opportunities to swim and admire the scenery.
If you fancy dropping a line, join a Raft Fish expedition and discover an 18km stretch of the Mohaka River that is only accessible on the water. Choose from half day trips or extended tours of up to ten days, and try your hand at catching brown or rainbow trout.
Need an excuse for a tramp in the bush? Shine Falls offers an enticing reason. This stunning 58m drop horsetail waterfall (a pretty 90 minute drive from Napier) offers a 1.5 hour return trip to the falls, through farmland and past sandstone bluffs. It’s an easy walk with gravel, shaded paths, making it a great one for the whole family.
Accommodation in Napier
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay that’s in the heart of the action, Marine Parade is where it’s at. Quality Inn Napier is the perfect place to base yourself, with free parking, an all-weather indoor/outdoor heated pool, a range of comfortable rooms to choose from, and only a short stroll from the CBD.
Or, if you prefer somewhere a bit quieter, try the Econo Lodge in West Shore. Enjoy a cold one at the only on-site craft brewery in Napier, or perhaps a glass of local Hawkes Bay wine.
Whatever you decide, Napier will delight and entice, so be sure to leave enough time in your schedule to thoroughly explore this extremely special and utterly unique town.