Napier Soundshell, showcasing the city's Art Deco style.

Hawke’s Bay: in search of the good life


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Hawke’s Bay isn’t on the way to anywhere – it takes a deliberate choice to discover its delights.

Whether you come to Hawke’s Bay to explore the beaches and bush, to indulge in the region’s food and wine pleasures or to cycle the ever-expanding network of easy-grade cycle trails, you won’t regret your decision to venture east of State Highway 1. 

If arriving from the north, you’ll first start to relax when you see the sparkle of the wide-reaching ocean from the top of the Napier–Taupō highway.

The temperature climbs rapidly as you descend into the North Island’s fruit bowl, cruising through the orchards and vineyards. 

Do stop at a roadside stall or two to stock up on the local produce. The seasons can be marked through those changing orchards: spring blossoms and summer fruit, to autumn leaves and the bare branches of winter. Somehow it’s always a surprise to see the pink and white buds peeking through again each September. 

Eating and drinking is almost a national pastime in Hawke's Bay and the range and quality of restaurants and cafés shows how much locals appreciate food. Always fresh and focusing on seasonal ingredients – why wouldn’t you if the best is at your doorstep? – it’s not hard to find an award-winning restaurant or vineyard to visit. The Food and Wine Classic (FAWC), held each year in June and November, offers over 80 outstanding dining events. 

If you like a glass of the good stuff, Hawke’s Bay’s wineries are unmissable. The region’s Bordeaux-like climate and wide range of soil types have nurtured vines since the 1850s, making this New Zealand’s oldest wine region. The area is famous for its full-bodied reds and complex Chardonnays, and for good reason.

Most months there’s a festival or sports event on, including a growing number of marathon and multi-sport events. The Sotheby's Hawke’s Bay Marathon first led runners through the vines in 2019 and will be held again in May 2022.

The Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival each October offers world-class theatre to the region, and the well-established Art Deco Festival each February in Napier brings locals and visitors alike out in force in their 1930s glad rags. Most residents have an Art Deco outfit or two in their wardrobes or at least a string of beads and a cloche hat to look the part.

You won’t regret joining the crowds admiring the vintage cars and marvelling at the acrobatic flying display from the Airforce’s World War One planes.

Hawke’s Bay is is also home to an eclectic crowd of artists and artisans. David Trubridge is perhaps the best known; check out the Hawke’s Bay Art Guide for lists of the many craftspeople dotted about the region who are well worth a visit. 

While you're here, do give yourself enough time to explore the long, wild beaches and lush, green bush walks; a trek or drive up Te Mata Peak in Havelock North is a great way to get your bearings. While you’re there, take a moment to enjoy some of the local bounty you collected from the fruit stalls when you first arrived and breathe in deeply that fresh Hawke’s Bay air.

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