Napier's fountain on Marine Parade. © Paul Carmona

Loved by the locals: Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay
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1. Marine Parade

On a sunny day, it’s easy to while away the afternoon strolling down Napier's Marine Parade. You’ll find a wide bike path, plenty of ice cream shops and a waterfront full of sights and activities, especially if you have children in tow.

Start at the Soundshell and head towards the National Aquarium, where you can admire kiwi and tuatara, see penguins being hand-fed and even swim with the sharks.

Along the way, you’ll pass the very helpful i-SITE, the sixties-inspired sunken garden and a kids’ playground and scooter track without compare. Best not to swim at the stony beach – the undertow can be lethal – head to the more sheltered Ahuriri for a dip instead, or enjoy a soak in the hot pools at Ocean Spa.

2. Hawke’s Bay Farmers' Markets

Hawke’s Bay’s food and wine producers come together at the Hastings showgrounds on Sunday mornings to tempt the locals’ taste buds.

From lush displays of fruit and veges and gourmet edibles to strong, hot coffee, fresh juice and bacon sandwiches, this carefully curated market (no tat for sale here) is a must-do.

A smaller Napier Urban Farmers Market takes place on Saturday mornings at the bottom of Emerson Street in Napier if you can’t make it to Hastings on Sunday.

3. Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony

A Cape Kidnappers’ tractor ride is a must-do for visitors and locals alike, sitting on a trailer towed along the stunning coastline from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers.

The friendly guides at Gannet Beach Adventures will regale you with tales of the region’s history and the geology of the spectacular cliffs on the way to view the beach’s two permanent gannet populations.

If you’re feeling energetic or watching the dollars, you can skip the tractors for a five-hour return walk from Clifton – just be sure to time the middle of your trip for low-tide. 

4. Birdwood’s Gallery and Sweet Shop 

This Havelock North-based gallery, café and sculpture garden is a charming little haven, and visitors of every age will find something here to enjoy.

The real jewel, however, is the old-fashioned sweet shop. Rows of lolly jars stretch to the ceiling in a quaint colonial cottage jam-packed with toys and treasures from years gone by.

Pick up a bowl, pop on a glove and help yourself to your favourite sweets, which the friendly staff will then bag and weigh. The hardest part is knowing when to stop.

In my happy place 🍬🍭😍 #lollies #omg #sweettooth

A post shared by LD Atienza (@ld.atienza) on Apr 24, 2017 at 7:09pm PDT

5. The Earthquake Exhibition at MTG Hawke’s Bay

The Napier earthquake struck on a summer’s morning on 3 February 1931, an almighty shake lasting two and a half minutes that killed hundreds of people.

The damage from the shake and resulting fires not only devastated the town and dramatically changed its landscape, it also left its mark on the region’s psyche. You won’t have to look far to find an earthquake memorial or an Art Deco-style building constructed in the rebuild.

The MTG, or Museum-Theatre-Gallery, near the Napier waterfront, hosts an excellent exhibition about the earthquake and its aftermath, and the Survivors' Stories film that plays throughout the day is a precious record well worth the time to view.

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