A weekend HawkesBaycation

Since getting back from the cruise around Southeast Asia, it’s been a bit of weird time – as I’m sure you’re all aware. We were lucky to escape the worst of Covid-19 while away, but it really took hold when I got back to Wellington.

In that time, I’ve moved into a place that’s not a hostel and I’ve been fortunate enough to have stable and safe work throughout a seven-week lockdown. New Zealand’s response has been fantastic, and that’s well documented, so I won’t go into it here.

Now, we’re at a stage where domestic travel can resume. While I’ve been happy with all the money saved, it’s time to start putting some of that back into the economy and explore some of this amazing country.

The first adventure? A trip to Napier in the Hawkes Bay region – also known as the art deco capital of New Zealand, and it really lives up to the name.

A new aesthetic

It was a six-and-a-half-hour coach journey from Wellington to Napier, although that did include an hour break in Palmerston North, and the same back. Compared to other coach trips, Greyhound in Australia and Megabus in the UK among others, it didn’t feel cramped at all. Part of that was the reduced capacity but also just more legroom in general. Flights were an option but at the moment, those are expensive!

Compared to Wellington, and other places I’ve seen in New Zealand, it was totally different from the first glance. The art deco style is obvious and adds a certain charm to the place at both day and night, although born of tragedy.

So much to do

There’s plenty to keep you busy in Napier and the wider Hawkes Bay area, although we restricted ourselves to just the city for this trip – it was only a few days after all.

The MTG is a great place to start, with plenty of exhibits to help you learn about Maori culture and the areas history, including the 1931 earthquake that devasted buildings and people. It must have been hard to imagine that disaster would lead to a stunning art deco look not seen anywhere else in the country.

Follow it up with a visit to the National Aquarium of New Zealand to learn more about marine life and see some absolutely amazing penguins! Believe me when I say they have plenty of character – check this little vid on Instagram for proof!

A penguin at the National Aquarium of New Zealand
A penguin at the National Aquarium of New Zealand

There are plenty of cool little shops that fit the theme of the city, guided tours, wine tasting tours and more to get on with, too, but don’t forget to spend plenty of time just walking around.

Taking in the sights

Wandering the streets of Napier will allow you to uncover some of the hidden gems, whether they be shops, bars or something else. Talk a walk down Marine Parade to keep the sea in view and enjoy the contrast of black sand against the sky – it can create some great views! If you have the willpower to get up for sunrise, plenty of locals told me it was stunning, but I didn’t manage it myself. At night, a lot of it is lit up, with fountains and the sound shell definitely worth checking out.

If you’ve got the energy, take the walk to Bluff Hill Lookout, swinging by the Centennial Gardens for a gorgeous garden and waterfall that’s almost picture perfect. The view from the lookout is remarkable, if dulled slightly by the docks just below. That doesn’t take anything away from the view beyond it, though.

It was a great long weekend break, although it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be bored if I stayed longer. Maybe I’ll head back one day and do more.

Until next time!

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