Before we get to all the cool architecture Napier has to offer, here’s a couple shots from Ahuriri, where we stayed for three nights. I’d highly recommend it as a peaceful spot to spend a long weekend, and it’s only about a thirty-minute walk (or five-minute drive) to central Napier.
And here’s our sleepy street, which I imagine will be built up as Napier sprawls out.
Monday morning, it was sadly time to say goodbye to our cozy cottage. We packed up and headed into Napier to do some exploring before the four-hour drive back to Wellington.
As I mentioned before, the Hawke’s Bay suffered a devastating earthquake in 1931, so much of Napier and its environs were rebuilt in the style of the day, Art Deco. To date, the 7.8 magnitude Hawke’s Bay Earthquake remains NZ’s worst natural disaster. The sea floor was lifted more than 2.7 metres, and the Ahuriri Lagoon and tidal flats were drained. Where we stayed would have been underwater at the time.
Despite the awful loss of life as a result of the quake, Napier has been left with a beautiful reminder of its resilience in all the unique architecture around town. The multitude of interesting buildings and 1930s vibe draw people from all over NZ and the world. There’s even a huge Art Deco Festival each year where everyone dresses up and drives old cars – basically Gatsby without the drama.
We started along Napier’s famous Marine Parade, where an enormous fountain takes center stage. Towering Norfolk Island pines separate the grassy seashore from the main road through town.
There, we met Pania of the Reef. Her story is the typical sea-maiden tale of falling in love with a land-dwelling human, forsaking her people, but eventually returning to her underwater kingdom. She’s believed to lie beneath the reef, where fisherman sometimes glimpse her long black hair.
You can see why this would be a great spot for promenading in your finest pearls.
Out to sea, the white cliffs of Cape Kidnappers were clearly visible in the distance, reminding us of our fabulous hike the day before.
This is a popular bike thoroughfare, and I couldn’t think of a better place for an easy ride.
We passed through the gardens, where I made Andy pose with giant succulents for scale.
And who could pass by this charming row of colorful houses turned shops, restaurants and B&Bs.
The Marine Parade had new surprises around every corner, like this whalebone work of art.
All this wandering caused us to work up an appetite, so we meandered inland for a good Easter Monday feast.
Old Napier shines through everywhere in this city, as long as you pause to look around.
There was even a giant Easter bouquet.
Stuffed and ready to hit the road, we made for the car, but were distracted by more architecture on the way.
The quintessential Art Deco scene was of course outside the Art Deco Centre. Where else?
As we said farewell and rolled out of town, the towering pines stayed with us as stoic sentinels along the road. They grew shorter and shorter as Napier shrank into the distance behind us, but it was wonderful to see that many more have been planted to one day join the ranks of their sky-scraping brethren.
Soon, they too disappeared.
The drive back was a mosaic of endless farms, each blending into the next. One plot in particular stood out, though. On the trip up, I’d noticed some startlingly purple hay bales and was determined to capture them on the way back.
Clearly Jimi Hendrix must’ve traveled to NZ and gotten his inspiration for one of his most famous songs here, right? Purple Hays? Yes, I’ll see myself out…
I hope you enjoyed your tour of the Hawke’s Bay, from gannets and penguins to murals and Art Deco. I’ll definitely be heading back again for more! What’s next? Your guess is as good as mine, but stay tuned. 🙂