Although we were working for a large part of our stay in Hawkes Bay, we still had plenty of chances to enjoy all the local attractions. Staying with Allan and Rhondda meant we had access to top quality recommendations, so on our days off we had plenty to do. Napier itself is a charming city full of character (which isn’t all that common so far in New Zealand, I have to say!), and the surrounding country is beautiful. Here’s a run down of some of our favourites in the sunny bay.
Climb Te Mata Peak
Heading south past Havelock North is Te Mata Peak, which looms dramatically over the local landscape. We could see the peak all the way from our orchard near Napier. The tracks aren’t particularly easy to follow, but keep walking up and you can’t go far wrong! There’s lots of sheep along the way, although they didn’t offer much encouragement. We climbed the peak twice and from the top there are glorious views of the entire bay and of the Mahia Peninsula. Pick a clear day and after the steep slog up the views will be well worth it.
Relax at Waimarama Beach
We spent the Christmas period in Hawkes Bay, and we couldn’t resist visiting the beach for the novelty of eating mince pies in our swimsuits. We drove out to Waimarama on Boxing Day to eat Christmas dinner left overs, read our books and snooze in the sun. Waimarama is a wide, long and sandy beach, and was just how I imagined Kiwi’s would spend their Christmas!
Sample some of New Zealand’s Best Wine
I already wrote a post about the Bridge Pa Wine Festival, where we had the chance to taste many of Hawkes Bay’s great wines. We also visited our local Church Road winery for some Marzemino and a food platter; Black Barn winery for some brilliant open air cinema in an amphitheatre surrounded by grape vines; and Moana Park winery for some outdoor live music and crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Purchasing wine directly from the cellar doors actually isn’t that expensive, so you can get some really lovely wines without breaking the bank. It would be rude not to, really! Mission Estate winery, the oldest and one of the most famous, is just round the corner from Allan and Rhondda’s house, and we haven’t visited yet! We have saved it as something to do when we return to Hawkes Bay in a few weeks time.
Lose Yourself in the Art Deco
Every February Napier steps back in time, celebrating its cultural heritage and the way the city rebuilt itself after the devastation caused by the 1931 earthquake. The city already has nods to Art Deco in its architecture, but during the Art Deco weekend people flock to the city to enjoy retro music, to don their vintage gowns and to ride in some classic cars. The whole of Napier just oozes old fashioned class. We were so disorganised and didn’t manage to get a costume in time, and we hugely regretted it. We still popped on a nice frock (except Toby), and ventured into town for a glass of bubbly and to admire people’s wonderful costumes.
Visit the National Aquarium
Napier’s Aquaruim is brilliant. Situated right by the sea on Marine Parade, it’s a great chance to learn all about New Zealand’s marine wildlife and how to protect it, and if you’re there at the right time you can see the Little Penguins being fed, which is incredibly cute. It is also home to a couple of kiwis, which are notoriously difficult to spot as they only come out when it’s dark.
Swim under the Waterfall at Shine Falls
One weekend we went to Shine Falls, a large waterfall about an hours drive from Napier, with Allan, Rhondda, their niece Michaela and her partner Hazel. It was a short, shady and pleasant walk through wild bush to the waterfalls where we stripped off and cooled ourselves in the freeeeezing water. We took a picnic and enjoyed the sound of the gushing water for several hours before heading home.
Walk the Ahuriri Estuary
One day Toby and I fancied a walk so we set off from Allan and Rhondda’s to walk to Ahuriri via the scenic estuary. The entire estuary area (the walk took around two hours, so it’s quite large) used to be underwater before the 1931 earthquake, when the landscape of the area entirely changed. It’s an area full of wildlife and is a lovely way to spend a sunny day (of which there are plenty in Hawkes Bay). The walk ended in Westshore, where there are plenty of bars to quench your thirst.
Indulge in Local Ice Cream
An last, but most definitely not least, is sampling the famous Hawkes Bay Rush Munro ice cream. When someone new to the bay (mainly other backpackers at work) ask about what to do in Hawkes bay, we always ask whether they’ve had Rush Munro ice cream yet. Situated in Hastings, Rush Munro has been supplying the people of Hawkes bay with delicious ice cream since 1926. Banana was definitely top of the list for Toby and me, Grace liked the coconut dipped in chocolate, Rhondda likes the fruity Feijoa (a weird fruit I’d never even heard of before I came to New Zealand!) and Allan swears by the maple walnut.
All in all we had a wonderful time in Hawkes Bay, even if most of it was spent picking apples. It’s an area frequently neglected by organised tourist bus routes, which is such a shame. We will definitely be heading back to the bay before we leave New Zealand for good – we aren’t ready to say goodbye just yet!