Napier NZ, Stunning Art Deco Architecture and Hawke’s Bay Wineries

dscn1246dscn1279The three-hour road trip from Gisborne to Napier went quickly, with hundreds of bends as Route 2 picked its way through the rolling hills. The prevailing speed limit out-of-town is 100kph but with frequent restrictions, often down to 50kph around bends. A unique feature of NZ roads is the incredible number of road signs. We were surprised that the countryside here was yellow in summer and not green – it reminded us of Cyprus, where we live.
We arrived at our seafront, Napier motel at noon, on the off-chance that we might be able to check-in early. We were promised 1.00PM, so used the hour to explore the city. Our motel was on Marine Parade, one of Napier’s top attractions – it was Sunday and a long weekend, so it was very busy. We  visited the Bluff Hill Lookout, another attraction, with stunning 360 degree views but unfortunately the prevailing view is down on the container port. But we found a quiet bench and had our picnic lunch.
Napier is famous for two major attractions, the Art Deco architecture and the nearby Hawke’s Bay wineries. We quickly unpacked and set out to explore the Art Deco architecture. We bought an excellent self-guided walk from the I-Centre for NZD10. Art Deco identifies the name given to the decorative style gestating from 1905 but becoming increasingly popular through the twenties and early thirties. Unfortunately, in 1931 a major earthquake caused huge damage in central Napier. When the city centre was rebuilt, many of the buildings were in the popular Art Deco style. In the afternoon, we completed the seafront part of the walk, including Marine Parade, Hastings Street and Herschell Street. Whilst some of the buildings were listed and very attractive, many had lost their beauty or needed some TLC, so we were just a tad disappointed.
Next morning, we completed the tour of circa seventy buildings. This time, we were in the city, mainly exploring Emerson Street, Tennyson Street, Market Street and the city centre parts of Hastings Street. It was sunny, with the sun over the sea, so most of the buildings were quite stunning.
Open this link to see the best of our photos of Napier’s Art Deco architecture.
We decided against a tour of the Hawke’s Bay wineries and with New Zealand’s strict drink-drive rules also chose not to complete our own tasting circuit by car. Instead, we went the Mission Estate Winery (MEW), for lunch. For some stunning photos, in the public domain to set the scene, open this link. MEW was established in 1851 by pioneering French Missionaries – it’s New Zealand’s oldest winery and birthplace of New Zealand wine. The restaurant was set-up outside, under large umbrellas and canopies, high on a hill with lovely views – it was hard to believe that the temperature was circa  30 degrees C in the city. Looking at the dozens of tables, we imagined life in the twenties and thirties – the setting was quite colonial really. But we were at home, dressed in shorts and t-shirts – modern NZ is is very casual. We had fresh mussels as a starter, with Marilyn taking duck and Alf a filet steak for the main course, all washed down by double expressos. And of course, we both had two generous glasses of estate wines! The lunch will be a special memory of NZ, just like a dinner in a well-known Marlborough winery nine years ago when we visited New Zealand’s Southern Island.
In the early evening, we crossed Marine Parade and followed the sea path to the end, just before the port and back to the motel. For some public domain photos of Marine Parade, open this link. Our visit to Napier was a success.
Next we’re off to the capital, Wellington, for three days, so please stay with us.

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