Napier, New Zealand
We didn’t arrive in Napier until 11 AM, which is later than typical for a cruise ship visit. All aboard was at 10:30 this evening, giving everyone plenty of time to explore the area.
Napier is the Art Deco capital of New Zealand. Much of the city was destroyed February 1931 when the area was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Since most of the buildings were destroyed two architectural firms banded together to organize the reconstruction of the city. The architectural styles that were popular in the 1920s and early 30s, chiefly Art Deco and Spanish Mission, were predominantly used for rebuilding Napier and the surrounding areas. The city hosts an annual Art Deco festival that attracts thousands of people from around the world.
During my research for this port I discovered the Art Deco Trust, a company that supports the preservation of Art Deco architecture in Napier. They offer a variety of items of tourist interest for Napier and the surrounding area. I ordered the Art Deco self-driving tour which they mailed to me in San Diego for a few dollars. (The map is not available for download.) The self-driving tour describes a tour covering 90 km, which would take about two hours to drive without any shops.
Note: I couldn’t find a car rental company that would pick me up at the dock nor did I find one that was downtown. Since the airport is only a few miles away, I decided to take a taxi to the airport and use the rental car agencies there. All the major car rental agencies are located at the airport and I made a reservation at Avis. Taxi fare to the airport ended up costing about $25 New Zealand each way. Getting a taxi to and from the airport was easy.
Even though we were relatively close to the city, we were moored in a working port and had to use the shuttlebus to leave the dock area. No one was permitted to walk out. As it turned out, the shuttlebus took us to the center of town, right by the Tourist Information center. This was much more convenient than had they dropped us off right outside the gate to the dock.
The bus ride took about 10 minutes, with buses leaving about every 20 minutes after the early wave of continuous bus service that handled the initial surge of guests.
Visitor Information Center
The Visitor Information center was well staffed with about four clerks and numerous racks filled with a wide variety of tour brochures. The information center doubled as a gift shop, offering a nice selection of souvenir items. The visitor center closed around 5 PM, so even though bus service will be continuing until 10:30 PM you will want to make sure you shop here before heading out on any tours.
There is a restroom next to the visitor center, but there is a $.20 cent fee, so it is helpful to have some local change available before you arrive. We always enjoy playing miniature golf, and there was the miniature golf course adjacent to the visitor center, but we didn’t have time to play a round here.
After we finished shopping in the Visitor Center, we were ready to head to the airport to pick up our rental car. I was surprised that there wasn’t a taxi stand nearby but the clerks in the Information Center will call a taxi for you. Our taxi arrived in a few minutes.
Renting the car
Fifteen minutes later we arrived at the airport and entered the terminal where the car-rental counters are located. Completing the paperwork for the AVIS rental car was a breeze and we were soon on our way. We were traveling with Rick and Margaret and because of my familiarity with the tour route I asked Rick to drive while I did the navigation. We didn’t rent a GPS for the car but used the MAPS.ME app on my iPad. The MAPS.ME map provides turn by turn directions and was more than sufficient for what we needed today.
The self-driving tour starts back at the Visitor Center, so we headed there after we left the airport. Our first stop however was not on the tour route but at a nearby popular attraction known as Bluff Hill. Bluff Hill is probably about 300 feet above the surrounding terrain at the end of a very narrow winding road. The bluff overlooks the port of Napier providing a spectacular view. The Amsterdam was moored in the port and we had a terrific view of the ship from this vantage point.
If you are in the mood for a hike, you could walk to the top of Bluff Hill from the Visitor Center. There are also numerous vintage cars in the Napier area that operate as taxis and offer tours in addition to basic transportation.
The Art Deco self-driving tour route includes stops at four different wineries. If you would like to visit wineries in addition to seeing the various examples of Art Deco architecture, this tour has something for everyone. The self-driving map is available HERE . It cost me US$2.61 to have it mailed to me in the USA. There is a self-guided walking tour available as well.
National Tobacco Company
After Bluff Hill, we continued the self-driving tour route. One of our first stops was the National Tobacco Company building, built in 1933. This building is Louis Hay’s masterpiece and was inspired by the work of Chicago architect Louis Sullivan. At one point, the building was open to the public during working hours, but no longer. We went into the Urban Winery next door and talked to the proprietor. If we had lunch there and enjoyed some wine, she said she would open the National Tobacco Company building and take us inside. We had a long drive in front of us so we had to decline her offer and continue on our way.
Mission Estate Winery
We continued the tour route for another half an hour or so, enjoying a variety of views and different buildings before we stopped at our first winery: The Mission Estate Winery. The Mission Estate Winery is New Zealand’s oldest. It’s housed in a refurbished historical seminary building. Here they offer wine tastings in addition to lunch at the restaurant. The restaurant was closed today due to a wedding reception that was already in progress when we arrived. The grounds are beautiful, and we enjoyed wandering through the old building, but we didn’t take part in the wine tasting.
We bypassed two other wineries in route to our stop in the neighboring town of Hastings. Hastings is a small town with a very compact downtown area that features some Art Deco architecture and some very interesting looking streetlamps.
It was past our lunch time, so we decided to stop at a restaurant called the Breakers. There was a large sign on the roof of the restaurant featuring a $14 Sunday Roast and Sundae special. Since this was a Sunday, most everything else was closed in Hastings except for a few restaurants.
The restaurant was almost empty. Menus were available at the bar and once we were ready, we ordered from the bartender and they brought the food to our table. We both ordered the Sunday special and an order of the fish and chips. Service was prompt and the food delicious.
Arataki Honey Center
Continuing, we headed towards Te Mata peak, but since it was almost 5 o’clock we headed to the Arataki Honey Center first since they closed at 5 PM. The Arataki Honey Center has some nice exhibits that shows how honey is manufactured and processed. Along one wall, they have some bee hives behind a glass wall and you can see the live bees buzzing around. The queen bee has been marked with a blue dot, making her easier to spot.
Four honey tasting bars are set up and ready to handle the larger crowds from the cruise ships. It was almost closing time, so we had the place to ourselves. I never paid much attention to the various types of honey before, so I was a little surprised that there was so much flavor variation between all the honeys that were available for sampling. We were in and out in less than 20 minutes, but you could spend 45 minutes here if you wanted to read the signs on all the exhibits.
Te Mata Peak
We left the Arataki Honey Center a little after 5:00pm and headed toward Te Mata peak which rises to over 1300 feet above sea level. The road to the peak is two lanes until the last kilometer where it is about a lane and ½ and quite winding. I thought that there would be no way that the large tour buses could get to the summit, but I found out later that the large tour buses do manage to negotiate the narrow road.
Clear skies offered a spectacular 360-degree view of Hawkes Bay and the surrounding area. A bride and groom were posing for pictures on a small rise nearby, while many other tourists and locals enjoyed the view. There were two areas with ramps made for hang gliders to start their flights but we didn’t see any one flying while we were there. If the skies are clear when you visit, a trip to Te Mata peak is worthwhile.
Our final stop of the day was a sculpture built in 1971 by Frank Szirmay as a memorial to a local physician. After looking at the sculpture we walked down to the ocean and discovered that the what at first appeared to be sand on the beach consisted of black pebbles and stones.
Returning the car to the airport was a breeze and we took a taxi back to the tourist center to catch the shuttle bus back to the ship.
Due to our late departure, there wasn’t any live entertainment in the Queens Lounge. Instead, they showed the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”.This entry was posted in Uncategorized