Travel: Enjoy Napier's fine art of Deco

By Mike Yardley

The plucky city of Napier confirms the adage that every cloud has a silver lining. Napier's darkest and deadliest days, the 1931 earthquake, profoundly altered the future course of the city and the region.

In the wake of the devastating scale of destruction, the city fathers set about rebuilding the heart of Napier in a low-rise Art Deco style, which was then all the rage.

This visionary decision has bestowed Napier with one of the world's greatest collections of Art Deco, luring a throng a visitors from throughout the world.

The city centre is bathed in a palette of soft pastel colours and the stylised detail on the building facades - such as sunbursts, lightning bolts and zigzags - that accentuate Deco's personality.

The Masonic Hotel and the Daily Telegraph building are my pet Deco picks. You can savour the architecture for yourself or join one of the walking tours which start at the Art Deco Shop at 10am and 2pm, at a cost of $16 each.

The highlight of events is this month's Art Deco Weekend. It includes classic cars, aerobatics, steam-train rides, The Great Gastsby picnic, dinner and dance extravaganzas and free concerts.

The seaside spirit unfurls along Norfolk pine-lined Marine Parade.

There are plenty of eye-catching photo-stops, starting with Pania of the Reef. Our very own Little Mermaid story is a tear-jerking tale about Pania, a sea dweller, who fell in love with the land-dwelling Karitoke.

But homesick Pania returned to the sea to see her family, who trapped her in an underground ocean cave, where Pania became a reef, her arms forever reaching out for Karitoke.

Adjacent to the appealing statue are manicured gardens and the New Napier Arch, a memorial to the renaissance following the 1931 quake.

Pause to admire the clutch of elegant wooden buildings on Marine Parade, which managed to survive the quake.

Check out the blue-metal arch on the beachfront which symbolises the spot and the angle of the millennium's first sunrise. Further down the parade is the spectacular National Aquarium, a must-see for families.

This treasure trove of sea life also has land-based exhibits. The star attractions include crocodiles, piranhas, sharks, tuatara, kiwi, a fascinating dinosaur display and the living coral exhibition.

Don't miss the twice-daily displays of divers hand-feeding many of the residents, and the Behind the Scenes is well worthwhile.

If you want to enjoy an impressive ocean panorama head for the Botanic Gardens on Bluff Hill, for a magnificent bird's-eye view.

- Hamilton News

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