Kia ora: Napier

Art Deco rules in this coastal town, says Elisabeth Easther

Napier during the annual Art Deco weekend.
Napier during the annual Art Deco weekend.

Origin of name: Originally called Ahuriri after Chief Te Ahuriri, the area was renamed in the 1850s for military leader, Sir Charles Napier.

Population: 58,800 (2012 estimate).

Where is it: On the coast in Hawke's Bay, five hours' drive from Auckland.

Town slogan: The Art Deco Capital of the World or Sunny Hawke's Bay. Take your pick.

Town mascot: The Pania of the Reef statue on Marine Parade. Stolen in 2004, she was recovered nine days later.

Interesting: The devastating earthquake of 1931 transformed Napier. Four thousand hectares of land were raised up out of the sea. Rebuilding took about two years and is the reason for the prominent Art Deco style.

Famous locals: Bertie, the unofficial Art Deco ambassador, is a local identity.

Nationally, the area has given us broadcaster Paul Holmes, artist Dick Frizzell plus a few legendary All Blacks including George Nepia, Kel Tremain, Norm Hewitt and Zac Guilford.

Best local website: napiernz.com or hawkesbaynz.com

Biggest industry: Tourism, farming, horticulture and viticulture. The Watties cannery and Panpac Forest Products are two of the biggest local employers.

Source of pride: The Art Deco heritage, the beautiful wines and the Mediterranean climate.

Town competition: The mostly friendly rivalry with Hastings. It's not official, but it's alive and well.

Best place to take the kids: Marine Parade, 2km of attractions tailor-made for kids, including the New Zealand National Aquarium and the Junior Bike Track that's just opened.

Best place for a drink: The Emporium Eatery and Bar is fab and has just been given a major refurbishment. Or enjoy a little tipple in Ahuriri at The Waterfront Bar on the wharf, Napier's answer to The Viaduct. Sunset's a specialty.

Best food: Gourmands are spoiled for choice. Mister D is famous for fine dining and their doughnuts - choose between chocolate, jam or custard then shoot your pick into the doughnut using a syringe. Pacifica and The Mission also do excellent grub.

Best flat white: Spoiled for choice again; Napier has more cafes than you can shake a stick at but Adoro leads the pack, importing patisserie goods from France, coffee from Italy and the barista is just super happy.

Best place to stay: The Colonial Motel for its award-winning grounds, heated pool, fabulous rooms and excellent management.

Best bakery: Harold, a German fellow you'll find selling baked goods at the farmers' market on Sundays.

Best museum: Wait until September and get a load of the new Museum, Theatre and Gallery (MGT) that'll open with great fanfare. This $25 million facility, right in the heart of town, will make Te Papa jealous.

Best art gallery: There are lots of lovely galleries and artisan shops but Paper Works deserves a mention. Open the unassuming door and head up to an amazing gallery filled with local artworks.

Best walk: Hawke's Bay can lay claim to 180km of cycle paths and walkways. Pandora Estuary is a lovely walk, a 90-minute round trip. Marine Parade is a great walk or ride, hugging the coast you can go all the way to Bayview.

Best cycle tours: takarotrails.co.nz

Best view: Looking out to Cape Kidnappers from Marine Parade at sunrise. Priceless.

Best place to pull over: Slam on the brakes any time you see a fresh produce sign. Often it's an honesty box, so carry plenty of change and do the right thing.

Best facilities: The toilets at the i-site in the centre of town are serviced by an attendant. It'll cost 20c to spend a penny, but it's worth it.

Best playground: Numerous play areas are along the waterfront, on both sides of Marine Parade.

Here for a short time: The New Zealand Wine Centre is designed for cruise ship passengers who don't have time to visit a vineyard. It brings together the winery experience in a virtual tour - there's even an aroma room.

Best shop: Aroha and Friends, a local art, design, clothes and coffee shop. And check out Tennyson St, an area that's blossomed into a swanky shopping precinct.

Best swim: Ocean Spa, outdoor pools right on the waterfront, heated all year round.

Best festival: For four days a year, in the second weekend of February, Napier steps back in time for the Art Deco Weekend. The whole town dresses up, kids, adults, dogs, cars - it goes off.

Wildest wildlife: Birdlife is abundant and the aquarium is neat, too. But the wildest life you'll ever see is the crowd at the end of the Mission Estate concert.

When a local has visitors staying: The Mission winery takes some beating; it's the oldest in New Zealand and truly beautiful. Or grab some bikes and tour all the vineyards.

Safety warnings: When touring the vineyards by bike, do take it easy.

Locals say: We have the best weather in the country.

Visitors say: Hawke's Bay has the best weather in the country.

Thanks to Mark from The Colonial Motel for sharing.

- NZ Herald

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