While Hawke's Bay is proving an increasingly popular haven for Aucklanders wanting to leave the big smoke and high house prices behind, one suburb in particular stands out — and that's Ahuriri.

It is one of Napier's most central coastal neighbourhoods, just a five minute drive from the CBD, and the site of one of the region's earliest colonial settlements, established in the 1830s around two spits — one to the north and one to the south — with swampland in between.

The earthquake of February 1931 dramatically changed the geography of the area, raising around 4000 hectares of sea-bed, and turning it into dry land. This bonus land was quickly used in the course of a painstaking rebuild of virtually the whole of urban Napier, one which cemented the region's place in Art Deco architectural history, and helped move it into a new industrial era.

Ahuriri's iconic National Tobacco Company (formerly, Rothmans) building is one of the city's most celebrated post-quake landmarks, while the elegant Crown Hotel, erected in 1932 is also widely admired.

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The fascinating Ahuriri Estuary walk, which explores the natural habitat of birds, fish and other marine dwellers, is a hit with locals and visitors alike, along with excellent beaches, while the cafes, bars, restaurants, galleries and retail outlets in West Quay and Ahuriri Village are also significant attractions.

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There's plenty for children to do, with Spriggs Park offering slides, a merry-go-round and seesaws. On rainy days galleries, a boutique cinema and the Old Customhouse Museum provide entertainment and opportunities to learn about the area's history.

Given its proximity to the city centre and the fact that its transformation has resulted in such a lively, vibrant sense of community, it's no surprise that property prices have been on an upward trajectory over the past few years and Ahuriri has swiftly become one of Napier's most expensive neighbourhoods with a QV median home value at $683,450.

"Ahuriri's rise as the top suburb began slowly about fifteen years ago, but in the past five years it's sped up dramatically," says Boyd Hawkins of Napier Professionals Real Estate.

Hawkins says that land close to the beach is especially sought after and while some of the homes are being renovated, in other cases owners are knocking down the original dwelling and replacing it with a modern one.

Hawkins moved from SuperCity a number of years ago and describes Ahuriri as Napier's equivalent of Auckland's viaduct.