Hawke's Bay - Art Deco, great wine, food and cycling, (sometimes, all in one event).
Yes, it's the region known for Art Deco, orchards and vineyards but it has so much more to offer. We dare you to read on and not be inspired to visit.
On your bike - it's Easy!
Hawke's Bay is a cyclist's paradise billed as having the "largest network of easy cycle trails in New Zealand". Head for the mountain bike trails at Pan Pac or Te Mata Park, or cruise along Marine Parade on a hired push or electric bike.
To get a sense of the impact of the 1931 earthquake on this region, visit the MTG Hawke's Bay in Napier. Along with artefacts and memorabilia, you'll hear survivors' accounts of the quake. Take tissues - it's an emotional must-do. And it's free entry, seven days a week. Not far away, is the Art Deco Centre - ask about the walking tours of Napier that showcase the unique architecture that arose from the quake rubble. Or search "art deco tours" online if seeing the sites from a motorbike or vintage car is more your style. And make a note in your diary for February 2021 when the city celebrates Art Deco week in 1930s style.
Wine and food
Our wineries offer world class vintages, from the Mission Winery Estate to Craggy Range, and many in between. Take a local tour, or head along for a tasting and a food platter. Many wineries offer cellar door sales, and free tastings, or tasting sessions for a nominal fee. Then there's FAWC! - the region's Food And Wine Classic. It's a culinary festival held twice a year - winter's event is on hold but keep an eye on plans for Summer FAWC!. No matter the time of year, our local chefs pride themselves on creating dishes from local produce, to match with local wines.
Te Mata Park
A trip to Te Mata Peak's summit is a must. Take your time, take your lunch and explore one of the many walking tracks within Te Mata Park's surrounds. There are bike trails too, but match your skill level with the right trail. Hike to the Redwood Grove, or see how many shellfish fossils (yep, shellfish fossils) you can spot while you're 350m to 399m above the Heretaunga Plains. More than one million people visit every year, and when you see the million dollar views from the top, it's not hard to see why.
The famous Mission Winery concerts continue to grow - 2020 will see a record five gigs, with Rod Stewart's two November dates following Elton John (two concerts) and Michael Buble in February. Local bars serve local craft beer and local wine, along with live music. By the way, the region has a thriving craft beer and cider brewing industry - at least six breweries, with more bubbling away.
Hastings and Havelock North
So, if your plane lands in Napier, make the effort to get to Hastings. Or if you are driving in from the south - stop! Great shopping, a growing cafe, food and bar precinct in Heretaunga St, record shops, retail co-operatives run by local artists, and world famous in Hawke's Bay ... the revamped and recently re-opened Toitoi – Hawke's Bay Arts and Events Centre. Or take the easy drive to Havelock North, 10 minutes away for designer label shopping and great food, wine and coffee in the Village. There are buses between Napier and Hastings, taxis and Uber and Ola have also arrived.
H20 - let's go!
If it's warm enough to hit the beach, the locals take a quick dip at Westshore, or Hardinge Rd. Take care on Marine Parade - the beach break can pack an unpredictable wallop and there are strong currents. Head south out of town to Waimarama Beach, or Ocean Beach - and stop at the Maraetotara Falls on the way. There's also the Waipunga Falls on the Napier-Taupō highway, or if you are up for a walk, the beautiful Shine Falls at Putorino, north of Napier. On the way, stop at Lake Tutira - once plagued by algal blooms, in 2020 it's glistening like a polished diamond. And north of Napier, don't forget Waipataki Beach. If you like your water fun to take place safely inland ... Splash Planet in Hastings is the place to be.
Where do we start? Art Deco walking tours. Te Mata Park. Take a stroll along Marine Parade, check out the Sunken Gardens. Head south and you'll find the Ātea a Rangi/Star Compass at Waitangi Regional Park. But then there's also the hidden gems. Dolbel Reserve in Taradale will lead you up a gentle track through native bush to sea views looking back over Napier. Or tackle Sugarloaf Hill - take a left off Church Rd onto Tironui Dr. Staying in Napier? Stroll to the Botanical Gardens on Hospital Hill. From there, venture next door into the old Napier Cemetery, and see if you can spot the final resting place of Bright Cooper, the first New Zealander killed by a great white shark. There's the Bluff Hill Lookout on the other side of the hill. Havelock North? Head for Tainui Reserve.
Try the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market in Hastings each Sunday, or the Napier Urban Farmers' Market on a Saturday. Check that these markets are still on though. Seek out the second hand markets to stroll through as well - Napier has a weekly "car boot" style market on Marine Parade, and there are regular night markets featuring food and treats over the warmer months.
And we haven't even mentioned
The Hawke's Bay Arts Festival - get in early because this annual October event is popular and brings internationally renowned acts to town. Visit the world-famous in New Zealand gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers (overland tours are operating), take the littlies to the National Aquarium of NZ on Marine Parade or spook yourself at the old Napier prison. There's the Faraday Centre in Napier - Hawke's Bay's Museum of Technology. Golf? There's a range of public courses from nine-holes in Maraenui, to the Hastings Golf Club at Bridge Pa (past host of the NZ open) and the exclusive Cape Kidnappers Golf Course near Te Awanga. What else, oh yes, we launch rockets from Mahia - always worth checking when that's happening.
THE LOCAL LOWDOWN
Bill Ralston and Janet Wilson have made Hawke's Bay their home after building successful, high profile careers in media. These days the couple enjoy the Bay's "Californian climate" and all else it offers, while still retaining media roles - Bill as a Listener columnist and Janet through the "family business" and media advice company Deadline. In their own words, here's why the Te Awanga couple love the Bay life.
After more than a decade of frequent trips to the Bay and several years of leasing a holiday bach at Ocean Beach we made the big decision to quit Auckland and buy a home here four years ago.
We stayed with an old friend in Haumoana for a couple of months before buying a 60-year-old fibrelight bach directly on the beach at Te Awanga.
The presence of two great vineyards, Clearview and Te Awanga Estate, directly across the road may well have had some bearing on our choice.
Early on it became pretty obvious that the ancient old beach house we were in would not last long. We got Johnny, a local builder, to take look, hired an architectural draughtsman to draw up some plans and promptly the place was flattened to floor level.
It took seven months but we ended up with a brand new one-room house with a sizeable living area, library and modern kitchen, a guest house and, by cladding and renovating the decrepit garage, a nice little sleep out.
Compared to Auckland it is the relaxed lifestyle of Hawke's Bay, its Californian climate, its short sharp winter, the easy access to the delightful towns of Napier, Hastings and Havelock North just 20 minutes away and, most of all, the great sense of community in the village of Te Awanga that we love the most.
When friends come for a stay we point them to the nearby vineyards, the overland gannet tour (which is still operating despite the demise of the beach tour), and the delights of having so many good restaurants lying in an arc around our place less than half an hour away.
Our biggest "still to do" item is to venture north up to Mahia, which we can see most mornings lingering on the far horizon across the bay. We wait, fruitlessly, to see a rocket launch so the only answer is to go there for a close up look.
While Bill has largely retired, , Janet makes the regular check-in to Auckland or Wellington to carry on the family business. Air New Zealand is still making a fortune out of us and we weep at the demise of its competition here.
There is little or nothing we miss about Auckland, aside from our many friends there.
Although that problem can be remedied by them making the journey south and staying with us for a great Bay experience and we have a constant stream of visitors to keep us entertained.
Neither of us have any regrets about our move, except for the fact we should have done it years before we did.
Hawke's Bay is now our home and will stay so.
Listen to NewstalkZB from 1pm today to be in to win two flights to Napier flying Air New Zealand. Ts&Cs apply.
Read the whole series at nzherald.co.nz/GoNZ