Hawke's Bay wine region
Travel to the Hawke’s Bay region, best known as one of the two, pre-eminent wine growing districts in New Zealand.
The region is New Zealand’s leading producer of red wines, has the greatest concentration of Art Deco architecture and hosts the country’s most elaborate celebrations of Matariki – the Maori New Year. As if that weren’t enough, Hawke’s Bay is also known for its artisan gourmet foods, glorious beaches, lavender gardens, orchards and olive plantations.
The landscapes of Hawke’s Bay begin with the high, forested Ruahine and Kaweka Ranges. From the mountains, the land sweeps down towards the coast, flattening out to become the Heretaunga Plains. A number of wide rivers run swiftly to meet the Pacific Ocean. The twin cities of Napier and Hastings are the main population centers. Blessed with a sunny, Mediterranean-style climate, Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s warmest, driest regions.
You can easily travel the Hawkes’ Bay region on your, guided by food and wine trail maps. Or if you prefer not to drive, cycle from one winery to the next on a rented mountain bike. Sample other regional delicacies on an orchard, farm, honey, cheese or chocolate tour. And even improve your culinary skills at cooking schools run by renowned chefs.
Hawke’s Bay is home to New Zealand’s oldest operating winery – Mission Winery and one of its newer ones – the computerized Craggy Range Winery. Viticultural pioneers were quick to recognize the region’s huge potential.
Less than 12 miles separate the principal city centers of Hastings and Napier, and the two are often called “The Twin Cities” or “The Bay Cities”.
Napier is known as the Art Deco city, and is maintaining that title mainly because of the work of the Art Deco Trust. The city underwent major reconstruction following the massive earthquake of 1931 that leveled most the buildings. A rapid rebuilding occurred in the following few years influenced by the art of that time. As a result, the city has one of the highest concentrations of Art Deco architecture anywhere in the world. Yet it retains its Kiwi nature in building and street scale, bright color, neon, and New Zealand’s typically quirky and clever appropriation of international trends.
You can stay right in the city center, in one of the few building to survive the quake. The former County Council headquarters is now the upmarket County Hotel.
Napier is the only official city in the Hawke’s Bay region, is distinctive as the largest wool center in the Southern Hemisphere and is the export servicing area for the Hastings District which is one of the largest apple, pear and stone fruit producing areas in New Zealand. The city enjoys some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand.
It also has one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the country, a statue on Marine Parade, called Pania of the Reef. The (mermaid like) Pania statue is regarded in Napier in much the same way that the Little Mermaid statue is regarded in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Thousands of people flock to Napier every February for the Art Deco Weekend event, a celebration of its Art Deco heritage and history. Another notable tourist event attracting many outsiders include the region’s annual Wine and Food Festival (named Harvest Hawke’s Bay). And you can extend the experience in style with a Vintage Deco Car Tour.
A short drive to the south on the hook of the peninsula lies Cape Kidnappers and its’ famous gannet colony of large, elegantly white seabirds. There are organized tours, best done between November and February during the breeding season.
If you want to add too your bucket list that you visited the place with the longest name, then a slight driving detour and some walking will be needed to reach it. Located between Porangahau and Wimbledon is the aforementioned 85-letter place name sign.