Hot Hawke’s Bay
Heat, wine and art deco vibes. Our digital ed has the prefect itinerary for a Hawke’s Bay holiday.
WORDS KSENIIA SPODYNEIKO PHOTOS ALEX SPODYNEIKO
Grab your helmets
World-famous wineries are obviously a big drawcard here. Take in the scenery while you’re at it, by cycling your way around on self-guided tours. This could prove challenging (and perhaps a little dangerous) after a few stops if you get carried away though! If you’re not planning on overindulging and want to hit the best spots, focus on the big three local vineyards to sample the best Hawke’s Bay has to offer.
Wine and dine
Mission Estate should definitely be the first checkpoint for any visitor. The oldest winery in New Zealand is a 30-minute bike ride (or 10 minutes by car) from Napier, making it an easy pit stop on the way to the other sights. The historic seminary building overlooks the vineyard and instantly transports you back to 1851, when the winery was established. Elegant architecture, gorgeous views, and fantastic food, make it the perfect place for a lazy outdoor lunch. Leaving this place before sampling their cheeses would be a crime – we recommend the creamy blue Kapiti Kikorangi at $33. This price includes two other choices, along with a range of fruits, jams and crackers.
The other two must-sees are Craggy Range (voted Best New World Winery) and Elephant Hill. Designed by the same architect, they share the same standards of producing the best wine, although skipping one for the other would be a mistake. Surrounded by epic mountains, Craggy Range celebrates all things French – from the cuisine to the architecture and landscapes. Elephant Hill melds German precision with innovation, focusing on high technologies and outstanding presentation. Ask for their iconic Airavata Syrah degustation ($120 per bottle, while the degustation is only $5) and be ready to watch the show.
That old-world feeling
To get into the festive Hawke’s Bay spirit, start with exploring its gem – Napier. The best way to discover this Art Deco city is by driving around in a vintage car. You can either rent a lovely Hooters open-top next to the Masonic Hotel, or book one of the perfectly polished Art Deco Trust cars around the corner. Make sure to ask for Tere Morales-Probert as your guide – 45 minutes in the car with her and you’ll want to move here immediately.
Take a hike
After a tour around the city and a quick lunch, head towards Havelock North, a quiet town next to the picturesque Te Mata Peak. But no more driving today; it’s time to burn some calories! Leave the car by the main entrance – only you, a big water bottle, and spectacular surroundings, are ahead. The 5 km hiking trail across Te Mata is challenging, but definitely worth the sweat. Just imagine balancing on a narrow path at the very top of the mountain chain – scorched by the sun, valleys on both sides, wind in your hair, and giant redwoods at your feet. Welcome to the real Middle Earth!
From bay rides to birdwatching
For a different kind of adventure, nothing beats a tractor ride along the coast to the famous Cape Kidnappers. Named after an incident during Captain Cook’s 1769 voyage, when his Tahitian cabin boy was mistakenly kidnapped by local Maori, the cape is home to the world’s largest accessible gannet colony. There are several ways to get to the beautiful birds, including a 9 km walk along the beach (just remember to track the tides). But by far the most exciting way to get there is with Gannet Beach Adventures. These guys use vintage 1949 tractors to take you right to the bottom of Cape Kidnappers. And if a trip on the machines isn’t enough of an experience itself, the huge tractors are driven into the ocean or up the massive stones, giving you an unbelievable adrenaline rush.
Time travel in your sleep
Hawke’s Bay is all about atmosphere, and the Masonic Hotel in Napier is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the city’s architecture. After it was destroyed in the 1931 earthquake, the hotel was rebuilt in the Art Deco style to suit the times, as was the case for many of the other buildings that had been a ected by the quake.
While not open to the public, the secret underground bar (which operated during the years when alcohol was prohibited) remains the same. Everything is left as if it were abandoned yesterday: from the counter to the graffiti and chairs.
Many other things are preserved here, just as they were made, nearly a century ago: old-fashioned chandeliers, mirrors, massive staircases, and tiny doors – showing how slim and how short people used to be!
And the most exciting part about this hotel? Not a single one of its 46 rooms is the same as any other. All the more reason to plan repeat visits.
Located in the heart of the city – whether you’re in search of the Six Sisters (a row of brightly-painted Victorian houses along Marine Parade), returning from a jazz concert, or just taking a stroll along the streets while enjoying a scoop of homemade ice cream from the nearest shop – you will never be too far from the hotel.
Mission Estate: missionestate.co.nz
Craggy Range: craggyrange.com
Elephant Hill: elephanthill.co.nz