East Coast: Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay and Cape Kidnappers: NZ’s oldest wine region, art deco architecture, giant clumsy gannets, and hikes that filled my heart! We visited for two weeks in fall and summer – not enough time.


Visit the Napier I-Site for a booklet of Hawke’s Bay Walks

Waipatiki Reserve, North of Napier

The Waipatiki Beach Escarpment Trail. There was no stopping when I saw a trail barely visible on the backside (oceanside) of the cliff. I LOVE a coastal cliffside walk.

The coastline is rugged and accessible only to walkers. This narrow trail begins at the far left of beach parking, near the “Fire Base” sign. At times, it is “one foot in front of the other” as you work your way through overgrown bushes. Worth it!

White Pine Reserve: Giant Nikau Palms and Ancient Trees

Nearby, the Waipatiki Domain, an original Māori trail, and the White Pine Reserve are lush with moss, ferns, “Oh My God” impressive Nikau palm fronds, and 800 year old Kahikatea (White Pine) trees – monuments that survived logging.

Maraetotara River Falls Walk – Heavenly

Minutes from Hastings and a 10 minute walk from the car park, Maraetotara Falls takes 30 minutes to explore – unless you balance and cross on the concrete pipe to find a sweet walk alongside the river. Below the falls is a deep, clear water swimming hole, shaded by large trees.

Te Mata Peak

Multiple trails lead to rugged Te Mata Peak, with spectacular 360-degree views. Giant Circuit, the red trail, takes about 2 hours return (aka round trip). Or, you can drive to the top in 15 minutes. Boots on trail is the way to go, especially if you want to feel small!

Cape Kidnappers and the Gannets

Named after an incident between Captain Cook and the Māori, the cliff is home to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony (20,000 birds).

We took a 4-hour tractor-pulled tour to see the seabirds with their 6′ wingspan and white-black-tipped wings.

It’s a climb from the beach to reach the gannets.

The scruffy, down-covered chicks (guga) leave the colonies at around 15-16 weeks to spend their lives on the ocean, returning to land to nest.

You can hike to the cape via the beach (19km (12-mile) return). It is long and easy; however, low tide is a must. High tides and big seas will block the beach access. The walk is subject to landslides and rockfalls. “The risk is real and significant and people who choose to travel down the beach are accepting this risk.” (DOC)

Ocean Beach – Backside of Cape Kidnappers

Golden sand near Hastings, Ocean Beach has a small population, mainly Māori, who know it as Waipuka. It has few roads and two walks:

  • South along the beach to Waimarama (7.5 km one way). Check tide times, tell someone where you are walking. 4.5 hours return.
  • North to Whakapau Bluff (8 km one way; allow 4.5 hours return)

Napier’s Art Deco

In 1931 a 7.8 earthquake raised the coastline 2 meters (6.5 feet) and collapsed almost all of the town’s brick buildings. Water-mains shattered and fires devoured wood structures. Reconstruction began immediately. The city was rebuilt in art deco geometric designs, all concrete, low-rise buildings. Population then: 16,000; now 65,000.

City Walk

‘A Wave in Time’ consists of two art deco style bronze sculptures.

Bluff Hill Lookout Walk

Past Centennial Gardens, a path and steps lead up to Bluff Hill summit with views of a busy port.

Waitangi Park

The Ātea a Rangi, a celestial star compass – its main purpose is to ensure that the art of Whakatere waka (traditional navigation) is passed on to other generations. 

The Wine – At Last!

Over 200 vineyards and 76 wineries in Hawke’s Bay, of which there are about 38 Cellar Doors (tasting rooms). The oldest wineries (and showiest) include Craggy Range, behind Te Mata Peak and Mission Estate.

We visited 20 Cellar Doors (some more than once), and found delicious Cabernet Merlot Blends, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Wine is a “to each his own” experience, but our recommendations are:

  • Elephant Hill
  • Sileni (Merlot)
  • Aka Rangi
  • Brookfields
  • “Just pick any” in the Gimblett Gravels (a gravel pit turned vineyard – thank the gods.)

What We Missed – North of Napier

  • Shine Falls (58 m, 190 ft drop off limestone cliffs)
  • Tangoio Falls Walkway (check to see if it is closed for logging)
  • Bell Rock Loop Track (huge limestone formations)
  • Holt Forest Arboretum

Never enough time!

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3 thoughts on “East Coast: Hawke’s Bay

  1. I love the rolling green pillows and they are certainly descriptive in their warning of falling rock!! The sculptures certainly are interesting! It’s been a while since I was in NZ with you! Thanks for the beautiful reminder! xo

  2. Napier looks fun, and I love the views from Te Mata. Yet another good place to explore!

  3. Oh my! Another amazing glimpse at the beauty of nature. This one took my breath away. So much miraculous beauty. Thank you for taking us with you xo

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