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Napier Cruises

About Napier, New Zealand

The second-largest wine-growing region in New Zealand, the Hawke’s Bay area boasts more than 70 vineyards. The first ones were introduced by French missionaries in the mid-19th century. This scenic bay area is home to Napier, an impressive cityscape of art deco architecture often compared to Miami Beach for its artsy splendor. The National Aquarium, one of the finest in New Zealand, can be found in Napier. The city also holds claim as the largest wool center in the Southern Hemisphere.

Napier was home to one of the first Māori tribes to encounter European settlers. Traders, whalers and missionaries followed and by the 1850s farmers were cultivating the land. The town was named for a military leader who fought in the British Indian Empire and to this day some of Napier’s streets carry the names of other prominent figures from that era. In 1931, an earthquake destroyed Napier, but gave the city additional land as it pushed many acres up from the sea. In one of the world’s most ambitious reconstruction projects, locals rebuilt their city in the art deco style that was wildly popular at the time. Today, the stunning “main street” design and art deco flair combine to create a city unlike any other in the world.

Napier Lifestyle and Culture

Napier boasts a laid-back atmosphere of low-built buildings with a hint of proper English affluence. Its lively café culture has been shaped by the surrounding vineyards and wines of Hawke’s Bay. Locals and visitors can be found strolling the city’s beloved Marine Parade, an ocean promenade lined with trees and dotted with gardens, statues and spas. As in much of New Zealand, Kiwis here embrace outdoor activities with vigor. Sailing, fishing, cycling and walking are common ways of enjoying the picturesque Hawke’s Bay environment. Nearby, Cape Kidnappers is a bird lover’s paradise with its giant gannet colony. High culture is also celebrated in Napier; the Municipal Theater hosts musicals, plays and the Napier Operatic Society.

Napier celebrates its art deco heritage each February with the Art Deco Weekend, drawing aficionados of the architectural style from all over the world. The area’s viticulture and agriculture give even more reason to throw a festival: the Food and Wine Classic gathers oenophiles and foodies twice a year, in November and June.

Napier Sights and Landmarks

The magnificent art deco architecture of Napier lends itself to hours of exploration. The earth and rose tones and decorative filigree of the National Tobacco Company building strike a playful pose and the Kelly green tone of the T&G Building’s dome supports a handsome clock. Everywhere you look in the city’s historic district—particularly along Emerson, Herschell, Dalton and Browning Streets—distinct geometric facades and storefronts exude the graceful and creative look of times past.

Napier is also home to New Zealand’s oldest prison, a stone-built fortress atop Napier Hill. Variously used as an orphanage and psychiatric hospital, today it is a historic site that offers fascinating tours. One of the city’s most visited sites, however, is decidedly more welcoming: the popular Pania of the Reef sculpture depicts a figure of Māori mythology, a beautiful maiden who lived in the sea.

Napier Entertainment and Activities

The National Aquarium is one of New Zealand’s leading centers of marine study and home to fascinating exhibits. Its most captivating exhibit is the oceanarium, a 150-foot long tunnel that brings visitors underwater as fish and other marine life swim above and around. To view some local art and cultural artifacts, head to the MTG Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery, a collection of work by Kiwi artists and a remarkable repository of natural history, social history and Taonga Māori items.

The surrounding Hawke’s Bay has been hailed as one of the world’s best destinations for wine enthusiasts. Numerous wineries are open to the public, offering vineyard and cellar tours and tastings of award-winning Syrah, Merlot, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. In addition to hosting a vibrant viticulture, the region is a sprawling landscape of gentle green hills and fertile plains, a stunning snapshot of North Island beauty.

Napier Restaurants and Shopping

Fresh from the sea and hot off the vineyards, seafood and wine are the hottest menu items in Napier. A rich farm culture guarantees in-season ingredients and a friendly Kiwi welcome promises an enriching dining experience.

For fine dining with views of Napier’s beach, try Pacifica New Zealand, located in a blue beach bungalow. This progressive restaurant serves creative cuisine with passion. For more casual dining, try Mister D. Its dining room exudes enthusiasm for every creative dish delivered by a well-informed staff, including the doughnuts that guests may inject with chocolate, jam or custard fillings. Flavors from Indonesia have also made their way to Napier’s dining scene. Try Restaurant Indonesia for Indo-Dutch rijsttafel dishes.

Stroll down Emerson and Dickens Streets and the bustling Marine Parade promenade to find boutique stores, art galleries, antique shops and the open studios of potters, wood turners and other craftspeople. For a unique experience, visit the Classic Sheepskins tannery, where you may choose to tour the factory and browse a collection of rugs, slippers and other novelties. Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Silky Oak Chocolate Company, where chocolatiers create mouthwatering truffles and other delights.