Napier is a small coastal city on the North Island of New Zealand. It’s part of the larger Hawke’s Bay region, along with the city of Hastings.
Napier is known for a few things: Art Deco, nature, and wine. After the Hawke’s Bay Earthquake of 1931, the city was largely rebuilt in the Art Deco style—the popular architecture style of the time. Napier is now known worldwide for its architecture, and it hosts an annual art deco festival.
The Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand is home to over 100 vineyards, and almost as many wineries. That means it’s a great place to drink wine, and the industry attracts thousands of visitors every year.
I spent a full week in Napier, even though it was originally planned as a quick stop. I fell in love with the art, the architecture, the waterfront, the cafes, and all of the little details of the city. Visually, it’s a truly inspiring place. I could have stayed much longer, and I’m sure I’ll return before leaving New Zealand.
There is a lot to do and see in Napier, and there are a lot of cafes where you can while away the hours with a latte in hand. This post is full of my personal recommendations for where to go, what to do, and where to eat while in Napier.
Location: Hawke’s Bay, North Island, New Zealand
Population: 61, 500
Known for: Large concentration of Art Deco architecture
Historical Events: Hawke’s Bay Earthquake of 1931
Kilim Turkish Café // 193 Hastings St
I ate here 3 times while in Napier & I can’t recommend it enough. The restaurant is casual but filled with great atmosphere and the food is so good. Grab a kebab at lunch for about $10. They have plenty of vegetarian options.
Thai House Express // 151 Hastings St
For quick and easy Thai food, stop by Thai House Express. I ate here a couple of times and loved it. The service was great, employees are friendly, and the food both delicious and affordable.
Zigg Zagg Café // 279 Emerson St
This little corner café is a must for breakfast, lunch, or coffee. I had filo filled with spinach and peppers, and it was mouth-watering. Lots of outdoor-seating for nice days.
Heaven’s Bakery & Café // 147 Emerson St
This café is extremely spacious. It’s a great place to meet with new friends for a long coffee date, or for a quick sip in the afternoon. I adored the chai latte.
Campbell’s Bakery & Coffee House // 18a Hastings St
This coffee house is tucked away in the alley between Hastings & the Marine Parade, next door to some cute boutiques. This is the best place to stop for a quick coffee & pastry.
St. Germain // 82 Dalton St
St. Germain is my favorite cafe in Napier. I’m a sucker for well-designed interiors and branding, which this place definitely has. More importantly, the chai latte passed my taste test, and there’s a nice little patio in back for some relaxation.
What To Do
Art Deco Walk // Info
Napier has one of the largest concentrations of authentic Art Deco buildings, and the best way to see them is on a walking tour. The Art Deco Trust has daily tours, and will show you some of the most iconic buildings in the city.
National Aquarium // Marine Parade
Get up close and personal with sea life at New Zealand’s national aquarium. Amazing exhibits allow you to see all kinds of ocean life, including fish, sharks, and penguins! The aquarium is home to many species native to New Zealand, as well as animals from around the world.
Hawke’s Bay MTG // 1 Tennyson St
The MTG is a great place to learn about the history of Napier and the Hawke’s Bay area. They have an incredible exhibit all about the earthquake of 1931, which will give some reference for your visit to the city. The MTG also has art & cultural exhibits. Admission is $10.
Bike Around Hawke’s Bay // Info
Hawke’s Bay has extensive bike/pedestrian trails all over the region—in fact, it has the largest network of bike paths in New Zealand. It’s a super bike-friendly place and they have plenty of trails for you to follow based on your interest. You can bike to the wineries on the wine trail, visit small coastal communities and get some beautiful views, or cycle along the waterfront.
Whether you’re looking to visit the wineries by bicycle, by car/taxi, or with a tour group, there’s a way to do it. Hawke’s Bay is home to over 100 vineyards, so you’ll be spoiled with choice on where to go. Don’t know where to start? Try joining a group tour and they’ll have all the logistics figured out for you, while you just sit back and enjoy the wine.
Cape Kidnappers is located just south of Napier. This beautiful headland is on a peninsula that juts out in the Pacific Ocean, and it’s considered an important wildlife area in New Zealand. The cape is a breeding site for a colony of gannets. You can visit the site on your own or as part of a tour. The best time for viewing the gannets is between November and February.
What To See
The Sunken Gardens is a tranquil retreat from the city, located just off the Marine Parade.
The Sound Shell
Be sure to see the Sound Shell Stage and the surrounding amphitheater, located right next to the Napier i-site. This venue hosts concerts and events throughout the year. It’s a beautiful example of the city’s Art Deco architecture.
Words on Walls
Take a walk around Napier and you’ll find words and quotes painted on the walls and buildings of the city.
Art is a big part of Napier. In addition to the architecture, you’ll find landscape art and sculptures throughout the city. Take a walk and keep your eyes open.
Find the pink-and-white, art deco style columns at the entry to the park, just off Tennyson and Dalton. Climb the stairs through Tiffen Park until you reach the top, where you’ll be surrounded by residential homes and a wonderful view out to the water.
Clive Square feels very nostalgic, and I can’t help but think of Southern California while standing on the brick-paved walkway, surrounded by palm trees.
Where To Stay
YHA Napier // 277 Marine Parade
I spent an entire week at the YHA Napier. It’s the perfect location, just across from the waterfront and a short walk to the shops and cafes. It’s a relaxed, quiet hostel with a lot of character.
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