Explore the Artistic Beauty of Napier, in New Zealand

Landmarks & Icons

Governor's Old Residence on Marine Parade in Napier, New Zealand

Situated on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, in the Hawke’s Bay region, Napier is one of the country’s most attractive cities. This is partly due to the fact that it possesses some totally unique Art Deco architecture, as well as its enjoyable Mediterranean-style climate, and proximity to one of New Zealand’s foremost wine-producing regions. Offering many activities and attractions, one should explore the artistic beauty of Napier, on their New Zealand vacation.

The Event that Changed and Shaped Napier
It was a natural disaster that resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world. In 1931, a massive earthquake (7.9 on the Richter scale) rocked the Hawke’s Bay region. A number of lives were lost and the vast majority of buildings in the centre of Napier were destroyed. Rebuilding did begin almost immediately and much of it was completed in two years. New buildings reflected the architectural style of the times, that being Art Deco. Today, viewing these buildings has become a major attraction for visitors. What exactly is Art Deco? To quote, “It is a decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s characterized by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colours”.

What to See in the Way of Art Deco in Napier
In 2007, Napier was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was the first cultural site in New Zealand to be so nominated. Napier has the most comprehensive collection of inner-city Art Deco buildings anywhere. Every February, thousands of people flock to Napier to celebrate Tremains Art Deco Festival, which celebrates the reconstruction of Napier after the earthquake. The 1930s are brought back to life through music, performers, and dancing in the street, as well as typical-of-the-era trains, planes, and cars, and fun happenings in true vintage style. According to the local Art Deco Trust, which arranges guided walks and bus tours, and produces excellent background literature, the city has 147 Art Deco buildings decorated in styles that include the Egyptian, Mayan, and Maori civilizations. This includes the still-thriving 1938 Napier Municipal Theatre, which has its original chrome and neon fittings, and a cubist carpet faithfully recreated from a pre-earthquake scrap found in the manager’s office. Walk down Tennyson Street and you come across wonderful examples – one after the other. There is the Scinde Building – once a Masonic lodge, the former offices of the Daily Telegraph newspaper – with its lotus flower capitals, and the ASB Building – a 1934 bank adorned with Art-Deco-styled Maori motifs.

Daily Telegraph Building in the Art Deco Quarter, Napier, North Island, New Zealand
The Daily Telegraph building in the Art Deco Quarter

Experience Other Napier Sites
The wonderfully sculpted and palm tree-lined Marine Parade, as the name suggests, runs along the seashore of the city and has various parks, gardens, and memorials, giving the water’s edge a distinct character. It is also the home to one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the country, a statue called Pania of the Reef, regarded in Napier in much the same way the Little Mermaid statue is regarded in Copenhagen, Denmark. Pania was a beautiful Maori maiden who lived in the sea. By daylight, she swam about with creatures of her reef world, but after sunset, would go to a stream that ran into the bay where the city of Napier now exists. The National Aquarium is one of the foremost aquariums in New Zealand, while the historic Napier Prison is the oldest prison in the country, where visitors can learn about not only the history of prisons, but also witness the path of the 1931 earthquake.

Wine, Anyone?
Napier houses the oldest wineries and wine-making establishments in the country. The climate here has ensured it is the ideal place for grape growing. The Hawke’s Bay Region is also New Zealand’s largest apple, pear, and stone fruit producer. Red wines dominate, with over 80% of New Zealand’s Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah grapes found here. There are also rich and complex Chardonnays. While in Napier, consider the 10-Day Classic Wine Trail Self Drive tour. You will not only enjoy the opportunity to taste and shop at more than 120 cellar doors, as well as a multitude of vineyard restaurants and cafés, but also experience stunning scenery and beautiful forest parks as well.

Glass of Red Wine at Vineyard, Marlborough District, Hawkes Bay Region, North Island, New Zealand
Glass of Red Wine at a vineyard in the Marlborough District of Hawkes Bay Region

Attention, Shoppers!
Napier has a lively entertainment scene that includes many outdoor and indoor activities such as swimming, golf, restaurants, theatres, and a thriving nightlife scene. Shopping is popular – there are high street and boutique stores to browse in, as well as antique shops and art galleries, plus the studios of potters, woodworkers, and other crafts people.

Water Lovers and Bird Watchers
Sailing, fishing, and other water activities are popular. The many rivers that flow through the region are used for jet boating, jet skiing, rowing, kayaking, and fishing. There are a large number of dedicated bike lanes in the streets of Napier, plus the Hawke’s Bay Trails contain over 200 kilometres/120 miles of bikeways that meander through and around the region’s cities. For bird watchers, there is the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Reserve, home to two gannet colonies, situated among spectacular cliff formations along the coast.

Gannet Colony at Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand
Gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers

Do include Napier in one of your New Zealand tours. There is so much to see and experience!