Winter getaway to Hawke’s Bay: 10 things to do on the weekend
A glimpse of Napier’s hidden speakeasy. Video / Sarah Pollok.
Rustic vineyards dotted with acres of apple orchards bordered by limestone cycle paths. Fierce red sunrises over vast coastal horizons and world famous whimsical art deco buildings. Italian delis and rock ‘n’ roll restaurants, art deco cafes and farmers markets brimming with gourmet delights and deeply satisfied diners. Welcome to Hawke’s Bay.
Its towns may be modest in size but make no mistake, a weekend has to be well planned if you want to even scratch the surface of what this region has to offer. Here are 10 things you absolutely must do on a winter weekend, plus 10 insider tips we wish we had known before you go.
1. See the Ātea a Rangi Star Compass at sunrise
Off the (literal) beaten track of SH51 south of Napier, you won’t find this attraction on typical travel routes, however, it could be the highlight of your trip. Built in Waitangi Regional Park, Ātea a Rangi is a life-size celestial compass created by navigator Ngāti Kahungunu Piripi Smith to educate and inspire the next generation of celestial navigators. Although you can visit any time of the day, nothing compares to showing up at 6am to hear Smith’s kōrero around traditional navigation, Maori astronomy and the heart behind the Ātea a Rangi Education Trust.
Point: Between the coastal breeze and the sun which has just risen, the mornings become icy at Waitangi Regional Park. If you don’t want to lose feeling in your legs and hands, pack a very warm layer and gloves.
2. Try breakfast at FG Smith
Reward yourself for getting up at 5am on a weekend by heading straight to the FG Smith Eatery in Ahuriri for a piping hot coffee and kai. For something more substantial, choose a classic Egg Benny, avocado on toast or granola, while adventurous types will love the hungover fried rice, green shakshuka or seared scallops. No matter what you get, all dishes are made with fresh local ingredients and served by smiling staff who seem delighted to be there.
Point: Smith is famous for his ham and cheese rolls, which come out of the oven at 8am and go away in the blink of an eye. If you’re an early riser, be sure to grab one and see what it’s all about.
3. Take a vintage Art Deco car ride
Given Napier’s global reputation as one of the best Art Deco capitals in the world, exploring the city with an Art Deco Trust tour is simply a must. While the trust offers a self-guided map, the personal stories and fascinating treats you get from the passionate volunteers make the guided options well worth a ticket. Walking tours tour the city on foot while learning about the famous earthquake and the even more famous art deco reconstruction. Meanwhile, the vintage car tour takes the experience to a new level of luxury, with a guide dressed in 1930s attire driving you around the city in one of their mint condition cars.
Point: You won’t see the city of Napier the same way after this tour, so make sure it’s one of the first things you do in the city. You’ll spend the rest of the trip with a much richer appreciation of every little building and detail.
4. Grab an Italian sandwich at Harvest Deli
It’s a long drive from Sperlonga, Italy, to Napier, but if you’ve eaten one of Harvest Deli’s epic sandwiches, you’ll be glad Andrea Marseglia made it here. Launched with his Kiwi partner, Sarah Mitchell, in December 2021, the deli is a traditional Italian salumeria with a modern twist. Imported specialties like canned sardines and chorizo spread sit alongside local cheeses and freshly baked bread. All of these can be purchased separately or enjoyed in one of the delicatessen’s ever-changing sandwich selections.
Point: In typical European fashion, these guys aren’t shy of oil and other wet ingredients, so grab twice the number of towels you think you need and leave that white shirt at home.
5. Feed the little blue penguins at the aquarium
Do you like little blue penguins? Then, head to the National Aquarium for the cutest sight ever. General admission lets you see the penguins from a viewing platform while true penguin fans can get up close and personal with a close encounter tour. Here, a caretaker takes you behind the scenes of the Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, where you learn all about the daily errands as well as each penguin’s name, quirky character traits, and current love interest. Then it’s time to head to the pen to meet them in the feathered meat and help hand feed them.
Point: Keep your nice shoes in your suitcase for this outing and don’t worry, the little guys may bite you playfully but it doesn’t hurt.
6. Sneak into the new speakeasy in town
Remember Harvest Deli? Well, when the sun goes down, it’s time to come back – not for a few seconds, but push against the wall at the back of the shop to find a secret door to Napier’s trendy Teresa bar. Owned by Marseglia and Mitchell, the intimate bar feels like an ode to 1920s glamour, with soft jazz and even softer bartenders whipping up fantastic cocktails with smoke, bubbles, fire and more.
Point: In typical super cool bar fashion, these guys don’t take reservations. So if you want to guarantee a spot and not wait outside, try to go earlier in the evening.
7. Dine at Mister D and Market St
Nothing beats sitting in a cozy and lively restaurant, surrounded by great food and chatty diners. Luckily Napier has no shortage of places where you can find that feeling, but when it comes to picking favorites, Mister D and Market St top our list. If you like quality food and service at fine dining restaurants but also like places with a bit of attitude, the rock ‘n’ roll style Mister D is for you. Meanwhile, for a city bar vibe and a menu that prides itself on being “fun, not difficult,” head to Market St.
Point: These places are both crowded on Friday and Saturday nights and perfect for couples or large groups. Although you don’t usually make reservations, we recommend calling ahead to secure a good table.
8. Cycle through the vineyards
Hawke’s Bay may be famous for its food and wine, but with over 200km of cycle routes (and more to come), it’s fast becoming a cycling mecca. Start your Sunday at Napier City Bike Hire & Tours in the heart of the CBD, which will outfit you with helmets, maps, bikes and a set of vital written instructions before driving you to the Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market. From here, the 28km route takes you along an elevated limestone path that overlooks dozens of fruit-laden orchards before descending past the gates of several vineyards and ending at the abbey cellars.
Point: Pay extra for e-bikes. It may sound extravagant, but these subtle motors will turn a long trail into a leisurely cruise (especially after a tasting or two). However, you’ll definitely still feel it in your glutes the next day, so there’s no shame in wearing bike shorts under your dress or pants.
9. Visit the famous Farmer’s Market
As a starting point for the bike tour, it’s hard not to follow the bustling crowds and delicious smells at Aotearoa’s oldest and largest farmers’ market. Held every Sunday morning, Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market offers the perfect market experience, with dozens of stalls selling everything from freshly picked avocados to free-range goat cheese, while crowds line up around food stalls. local trucks.
Point: Have a coffee first. With just a few small coffee carts and hundreds of sleepy-eyed passers-by, you can wait up to 40 minutes for a flat white or long black. So make a BYO coffee or head to the cart and order right away.
10. Do a classic wine tasting
It’s hard to choose a favorite among dozens of great wineries, but for a classy cellar door experience, you can’t go wrong with Trinity Hill. From decor to dining, the winery strikes the perfect balance between old-fashioned luxury and contemporary comfort, creating a classic, lush experience without being stuffy or overbearing. For example, although the helpful staff are wine experts, each tasting comes with a set of notes about each wine, detailing its region, vintage, tasting notes and history. So if you prefer to learn at your own pace or just between your group, you can.
Point: Go there with an empty stomach and be sure to order their platter, which not only consists of local cheeses, spiced nuts, olives and salami, but also mānuka honey. It’s not a common ingredient in a platter, but one that enhances the whole experience.
For more things to see and do in the area, visit hawkesbaynz.com