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Visit Napier, New Zealand

Updated on July 15, 2018

The art deco capital of the southern hemisphere

Napier is famous for being an art deco town. Situated on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, Napier is preserved in time after a devastating earthquake almost 85 years ago. Remarkably the town survived this catastrophe due to the strength of its people to rebuild it. The architectural fashion at the time meant that it was rebuilt in art deco style.


art deco architecture is a feature in Napier
art deco architecture is a feature in Napier

Napier is a popular tourist destination

Hawkes Bay Duck Tour
Hawkes Bay Duck Tour | Source
Classic art deco architecture
Classic art deco architecture | Source
classic car tours
classic car tours | Source

Tourist destination

Tours from Napier include a Hawkes Bay Duck tour. I went on this tour and had a lot of fun. The vehicle is an army type amphibious truck/boat. Once over the bridge we drove into the water and floated on West Quay. We drove all around town with the driver tooting the duck like horn. This way I easily got to see the art deco buildings, the shops. A running commentary from the driver kept everyone quite entertained. What a way to see a different side of Napier.

If the Duck Tour doesn't quite appeal, don't worry, there are other options. Why not tour Napier in a vintage classic car? A number of these cars gleamed in the sunlight as they sat surrounded by art deco architecture.

What is art deco?

  • Art deco is a style which was fashionable in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • It influenced architecture, clothes and ceramics.
  • It is notable in its geometric shapes, clean lines and striking colours.
  • Art deco represents a time of luxury and glamour. The style is in essence, decoration applied in a lavish burst of expression.


statue of a lady from the 1920s
statue of a lady from the 1920s | Source

Rebuilding Napier

art deco style
art deco style | Source
Spanish mission style
Spanish mission style | Source
Soundshell Napier Beach
Soundshell Napier Beach | Source

The Napier earthquake

Earthquakes occur every day in New Zealand. Most of them are so small you don't even feel them. However, In 1931 a massive earthquake hit just north of Napier. It lasted two and a half minutes. The resulting fires from the earthquake, devastated the inner city of Napier.

This earthquake practically destroyed the cities of Napier and Hastings, and changed the landscape of Hawke’s Bay. The sea floor rose almost three meters and the tidal flats were drained.

Napier was rebuilt from scratch and the newest architectural development was in the art deco style. The soundshell, skate park and gardens were built above a foundation of rubble removed from the town centre and deposited on the beach. What a way for a city to be reborn!


Tours for sights and tastes

strawberry farm
strawberry farm | Source
chocolate factory
chocolate factory | Source
black rose tour bus and guide at lookout
black rose tour bus and guide at lookout | Source

Things to see and do

I went on a fabulous tour with a group of tourists who had arrived in town for the day on a cruise ship. The black rose tours provided a luxury small van with a driver/guide. On this tour we took in a Strawberry farm where you could get to die for berry smoothies and ice creams. We also visited a bee farm with a visitors centre and a gift shop where you could have honey tastings and buy honey products. Following that was a visit to a chocolate factory where we got to taste samples! The highlight of the tour was a lookout where the views were stunning.

Where is Napier?

Napier is located at the south of the Hawkes Bay and is not far from the city of Hastings. It too was devastated by the earthquake which hit Napier and was reconstructed using Art Deco and Spanish Mission design. The area which takes in Napier, Hastings and Hawkes Bay is known for its wineries and good restaurants.

Napier, North Island New Zealand

A markernapier new zealand -
Napier, New Zealand
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Arts and crafts

Beach side boutique shops - perfect for browsing
Beach side boutique shops - perfect for browsing | Source
Vintage delights at one of the specialty shops in Napier
Vintage delights at one of the specialty shops in Napier | Source

Specialist shops

Looking for that special art deco item? Look no further. There are specialty art deco shops in Napier that will excite and inspire you.

One such shop is called the Art Deco Shop. Stocking a marvellous array of gifts and special purchases to remind you of your stay in Napier. I bought a marvellous 1920's inspired red hat.

One of my favourite shops was the Napier Antique Centre. Filled with antiques and collectables and stunning jewellery. The centre houses a number of different sellers with quite different wares. A great place to find unique presents to give to loved ones back home.

Pastry treats- yum!
Pastry treats- yum! | Source
water lilys at the civic square gardens
water lilys at the civic square gardens | Source

Napier urban food market

Napier hosts an urban food market.

  • When: Saturday, 9am to 1pm.
  • Where: Lower Emerson Street, right next to the Civic Square gardens.

Tantalising smells of roasted coffee and fresh bread fill the air. Eggs and fresh produce are available too. Grab something to eat while you wander around the stalls.

I stayed at a hotel which had a kitchenette, so I could get some supplies here for my stay in Napier. The local supermarket wasn't that far away either, so I could walk to it to get whatever else I needed.

Self contained apartments
Self contained apartments | Source
Decorative doors at the Provincial hotel
Decorative doors at the Provincial hotel | Source

Accomodation - From resort to backpackers

There is a variety of accommodation types available in Napier.

All budgets are catered for, from budget to luxury and anywhere in between.

You can choose to stay in a:

  • Serviced apartment
  • Hotel
  • Beach house
  • Cottage
  • Bed and breakfast
  • Backpackers
  • Villa
  • Townhouse

Much of the accomodation can be found in a quiet central location.

Further afield you could stay in Hastings, Havelock North and the wider Hawke’s Bay region and take a day trip to Napier.


Maori people and the area around Napier

Heretaunga, the Maori name for Hawke's Bay, has been occupied since around the late 13th Century according to oral history.

Maori people would have arrived at Heretaunga by sailing down the coast from the north in canoes. Te Whanganui-a-Orotū or Napier’s inner harbour was also settled fairly early on.

Today, there are more than 60,000 people who identify as Maori and 86 marae or meeting grounds are scattered throughout the Hawke’s Bay region.

Nga Pou o Heretaunga 10 at Hastings, near Napier, NZ
Nga Pou o Heretaunga 10 at Hastings, near Napier, NZ | Source

© 2014 Jen Wood

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