Napier has a unique concentration of 1930’s style architecture, especially Art Deco design, and as a result is a popular tourist destination for enthusiasts of the era. Thousands of people travel to Napier each year for their Art Deco weekend in February, and the Decanted Jazz Festival in July.
The saturation of 1930’s buildings is due solely to the 7.8 Richter magnitude earthquake that devastated the town in 1931. The New Zealand government donated approximately $3 million (a huge sum in the thirties) to the Earthquake Relief Fund. Four architectural firms banded together to rebuild the town; EA Williams, an Art Deco devotee, Finch and Westernholm, admirers of the Spanish Mission Style, JA Louise Hay, a student of the Frank Lloyd Wright school of thought and Natush and Sons, whose work was more modern. By the end of the 1930’s, Napier was the newest town in the world. These circumstances have made Napier one of the largest existing examples of art deco design in the world today.
A stroll down Marine Parade, along Napier’s waterfront, provides the best sights for Art Deco enthusiasts. Pania on the Reef, a statue similar to the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark, commemorates the Maori legend of the sea maiden who captured the heart of the chief’s son before being transformed into a coral reef. St John’s Cathedral, with thirteen stained glass windows and a custom built Maori chapel, can be explored through a guided tour between 10am and 2pm, while the Colonnade, three beautiful arches, is a memorial to the victims of the 1931 earthquake.
Other worthwhile sites include the Egyptian influenced Municipal Theatre, the Hotel Central (now a strip club and massage parlour) and the row of colourful colonial houses (known as the Six Sisters) along Marine Parade. The ASB Bank on Emerson Street also houses the finest example of Maori carvings in New Zealand.
Napier has an Art Deco Trust, whose job is to preserve and protect this unique city. The Trust also offers tours and information on the history of Napier and the components of Art Deco design.
If you’d like a souvenir of your stay in Napier, you can’t go past The Art Deco Shop on Tennyson Street. The store sells books and videos on the various architectural genres, as well as art deco lamps, figurines, rugs, posters and home wares.
Geography and Climate
Napier is a port city situated on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, along the south eastern edge of Hawke Bay. As the town is less than twenty kilometres from nearby Hastings City, the urban areas of Napier-Hastings are often called the Twin Cities. Both are approximately 320 kilometres north-east of Wellington.
The coastline of Napier was much altered by the 1931 earthquake and the centre of the commercial city is now near sea level. Despite being on the coast, Napier does not have any swimming beaches, but residents and tourists can enjoy New Zealand’s premiere beaches in the nearby Hastings District. It has a warm, dry climate and enjoys some of the highest sunshine hours of all the cities in New Zealand.
We all know that honey comes from bees, but have you ever wondered how it gets from the bees to your kitchen? Then book a visit to Arataki Honey, and wonder no more!
Established in 1944, Arataki Honey is New Zealand’s largest family owned bee keeping operations. They are a comprehensive business that oversees the process from hive to honey pot. New Zealand’s clean environment, abundant vegetation and large open spaces are ideal conditions for bee foraging, and at Arataki Honey, they promote environmentally friendly practices to encourage bee health, from pollination of the country’s important horticultural industry, to extraction and selling of a local product, by locals.
This Qualmark endorsed activity gives visitors a chance to see the entire process first hand. Visitors are encouraged to see the bee’s colonies, discover their biology through microscopes and smell and taste the sweet final product. A guided tour of the factory educates and informs, while multimedia and interactive activities gives visitors a chance to explore at their own pace. And of course, there are plenty of opportunities for taste testing!
The Arataki Honey gift store sells souvenirs as well as samples of the factories produce and other products that use honey, such as soaps and beauty care products. Arataki Honey is situated at 66 Arataki Road, Havelock North, in the foothills of the iconic Te Mata Peak in Hawkes Bay.
Located on beautiful Marine Parade, Marineland of New Zealand is a small park for marine mammals. Marineland gives visitors the opportunity to view these beautiful creatures in a simulated natural environment.
Marineland was opened in January 1965, shortly after the park captured their first dolphin. Throughout the decades, the park has added seals, sea lions, dolphins, gannet and many other aquatic animals to their line up. A Swim with the Dolphins programme was implemented in 1992. Marineland is currently home to dolphins, Californian sea lions, New Zealand fur seals, penguins, gannets and a sulphur crested cockatoo named Bobby, who has been with the park since 1988.
Following a reformat in 2008, Marineland no longer performs animal shows, instead concentrating on educating and informing visitors about the animals that call the park home. The animal enclosures and abundant signage give provide a respectful and more authentic animal experience. Marineland of New Zealand is open from December until April.
Located on Marine Parade, the Napier Kiwi House celebrates New Zealand’s most well known animal, the kiwi bird. The kiwi is one of many flightless birds endemic to Australasia, and is the smallest, although it lays the largest egg. The kiwi is the national symbol for New Zealand; the animal is tough and full of energy, similar to its human counterparts.
The Napier Kiwi House is a small zoo for visitors who wish to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. As well as giving visitors a chance to touch and pet these creatures, the Kiwi House also educates and raises awareness about the delicate state of this endangered species, which face extinction due to attacks from feral cats and possums.
Kiwi birds are nocturnal, so the enclosure is completely dark and there is no flash photography. The Kiwi House opens daily at 1pm. The birds are more active after their feeding, which takes place at 2pm. Entrance is a very low NZ$3.00.
Nestled in the Taradale Hills, Mission Estate Winery was established in 1851 and is currently the oldest winery in New Zealand. Mission Estate is also one of Hawkes Bay’s largest winery and has local a reputation for consistently producing high quality wine, which is no mean feat in a country internationally renowned for their high quality wines!
Mission Estate is open all year around and opens its doors to visitors on a daily basis. A visit to the cellar door provides opportunities for education and taste testing, while the twice daily historic walk provides insight into the historic importance of the winery – in fact, Mission Estate Winery is located inside a restored historic seminary!
If all that walking has worked up an appetite, you can enjoy lunch at the popular Mission restaurant. Open seven days a week, the restaurant uses the best local produce for its meals, and of course, the wine selection is superb. Afterwards, why not spend an afternoon in the Gallery at the Mission. Discover handcrafted goods made by local artists, including art work, furniture, jewellery and home wares.
The Mission Estate Winery is a fun and relatively inexpensive way to spend a day in Napier.
The National Aquarium of New Zealand, on Marine Parade, provides travellers with a chance to get close to more fearsome underwater creatures. The Aquarium has three different enclosures, containing exotic animals like water dragons and coral reef fish, a native enclosure contained New Zealand animals such as kiwi birds and tuatara and the ocean life enclosure, where you will see everything from pretty seahorses to fearsome sharks and piranhas.
The Aquarium is shaped like a giant stingray, situated on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The building’s proximity to the water means that fresh seawater can be regularly pumped into the enclosures. The National Aquarium of New Zealand is open daily from 9am till 5pm, excluding Christmas Day.
History of Napier
The area now known as Napier was home to many Maori tribes long before the arrival of European settlers. The Ngati Kahugunu tribe was the dominant iwi from Poverty Bay to Wellington, and were the first Maori tribe to make contact with white settlers.
Captain James Cook was the first European to site Napier in October 1769, when he explored the east coast of the North Island. Traders, whalers and missionaries were amongst the first permanent white residents in the area. In the 1850’s, farmers and hotel keepers moved to the area, establishing a more permanent settlement.
By 1854, the town had grown so large that appointment of a Commissioner and Resident Magistrate was deemed necessary. Alfred Domett, who later became Premier, was the town’s first public official. The name Napier (in respect to Sir Charles Napier, a war hero) was agreed upon. Domett further named many of Napier’s streets after great colonial war heroes; the rest, for famous artists and literary figures.
In recent history, the 1931 earthquake was a significant event for the town of Napier. On February 3, a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale levelled large parts of the town.
Subsequent fires destroyed the central business district. For weeks afterwards, residents were forced to live in camps and refuges set up at Nelson Park and Marine Parade Beach while the city was rebuilt.
In January of 1945, the German submarine U-862 entered the Port of Nelson undetected; conspiracy theorists later spread the myth that Captain-Lieutenant Heinrich Timm led the stealth mission to replenish their rations by milking the plentiful dairy cow’s in the region.
As of 2009, Napier has a population of 58 000. Census results revealed that Napier has a large percentage of retirement aged residents, probably due to the area’s pleasant climate, high level of sunshine hours and low rainfall.