Enjoying a Mediterranean climate, Hawke’s Bay has 2,200 hours of sunshine a year, making it one of the sunniest places in New Zealand. With low rainfall and low humidity, that provides excellent growing conditions for vineyards producing world-famous wines. Examples are Te Mata Estate, Black Barn and Craggy Range (all with restaurants, wine-tasting facilities and cellar-door sales). Restaurants use locally sourced produce, often organically grown. Many of the stone and pipfruit orchards for which the region used to be famous have been removed and grapes planted in their place.
A short distance from the vineyards of the plains, Hawke’s Bay’s sandy coastline extends for many miles, with something for all lovers of the ocean and of its bounty – fish, crayfish (lobster), and shellfish. Beaches are mainly safe for swimming and boating, with the more popular surf beaches patrolled by surf lifeguards during the summer months.
For the adventurous there is paragliding, hot-air ballooning, jet boating, canoeing, rafting, or a tractor and trailer ride along the coast to see the world’s largest mainland gannet colony. A round trip to see the gannets takes four hours, including a one-and-a-half hour stop at the Cape, with departure times depending on the tides. November is the best month to see the birds – it’s spring in the southern hemisphere, and the chicks are hatching.
Other leisure activities include trout fishing, or golf on one of a number of premium golf courses. The great local climate enables golfers to play on most days of the year – even in mid-winter. Proving very popular is a new, multi-million dollar course opened at Cape Kidnappers in January 2004. It makes good use of natural topographical features and provides stunning views across the sea to Napier and the Mahia Peninsula.
Art Deco and Spanish Mission architecture
Hawke’s Bay’s main business and residential centres, Napier, Hastings and Havelock North, are well known for their antique and gift shops and specialist boutiques. In Napier, the business district has the added attraction of being an art deco mecca, the architectural style adopted when it was rebuilt after a damaging earthquake in 1931. Hastings buildings have a Spanish Mission influence. Guided tours of the important buildings of both cities are available year round.
Comparatively little known until recently, this piece of paradise in the South Pacific is beckoning many to visit – and to stay as long as possible.