Tell anyone you’re heading to Hawke’s Bay and the response will be overwhelmingly positive. New Zealanders from all around the country know this region is a worthy destination. Boasting some of the country’s best wineries, food and architecture, you’ll be amazed at how much there is to do. I met up with Ro Palmer, the functions wedding planner at Black Barn Vineyards for an afternoon of adventures. As she drove us across the rolling hills and vineyards, listing off all the cafés, eateries and wineries I had to visit, I knew I was in for a treat. Read on to see why this is a must-visit New Zealand spot.
If you’re planning a visit to Hawke’s Bay, you’ll likely want to base yourself in one of three municipalities, Napier, Hastings or Havelock North. If you’re after a central location that overlooks the water, my recommendation is to book yourself in to The Crown Hotel. Housed in a gorgeous Art Deco building, The Crown has all the amenities you’ll need whether you’re on holiday or travelling for business. Its close proximity to several excellent restaurants, F.G. Smiths and Mamasons to name just two, is reason enough to book yourself a room. If you’re after something a bit more remote, check out Black Barn’s retreats. They have sixteen accommodation options available, and I fell in love with The Poplars (pictured below).
If you’re flying into Hawke’s Bay Airport, you’ll find yourself only ten minutes from the heart of Napier, where’s there’s plenty to see (and eat). There are pastel Art Deco buildings everywhere you look. Earthquakes struck Napier in 1931 and the entire city was rebuilt in the Art Deco style. Don’t miss the Sound Shell, The Masonic Hotel, Art Deco Centre.
After walking around, marvelling at all the architecture, you’ve probably built up quite the appetite. I recommend the following cafés, eateries and specialty shops:
Mister D – for the most famous donuts in Hawke’s Bay (maybe New Zealand), head to Mister D. I tried their smashed avocado with dukka and poached eggs for brunch and it was divine. Conveniently down the laneway is Monica Loves, one of Napier’s best wine bars. Just look out for neon, “Who Shot The Barman” sign and you’re in the right place.
MamaSons – This place specialises in dumplings and pizza, and it’s attached to The Globe theatre – a boutique art house cinema.
Milk and Honey – I didn’t have a chance to eat here, but it’s The Crown’s in-house restaurant and was constantly teeming with customers.
Hunger Monger – For the best, freshest seafood in the city, look no further than this Marine Parade restaurant.
Chocolatier Mirams – the prettiest chocolates you’ve ever laid your eyes on in the sweetest little shop just off the main drag.
Mission Estate Winery – as the birthplace of New Zealand wine, be sure to pay Mission Estate a visit. Established in 1851 by pioneering French missionaries, the old seminary has been immaculately maintained.
Blackbird Goods – with goods from near and far, the aesthetic shop stocks products that have been ethically sourced and sustainably made. Its evident the husband and wife team have incredible taste in interiors and household items; they tell me all the products are ones they’ve got in their home (or wish they had).
Takaro Trails – Hawke’s Bay is incredibly cycle-friendly, so be sure to take yourself on a self-guided tour. We hired bikes from Takaro, embarked on a Sunday afternoon cruise to Bay View for lunch by the sea and then marvelled at the spring lambs.
Hastings is a 20-minute drive from Napier and has recently seen an influx of delicious cafés, eateries and art galleries. I suggest spending an afternoon here before heading to Havelock North.
Brave Brewing Co. – The craft beer scene has recently boomed in the Bay and Brave is one of its most noteworthy breweries. The sparse, minimalist space is easy on the eyes and you’ll want to sample a few craft beers and maybe buy a few before leaving.
Funbuns – An Asian fusion eatery that’s known for its Hong Kong style buns and incredible cocktails. Funbuns recently took home a few accolades at Hawke’s Bay Hospitality Awards and it’s easy to see why. Their loaded fries are the best I’ve ever tried mostly due to the heavy amounts of kimchi. The okonomiyaki is filling and flavourful.
Little Blackbird Eatery – A healthy café and eatery, Little Blackbird is a wonderful place to spend a few hours. I cosied up near the fireplace to tackle my emails with a heaping bowl of pumpkin vegetable soup.
Parlour Projects – In addition to the main art galleries and museums, make sure you pay Parlour Projects a visit. The stark white space features a revolving collection of artists.
Opera Kitchen – Next door to Parlour Projects is Opera Kitchen (another Eat Drink Share establishment) with delightful ice coffee and an enticing cabinet.
La Petite Chocolat – Organic, fair trade chocolate and drinking chocolate, which can also be found at the Hastings Farmer’s Market on Sundays.
Little Red Book Shop – The sweetest little second-hand bookshop with floor to ceiling bookshelves, you could easily spend an entire afternoon leafing through their extensive collection.
Hastings Farmer Market – Held every Sunday at the Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds, you won’t want to miss the local market. It’s the place to hang out on a Sunday morning, grab a bacon and egg sandwich, a Bay espresso coffee and peruse the stalls.
Havelock North is the smallest of the municipalities, worth visiting for its proximity to several world-class wineries:
Black Barn Vineyards and Bistro – My favourite winery in the Hawke’s Bay area, Black Barn is known for its Bordeaux style reds and award-winning chardonnay. Wines from the boutique vineyard are available only through their cellar door and their website, so it’s definitely worth visiting in person. Pop into the bistro for a fantastic lunch or grab something to go at their shop. In the summertime, they play host to Saturday morning Grower’s Markets and often have concerts at the amphitheatre.
Craggy Range – World-famous for a reason, stop by the cellar door or have lunch at their award-winning restaurant. Unfortunately, it’s closed until spring, so we just missed out.
Elephant Hill – Another fantastic, innovative winery with one of the local, seasonal lunches on offer.
Pipi’s Café and Truck –There’s a reason why Pipi’s is an institution, the pizzas are incredible and the wine is flowing. All the pink tables and furnishings were right up my alley.
Te Mata Peak – Panoramic views of rolling hills and the city below, you can walk, bike or drive up to the highest peak in the area.