Hawke's Bay: An introduction

Hawke's Bay – famed for its distinctive art deco architecture – has buckets of sunshine and a fertile coastal landscape that infuses award-winning wines and gourmet food.

Having a warm, dry climate has helped Hawke’s Bay earn its reputation as "the food bowl of New Zealand" and become the country's second-largest wine-producing region. It’s the first stop on the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail and a popular destination for cycling around the vines.

The seaside city of Napier is an art deco marvel, rebuilt in the 1930s after it was devastated by a huge earthquake. Today, the city boasts one of the best concentrations of original art deco, stripped classical and Spanish mission architecture.

Hawke's Bay hosts some of New Zealand's most vibrant events, including the Art Deco Festival, Horse of the Year (the southern hemisphere's largest equestrian show), the Hawke's Bay International Marathon, and FAWC! Food and Wine Classic, a winter and summer event series celebrating the best of New Zealand's food and wine.

Out of town, Hawke’s Bay offers outdoor adventures such as cycling, golfing at Cape Kidnappers or taking an overland safari or beach tractor ride to one of the world's largest accessible mainland gannet colonies. Visitors can hike iconic landscapes such as Te Mata Peak and Lake Waikaremoana, or relax on the glorious beaches stretching out along the Pacific coast. Weekend farmers’ markets are the place to shop for local produce and indulge in artisan gourmet food.

Art deco style

Hawke’s Bay suffered a devastating earthquake in 1931 that destroyed the twin cities of Napier and Hastings. Entirely rebuilt in two years in the distinctive 1930s style, Napier has one of the highest concentrations of art deco architecture in the world and a colourful heritage.

Each February, tens of thousands of people converge on Napier for Art Deco Festival – a lively celebration of art deco architecture and culture. Napier city is transformed with art deco costumes, music, cars and naval bands inspiring people to dance in the streets. The weekend's 250-plus events include aeronautical displays, Gatsby picnics, dances and the now-famous "Depression Dinner". Year-round guided art deco walking and vintage car tours of the city centre show off the unique 1930s architecture and tell Napier’s story. 

Māori culture

Heretaunga (the original Māori name for Hawke’s Bay) is home to several Māori iwi (tribes). The tribes settled river valleys and coastlines where food was plentiful, and the names of many landmarks and places recall stories from the past.

In Māori mythology, the formation of Hawke's Bay is found in the story of Maui, the most famous of the Māori gods. When his brothers tried to sabotage his fishing efforts by refusing him a fishhook or bait, the resourceful Maui produced his own hook, made from his grandmother's jawbone, and cast it into the ocean. After heaving the North Island to the surface, Maui's hook was transformed into the headland that forms the southernmost tip of Hawke's Bay, Cape Kidnappers. Viewed from above, you can see the Cape's hooked shape and why Hawke's Bay is referred to as Te Matua a Maui – the Fishhook of Maui. 

Food and wine

A premier New Zealand food and wine region, Hawke’s Bay is a foodie’s heaven, stocked with fine wine, fresh produce and gourmet dining destinations.

The Hawke's Bay wine region covers several sub-regions – Gimblett Gravels, the Bridge Pa Triangle, Te Awanga, Esk River and Havelock North. The region is best known for award-winning reds (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah) and rich, complex Chardonnay. 

With 35 of 70-plus vineyards offering cellar-door experiences, there are many opportunities to enjoy Hawke’s Bay wine in small boutique or large commercial wineries, all in picturesque locations. Many wineries have restaurants or alfresco dining, while vineyard cycle tours take advantage of the relatively flat landscape and pleasant climate.

A wide variety of fresh produce and artisan products are sold at farm gates with honesty boxes, or at specialty food stores and farmers' markets. On Saturdays in Napier and Sundays in Hastings, shoppers can taste their way around the markets, soaking up live music as they browse fresh produce and delicacies direct from growers and producers. 

And by the way...

  • Hawke's Bay is New Zealand's oldest wine region, with Mission Estate established in 1851.
  • The Farm at Cape Kidnappers luxury lodge and Cape Kidnappers Golf Course are regularly listed among the world's Top 50 links.
  • Cape Kidnappers is home to one of the world's largest accessible mainland gannet colonies.
  • Hawke’s Bay has a hill with the world's second-longest place name: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukaka-pikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.
  • Napier has one of the world's highest concentrations of art deco architecture.
  • The region has more than 200 kilometres of off-road cycle trails, through stunning landscapes and connecting events, attractions, wineries and eateries.
  • Dinosaur remains discovered in Hawke’s Bay in 1975 proved that land dinosaurs once lived in New Zealand.