After watching the first sunrise in the world, we headed down the coast to Napier. Napier was probably my favorite city we visited in New Zealand. The city had a nice European feel mixed with a touch of San Diego beach life. Everything seemed to move a little more slowly though. Little cafes and coffee shops dot the beach front promenade. Beckoning you in for a taste with a view. The thing that really sets Napier apart from any other city – the predominantly Art Deco architecture.
Art Deco Walking Tour
One of the first things we did when we got to Napier, was the Art Deco Walking Tour. We find that when you arrive in a new place, getting a feel for the history and culture through some sort of informative session really helps you embrace the place. On this tour, we learned that a massive earthquake and subsequent fire destroyed the entire city in 1931. The tremors from this quake raised the original bay surrounding the city by six feet. Essentially doubling the livable and arable dry land in the vicinity of the growing port.
The restoration and rebuilding of the city took place during the height of the Art Deco fad. Accordingly, a majority of the buildings incorporated elements of this design style. Napier stands today as one of the best preserved collections of Art Deco decor in the world. We loved taking a step back in time. Becca especially enjoyed the photo booth props – felt like we were headed to one of Gatsby’s parties!
Private Wine Tour
Speaking of growing, the area around Napier contains some of the most fertile land suitable for viticulture. Mountains drop right down to Hawke’s Bay and many rivers flow from those mountains. The result is a beautiful setting with many wineries producing top notch wines.
In an effort to try as many of these delightful vintages as possible, we hired Prinsy’s Tours to take us around on the full day wine tour. The tour includes a stop for lunch at your expense, but we recommend eating a hearty breakfast too. We ended up going to seven wineries and as our drive Kerry said, “We don’t waste wine in New Zealand.” Meaning this is a drinking tour, not a tasting tour.
Wine, Wine, and More Wine
We ended up being the only ones signed up for the full day tour. Not a problem, as we typically bring the party. We enjoyed the first two stops (Esk Valley & Mission Estate ) on our own with our new friend/driver, Kerry, even though the selection wasn’t what we expected.
The wines of New Zealand are primarily whites with a mix of lighter reds and some really nice rosés. Fans of deep California reds, like Becca, might be slightly disappointed at first. Don’t let this deter you, even she developed a new taste for whites. And the setting is unreal.
After our private tour, Kerry dropped us off at Church Road winery named for the founding Christian Brothers order who brought wine making to the region. The monks that founded Church Road absconded down the street from the fabled Mission Estate winery with their viticulture knowledge. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the patio complete with some top notch people watching.
Once Kerry returned, we quickly made friends with the group he picked up and continued our tour down toward Hastings. By going to more than just a handful of wineries, we truly got to experience all of the different types of wine the area has to offer.
We also got to hear hopes and projections from a variety of winemakers. Many of the existing fields used for viticulture are located in an old flood plain, which brings along a variety of challenges. Their ideas for protecting the area and developing new regions for growing vines proved inspirational.
We walked away from this day with a little more than a buzz. We had a new appreciation for another part of New Zealand culture and physiography. And Kerry was so kind as to also buy us a set of wine glasses from Mission Estate as a wedding gift!
Our List of Wineries!
- Esk Valley
- Mission Estate
- Church Road
- Trinity Hill
- Ngatarawa Winery
- Askerne Vineyards
Cost: 125$ NZD per person
For more information check out the following links:
Gear you will need: