Napier's Art Deco Charm On Full Display In February

23 January 2015
Read Time: 3.0 mins

This bustling, sun-drenched little city on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island is often referred to as the Art Deco capital of the world and, as you make your way around the centre of town, it’s easy to see why.

After the city was all but wiped out by a devastating earthquake in 1931, it was rebuilt over the next decade in a range of styles popular from the era, including Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical.

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Chief among Napier’s architectural styles, though, is Art Deco. These days, the city is notable for its Deco buildings, chicly adorned with speed lines, sunbursts, geometric patterns and the style’s characteristically flat roofs.

Visitors keen to immerse themselves thoroughly in the Deco atmosphere should consider dressing in their flapper finest and heading to Napier in February, when the city holds its annual Deco Festival.

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Just Don't Call It Shiraz

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With more than two hundred activities over four days of festivities, there’s plenty to capture the imagination. Vintage cars, aerobatics displays, a huge Great Gatsby themed picnic and free outdoor concerts are just some of the events on offer.

If wine trails are more your thing, you’re in for a treat, because Napier is smack-bang in the middle of one of New Zealand’s premier grape-growing regions.

Hawke’s Bay is probably now best known for its gorgeously delicate, peppery Shiraz – although you might get a blank look if you ask for that here, since kiwis call it Syrah. You’ll also find beautiful Chardonnays, and respectable Sauvignon Blancs and Merlots.

 The Craggy Range vineyards

While a self-drive tour is probably the most efficient way to see the wineries, it’s hard to beat a bike tour for sheer hilarity – especially once all those Syrah tastings start to blur into one. “On Yer Bike” wine tours are a fun way to see the region, with the combination of antioxidants and physical exercise surely doing wonders for one’s health!

Trinity Hill, Craggy Range, Te Mata and Black Barn are our pick of the local wine producers, with all delivering top-notch drops. Craggy Range, 25 minutes from Napier, also offers excellent accommodation, with stylish little cottages tucked in among the vines, against a spectacular mountain backdrop.

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Fine Food From A Menu That Changes Daily

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Black Barn’s “luxury retreats” are also highly recommended, offering a range of accommodation options from tiny, romantic cottages and beach houses to properties big enough to comfortably sleep 12 in style.

Many of the wineries have fine-dining restaurants attached, with Craggy Range’s silo-shaped dining room one of the most visually stimulating. A two-course lunch outside under the wines at Black Barn is also hard to beat.


See more of New Zealand by bike. Our Top 4 Routes On The New Zealand Cycle Trail

Check out North Island fare. A Foodie’s Guide to New Zealand’s North Island


Back in town, there are loads of quality eating options. Napier’s proximity to wine country means it’s a town of foodies – you’ll find good food at every price point.

Back in town, there are loads of quality eating options. Napier’s proximity to wine country means it’s a town of foodies – you’ll find good food at every price point.

 A Black Barn retreat

Pacifica Kaimoana (Maori for seafood) is the city’s standout restaurant, and it’s easy to see why. No two nights’ menus are the same, with chef Jeremy Rameka simply working with whatever ingredients are fresh and available on the day to create novel, palate-expanding flavours.

Choose a la carte or opt for the Pacifica tasting menu, and expect dishes like warmed crayfish medallions and smoked eel porridge, sesame-crusted swordfish, or crispy whitebait.

 Looking the part

For something a little more casual, Mister D Dining is a cafe, bar and restaurant in one – drop in for a hearty breakfast or lunch, or go in the evening for the full dining experience. Like Pacifica, Mr D serves up delicious food with a twist. Don’t leave without trying the housemate doughnuts, which come complete with a plastic syringe for you to inject your own custard, jam or chocolate!

Special mention must also go to the hip FG Smith Eatery, which does cafe staples such as sandwiches and cakes, as well as some of the best coffee we’ve had anywhere.

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For Genuine Luxury, Look No Further

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 Even the transport has an art deco theme

Conveniently, it’s attached to Aroha and Friends, a chic boutique selling top local labels, including Karen Walker and Zambesi, as well as beautiful prints for your walls.

Napier has plenty of accommodation options for all budgets, from backpacker hostels through to stylish luxury apartments. The Dome Apartments, right on Marine Parade (the esplanade that travels along Napier’s shoreline), are handy to everything in Napier’s commercial centre, and have stunning ocean views to boot. Little touches such as Bose iPod docks and designer bed linen make the apartments comfortably luxurious.

If you’re really looking for luxury though, our pick has to be The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. A 25-minute drive out of Napier sits one of New Zealand’s best lodges, secluded among 6,000 acres of rolling farmland and overlooking the sea. Top eating and drinking, an excellent golf course and a truly world-class spa make this a destination all on its own.

James Gregory Wilkinson

James Gregory Wilkinson has been writing about travel for the past 19 years and is currently the Travel Editor at Time Out Australia, a role that takes him across the globe on a monthly basis. He’s a travel expert on Sky News Australia and has been published globally in over 20 newspapers, magazines and online.