Things to do in Napier – Cruise Stop
Napier has one of the largest seaports in New Zealand for exports of commodities such as wool, frozen meat, timber and fruits. It is also one of the major cruise ports in North Island, the gateway to the greater wine-growing region of Hawke’s Bay.
Stepping off the port and into the Marine Parade promenade from your cruise ship, you will be greeted with Art Deco architecture that replaced the turn-of-the-century skyline after the 1931 earthquake destroyed much of the city. If you come in mid-February, you will walk right into a time capsule complete with vintage cars, cloche hats and Oxfords when Napier celebrates the Art Deco Weekend. Around this time, the various estates in the greater Hawke’s Bay area are also holding food and wine events. But you can come anytime; simply join the tours if you miss the wine festivals.
On Marine Parade is New Zealand’s National Aquarium, easily a children’s favourite for its stock of deep-water species housed in nature-similar environment. Look for the statue of Pania of Maori mythology, Napier’s famous landmark, also on the promenade.
A trip back into the Great Gatsby era makes for an interesting introduction into a region renowned for the oldest vineyards in New Zealand. The Hawke’s Bay Wine Trails is a scenic path that winds from the coast where colonies of gannet can be spotted, through river estuaries where migrating birds over-winter, and around the foothills of Te Mata, a mythical Maori site whose base hosts cellar doors that produce Syrah and Cabernet. A full-day excursion will not be enough to explore the trail on bicycle, so renting – or being driven in – a car would make better sense given your limited time ashore.
But if you prefer to bring on board several bottles without going far, attend a wine appreciation seminar at the New Zealand Wine Centre; it will only set you back an hour. Then a jaunt to surf breaks and golden sand beaches another hour both ways might round up the first half of your day, while you spend the rest of your time ashore in hunting for the oddest-looking ‘tiki’ or indigenous humanoid carvings in the artisan shops of Taradale not 15 minutes to the southwest. While there, you may also pick up Merlot and Chardonnay.
You won’t be allowed to walk from the town into the port less than two miles away; you can nonetheless walk around the city to cap off your visit. A tour of New Zealand’s oldest prison may not be for everyone, but if you fancy a mug shot or an immersive experience of North Island’s history, the abandoned gallows, the graveyards and the solitary confinement make for an unforgettable conclusion.