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Hastings is one of the many beautiful places to visit in New Zealand if you’re on the North Island. It’s often referred to as the gem of Hawke’s Bay for all its culinary treasures. With fruit orchards, over 70 wineries, and plenty of artisan food, Hastings is a hot spot for foodies and wine lovers alike. It’s also super close to the beaches and cute towns along Hawke’s Bay.
If you’re exploring the North Island, I highly recommend taking a trip to Hastings. While living in New Zealand, I’ve visited Hastings several times, and it’s one of my favorite cities on the east coast. I love how much you can experience here, from shopping and eating to cultural experiences and interesting architecture.
But with so many cool things to do in New Zealand, it can be tricky to plan out the best trip itinerary. That’s why I’ve honed in on this Hawke’s Bay hotspot. So if you’re considering a trip to this region, keep reading. I’ve created a guide with the best activities to make sure you have an amazing time.
So, let’s dive into the best things to do in Hastings!
About Hastings, New Zealand
Hastings is an inland city in the region of Hawke’s Bay. This region is best known for being a hilly, coastal area with lots of rivers and fertile land. This makes it a great place to produce wines and other agricultural goods like apples, beans, and squash.
There is plenty to do in Hastings, from indoor art galleries and alcohol tastings to outdoor markets, wine tours, and hikes. Whether you’re looking for a chill vacation or a trip full of adventure, I know you’ll find what you are looking for.
It’s an easy destination to reach, especially if you’re renting a car in New Zealand. It’s just under 2.5 hours from the small, adventure-filled town of Taupo, and about 6 hours if you’re coming from the city of Auckland. You can even plan to drive from Taupo to Napier and then take the quick 20-minute drive to Hastings from there.
So if you’re traveling around the North Island, definitely consider stopping here. Hastings is popular for a reason, and I loved getting to eat, drink, and adventure my way through this city!
On that note, I compiled 11 of my top picks so that you can find the right balance for your trip.
The BEST Things to Do in Hastings, New Zealand
1. Shop at the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market
This is one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in all of New Zealand. When they say that it’s one of the largest markets, they aren’t kidding. This place is HUGE.
The Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market is located at the northeast corner of Hastings. It’s open every Sunday year-round from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, rain or shine! Its location and schedule make it the perfect spot to hit before Sunday brunch, an afternoon hike, or even a wine tour.
There is a second location in nearby Napier (on the water) so make sure you head to the closest market to save yourself a trip.
The Hastings Farmers’ Market is made up of stalls next to one another, set up in the shape of a big loop. This makes it really easy to walk in a giant circle and not miss anything on either side of you. Just follow the natural progression of stalls!
Many produce stalls sell some of the freshest-looking fruits and veggies I’ve seen. If you pass by a stand selling Te Mata figs, you have to try one!
If you aren’t looking to buy groceries, but want a bite to eat, hit one of the food trucks instead. The Bacon Sandwich Company is a super popular option for good reason – and you’ll likely pick up on the drool-worthy smell as you pass it.
There are also loads of handmade crafts and local souvenirs. I grabbed a coffee, bought a book, and tried a homemade pastry all before getting even a third of the way through the nearly 60 open booths here. So seriously, pace yourself!
On top of all the amazing local items you can find, they have live music. When I visit, it always feels like more than just an outdoor market, but an entire event!
2. Visit Te Mata Peak
If you’re looking for an outdoor activity, head to the peak of Te Mata Park. I love this spot because you get a panoramic view of Hawke’s Bay from all angles (just check out my pictures above!).
Known by early European settlers as the ‘Sleeping Giant,’ Te Mata is an incredible formation. As the story of Te Mata goes, the giant tried to show his devotion by biting his way from the coastline to the plains. The mountain proved too strong, and his body now shapes the outline of this peak, with stunning scenery surrounding it.
This location is only about a 25-minute drive from Hastings but gives you such amazing views of Hawke’s Bay. Honestly, Te Mata Peak gave me a new appreciation for the area. It’s one thing to hear about the green rolling hills, and another to see them laid out beneath you.
The drive up Te Mata Peak is a little scary, so please take it slow, especially on the sections only wide enough for one car. If you’ve rented a motorhome in New Zealand, I certainly wouldn’t take it up there.
Related Read: If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, there are many national parks in New Zealand. If you’re looking to stick to the North Island, read my guide on visiting Tongariro National Park here!
3. Go on a wine tour
Hastings is located in Hawke’s Bay, which just so happens to be the second-largest wine region in New Zealand – with plenty of amazing wines to try!
This area is especially known for its Syrahs but also has fantastic red blends and Chardonnays. I honestly couldn’t decide which I liked more, which is why you should try several!
There are over 100 wineries in Hawke’s Bay and 5 different subregions. That’s a whole lot of terrain to explore, making tours a great option. Wine tours really maximize your time by taking you to the best spots and trying a variety of delicious wines. And with a guided tour, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a few glasses without worrying about transportation.
Many of the region’s wine tours leave from Napier, but I found some great options that allowed me to still depart from Hastings. Below are two of my favorite wine tours in this area.
Try a Wine and Bike Tour
When I stayed in Hastings, I decided to be adventurous and go on this Self-Guided Wine and Bike Tour. It’s perfect if you want to get some exercise, enjoy the beautiful outdoors, and taste some wine all in one day!
The self-guided tour runs between 10 am – 4 pm, which are the perfect hours to enjoy such an activity. I woke up and had a leisurely breakfast before heading out. You get about 6 hours to bike around 20 km (12 miles) of trails – which are all flat making for a chill ride! The company also provides a great map with the best routes and wineries to stop at.
Overall, I love the flexibility and support this wine and bike tour offers. You’re free to make your own schedule, stopping whenever you please. But the tour still provides a support vehicle in case you run into any issues (or you just need them to carry a few wine bottles purchased along the way!).
It’s pretty cheap, at $57 NZD which covers the bike and helmet rentals, the map, roadside assistance, and wine collection (summertime only). You’re responsible for your own wine tastings, and you’ll also need to find your way to and from the meeting point. But overall the price was well worth it!
This tour is a great balance of adventure and self-sufficiency, with a nice touch of support from the tour company. However, tours are only offered Friday – Sunday and they do sell out. So check availability and book in advance here!
Traditional Guided Wine Tour
If you don’t want to worry about transportation or riding a bike, take this half-day guided wine tour! You’ll get a chauffeured drive around the beautiful Hawke’s Bay, stopping for wine tastings and visiting the stunning Te Mata Peak.
My tour began at 12:30 pm with a hotel pick-up in Hastings (or Napier). The timing was perfectly scheduled between lunch and dinner so I could focus on the wine! Over the course of 5 hours, we journeyed through the coastal region, taking in the sights and sampling many wines.
My group had a wonderful guide who told us all about the region, the wine, and some local history. One of the highlights was stopping at Te Mata Peak. The views were incredible and it was the perfect way to end the day.
This tour wasn’t much more expensive at $135 NZD, which included a cheeseboard, snacks, wine tastings, and round-trip transportation. Plus, tours run every day so it’s super easy to fit into your itinerary! So pick a date and book it online here.
Related Read: If you make your way to the South Island, there are plenty of wineries here as well! Read about my favorite wine tours from Queenstown.
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
4. Enjoy a cocktail at Hastings Distillers
If cocktails are more your jam, Hastings has the perfect option! And you don’t need to venture far since I know the best downtown location.
Hastings Distillers puts artistry into each one of their liquors and cocktails, and they’re happy to educate you on their craft! They offer guided tastings till 5 pm for around $20 NZD. You can just walk in or book ahead (for parties of 6 or more). If you aren’t interested in a tour, just enjoy the drinks!
But I don’t think I realized just how little I knew about gin until I did the ‘Bespoke Tasting’. My group spent 90 minutes learning from the master distiller and trying lots of gins. This option is for groups of 6 or more and costs $90 NZD per person (including local delicacies along with all the booze). If you know you want to try it, you can contact them online here.
Hastings Distillers is open Wednesday and Thursday from 3 pm – 7 pm, Fridays from 3 pm – 8 pm, and Saturdays from 11 am to 8 pm. So, there are plenty of times to swing by the tasting room for one of their guided tasting options.
Regardless of whether you do a tasting, or just pop in for a gin cocktail, this is a must-try spot for anyone who enjoys botanical-flavored spirits.
5. Ice cream at Rush Munro’s
I stumbled upon Rush Munro’s as I was exploring the downtown area of Hastings. And trust me, I could not be happier that I found this spot! It’s located just around the corner from Hastings Distillers, so you can make a little food/alcohol tour of your own (I sure did!).
This ice cream shop has the ideal ambiance to enjoy a cone. I loved the appearance of the outdoor seating area with its green umbrellas and white bistro chairs, situated in a garden space. It’s the perfect place to enjoy some ice cream and is only made better by the fact that it is right in the center of town.
Their menu shifts occasionally, but if they have dark chocolate orange or ginger honey options, I highly recommend you try them! They’re just unique enough to be fun, while still keeping it simple. Or don’t keep it simple, and splurge on a sundae – that’s what I did the second time around, and it was very worth it.
Rush Munro’s Ice Creamery is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm, making it the perfect mid-day treat!
6. Check out the Art Deco buildings
If you’re an architecture buff, you’ll appreciate the local neighborhood buildings. Art Deco buildings often add stylized, geometric elements to otherwise simple designs, and you’ll see plenty of this style as you wander about Hastings.
Napier is known as the Art Deco capital of the world and is well worth a visit if you’re already considering taking a day trip. However, it’s recently been declared that there are more Deco buildings in Hastings than in Napier. It seems this small town is really coming up in the world of architecture!
The Focal Point Cinema and Café is another beautiful example of Deco, and you can always have a look around inside, too, since it’s one of the buildings that is open to the public.
If you’re hungry while walking around, you can grab a bite to eat at the Focal Point’s Café. I got a lovely steak pie and the chocolate caramel slice before watching a movie here.
7. Civic Square Totems
Head to Civic Square, right near the downtown of Hastings, to see the collection of 18 locally carved pou. These are huge totem poles that each face a location of a marae, a particular iwi’s (native tribe’s) land.
Not only are these pou very representative of the First Nations’ customs and culture, but they are beautiful pieces of art to appreciate. I loved how colorful the carvings were and enjoyed getting to learn more about their significance.
Civic Square is all-around a nice way to enjoy a bit of green space right next to the city center. The area with the totems is known as Nga Pou O Heretaunga.
Related Read: This country is full of so much culture, beauty, and fun activities. If you want to explore more, read about the best multi-day guided tours in New Zealand here!
8. Hastings City Art Gallery
If you’re looking for an indoor activity in Hastings, head to the local art museum! This is a great place to come if there’s bad weather or you need a break from the sun. It’s also a great thing to do when visiting New Zealand in winter.
Hastings City Art Gallery is free to enter and often highlights projects that relate to the environment, traditions, and ideas of culture.
The exhibitions are always changing, so you could visit a few times a year and see completely new work each time. The last time I was here, I enjoyed their rotating exhibition series. Because it’s such an easy place to visit and a nice reprieve from the outdoors, I come here every time I’m in Hastings!
Luckily, you can stop by any day of the week. It’s open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm, and Sundays from 1 to 4 pm. It’s located right in Civic Square Park, so you can easily stop by after checking out the totem poles.
9. Visit Craggy Range Winery
There are a plethora of wineries in this area – which comes as no surprise seeing how it’s in wine country! However, Craggy Range Winery deserves special mention.
The views of the Craggy Range around this family-owned winery are to die for. If there’s only one spot that we could return to, it would be this one!
They also have a fantastic award-winning restaurant that serves lunch and dinner. I came here for dinner, and our group had their tasting menu which was pricey but worth every penny. If there’s a day that you’re looking to celebrate something, or just treat yourself a little extra, this is the place to go. But you should definitely book ahead online.
The Craggy Range Restaurant collaborates with local suppliers, making it a wonderful place to try seasonal dishes paired with stellar wines. Think of things like beetroot cured salmon, glazed lamb shoulder, and pecorino cheese souffle, paired with Chardonnay, Merlot, and Riesling. They also offer vegetarian and vegan options.
We also learned that the winery places a large focus on sustainability, from growing practices to giving back to the local landscape, which is just the cherry on top of an already wonderful experience.
Though I didn’t stay on-site, the winery does have a Craggy Range Luxury Vineyard Retreat. The property is stunning, and their cabins are nestled amongst the vineyards with views of the lake or mountains.
If you’d like to make this into a weekend trip, I definitely suggest staying here. Starting at $640 NZD, cabins can get a bit pricey, but you’ll find the best deals if you book in advance!
10. Eat and drink at Brave Brewing Co.
If you’re a fan of breweries like me, you’ll want to try Brave Brewing Co. Their Milk Stout was delicious and their Kid Dynamite was well, dynamite (and super hoppy!).
Not only does this spot have great beer, but their food is amazing, too! I loved their burgers and saw that they even have vegan and gluten-free options too. Although it’s mostly diner food, they offer kid’s meals, salads, and non-alcoholic drinks too.
Located near the center of town, you could head to this spot after a sweet treat at Rush Monro’s Ice Creamery. It’s only a block away and doesn’t require reservations. It’s open Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday from 12 pm – 8 pm, and Friday and Saturday from 12 pm – 9 pm.
This place offers the perfect balance of good food and brews … which is a big statement coming from me. You could spend hours here just enjoying beer tastings and grazing on food in between. So if you like the sound of both those things, add it to your Hastings itinerary!
11. Day Trip to Napier
One last way to round out your trip to Hastings is to take a day trip to Napier. I’ve mentioned quite a few Napier highlights already, from wine tours to Art Deco buildings, but there is so much more to see.
For one thing, Napier is a beach city. So if you’re craving some time by the water, you should definitely visit! Between Hastings and Napier, I feel like you get the perfect balance of both inland and beach vibes in New Zealand.
At the Bluff Hill Lookout, you can catch the view over the city and water. And if you enjoy gardens, visit the Botanical Gardens in the center of the city. I also like going to the Centennial Garden for a peaceful walk and to see the beautiful waterfall here.
If you prefer to stroll closer to the beach, you can park in the lot near Perfume Point. Make sure to snap a cute photo on the giant colorful chairs there! And if you want to sit down and enjoy breakfast or brunch nearby, Ahuriri Village Kitchen is open daily from 7 am – 2 or 3 pm.
If you’re looking to have a meal or snack here, you’ve got options. I like walking down Napier Beach and then heading to one of the eateries nearby.
For a casual, wallet-friendly option, grab fish and chips takeaway from Continental Fish Supply and eat it along the beach. It’s open Tuesday – Friday for lunch or dinner (11:30 am – 2:30 pm, 4:30 pm – 8 pm) and on weekends from 11:30 am – 8 pm. If you’re just looking for something sweet, choose from over 43 flavors of ice cream at Lick This (open weekdays from 12 pm – 5 pm and weekends 10 am – 5 pm).
If you’re here in the evening, Hunger Monger is all about local seafood with tasty appetizers and dinners. They’re open Wednesday – Saturday from 5 pm – 9 pm, and offer takeaway items too!
The drive between Hastings and Napier is only about 15 minutes, so you could theoretically head to Napier multiple times. Sometimes I like to come here in the morning when the beach is calm, and then return to watch the sunset or for dinner.
Related Read: If you can’t get enough of cute coastal towns in New Zealand, read about the top things to do in Piha Beach here.
Where to Stay in Hastings
If you’re planning on visiting Hastings, I recommend staying a few nights to really take advantage of the local sights. It’s the perfect opportunity to relax and explore both wine country and the coast.
In Hastings, you’ll find mostly bed and breakfasts and apartment-style accommodations. Below, I’ve listed a few of my favorites with different price points for each. But since it is a smaller city, I’d recommend booking these in advance!
Hawthorne House – $$$
Hawthorne House is an upscale bed and breakfast right in the heart of Hawke’s Bay wine country, about 8 minutes from the city center. The charming house is set on a beautiful property with gardens and paddocks, perfect for that morning stroll. The complimentary breakfast is local, organic, and amazing – they even use eggs from the site’s free-range chickens. Prices start at $560 NZD per room. So if you want that cozy yet luxurious vibe, book your stay online here!
Cumberland Court Motel – $$
The Cumberland Court Motel offers studios and private apartments at a great rate. Accommodations come with a spa bath and kitchenette, and you’ll have access to a gym, lap pool, and laundry, and can order breakfast on-site. It’s about 1.5 km (1 mile) from downtown Hastings and offers private parking. Rooms start at around $225 NZD, and you can check availability and book online here.
Hawkes Bay Villa Beachwood – $
Hawkes Bay Villa Beachwood has spacious, immaculate rooms in a beautiful setting surrounded by gardens. They have a continental and buffet breakfast as well as a spa and wellness center. Rooms start at $141 NZD which is quite affordable for what you get here! So if you’re looking for a relaxing and quiet stay just a few blocks from downtown Hastings, book a room online here!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. My top choice for a motorhome company is Star RV because they have beautiful motorhomes at affordable prices. You can check prices and availability for Star RV motorhomes online here. Alternatively, you can use Motorhome Republic to search all motorhomes in NZ. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
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To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
If you’re a food and wine aficionado, Hastings is an absolute must! There are a surprising amount of things to do in this small city, and you could easily spend a few days here. So if you’re planning a trip, I hope this guide came in handy!
If you’re visiting other parts of the country, check out my other blogs about New Zealand. I lived here for several years and come back frequently. I have information on everything from the best road trips to location guides. You can read a few of these articles below: