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33 BEST Things to do in Napier, NZ (including Hidden Gems!)

33 BEST Things to do in Napier, NZ (including Hidden Gems!)

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Known as the Art Deco capital of New Zealand, Napier is a gorgeous, sunny town in the heart of Hawkes Bay. Aside from the beautiful architecture, it’s also filled with the best wineries and quirky shops and cafes. With so much charm and loads to do, Napier is sure to capture your heart! 

Napier really has it all, from whitewater rafting to Art Deco tours. If you want to experience the local culinary scene, you can eat some fresh seafood or go wine tasting near Napier. And if you prefer being outdoors, the Bluff Hill Lookout is the place to go!

Having lived in New Zealand, I got the chance to visit Napier several times. It quickly became one of my top coastal towns to visit on the North Island for good reason! Being so central to many large cities, it makes for a relaxing (or adventurous!) weekend getaway. It’s also a great base for a longer, more explorative trip.

With so much to see and do in Napier, it’s good to do your research ahead of time. Luckily, I’ve done it all for you! My hope is that you’ll have an unforgettable time here, just like I did. So keep reading for the absolute best things to do in Napier.

Table Of Contents
  1. About Napier, New Zealand  
  2. The BEST things to do in Napier, NZ
  3. Where to Stay in Napier
  4. Thanks for reading!
  5. Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

About Napier, New Zealand  

Bailey walks through the entrance of Mission Estate Winery in Napier on a wine tasting tour
Let’s be honest, I come for the wine!

Napier is a scenic coastal town on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It’s home to nearly 67,000 residents. And since it’s located in the popular destination of Hawkes Bay, it’s no stranger to visitors. People flock here from all around the world to get a taste of New Zealand’s finest wine and to soak up the summer sun in the breathtaking natural landscape.  

What’s awesome about Napier is that it’s super accessible from the surrounding towns and cities. The cute town of Hastings is just a 15-minute drive inland, and the adventure-filled town of Taupo is less than 2 hours away if you want to drive from Taupo to Napier. If you prefer flying, Napier is only a 1-hour flight from Auckland or Wellington. Or I’ve done the drive from Napier to Wellington when I’m not in a rush and there are plenty of great stops along the way.

On my first visit here, I noticed Napier had a luxurious yet carefree atmosphere. It immediately made me feel safe, peaceful, and welcome as I explored and enjoyed all that the town had to offer. I’m sure you’ll feel similarly, so don’t hesitate to visit this beautiful spot!

The BEST things to do in Napier, NZ

1. Go wine tasting

Bailey enjoys a glass of wine at Church Road winery in Napier, NZ
Sunshine and wine!
Bailey poses for a photo out the front of winery in Napier, NZ

Wine tasting is an absolute must when visiting Napier! Whether you go on your own or with a group of friends, you’ll have the opportunity to savor some of the best wines in the region – and this is one of the top wine regions in the country!

It makes for an awesome day out, so it really seems like a no-brainer!

Below are a couple of my personal favorite wineries, in case you want to check them out for yourself:

Linden Estate Winery

Established back in 1971, Linden Estate Winery is one of the most popular wineries in New Zealand. It is known for its unique and top-quality wines and also has a breathtaking valley landscape to admire during your wine-tasting experience. If you ask me, the beautiful scenery somehow makes the wine taste that much better!

I absolutely love their cellar door in the summer. Here, I can sit outdoors, soak up the sun, and sip wine while admiring the vineyard and surrounding hills. The staff is also super friendly!

They are usually open for tastings 7 days a week, so come sip on some Merlot and Destination Chardonnay and enjoy a bite of crackers and cheese! 

Linden Estate Winery is located in Esk Valley, just off State Highway 5. It’s only a 14-minute drive away from central Napier, which makes it very convenient. To visit on your own, simply book an Uber or taxi to drop you off and pick you up. It is also popular to bicycle there from town!

View over the vines at Mission Estate Winery in Napier, NZ
Baby wine!

Mission Estate Winery

Another top winery I love is Mission Estate Winery. This vineyard is touted as the birthplace of wine in the country – which is a big statement seeing how there are many amazing wine regions in New Zealand!

It’s the oldest winery in New Zealand, which you might pick on through its architecture. Wine tastings take place in the Grande Maison, an old seminary building. Here, you can try their delicious wines while enjoying the spectacular views of the coast, gardens, and lush vineyard.

When I visited, I also wandered through the underground cellar. If you’re a curious soul like me, I’d recommend it!  

What I also appreciate about this winery is that they put a huge emphasis on sustainable wine growing. Their goal is to implement environmental practices that will preserve the land for many generations to come. That’s personally what I love to see! 

Aside from the gorgeous, well-preserved landscape, Mission Estate has a broad selection of wines. They range from classic varieties to more fruity flavors, so you’re sure to find ones you enjoy. I’d personally recommend trying their Estate Late Harvest or Estate Syrah.

To try a variety, you can choose from a Self-Guided Tasting at $10 NZD per person or a Premium Hosted Tasting at $15 NZD per person. For the full experience, you can opt for a Platinum Hosted Tasting at $45 NZD per person. You’ll need 2-6 people and must book the Platinum Tasting ahead of time by calling +1 (06) 845-9353.  

The cellar door is open Monday to Saturday from 9 am – 5 pm (last tastings at 4:15 pm) and Sundays from 10 am – 4:30 pm (last tasting at 3:45 pm).

This winery is conveniently located just a 5-minute drive from central Napier. You can easily catch an Uber or taxi here. If you prefer the bus, take Route 13 from Taradale Street. It can drop you off at Church Road, which is only a 5-minute walk from Mission Estate Winery.

Church Road Winery

Next up, you should definitely check out Church Road Winery Cellar Door. With 125 years of winemaking experience, you’re sure to have the ultimate wine-tasting experience here! Plus, it’s less than a 10-minute walk from Mission Estate Winery, so you can easily do a little wine-hop!

What I love about Church Road is that they’re innovative but still honor the local winemaking tradition. They also have a variety of tastings and experiences to choose from and cater to a wide range of budgets. Some tastings are a bit different, so keep reading to discover which I’d recommend!  

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at a winery in Napier, NZ
Wine always tastes better in good company!

If you are up for some fun, I suggest doing a 25-minute blind tasting! Church Road’s Gwen Experience is a laid-back way to test your palette and guess what Gwen wines you’re tasting. You’ll also take a ‘Which Gwen Wine Are You’ quiz before relaxing in the cellar door park.

I liked this option because it felt even more interactive, and who doesn’t want to know what type of wine they are?! The Gwen Experience costs $50 NZD per person and comes with a souvenir glass. 

Church Road Winery has other wine-tasting options focusing on single-vineyard, reserve, and unique varietals. They usually last 30 minutes, and prices range from $10 NZD to $30 NZD per person.

All tasting experiences are available Thursday through Monday and can be booked through their website. You should also check the website for any special events they might be hosting!

Church Road Winery is just a 10-minute drive from town, and the bus Route 13 stops right in front! So if I were you, I’d make sure to squeeze in both this one and Mission Estate into one wine-filled day.

Brookfields Winery

Last but not least on my list of favorites is Brookfields Winery. I love the setting and overall vibe of this one! Their vintage-style cellar door has options to suit all palates. Plus, you can sit on their flat lawns and look out at rows upon rows of vineyards while tasting wine. 

This quaint winery is known for its quality wines and knowledgeable, passionate staff. One time, I came here on my own, and the staff was so welcoming that I immediately felt at home. Honestly, Brooklands is my go-to winery for a boutique wine-tasting experience. And if you love rose, you have to try their 2022 Fiesta Rose! 

The vineyard is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Napier, so it’s also easy to take a Uber or taxi!

Napier Half-Day Wine Tour

If you don’t want to worry about transportation or logistics, then I highly recommend joining one of the top Napier wine tours! This Half Day Small Group Hawkes Bay Wine Tour takes you to see a few different wineries as well as the beautiful Te Mata Peak!

Sit back and relax as you get chauffeured around, sipping on the best wines and enjoying a cheeseboard. You’ll be picked up around 12:30 pm and driven around the open landscape of Hawkes Bay in an air-conditioned van. On the journey between vineyards, you can enjoy breathtaking views of scenic vineyards and countryside. I really liked the small-group vibe too, and even made some new friends!

Although this small-group tour is mostly about wine, you also get a bonus stop at Te Mata Peak. On your trip back, you’ll come here to admire the panoramic view. It was the perfect way to end the day, and I got the most stunning photo too!

This tour runs for 4-5 hours and costs $135 NZD per person. The price includes roundtrip transportation from your accommodations in Napier, wine, snacks, and your guide. So to enjoy a half-day in the sunny wine country, book your tour online here!

Related Read: If you’re also visiting the South Island, try one of these amazing wine tours from Queenstown!

2. Explore Marine Parade

Bailey poses for a photo with views of the coast on Marine Parade in Napier
Enjoy those coastal views!
The walkway down Marine Parade in Napier, NZ
And walk off all that wine!

The seafront walkway of Marine Parade is the perfect place to take or stroll or cycle. This 3 km (1.9 mi) walk runs alongside Napier Beach and is a hot spot for locals and visitors. Here, you can enjoy the scenic view of the Pacific Ocean, Cape Kidnappers, and Mahia Peninsula.  

Marine Parade is one of Napier’s iconic locations, and I love hanging out here. There’s nothing quite like taking a leisurely stroll on a sunny day. And not only are the views breathtaking, but there are many boutique stores and popular cafes to enjoy nearby too. And if you get hungry on your walk, you’ve got options!

For the best ice cream, Lick This is the place to go! With over 43 different flavors of ice cream, gelato, and sorbet, you might need to sample a few.

On one end of the walkway is the Marine Parade Foreshore Reserve. This grassy area stretches between the Gilray Foundation and the National Aquarium but is so much more than just grass! It includes artwork from local creators such as the large whalebone sculpture by Jacob Scott. 

Marine Parade Foreshore Reserve also contains a skatepark and playground. So if you’re traveling with kids, you might want to spend a little longer here. This park also hosts a variety of events and entertainment throughout the year. You might just stumble upon one, or you can check the City Council’s website for upcoming community events.

To explore Marine Parade, you can drive and park along the roadside – but make sure to pay any meters and read the rules carefully. Alternatively, you can park at one of the car parking lots. The 230 Marine Parade parking lot offers free parking for up to 2 hours.

If you prefer public transit, there are multiple bus routes that stop along Marine Parade. Just hop on the local transit’s goBay website and find the fastest route to the Marine Parade.

3. Enjoy the scenery while floating on a raft

Raft Fish NZ rafting in Napier
Photo credit: Raft Fish NZ
Rafting in Napier with Raft Fish NZ
Photo credit: Raft Fish NZ

If you’re looking for an adventurous way to see Napier, whitewater rafting is my top pick! There are lots of options for whitewater rafting in New Zealand, and Napier is a great place for it!

Have some fun and enjoy the scenery as you flow down the Mohaka River, experiencing some gentle rapids along the way. Of course, it’s unlikely you’re traveling with rafting equipment which is why a guided tour is your best bet! I tried this Shore Excursion: Scenic Rafting from Napier and would highly recommend it.

During this 5-hour expedition, you’ll start off going on a 45-minute scenic bus journey. As you head to the interior of the island, your guide will teach you about the local history and culture. Once at the river, you’ll get a safety briefing and lifejacket, and then hop aboard!

As you float downstream, you’ll listen to birdsong and enjoy the peaceful ride. There are some Class 2 rapids on this rafting tour (which are considered quite tame). So if this is your first ever time whitewater rafting, this is the perfect tour for you. It’s suitable for all ages, and you won’t get wet unless you want to jump in for a swim (which I’d also recommend on a hot day!). 

I was so happy to spend a relaxing day on the water and see a different side to Napier. And trust me, you’ll be well looked after throughout the whole experience. This tour costs $205 NZD per person which includes roundtrip transportation from your location in Napier, all equipment and guides, and a yummy lunch.

If this whitewater rafting trip sounds like your speed, don’t hesitate to check availability and book it online here!

If you’re hoping for bigger rapids, keep reading for my other tour recommendation on the Mohaka River! 

4. Lick This Icecream

Bailey enjoys an icecream at Lick This in Napier, NZ
It’s so good!
Ice cream selection at Lick This in Napier
The hardest part is choosing a flavor!

Lick This is the best place to get ice cream in Napier! This shop specializes in kiwi-made ice cream and gelato, with a plethora of flavors to choose from (43 to be exact).

You can try their Bounty or pineapple lump ice cream or grab a sour grape sorbet. Get it scooped into their standard cone, waffle cone, or on their homemade waffle plates. The last time I went, I tried the gingernut gelato in a waffle cone, and it was the perfect combo. They also offer milkshakes, Belgian Waffles, sundaes, hot chocolate, and coffee.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s located along the Marine Parade and makes a great stop on a sunny day. It’s open weekdays from 12 pm – 5 pm and weekends 10 am – 5 pm.

5. Bicycling

Napier port as seen while riding around the city
It’s such a beautiful city to ride through. Just stay away from the hills!

There are so many cool cycle trails in Napier! And if you didn’t bring a bike, no worries – it’s easy to rent one. Just head to Napier City Bike Hire, which is also located on the Marine Parade. Depending on the type of bike, a one-day rental will cost around $30-$90 NZD (you can also rent by the hour starting at $15 NZD per hour). 

In the summer months, you should book your bike rental online in advance here to ensure they have one for you! You can also choose to rent an e-bike instead if you want a little more of an easy ride.

Once you have your bike sorted, it’s time to explore! Below are a few of my favorite trails in the area:

The Water Ride

If I only had time for one cycling route, I’d prioritize the Water Ride. This track is a grade 1, 35-kilometer (22-mile) loop trail that takes around 3 to 3.5 hours to complete. You’ll enjoy an easy scenic ride next to rivers, the ocean, and an estuary. The track is mainly concrete, with some sandy sections in places. 

This cycling journey starts at Perfume Point by the lighthouse (although you can start anywhere along the route). You’ll cycle by the harbor and follow the trail, passing through the areas of Westshore, Hawkes Bay Airport, and Bay View. It’s a great varied, scenic route riding through coastal areas, farmland, and wetlands. Along the way, you can admire the sheep and cows on the farms and the native birds.

I suggest making a pit stop at Snapper Cafe in Bay View since it’s right on the cycling route. You can refuel here with some excellent coffee and tasty pastries. It’s open Wednesdays to Sundays from 8:30 am – 2:30 pm.

If you’re passing Bay View later in the day, I suggest stopping at the Crab Farm Winery. The restaurant serves high-quality food and is happy to accommodate food restrictions (with dairy-free, gluten-free, and veggie options). It’s open Thursdays to Sundays from 12 pm – 3 pm, and it’s best to make a reservation. If you just want to visit the cellar door, it’s open Thursdays to Sundays from 10 am – 5 pm.

A couple of spots on the Water Route stood out to me, and I think you’d enjoy them as well. At Rorookuri Hill, I recommend leaving your bike locked at the bottom and walking up to the summit for an amazing view of Hawkes Bay. The Rorookuri Hill Summit Trail is located just off Onehunga Road and will take you straight to the top.

As you continue along the trail, you’ll pass the airport and loop up to the upper estuary and harbor. Around this area, you’ll be able to check out the bird hides! They contain native birds such as swans, herons, kingfishers, and more, which I found pretty cool.  

Overall, it’s a leisurely bike ride that covers a lot of terrain. Before you know it, you will be back where you started, feeling stoked about the epic route you just completed! 

Wine and bike tour

If you like the idea of a wine and bike ride, I would look no further than this Napier to Cape Coast Winery Bike Ride Tour. You’ll explore up to six of the region’s best wineries and cycle along an easy scenic trail next to the coast and Tuki Tuki River. 

Along the way, you’ll see stunning views of lush vineyards, orchards, and farmland. My favorite winery on the route was the Te Awanga Estate. I loved hopping off the bike here to enjoy their delicious Pinot Noir. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm, so if you want to come here, make sure to choose one of those days!  

Elephant Hill is another top spot and is famous for all its Instagram photos. You’ll understand why as you approach the stunning building surrounded by a pool and vineyards. And this vineyard doesn’t just have a pretty face – the wine is amazing too! Wine tastings start at $20 NZD per person (waived with a purchase of 2 bottles).

This is such a cool 6-hour, self-guided adventure that is completely organized by the tour company in terms of logistics. You will be provided with a bike, helmet, and map and be picked up and dropped off at in Napier at the end of the day, so it’s only a one-way ride! It’s really a hassle-free option that still allows you to go at your own pace.

You will be responsible for all your own food and tastings. I also suggest wearing comfortable clothing and bringing a water bottle and sunscreen.

This self-guided tour starts at $75 NZD. It’s perfect if you like freedom but don’t want to plan everything. The company will take care of the hard part so you can cycle, drink, and be merry!

If that sounds like your cup of tea (or wine!), then book your tour online here!

Related Read: Are you also planning to visit the South Island? If so, check out the best cycling trails in Queenstown here.

6. Hiking

Views of Lake Waikaremoana from the Lake Waikaremoana Track, New Zealand
This is one of the least-known Great Walks!

New Zealand has some amazing hiking trails, and many of them are in and around Napier! Below, I’ll highlight some of my absolute favorites in the area.

Lake Waikaremoana Track

My favorite long-distance hike in the area is the Lake Waikaremoana Track. It’s one of the Great Walks in New Zealand, which is a collection of trails that are well-formed and known for their diverse scenery.  

The Waikaremoana Track is a 50.4 km (31.3 mi) one-way trail through the native wilderness on Ngai Tuhoe land. It’s an adventurous 3-4 day hike and takes about 17 hours. Most people break it up into 3-4 days and stay in campsites or huts along the way.

This is definitely more of a backcountry experience, so you’ll need to be well-equipped with all your gear. Bring a pack with food, toilet paper, cooking equipment, a sleeping bag, and other essentials. This is a tougher hike, so make sure you are prepared and able to walk around 4 to 6 hours each day. 

You have the option to start the walk from Onepoto in the south or from Hopuruahine in the north (please note that Hopuruahine Road is not advisable for 2WD vehicles). There are car parks at both ends, but it can get busy, so I recommend going early in the morning. 

Since it’s a one-way trail, you’ll need to arrange for transportation back to your vehicle. One option is the water taxi that can pick up and drop off at either end of the trail. It usually runs from October to April, and you can find more info on how to book it under the “getting there” section on the DOC website.

This trail does take some planning! From my experience, it’s both a rewarding and challenging journey and is worth it overall. My top highlight was traversing the 600-meter (1,969-foot) high Panekire Ridge for some stunning cliff and lake vistas. Try to go during clear weather so you can catch the best views!

Also, make sure to stay on the trail and leave no trace. The Tuhoe people consider this land to be the mother of their ancestors and should be respected as such. 

You can check out the detailed route and book your campsite/hut stays on the DOC website here. Campsites cost $17 NZD per adult, and huts are $32 NZD per adult. Kids 17 and under are free but still require a reservation. Just make sure to book all your accommodations and pay in advance!

Shine Falls Trail

For an easier day hike, I’d recommend the Shine Falls Trail! This out-and-back hike takes you to an amazing 58-meter (190-foot) waterfall. There are so many beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand and knowing that one is awaiting you makes this hike even more enjoyable!

The Shine Falls hike begins in Putorino, which is a 1-hour drive north of Napier. You’ll need to drive down the gravel Heays Access Road to get to Shine Falls car park, where the trail begins.

This hike is 4.4 km (2.7 mi) in total and takes about 1.5 hours. As you hike to the base of the falls, you’ll go through open green farmland and walk beneath spectacular cliffs of limestone and sandstone. If you’re into geology, you’ll love the various terrains here! You’ll also wander through lush bush containing Kowhai and Kawakawa in the Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve. 

Once you reach the waterfall, you will see freshwater crashing into the pool below. You can actually swim here, so bring your swimsuit if it’s warm! I did see a freshwater eel in the pool (just to warn you!). When I came here, I also loved just relaxing on the grass and listening to Kakako’s birdsong.

There are also picnic tables if you want to bring lunch. Since this is an out-and-back hike, simply head back the same way you came when you’re ready to return. 

White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve

Lastly, for a super easy hike, I recommend heading to White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve. Here, you’ll find a couple of loop walks that take about 30-40 minutes. You can do one of them or all of them, depending on how much time and energy you have. There is also a new, fully wheelchair-accessible walkway here too.   

The short loop track is 800 meters (0.5 miles) long, and the longer loop is 1.6 km (1 mile). On this longer trail, you’ll pass by native trees like the Kahikatea and Pukatea and emerge into a scenic view over the reserve.

This area is full of beautiful plants and animals native to New Zealand. If you’re a bird watcher, keep an eye out for the grey warblers, tuis, and fantails!

This scenic reserve is easy to reach from Napier. It’s only a 25-minute drive north, just off State Highway 2. There is a moderately sized car park available at the entrance.

7. Visit Te Mata Peak 

Te Mata peak in Hastings, New Zealand
Bailey enjoys the view at Te Mata Peak in Hastings, New Zealand
What a view!

Te Mata, also known as the sleeping giant, is a large mountain and sacred place in the heart of Te Mata Park. Its peak is 399 meters (1309 feet) above sea level, which makes for stunning views (as you can see in my pictures!). You can get to the summit by driving, walking, or cycling. 

Once you’re at the peak, you’ll get the most breathtaking panoramic views of Maungaharu Ranges, Cape Kidnappers, Kaweka, and Ruahine. If it’s a clear day, you might even see Mount Ruapehu in the distance!  

To get here from Napier, drive about 30 minutes south, following Te Mata Peak Road to the summit. It is narrow and steep with some one-way areas, so be careful. The road is sealed, but there are some hairpin turns to watch out for. You should be okay in a regular car, but if you’ve rented a motorhome, I’d avoid this road altogether!

The drive will be well worth it once you see the sweeping views from Te Mata Peak. Plus, there’s plenty of parking at the top. So, make sure to get out and snap some photos to remember your trip!  

If you’re reasonably fit and want some exercise, you can hike around this area! Park your car at the Main Gate Car Park, where you’ll find a few trailheads. The Rongokako Trail is considered a hard trail and the Giant Circuit is of moderate difficulty. Both take around 2 hours to walk. 

If you prefer to head straight to the summit, try the Te Mata Peak Hike. It goes from the Main Gate Car Park to the peak. It’s considered moderately challenging and takes about 1.5 hours there and back.

If you want to visit Te Mata Peak with a guide, I suggest this 2-hour Scenic Te Mata Tour by Supertrike. Jump on the V8 trike in Napier and enjoy the scenic drive past the Tukituki River. Then, head up the hill to Te Mata Peak and spend around 20 minutes taking in the beautiful view!

I had never been on a V8 trike, but it’s such a novel experience! It’s a funky, open-air vehicle, and you can check out the tour’s photos to know exactly what I mean. Since you have a designated driver, I’d also recommend bringing some snacks and drinks to enjoy at the top.

The tour costs $180 NZD per adult and covers your guide and roundtrip transport from Napier (in the cool V8 of course!). Tours leave around 11 am or 2 pm daily. So to experience Te Mata in style, book this Supertrike tour online here!

8. Whitewater rafting

Mohaka Rafting in Napier
So much fun! Photo credit: Mohaka Rafting

Napier has some awesome whitewater rafting. And although I already mentioned a calm rafting experience above, this option is for those who want to get their adrenaline pumping! This Hawkes Bay Full Day Rafting Tour takes you down Class 3 rapids in the Mohaka River – and is honestly one of the best whitewater rafting tours in New Zealand!  

Meet your group at the Mohaka Rafting Outfitters at 9:30 am to begin a full-day of fun. Over 7 hours, you’ll float down the river and navigate rapids while admiring the gorgeous wilderness that surrounds you. You can even cliff jump if you’re feeling brave!  

To add to the experience, you will also visit an old goldmine. The guide will share the area’s history and fun facts as the group floated down calmer waters. Overall, I think it’s great that this rafting tour combines adrenaline as well as local culture and scenery! Plus, you also get a complimentary photo of the experience.

For $199 NZD, you get a guide, a wetsuit, a life jacket, and an unforgettable experience! Make sure to bring food for the day and wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.

This is easily one of the most popular activities in Napier, so I highly suggest you check availability and book your whitewater rafting tour here!

Related Read: For all those adrenaline junkies out there, New Zealand is the place for you! You can read about the best places to go ziplining here.

9. Visit Craggy Range Winery

Bailey poses for a photo with a dish from Craggy Range Winery in Napier, NZ
The food is so good!
Two meals at Craggy Range winery in Napier, NZ
Yum!

There are so many wineries around Napier – which comes as no surprise seeing how it’s in wine country! However, Craggy Range Winery deserves special mention.  

Craggy Range Winery is the perfect place to have a delicious meal or stay overnight in luxurious accommodations. So if you’re in the mood to spoil yourself or want to celebrate that special occasion – this is the spot! It also makes a great romantic getaway in New Zealand.

The Craggy Range Restaurant is to die for. I came here for dinner with friends, and our group had the tasting menu which was pricey but worth every penny. It had 8 or 9 courses (honestly, I lost count!), but each was absolutely incredible.

The chefs collaborate 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. However, you should definitely make a reservation ahead of time.

But why stop there?! For even more VIP treatment, you can stay overnight at the Craggy Range Luxury Vineyard Retreat. Craggy Range offers boutique accommodation amongst grapevines and rolling green hills for the most blissful experience. The property is stunning, and you can choose between the spacious, modern lodge or cozy, newly refurbished cabins.

So if you’re craving a night (or two…) of pampering and spoiling yourself, this is the overnight getaway for you. Prices range from $575 NZD to $1270 NZD per night, depending on the accommodation you choose. However, you’ll find the best deals if you book in advance!

10. Spend a day at the beach

Ahuriri Beach in Napier, NZ
Ahuriri Beach in Napier, NZ

There are so many beaches worth visiting in New Zealand. And when I come to Napier, there are two I like to spend my days at.

Visiting Napier Beach is a great way to spend a sunny day! When I come here, I like to sunbathe or take a long stroll down the pebble beach. However, it’s not advised to swim at Napier Beach – it’s more for scenery and vibes than anything else. But luckily, there are plenty of public toilets next to the beach so you don’t need to worry about that!

And if you’re hungry, you’re super close to great restaurants in Napier. I really enjoyed watching the sunset here with some fish n chips from Hunger Monger Seafood – which is located just across the road and is open Wednesdays to Saturdays from 5 pm – 9 pm.

If you do want to swim, head to Ahuriri Beach for a refreshing dip. This is a small, family-friendly patrolled beach, so it’s a great place to come with the kids. Here, you can swim between the flags and do some watersports. To get there, park in the parking lot at Nelson Quay and Hardinge Rd, and head north towards the water!

11. Go on an Art Deco tour

Art Déco buildings in Napier
Art Déco Buildings in Napier, NZ

As the Art Deco capital of New Zealand, you should definitely check out the architecture in Napier! The best way to do this is on a guided tour. Knowledgeable locals can show you all the best buildings and tell you fun facts about each. There are many Art Deco tours available, and below are my top three recommendations. 

Self-Guided Audio Tour

If you want to go at your own pace, I’d suggest this Napier Art Deco Self-Guided Audio Tour. You’ll be given a route map and an MP3 audio guide to get around. This tour takes roughly 1-3 hours, and I love that you get to explore at your own pace. It also includes lots of interesting teachings about Napier’s buildings and architecture during the 20th century.

This tour is a unique and super affordable way to learn about significant events that occurred in Napier. When I went, I really got a feel for the beauty and history of Napier’s Art Deco scene through its key statues and architecture. My top highlight was passing by the Napier Municipal Theatre, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too!

Since it’s a self-guided tour, you can choose where to begin and end. You just need to download the audio file before you start. It’s also just $26 NZD, so super budget-friendly! If you like independent (and economic!) tours, book this self-guided tour online here!

Art Deco with Wine & Beer Tasting Tour

If you want to combine Art Deco with drinks, I’d recommend this Napier Art Deco with Wine & Beer Tasting Tour. This all-inclusive small group tour takes about 4 hours and is led by a local veteran. I thought is was the perfect balance between architecture and tastings.

When I went, the guide showed my group some awesome Art Deco and told us about each piece. After, we stopped at two different wineries. They were some of New Zealand’s oldest wineries, yet had completely different styles.

The wines were absolutely delicious at both, and if you’re more into beers – no worries! The last stop of this tour was at an alehouse offering 3 tastings of beer or cider – a relaxing way to end the day.

It costs $129 NZD per person, including all the tastings, your guide, and roundtrip transportation from Napier. Since it’s a small-group tour, the start times are flexible and can be arranged with your guide.

This tour allows you to see some of Napier’s best Art Deco locations AND taste world-class beverages. If that sounds like your ideal option, pick a date and book it online here!

Napier and Countryside Scenic Bus Tour

For an efficient, comfortable option, go for this Napier and Surrounding Countryside Scenic Bus Tour. You’ll travel from coast to country on an air-conditioned bus, seeing the very best Art Déco landmarks. The bus’ large windows and viewing deck are perfect for spotting all the sights. And I can’t lie, after so much sightseeing, it was nice to rest my feet!

You’ll visit the Celestial Star Compass, Silky Oak Chocolate Company, Mission Estate Winery, National Tobacco Building, and more. You can enjoy taking in the views, walking around historic sites, and getting transported back to Marine Parade.

It’s a great tour for newbies in Napier because you see so much in one go! Starting times vary based on cruise ship schedules. So if your cruise is docking in Napier, it’s also a convenient option!

The tour takes about 2.5 hours and cost $95 NZD per adult. You can meet at the meeting point or request pickup – making this tour completely stress-free. To see lots of Napier landmarks and Art Deco, check availability and book your tour online here!

12. Wander the Sunken Gardens

Sunken Gardens in Napier, NZ
Napier comes to life in summer, and so do the flowers!
Bailey at the Sunken Gardens in Napier, NZ

Known as Marine Parade’s “hidden treasure”, Napier’s Sunken Gardens is the ideal setting for a leisurely stroll. When I visited, it felt like such a tranquil space, and I loved exploring it at my own pace.

The garden got its name because it sits lower than everything around it. The convenient wide, paved pathways make it super easy and wheelchair accessible.

As you stroll, you can admire the colorful garden beds lined with rock, the cute waterwheel, and the biomorphic sculpture in the pond. If you need a rest, I recommend sitting under the blooming pohutukawa trees or even coming here for a picnic.

What’s great is the Sunken Gardens is located right between Marine Parade and Napier Beach. So you can combine all three activities for a fun-filled day outdoors!

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13. Indulge in a gourmet meal (with wine pairings!)

Starters at Mission Estate Winery in NZ
Meal at Mission Estate Winery in Napier, NZ

Napier is not in short supply of gourmet cuisine! So if you’re debating where to go for both food and wine, check out my favorite spots below.

Mission Estate Winery

If you’re looking to have a gourmet meal with the perfect wine pairing, head to Mission Estate Winery. They have a superb restaurant serving world-class wines and dishes. I also love that the restaurant is right in a beautiful vineyard with picturesque views. 

An a la carte menu and mouth-watering main courses are on offer. If you asked me, I’d get the confit chicken as my main with the mission tiramisu for dessert!

You can dine here for lunch or dinner, making it easy to fit into your Napier itinerary. But I’d definitely recommend making a reservation ahead of time. It’s located just off Church Rd and is open 7 days a week. They accept lunch reservations from 11:30 am – 2:15 pm and dinner reservations from 5:30 pm – 7:15 pm.

Crab Farm Winery

Another glorious spot for great wine and food is Crab Farm Winery in Bay View. They serve fresh, flavorful dishes accompanied by the perfect glass of wine.

You can sit out in the courtyard or enjoy the cozy vibes by the fire pit while enjoying your gourmet meal. When I came here, I got a refreshing glass of Pinot Gris and a tasty crab platter. They also had a scotch fillet which looked super juicy!

Like most of these gourmet spots, the demand is high, so you must book before you go! The restaurant is open for lunch Thursday to Sunday from 12 pm – 3 pm. They are only open for dinner on Fridays, and they often have live music playing too. 

Napier Gourmet Lunch and Wine Tour

If you want to try loads of gourmet cuisine without worrying about the details, take this Napier Gourmet Lunch and Wine Tour. And since transportation is included, you have a designated driver so you can enjoy all the wine! 

You will be transported to Mission Estate Winery to indulge in a gourmet platter of cheeses, meats, and seafood with a wine of your choosing. Afterward, you’ll have an elaborate wine tasting and tour at Mission Cellars (insider tip: explore their underground cellar, too!).

What I loved about this tour is that I also got a gin tasting at The National Gin Distillery. The building is a cool Art Nouveau-style, and it was super fun learning about (and trying!) their gins. The last stop is wine tasting at Askerne Estate, a friendly, family-owned winery. The setting is gorgeous, and the owner is known for serving heavy pours and yummy cheeses.

The 5.5-hour tour costs $190 NZD per person, which covers lunch, tastings, snacks, and roundtrip transportation. Tours start around noon, so you can expect to be back by 6 – just in time for dinner in Napier!

For an awesome afternoon wining and dining, book this tour online here!

14. Mini golf

Par2 Mini Golf Napier-2
Photo credit: Par2 Mini Golf

Enjoy playing a round of mini golf at Par2 Mini Golf. It’s a great place to visit for all ages, and you have two courses to choose from. It took me about an hour to play a round, and it was challenging for a rookie like me! 

It’s on Marine Parade right by the beach. Not only are the grounds well-maintained, but you also get an epic view of the ocean! It’s open daily from 9 am with the last tee-off at 4:15 pm – so you can test out your skills on this miniature golf course any day. 

The location and price make it super convenient, and a great family-friendly activity. An 18-hole game costs $11.20 NZD per adult, $7.80 NZD per kid, and $30 NZD per family (2 adults and 2 kids).

15. Visit the National Aquarium of New Zealand

The National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, NZ

Another top activity in Napier is visiting the National Aquarium of New Zealand. You can spend hours here exploring and discovering over 100 aquatic and land animals. You’ll observe sharks, stingrays, water dragons, southern bell frogs, and so much more! Plus, you can rest assured these critters are well-protected and conserved by the aquarium.

If you time it right, you’ll get to watch some feedings as well. The fish are fed at 10 am, the little penguins at 9.30 am, 1.30 pm, and 3.30 pm. But my favorite was the oceanarium diver who hand feeds the sea creatures at 2 pm.  

It’s $25 NZD for adult admission and $12.50 NZD for one child (ages 3-14), with each additional being just $8 NZD.

If you want up close and personal with the animals, you can book a little penguin encounter for $140 NZD per person. Or, try a terrapin close encounter for $55 NZD per adult. There are also guided tours daily at 10:30 am for $55 NZD per adult and $35 per child. All prices include general admission.  

When I came here, I started the day with a hot coffee and warm muffin at the cafe before checking out the retail store. It was filled with cool little souvenirs to take home and remember your visit.

The aquarium is on the Marine Parade and is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm. There is also free off-street parking here. So if you love sealife, or need a good cold-weather activity in New Zealand, this is a great option!

16. Bluff Hill Lookout

Bluff Hill Lookout in Napier, NZ
Bluff Hill Lookout in Napier, NZ

For sweeping views of the surrounding area, visit the historical site of Bluff Hill Lookout. It stands 105 m (344 ft) above sea level – and at the summit, you’ll be able to see both Napier Port and Perfume Point well.  

It was previously the site of an artillery battle and was originally called Mataruahou by Maori. You can notice the brick cottage that still remains, which was a manned signal station that was used to send messages to ships prior to World War 2 (before radio technology took over). In the 1900s, a lookout tower was also constructed along with multiple concrete emplacements with guns.  

Nowadays, the emplacements and most other structures have been demolished, leaving Bluff Hill Lookout as an ideal location to admire Napier Port from above.

The viewpoint can be accessed by foot or car. If driving, be mindful as the road up the hill is narrow. There is room for about 14 cars to park at the top. 

If you’re walking, it’s 4.4 km (2.7 mi) from the road to the summit. You’ll need to be reasonably fit since it’s an ascent and there are some stairs involved.

Once you reach the lookout, you’ll stand by the cliff face and can take in the beautiful scenery. You can snap photos of the port form above. Or, you can simply sit on the grass and enjoy the small, well-maintained garden. 

There are toilets, drinking water, and picnic tables at the top of Bluff Hill Lookout. I came here with a small picnic at sunset, and it was a fantastic way to enjoy the early evening.

Note: Campervans or larger vehicles are not allowed to drive up to Bluff Hill Lookout (the road is just too narrow!), so you’ll have to park at the bottom and walk up. For more info on traveling the North Island by campervan, read my blog article here!

17. Check out the Gannets

Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony near Napier, NZ
Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony near Napier, NZ

Cape Kidnappers is home to the world’s largest gannet colony – and it’s just a 35-minute drive southeast from Napier. Nearly 25,000 gannets reside and nest in the private 13-hectare (32-acre), Te Kauwae-a-Maui Gannet Reserve. 

As a nature and bird lover, I love coming here to watch these cute creatures in their natural habitat. But whether you’re an avid bird watcher or not, this gannet colony is quite the sight to see!

It’s a great place to visit not only to birdwatch but also to admire Hawkes Bay. You’ll be able to view rugged coastlines and towering sandstone cliffs – and of course, loads of gannets feeding their chicks and swooping down for fish.  

The gannet colony is located at the tip of Cape Kidnappers. You can reach the colony on your own by foot or by taking a guided tour.

Hiking to the Gannet Colony

Getting to the Gannet Colony requires a 19 km (11.8 mi) hike, which takes roughly 5.5 hours. It’s rugged and steep terrain, so you’ll need decent hiking skills and the right gear. Be prepared for a 100-meter (328-foot) change in elevation. You can check out a map and trail info on the DOC website here.

The trailhead starts at the end of Clifton Road, and runs along the coast. As such, it must only be attempted during low tide. It’s an out-and-back trail, so make sure to leave enough time to return during low tide as well! You’ll walk along the beach to reach the Black Reef and Saddle Gannet Colony nesting sites before heading back.

I recommend visiting from November to February, as this is when the chicks hatch. Since they migrate in May, you won’t catch as many afterward. Also, the trail from the beach to the plateau gannet colony is closed between July and mid-October.

Guided tour of Cape Kidnappers

If you want to avoid the slightly precarious hike, take a guided tour! I personally loved this Cape Kidnappers Gannet, Nature & Sightseeing Tour and felt safe and well-taken care of the whole time.

There is no need for you to do any walking, either. Instead, the informative tour guide drives you around the breathtaking landscape while sharing fascinating info. You’ll visit a production forest and get up close to the gannets at the reserve.

The tour is offered from September to April. It’s super affordable, costing from $98 NZD per person, which includes light refreshments, your guide, and transport. However, you’ll need to make your way to and from the meeting point in Hawke’s Bay.  Make sure to wear comfy shoes and bring a jacket in case there’s a windchill.

If you want to see the Gannet Colony without a long hike, don’t hesitate to book this tour online here!

Related Read: If you want to get a more comprehensive tour of the country, check out my top picks for multi-day guided tours in New Zealand.

18. Do a self-guided earthquake tour

Napier was the sight of New Zealand’s deadliest natural disaster. In 1931, a massive earthquake hit Napier, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale. It is a huge event in the nation’s history – and one worth learning more about.

If you want to delve into the history and see how the city has changed since then, take this Napier Earthquake Self-Guided Audio Tour. You’ll listen to 2-hour audio all about the historic earthquake while you explore the area at your own pace. 

I enjoyed this tour because it was just so easy and full of fascinating local history. Simply download the map and pop on your headphones to begin. Since it’s self-guided, you can start wherever you prefer. Some of my highlights on the tour included the Napier Municipal Theatre and Waiapu Anglican Cathedral.

The tour costs $26 NZD per person. It’s such a great option to learn and explore, and you can easily purchase and download the tour here!

19. Visit the Napier Prison

Bailey at Napier Prison before our tour in New Zealand
Fortunately, I was just a visitor!

If you love all things crime and villain related, I suggest you go on this Napier Prison Self-Guided Audio Tour. You’ll be guided through New Zealand’s oldest prison as you walk and listen to its history (along with some fun facts!) on the downloadable MP3.  

I recommend purchasing and downloading the MP3 audio tour in advance. When you arrive at the Napier Prison, you can pull out your smartphone and headphones and begin your adventure! You’ll wander through twisted corridors and witness the Pound, graffiti-covered beds, Mess Hall, Dome, Hanging Yard, and more.

When I took the tour, I really got a feel for how the prisoners lived, which was a bit spooky but mostly fascinating! To me, the most interesting parts were stories about the worst criminals and the escapes that occurred.

This unique and riveting tour is the best way to explore on your own for only $32 NZD. The prison is open from 9 am – 5 pm daily. So you can easily book this tour online and go whenever you like!

20. Otatara Pa Historic Reserve

One of the most ancient Maori pa sites (Maori settlements) in Hawkes Bay is Otara Pa Historic Reserve. It is also one of the largest, with two pa sites, Hikurangi Pa and Otatara Pa, measuring 58 hectares (143 acres) in total. If you want to learn more about the traditional Maori way of life, I highly recommend visiting!

The reserve is a 10-minute drive from central Napier and has an excellent (and easy!) hike. The 1.9-kilometer (1.2-mile) Otatara Pa Loop takes about 45 minutes to complete.

When I hiked here, it was super quiet and peaceful. I really enjoyed reading the information boards about the Maori land and history and taking in the panoramic coastal views.  

You can park at the parking lot and walk through the beautifully carved wooden gateway. You’ll follow the trail uphill, passing by whare (housing), tuapapa (buildings), and ruakumara (food storage pits) that were utilized back in the day.  

Bear in mind that Otatara Pa Historic Reserve is a sacred site. So, make sure to respect the land and culture by not littering, eating food, biking, or camping there. 

21. Visit Hastings

A cute street of Art Deco Buildings in Hastings, New Zealand
The town is so cute!

For a perfect day trip from Napier, visit the city of Hastings. Hastings is a great place to enjoy amazing cuisine and discover cute boutique shops, especially antique ones!

Hastings is only a 15-minute drive inland, making it very accessible. In fact, Napier and Hastings are often called the “Twin Cities” because they are so close together.

There are lots of similarities between Napier and Hastings. Both places have a warm climate, art déco designs, and vineyards and are community-focused. However, Hastings is not as “touristy” so you’re more likely to find solitude here. 

The landscape is quite flat, which makes it easy to walk around. You’ll wander downtown and enjoy gazing at the art déco buildings while visiting the local businesses.

I always love to stop off at Rush Munro’s Ice Creamery for a double scoop sundae (open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm). And if you’re a fan of craft beer like me, stop at Brave Brewing for a cold Kid Dynamite IPA (open Wednesday to Sunday from 12 pm- 8 pm).  

Civic Square is a cool open area that’s great for a short walk or sitting under shady trees. You can admire the carved Maori pou’s, have fun on the playground, and check out the latest exhibitions at Hastings City Art Gallery. The gallery is a great place to check out the local art scene and is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am – 4:30 pm and Sundays from 1 pm – 4 pm.

22. Shop at the Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market

Bailey poses for a photo at the Hawke's Bay Farmers Market in Hastings, New Zealand
The Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market in Hastings, New Zealand.
A beer truck at the Hawke's Bay Farmers Market in Hastings, New Zealand
You can even get beer!

The Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market is one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in all of New Zealand. There are two locations, with the smaller of the two located in the heart of Napier.

Napier Urban Farmers’ Market

Napier’s Urban Farmer’s Market is located in Clive Square on Level 2 and is open every Saturday from 8:30 am – 12:30 pm. The location and schedule make it the perfect spot to hit before brunch, an afternoon hike, or even a wine tour. 

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.

Hastings Farmer’s Market

The second farmer’s market location is in Hastings. This one is absolutely HUGE and occurs outdoors every Sunday from 8:30 am – 12:30 pm. So if you can’t get enough farmers’ markets, you can visit both in one weekend!

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!

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!

23. Visit MTG Napier

Bailey wanders through MTG Napier
Bailey looks at a display at MTG Napier

For an award-winning museum, art gallery, and theatre all in one, visit MTG Hawkes Bay.

MTG’s collection celebrates the Art Deco design as well as shares stories about the region’s history, land, and culture. You’ll admire gorgeous murals, Maori artifacts, historic garments, archived letters, ceramics, and more artistic and cultural displays.

I think this one is a must if you crave educational and historic experiences. I spent a couple of hours here and the Napier Earthquake display was a personal favorite of mine. I recommend looking up what performing arts or talks are happening on their events page before planning a visit. 

What’s awesome is that this museum is free and conveniently located just off Marine Parade (which has 2 hour free parking). It’s extremely easy to vsit and you can pop in any day between 9.30 am and 5 pm. 

24. Golf

If you are up for a golf day, look no further than Maraenui Golf Club. It’s one of Hawkes Bay’s best clubs and is only a 5-minute drive from central Napier. So go ahead and treat yourself to some time on the greens! You can test out your skills while enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

This golf club has two courses. The Maraenui Course is currently members-only and quite competitive to get in. However, their Awatoto Golf Course is public and inexpensive. Make sure to remember to wear tidy and respectable clothes and shoes as you aren’t allowed to wear casual attire or beach shorts here.  

The public course costs $15 NZD for 9 holes or $25 NZD for 18 holes. You can also play footgolf here for $15 NZD for 18 holes. Renting golf clubs (with trundler) is $16 NZD and a soccer ball is $6 NZD.

The Awatoto Public Course is located just off Te Awa Ave and is open daily from 7:30 am – 5 pm.

25. Eat fresh seafood

Meal at Hunger Monger in Napier
Photo credit: Hunger Monger
Risotto at Hunger Monger Napier
Photo credit: Hunger Monger

There is an abundance of fresh seafood in Napier – so why not make the most of it?! Napier is a seafood lovers’ paradise with many restaurants providing top-quality fish and seafood dishes.  

Hunger Monger Seafood specializes in seafood dishes only, so you know they do it well! They offer both a dine-in and takeaway menu so you can enjoy either experience. When I came here, I ordered a crumbed fish and chips to-go for just $12 NZD! Alternatively, you can dine in and enjoy a gourmet fish burger with fries for only $27 NZD.

Their prices are great for quality, local seafood. Hunger Monger is located on Marine Parade and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 5 pm – 9 pm.   

Another place I recommend is Continental Fish Supply. It’s an amazing takeaway-only seafood business that is close to the beach. It’s open Wednesday to Friday from 11:30 am – 2:30 pm and then again from 4 pm – 8 pm. They’re open all day on Tuesdays and the weekend from 11:30 am – 8 pm.

I recommend grabbing one of their hot paper-wrapped seafood dishes and heading to the beach around lunchtime. You can sit and eat your comfort food while admiring the ocean view and sunset. Trust me, many local New Zealanders will be doing the same thing! 

26. Visit Perfume Point and Ahuriri Estuary

Bailey at Perfume Point in Napier
Take a seat!
Bailey in the pink chair at Perfume Point

Ahuriri is a beautiful coastal district in Napier. Here, you’ll find the gorgeous headland known as Perfume Point and the long, narrow wetlands of Ahuriri Estuary. I recommend starting near Spriggs Park and walking alongside the water toward the estuary, taking in the pretty scenery.

When I visited, I parked at the lot off Hardinge Rd. Then, I headed towards Perfume Point, where I had a spectacular ocean view and I even watched some ships come into the port. Don’t forget to snap some photos of yourself in the giant colorful beach chairs too!  

From Perfume Point, it’s just a 5-minute walk to Ahuriri Estuary. This is a wildlife refuge home to many nesting and feeding birds, such as royal spoonbills, herons, and kingfishers. It’s a great spot to bring binoculars and spot some of New Zealand’s wildlife.

Ahuriri also lots of cute shops and restaurants. So if you get hungry or want to explore, just head slighlty inland to check this area out.

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.

27. Explore the Botanical Gardens

Bailey wanders the Botanic Gardens in Napier, NZ

In the heart of Napier Hill lies the beautiful Botanical Gardens, a floral haven. This 7.3-hectare (18-acre) area is filled with a variety of blooming flowers, well-maintained garden beds, multiple short walking tracks, a duck pond, two historic water wells, and a free-flying aviary. 

There is so much to see and do at the Botanical Gardens. I spent a few hours exploring the stunning landscape and enjoying the colorful scenery and tranquil atmosphere. If you’re a fan of calming sounds, you’ll love listening to birdsong and the water flowing here.  

You can wander along the Military Track and get a breathtaking view of the garden and take a look at the Old Napier Cemetary. The historic area of Soapsuds Gully is another cool area to check out to see old water wells.

Overall, it’s a beautiful and relaxing place to visit! You can visit during anytime during daylight hours for an easy escape from city life.

There are two access points. One is on Spencer Road, which has a small parking lot. The other is along Napier Terrace, with more street parking.

28. Check out the local bars

Expresso Martini at Market Street Bar in Napier, NZ
Market St Bar!
Food at Market Street Bar in Napier, NZ

If you’ve had enough wine, it’s time to try out a craft cocktail! There are some great local bars in Napier that make the yummiest and most refreshing drinks.

While I found plenty of nice places to grab a drink in Napier, my favorite was Teresa Cocktail Bar. It’s an awesome speakeasy that you access through a secret door in the back of a deli – how cool is that?! To find this hidden gem, just head to Harvest Deli.  

But the fun doesn’t end there. When you get into the bar, you’ll be greeted with a choice of really amazing cocktails, which are expertly crafted using foraged local ingredients. It’s such a fun and futuristic spot with a big emphasis on sustainability, which I love. Plus, as cool as this place is, the staff are super down to earth and friendly, so you’ll feel welcome right away.

Teresa only seats 25 people, so book in advance if you want to avoid a long wait!

Market Street is also a lot of fun. I went a few times and found that there was a lively atmosphere pretty much every day of the week. It’s stylish without being pretentious, and they’ve got a varied food menu so even the fussiest of eaters should be able to find something yummy. I really enjoyed their tasting platter and their espresso martinis!

It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am – 11 pm, and stays open an extra couple of hours on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s located around the corner from Teresa Cocktail Bar so you can always do your own little bar hop!

29. Eat at one of the local restaurants in town

Two pasta dishes ta Ilona Pasta in Napier, NZ
Ilona Pasta in Napier, NZ
Bialey with a pasta at Ilona Pasta in Napier, NZ

Napier isn’t just about bars – there are also some great local restaurants here. 

Ilona Pasta was my favorite, and I enjoyed some incredibly fresh pasta here. They have a big emphasis on using local ingredients so the menu changes seasonally, but you really can’t go wrong. When I came here, I had the lamb ragu and my partner had the pork belly fettucini – they were both amazing.

Everything is super fresh and beautifully plated, and I loved the friendly atmosphere at this family-run spot. They’re open Wednesday – Monday from 5:30 pm – 10 pm, and aslo serve lunch on weekends from 11:30 am – 3 pm.

Since Napier is known for its art deco buildings, it’s no surprise the Central Fire Station Bistro is inside one!

Again, there’s a big emphasis on sustainable local produce here. While the gourmet food is top-notch, the place still maintains a casual vibe. The lamb, in particular, is a must-try. They’ve also got a fantastic wine list, and every single bottle is locally produced in Hawke’s Bay.

Central Fire Station Bistro is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5:30 pm – 11 pm. They also serve lunch on from 12 pm – 3 pm. It’s located near Clive Square, which is a 15-minute walk from the Botanical Gardens – just enough to build up that appetite!

And if you’re looking for Napier’s best seafood, head to Hunger Monger. The menu changes monthly but you can expect to find only the best seafood here. Whether you want fresh sashimi, shucked-to-order oysters, or just a really good clam chowder, you won’t be disappointed.

Plus, it’s right across from the beach. I don’t know about you, but I always enjoy my seafood way more with an ocean view! This is a dinner-only place, and is open Wednesday to Saturday from 5 pm – 9 pm.

30. Go shopping

Shopping in Napier, NZ
There is so much shopping to be done in Napier!

If you’re in Napier and enjoy shopping, you’re in luck! There are options for everything from clothing and antiques to local produce markets.

For those antique lovers, Whale Tale Antiques is one of my favorite shops. It’s a large blue and white building in the Ahuriri neighborhood. Filled with the coolest unique finds, it honestly feels like a museum inside. 

You’ll browse through antique furniture, statues, ornaments, artwork, jewelry, and more. I spent about 30 minutes simply admiring the antiques and wanting to buy a lot of things! It’s open daily from 9 am – 5 pm and makes the perfect shopping stop after a walk along the beach.

For boutique women’s clothing, I’d recommend Two Lippy Ladies. They stock vintage and retro-inspired clothing, sleepwear, and jewelry. I really like how this store caters to all body types and offers a range of designs and styles. Almost everyone finds something they love here!

They are located on Market Street, only a couple of blocks from Napier Beach and the Sunken Gardens. Store hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10 am – 4 pm, and Saturdays from 10 am – 3 pm.

Next up is the Napier Urban Farmer’s Market! Although I discussed it previously, it’s worth mentioning twice! It’s a great place to shop for all kinds of locally grown produce and handmade creations from local artists. You can find hand-crafted herbal teas from Persephone Potions, juicy handpicked berries from Blakcat Berries, and eco-friendly beeswax wraps from Lilybee Wraps. 

While wandering around the bustling outdoor market, I recommend grabbing a bite to eat from Holy Crepe or a freshly squeezed juice from Henry’s Juice. The farmers’ market is situated conveniently in Clive Square on Saturday mornings from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm.  

You’ll need to bring your cash along, as not all stalls accept cards. However, there are toilets and plenty of street parking nearby.

I think this farmer’s market is such a great way to spend a Saturday morning in Napier! And as I mentioned, there is also another great farmers’ market in Hastings on Sundays. So check out both if you have time!

31. Chill out at The Filter Room

Bialey enjoys a cider at The Filter Room in Napier, NZ
Cheers!
Two Ciders at The Filter Room in Napier, NZ

The Filter Room is an awesome brewery and cidery just outside of town. Here, you can sample local ales and ciders, and even catch some live music out in the apple orchard! It’s a really cute venue and the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon.

Plus, they also have a great menu. You can grab a sharing platter to enjoy or they have pub favorites like fish and chips, burgers, and bangers and mash.  

The Filter Room is located about 10-minute from central Napier by car. It’s open Wednesday to Saturday from 11 am – 9 pm, and Sundays from 11 am until 5 pm. They also have different specials nights if you want to eat here, like two for one steaks on Thursdays. 

Related Read: If you love beer like me, you should also check out the best craft breweries in Queenstown!

32. Visit an art gallery (or two!)

There are a few beautiful art galleries around town. These places are home to amazing artwork and really give you a window into the local creative scene. The top two I would suggest visiting are Creative Arts Napier and Tennyson Gallery. 

Creative Arts Napier

Creative Arts Napier is a lively community art center that is free to visit and is open daily. It’s a fantastic place for local artists to showcase their work and for visitors to observe and admire the art.  

You’ll enter a spacious gallery and be gazing at the variety of artwork and exhibitions that are on display. You can wander around at your own pace and even buy a reasonably priced piece. So if you’re looking for an artistic souvenir from Napier, this is the spot!

Creative Arts Napier, or CAN, is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm. It’s located just off Marine Parade and by another gallery I already mentioned, the MTG Hawke’s Bay.

Tennyson Gallery

My other top art galley pick is Tennyson Gallery. If you visit, you’ll see why I love it. It’s home to an expansive collection of New Zealand sculptures, prints, ceramics, jewelry, and glasswork. This open, modern art gallery is beautifully presented and include works from artists such as Ali Shannon and Christopher Barham. 

Tennyson Gallery is open Monday to Friday from 10 am – 5 pm, Saturdays from 10 am – 4 pm, and Sundays from 11 am – 3 pm. Located just a couple blocks from the CAN and MTG Hawke’s Bay, you could easily create your own art walk and visit all three! 

33. Soak at Ocean Spa Napier

Ocean Spa Napier
Photo credit: Ocean Spa Napier

When I go on vacation, I love pampering myself! If you’re the same, I highly suggest stopping at Ocean Spa Napier. You can relax and have fun in a heated pool while taking in the breathtaking views of the ocean.

While I found it wonderful going solo, it’s also a great place for couples and families to visit. I recommend coming here if you’ve had enough beach days or if the weather isn’t the best. This spa also makes for an excellent winter activity in New Zealand

So treat yourself to a soak in the newly renovated outdoor pools. You can take your pick of the lap pool, active pool, or passive pool. There is also a sauna and steam room included, so you can do a whole circuit at your own pace.

If you get hungry or thirsty, grab a coffee or snack from the onsite Bach Cafe. They also serve a sit down brunch and lunch options, and can accommodate dietary restrictions if you’re gluten-free and vegan. They open at the same time as the spa, but close earlier at 3 pm Monday to Thursday and at 5 pm Friday to Sunday.

The spa is open Monday to Saturday from 6 am – 10 pm and on Sundays and holidays from 8 am – 10 pm. However, last entry is at 9:30 pm and some of the pools close earlier. $11.50 NZD gets you access the pools, sauna, and steam room, and you can stay for as long as you like.

They’re located on Marine Parade and offer free parking for 3 hours. I say, get there early and utilize that whole time!

Related Read: For those warm-water lovers, read all about the best hot pools and hot springs in New Zealand here!

Where to Stay in Napier

the outside of the Crown Hotel in the evening with an old car parked in front
This is one of the best places to stay in Napier! Photo Credit: The Crown Hotel

If you’re planning on visiting Napier, I recommend staying overngiht and really soaking up the local sights. Considering how many things are on this list, it might take a few days! Plus, it’s the ideal base to for wine-tasting and enjoying the coast.

There are several great places to stay in Napier. To narrow it down, I’ve chosen a few of my favorites with options for each price range.

The Crown Hotel – $$$

For the ultimate comfort, go for The Crown Hotel. This hotel is in the heart of Ahuriri, overlooking the ocean and in walking distance to Perfume Point. Milk & Honey restaurant is on the ground floor and you also have access to a gym, free private parking, and laundry facilities. If you’re traveling with a baby, they automatically give you a complimentary baby care package. Starting at $290 NZD, rooms are clean and classy, with underfloor heating and great bathtubs.

For a luxurious stay in Ahuriri, check availability and book The Crown Hotel online here!

Art Deco Masonic Hotel – $$

To truly absorb Napier’s Art Deco vibes, stay at the Art Deco Masonic Hotel! This place is stylish from its outdoor architecture to its interior design. The rooms are moderately sized, but come with super comfy beds and most have access to a rooftop with ocean views. On-site, you’ll find two bars and restaurants and exceptionally helpful staff. The hotel is a 2-minute walk to Marine Parade and room rates begin at $219 NZD.

For a stylish stay in Napier, book the Art Deco Masonic Hotel online here!

Toad Hall Accommodation – $

Toad Hall Accommodation is my top budget choice in Napier. It’s in walking distance to sights along the Marine Parade and Napier Beach. It has excellent shared facilites including a kitchen, BBQ, rooftop terrace, social lounge, and game room. If you’re traveling solo and want to meet others, or simply save some money, this is the place to stay. You can choose either a private room or dorms, with prices starting at $90 NZD.

For the best budget accomodations in Napier, check availability and book your stay online here!

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

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.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! 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!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey at Church Road winery in Napier NZ
Thanks for reading!

Napier is such a wonderful coastal city with everything from gourmet cuisine to outdoor adventures. Whether you like wine tasting or architectural tours, Napier has it all. So if you’re heading here, I hope my list has helped you create the best itinerary!

And if you’re traveling throughout the country, read my other blogs about New Zealand. This is one of my favroite countries in the world, and I love helping others visit. Below, I’ve handpicked more articles that might come in handy. Thanks for reading!

COMPLETE Guide to the 13 National Parks in New Zealand

12 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Tongariro National Park

33 EPIC Things to do in Auckland, NZ

Claire

Monday 8th of April 2024

Bailey Thankyou for your diary ... we came across in January when we made our first trip from UK to New Zealand. In particular in South Island. The where to stop on road trips was invaluable. We are now planning a 2025 return trip and are starting with your diary and hopefully the e book to help us plan our itinerary for this trip.

One area I cannot see is 90 mile beach and Cape Regina - have you any comments on this area. We are thinking of flying to Kaitai ...

Many Thanks Claire

Bailey

Thursday 18th of April 2024

Hey Claire,

Glad you like the blog!

Unfortunately 90 Mile Beach is not in my blog much. I have been there but it honestly takes a few visits to each place before I know enough to write about it.

Did you have a specific question I can answer?

Thanks Bailey