Hawke’s Bay is perhaps best known for being the oldest wine region in New Zealand. Mission Estate Winery was the country’s first vineyard, established in 1851, and it is now accompanied by over 100 others whose vines blanket the rolling hills and give rise to a fine selection of predominantly red varietals. Indeed, this region grows over 80% of New Zealand’s Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes, the product of which is now distributed around the world.
Napier is main town in the region and is interesting in its own right. It was all but flattened by an earthquake in 1931 and subsequently rebuilt in the architecture of the time, meaning that there is a wonderful collection of art deco structures dotted around the town. This style is celebrated in the fabulously eccentric Art Deco Festival that takes place every February, but can also be appreciated at any time of the year with either guided or self-guided walks. In addition to this it is flanked by a long, sweeping beach and is one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, giving it a lovely, laid-back atmosphere.
Nearby Hastings also offers a similar mix of attractions – art deco architecture, nearby orchards and vineyards and many artisanal producers. Te Mata Peak, 20 minutes east of the town, stands 400 metres above sea level and is a great spot for a short nature walk or climb to the peak, from which there are fantastic views of Hawke’s Bay.