72 Hours in Food and Wine Country
Written by solo female travel blogger, Finding Alexx
With more than 350km of coastline, 70+ wineries and almost 150 Art Deco buildings, Hawke’s Bay has something for everyone, whether you’re into outdoor adventures, food and wine or history and culture.
About five hours’ drive from Auckland and four hours from Wellington, Napier is a brilliant destination choice for travellers planning an extended weekend getaway. There’s plenty to do in the city as well as in neighbouring Hastings, Havelock North and the more remote areas of Waimarama and Te Awanga to fill a 72 hour itinerary in the Hawke’s Bay region.
Here’s a suggested itinerary showcasing the best that Hawke’s Bay has to offer.
Wake up and dive head first into Hawke’s Bay’s incredible food scene, with a hearty brunch at Mister Ds in Napier’s Tennyson St. Sweet tooths should leave some extra room for one of their famous donuts!
Then at 10am daily there’s a guided city walk that departs from the Art Deco Centre, it’s 1.5 hours long and costs $28 for adults or $5 for 12-16 year olds (under 12s go free). You’ll learn all about the devastating 1931 earthquake that rocked the city, how the city was rebuilt in exquisite Art Deco style (as well as Spanish Mission and Classical), and you’ll get to see some of the best and most authentic buildings in the city.
If you want to go all out, consider booking a vintage car city tour (complete with a driver dressed up in a classic 1920s outfit) or feel the wind in your hair with a V8 Supertrike tour.
I’d suggest getting a light lunch from one of Napier’s many cafés, with Georgia on Tennyson, Café Tennyson and Poppy’s Café all being highly-rated options.
But you better eat quick, because at 1pm you’ve got the chance to hand-feed Little Blue Penguins at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, located right on the waterfront on Napier’s Marine Parade.
The experience lasts about 45 minutes but you’ll want to set aside a couple of hours afterwards for seeing the rest of the animals and exhibits.
The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore the city of Napier. Check out the famous Sound Shell and Sunken Gardens, wander along the rocky beach, check out the incredible antique shops and gift stores in the city centre or out at Ahuriri Point, and see how many of the 50+ street art murals you can find.
Napier’s dinner scene is so on point that you could be here for weeks and have something amazing each night, but you don’t have that long, so some of the most-loved eateries are Central Fire Station Bistro, Bistronomy, Pacifica, SAI Thai Eatery, Trattoria Alla Toscana and Emporium.
If you want somewhere for drinks before or after, Monica Loves serves up spectacular cocktails with great music.
Head to Ahuriri, a suburb surrounded by ocean and estuary on two sides, over Bluff Hill from central Napier. If you can wake up for sunrise you won’t regret it, or just enjoy Ahuriri’s laidback vibes and good coffee at F. G. Smith or Ahuriri Village Kitchen.
Hopefully the sun is shining (it usually is in Hawke’s Bay, with an average of over 2000 sunshine hours a year!) because after you’ve fuelled your body, it’s time to hit the bike trails.
The region is home to a vast network of cycle trails that provide loads of easy rides, from coastal paths that wind along the oceanfront to inland tracks connecting wineries to mountain biking parks with options for all experience levels.
Some visitors opt to bring their own bikes to explore, but if not then you can easily rent one for a day or multi-day trip from Takaro Trails in Ahuriri. They’ve got both normal bikes and e-bikes, they have a map with suggested routes, and you can add on extras like a carry bag for wine bottles you buy and gel seats (a must-have in my butt’s opinion).
We decided to do a winery route which took us around Ahuriri first (you could stop at the Urban Winery) and then out through the back of town to Church Road Winery and Mission Estate, but there are loads of different trails to follow depending on what type of adventure you’re looking for.
Afternoon #2 is for the wineries and you probably shouldn’t be in charge of any mode of transportation afterwards, so ride your bikes back to Ahuriri or opt for a pick up.
There are more than 30 cellar doors around Hawke’s Bay and many of the wineries have fancy restaurants on site, so we’ll start off with a nice lunch before ticking off some tastings.
Mission Estate, Church Road, Black Barn, Linden Estate and Elephant Hill all have fantastic restaurants, or Askerne Estate does it a little differently with a DIY gourmet picnic, where you can choose from cheeses, bread, cured meats and other platter foods and make your own grazing plate. This is a great option for families with little ones or for a group who would prefer a casual setting rather than fine dining.
Enjoy a hearty lunch first and then make your way around cellar doors, either by self-drive (with a sober driver obviously) or on an organised tour.
If you’re not a big wine drinker, consider swapping out the wineries for a food tour instead. Head to Arataki Honey for honey and cheese pairing, stop in at the Figgery for loads of sweet and savoury treats made with Te Mata Figs, and head to Silky Oak chocolates for dessert.
If you still have room for dinner after a day of eating and drinking some of Hawke’s Bay’s best food and wine, head into Havelock North and grab a table at Malo, my favourite restaurant in the region.
The menu here changes seasonally but you can expect creative flavour combinations, use of local produce, and an excellent drinks list, with next level service topping it all off.
Start the day with a trip up to Te Mata Peak, either by walking (various walks ranging from 45 minutes to 3 hours) or by driving up the windy road that hugs the mountainside.
The views from here are just insane, you can see out to the ocean, across the farms and vineyards, and on a clear day you can sometimes spot the snow caps of Mount Ruapehu.
Te Mata Peak is steeped in local legend, and it’s a hugely important and spiritual place for local iwi. The story goes that an iwi chief was in love with a rival chief’s daughter, and to prove his love for her he had to complete a set of challenges. One of the challenges was to chomp his way through the mountain range to provide a path for the tribes to use, however he choked half way through and died. Te Mata Peak is said to be his body, which you can see the shape of from far away.
After leaving Te Mata, head across the Tukituki River and over to Waimarama, a small coastal village with magnificent ocean views and thriving Maori culture.
Waimarama Maori Tours run authentic private tours, giving you an incredible insight into Maori life past and present. These tours are educational and thought-provoking, with local guides and guardians sharing stories focusing on how iwi used the land and the sea, the current conservation efforts and more.
Your final afternoon calls for a bit of nature, and if it’s a hot day you’ll want to pack your togs.
Waimarama’s main beach is stunning, with a long stretch of golden sand perfect for a chilled out day, and it’ll be busy with Hawke’s Bay locals on weekends. If you want somewhere quieter you could head to Ocean Beach instead, a popular surf spot but usually home to far less beach goers.
If you prefer to chase waterfalls rather than waves, Maraetotara Falls are on the way from Waimarama back to Havelock North. It’s only a ten minute walk from the carpark to the base of the Falls and you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing swimming hole and excellent photo ops.
For your final night in Hawke’s Bay, why not enjoy a local catch? Hunger Monger is a casual restaurant on Marine Parade, serving up the best fresh local goodness in house and takeaway.
Sit down meals depend on what’s available but you can expect things like crab dumplings, tempura prawns, seafood chowder and fish burgers, and if you want a quick dinner to eat on the beach, their $12 fish ‘n’ chips bundle is the best bargain in town.
Hopefully this 72 hour Hawke’s Bay itinerary gives you some helpful ideas about places to visit, things to eat and activities to tick off!
Written for Hawke's Bay Tourism
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Air New Zealand operates daily non-stop flights to Napier from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with connections across the domestic network.
Enjoy the drive from Wellington via the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, or from upper North Island via the Thermal Explorer Highway.