Take the time to explore Hawke's Bay's towns and cities. You'll find food, wine, shopping and culture aplenty.
The seasons in Hawke's Bay really know how to show off their beauty. Summers are hot, long and dry; winters are crisp; and the colours of spring and autumn are vivid. It's little wonder you'll often see a private jet or two on the tarmac as you arrive at Bawke's Bay Airport - even those with the world at their feet just can't resist what this abundant region offers.
On a bright day, it could be Florida. You'll see palm trees, glittering blue sea and cruise passengers spilling on the streets taking in the art deco architecture, or heading out in buses to sample the local wine and food.
Napier is perfectly compact and easy to explore on foot, two wheels or by vintage vehicle (self-drive or be chauffeured in style with Hooters Vintage & Classic Vehicle Hire).
Start at the regional museum - MTG Hawke's Bay - and visit the permanent earthquake exhibition to get a sense of the devastating 1931 disaster and how, from rubble, this visually stunning city arose. Across the street at the Art Deco Centre, you can decide which Winter Deco Weekend (July 19-21) activities to go to, and book an art deco tour with a local guide.
Nip into Georgia on Tennyson or recent arrival Morena for a perfect flat white and a yarn with the friendly staff, before venturing along Marine Parade, past the humming Napier Port, to Ahuriri.
The seaside fishing suburb is a brilliant spot to park up for lunch and watch the crew unloading their catch, or to browse the handful of antique shops, boutiques and homewares stores.
Vetro Mediterranean Foods offers a wide range of gourmet foods, or order a sandwich at F.G. smith Eatery - it does one of the best cafe lunches in Hawke's Bay.
Look past the car yards and big-box hardware stores and you'll see a thriving ever-changing city embraced by painterly landscapes, soaring peaks and heaving orchards. The eastern part of Hastings, close to the Hawke's Bay Opera House (currently closed for strengthening and redevelopment), is having a moment, with a growing number of independent retailers.
Peek inside giftware collection store Magpie; peruse stationary, cards and curling ribbon at Paper & Press (and watch calligrapher Rebecca Norman from Panoply Studio at work); or head west a few blocks to Story Boutique for well-priced, pre-loved local and international designer clothing.
Natural Hawke's Bay bodycare brand Real World has moved its manufacturing are to Queen Street and the refillery and shop - all exposed concrete, bespoke metal urns and hanging greenery - is due to open to the public this month.
Craft brewing is also fast becoming a Hastings calling card. It's worth driving 20 minutes west to GodsOwn, a remarkably relaxed brew-pub. You can while away an hour or two at a table inside a safari tent eating pizzas and ordering drinks from a converted 1973 caravan bar. Co-owner and brewer Godfrey Quemeneur grows his hops on-site, and his beers are interesting and adventurous.
Back in town, Brave Brewing Co. serves its own brews as well as half a dozen national and international guest beers, all available to take away. The fit-out is sophisticated, and there's a friendly, knowledgeable team on hand to guide you.
For something lighter, Three Wise Birds recently opened a cidery and garden bar offering a range of dry, crisp ciders. Try the Gone Bush: braeburn apples combined with New Zealand hops.
There is no greater view of Hawke's Bay, for which the region is named, than from Cape Kidnappers. Undeniably the jewel in Hawke's Bay's natural crown, the peninsula is reached through the small coastal settlement of Te Awanga.
From your vantage point on a working, 2400ha sheep and cattle farm high above the crashing waves, you are able to drink in the extraordinary and vertiginous coastline that curves from Mahia Peninsula in the north (on a clear day, you can watch rockets launch), before doglegging to brooding bare Island in the south. Once the cobwebs are blown away, you can enjoy one of the top golf courses in the country.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers has a fabulous menu and is the ideal spot for a winter lunch in the loggia.
Sustainability is top of mind for the team, who feed kitchen scraps to their pigs, are committed to a kiwi-breeding programme and have signed on as partnerts in the government's One Billion Trees projects - paddocks are beign decommissioned to make way for swathes of manuka and kanuka. And the suites? Heavenly.
Pack your wetsuit too, because down the road from the Cape you'll find a sweet little right-hand surfbreak that the locals love. Afterwards, replenish your energy with a pizza and a glass of syrah at Te Awanga Estate.
At So Vintage, which imports largely French furniture and antiques, you can pick up battered occasional chairs, gilded mirrors, old tin signs extracted from quaint European shops and industrial-style lamps.
If not a religion, cycling is certainly a favourite regional pastime, and many of the province's beautifully maintained bike paths lead to Havelock North. Dubbed "the village" by the locals, it's popular with city folk swapping the big smoke for a gentler, semi-rural existence - but with enough going on to enable a relatively painless transition.
There's great shopping to be found here: Moochi, Redcurrent and Trade Aid have bases in Havelock North; independent retailers include Lolita (fantastic footwear), Salsa for designer gear and Annabelle's for Indian homewares.
You'll also see many roadside stalls selling produce and fresh flowers. And of course, there's wine. Craggy Range, Te Mata Estate and Black Barn are all worth a visit for different reason: Te Mata is famous for its reds and rich family history; Black Barn's elevation and roaring fire make it the perfect winter pit stop; and Craggy Range does great food.
Keep an eye out for Origin Earth, an independent, organic dairy producer; its washed-rind Pink and White Terraces cheese is sublime with a slice of sourdough. You can bike to all these from the village.
You might want to swap thin tyres for fat and tackle the mountain-biking tracks in Te Mata Park. The park's trust recently completed fundraising to secure an additional 8.5ha of land and is starting work on a beginners' trail for kids, planting and walkways.
Alternatively, hike up through the redwoods forest to the summit of Te Mata Peak (the 'Sleeping Giant', as legend has it) and enjoy the jaw-dropping views across the rugged plains and curving coastlines.
Rush hour in this rural township means a queue at the fish-and-chip store and tractors rumbling up the main street. There's a lot to love about this gateway to Central Hawke's Bay - it's a must-do for those looking for a quiet escape from the tourist beat.
Start at Backpaddock Lakes with a packet of sausages and a sense of fun. What began as a hobby for a family of wake-boarding enthusiasts, who dug a hole in the ground and filled it with water, has grown into an all-ages attraction for anyone looking to learn (or perfect) cable wake-boarding, paddle boarding or kayaking. Bring or hire gear, and fire up the on-site barbecue once you're done.
Grab a coffee from The Rookery, then head to Wallingford Homestead. This sprawling single-storey villa is managed by the ebullient Stockdales - ex Sydney chef Chris and his wife Jeanette. They're gradually renovating its 14 bedrooms, and plan to build a yoga studio to add to the array of activities (clay-bird shooting, truffle hunting and more) on offer.
The menu offers delicious plates of fresh local produce, which you can enjoy before retiring to the art-lined library for a nightcap in front of the fire.
Fiona Fraser | Contentment Agency
Kia Ora Magazine
July 2019 edition
A light, bright space full of personality and a pinch of rock 'n' roll attitude, this is the spot in Napier for Coffee Supreme coffee, fluffy doughnuts and an adventurous menu - think ham hock and backed beans for breakfast, frilled octopus or Indonesian pickles to accompany a mid-afternoon glass of wine, or bone-marrow ravioli for dinner.
For a long and relaxed lunch overlooking the vines, Te Awa is hard to beat. Its menu isn't vast, but the food is always generous and delicious. Dishes are made to share with friends, with a wine list encompassing drops from Te Awa, Villa Maria, Vidal, Esk Valley and more.
Sai Thai Eatery
Sink into the velvet cushios at Sai and let the team bring you plates of modern Thai food full of punch and panache.
Art Deco Masonic Hotel
A hotel steeped in history and the glamour of yesteryear. The Mark Twain Suite is charmingly compact and wa the room the scribe slept in while touring New Zealand in 1895. Other suites are named for equally well'known former guests such as Jean Batten and the Queen. Whichever room you choose, you won't go wrong - owners Craig Hay and Neil Barber have put years of careful thought into furnishing their independent hotel. They also run a speakeasy-style bar and restaurant downstairs.
Clifton Glamping's two picturesque glampsites are perched above the meandering Maraetotara River. Owners Tom and Lucia Gordon really have thought of everything - from the breezy bohemian fir-out, to vases of fresh flowers and jars of marshmallows to roast on the open fire. Both luxury retreats feature big beds, quality linens and Weber barbecues.
This boutique accommodation a few minutes' drive from Havelock North has two luxury lodges (Arapata and Ngamoe) on a historic 12ha estate.
Mark October 15-28 on the calendar now. The Hawke's Bay Arts Festival is held each year in October, and there's a dizzying array of local and overseas acts.
Walk it off
All the food and wine settling around the middle region? Head out for a stroll. Shine Falls is a popular hike for families through spectacular native bush and with the reward of a waterfall. It's a 90-minute walk, out and back. For advanced trampers, the hike to Sunrise hut in the Ruahine Ranges is worthwhile. To experience the sunrise for which the 20-bed cabin is named, stay overnight. Bookings are essential through the Department of Conservation.
Paint and Paper
Hawke's Bay proves plenty of opportunities to peruse (and purchase) original art works. Richard Boyd-Dunlop, owner/curator at Boyd-Dunlop Gallery in Napier, says he's seen a "mini renaissance" within the local scene recently. He offers a range of abstract and investment pieces. Add Muse Gallery in Havelock North and Parlour Projects in Hastings to your must-visit list.