Great Escapes: Discovering New Zealand's Epicurean Hawke's Bay
Hawke’s Bay rarely figures into the standard tourist circuit, but oenophiles have long known about New Zealand’s oldest wine region, currently home to 70 wineries. The nation’s “fruit bowl” has much to offer visitors, many of whom transport themselves from one internationally famous wine producer to the next via a leisurely bike ride through scenic farmlands.
Situated on the North Island’s east coast, this perpetually sunny area—famous for its Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay—is responsible for 80% of New Zealand red wine production and nearly two-thirds of the nation’s apples.
Gourmands indulge in a culinary-focused weekend at any number of exclusive getaways, and golfers head to one of the highest-rated courses in the Southern Hemisphere. Nature lovers have plenty of opportunities to observe and engage with New Zealand’s incomparable beauty; Hawke’s Bay contains more than 100 miles of flat, off-road biking trails, and 200-plus miles of Pacific coastline.
Wine lovers looking for an immersive experience are exceptionally well-served, with several high-end wineries offering boutique accommodations onsite. Craggy Range enjoys a most scenic locale, under the escarpment of soaring Te Mata Peak. The winery’s comfortable cottages and luxurious, four-bedroom lodge are situated among lush green surroundings. An in-cottage sommelier service gives guests access to an expansive cellar of vintage and large format selections, and the award-winning Craggy Range restaurant is only a few steps away.
Black Barn Vineyards maintains an impressive array of visitor experiences, none more notable than its collection of 14 unique properties available for nightly rental. Options run the gamut from an eight-bedroom luxury retreat to a historic cottage in the center of the vineyard; all are fashionably-appointed, with handsome kitchens and modern amenities. Overnight guests take advantage of easy access to Black Barn’s seasonally-operated growers' market and amphitheater, recognized as one of the nation's best outdoor music venues.
Mission Estate, New Zealand's oldest winery, was established in the scenic Taradale hills by pioneering French missionaries in 1851. Visitors to the award-winning restaurant, housed inside a carefully restored seminary building, enjoy sweeping views of the vineyards and coastline. The menu is packed with locally-sourced ingredients, and the sunny outdoor terrace presents a postcard-perfect setting for pairing domestic cheeses with staff-recommended wines. A visit is incomplete without spending some time at the cellar door, as tasting rooms are known in the Antipodes; the photo-lined walls display a history lesson about the New Zealand wine industry.
At the other end of the spectrum lies Elephant Hill. Situated across from the Pacific on the gorgeous Te Awanga coast, this German-owned winery has garnered international attention for its modern architecture and sustainable practices. The restaurant offers one of the region's most visually striking dining environments; natural light fills the stylish environs, there’s a calming reflecting pool, and floor-to-ceiling windows provide expansive views. Each item on the menu—think New Zealand oysters, venison, and grass-fed Wagyu—is prepped with a suggested pairing in mind.
Hawke's Bay’s most visitor-friendly city, Napier, is best known for its Art Deco architecture, which rivals only Miami’s. The city was rebuilt in the 1930’s after a devastating 1931 earthquake; today, a variety of small businesses and inviting cafes are housed in one of the world’s largest collections of Art Deco, Spanish Mission, and Stripped Classical buildings. It’s easy to spend a day strolling streets named for writers (Shakespeare, Emerson, Dickens), looking away from the intricate exteriors to pop into unique shops such as Opossum World, home to the world's largest selection of possum products and clothing. (Conservation groups encourage the commercial use of possum fur to help eradicate New Zealand’s most infamous invasive species.) The Art Deco Trust thrills architecture fans with guided tours, offered on foot or in 1930s vintage cars.
Cape Kidnappers is one of the most famous names on the North Island. This natural headland, which sits at the end of a rugged peninsula, doubles as a luxury travel destination and playground for nature lovers, many lured by the world's largest, most accessible mainland gannet colony. The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, a luxe Relais & Chateaux property situated atop 6,000 acres of working farmland, offers fine dining and myriad activities. Guests can try their hand at sheepherding, shoot clay birds over deep ravines, or sit back and tour the scenery in an all-terrain Can-Am vehicle. The par 71 golf course—regularly ranked among the top 100 in the world, it’s hailed as one of the great modern marvels in the sport—resides on an undulating landscape with dramatic ocean views.