Plan an incredible itinerary with our favourite things to do in Napier.
Whether you’re in town to sample wine from world-class vineyards or to experience the unique Art Deco architecture, this small town packs a surprising punch.
We suggest you soak up our suggestions before creating your own Hawke’s Bay travel wishlist.
COVID-19 has come with its fair share of challenges for New Zealand businesses. Though we do our best to share accurate information, this can change quickly as some businesses make the decision to operate under reduced hours or hibernate. We suggest you double-check they are open before finalising your plans.
The Best Things to Do in Napier
Activities and Attractions in Napier
1. Wander Along Marine Parade
Located along the coast of the South Pacific Ocean you’ll find Marine Parade.
Stretching approximately 3km, no visit to Napier is complete until you’ve walked along this famous seaside path.
There, you’ll find a number of the attractions that we mention below, alongside a few others.
Whether you relax at the sunken gardens, snap a photo of Napier’s most famous statue (Pania of the Reef), grab an ice cream or challenge your travel companion to a round of mini-golf, be sure to check out Marine Parade whilst you’re in town.
2. Enjoy a Wine Tasting
The Hawke’s Bay is home to more than 200 vineyards, 70 wineries and 30 cellar doors, making this the perfect place to sample fine wine – right from the people that make it!
Best known for Chardonnay, Merlot Cabernet blends and Syrah, these vineyards are spread across Napier, Hastings and Havelock North.
Though it’s possible to drive yourself directly to a vineyard, we recommend hopping on a guided tour (by car or bike) so you can relax without worrying about having a sober driver.
Some of our favourite vineyards include:
- Brookfields Vineyards: 378 Brookfields Road, Meeanee, Napier 4183
- Mission Estate Winery: 198 Church Road, Poraiti, Napier 4112
- Church Road Winery: 150 Church Road, Taradale, Napier 4112
- Crab Farm Winery: 511 Main North Road, Bay View, Napier 4104
- Linden Estate Winery: 347 State Highway 5, Esk Valley, Eskdale 4182
- Hawkes Ridge Wine Estate: 551 Kereru Road, RD1, Hastings 4171
- Te Awanga Estate: 376 Parkhill Road, Hastings 4172
- Black Barn Vineyards: Black Barn Road, Havelock North 4294
- Craggy Range: 253 Waimarama Road, Havelock North 4230
- Askerne Estate Winery: 267 Te Mata Mangateretere Road, Havelock North 4172
- Clearview Estate Winery & Restaurant: 194 Clifton Road, Te Awanga (near Cape Kidnappers) 4180
- Elephant Hill: 86 Clifton Road, Te Awanga, Haumoana (near Cape Kidnappers) 4172.
Book: Gourmet lunch and wine tour.
These vineyards and wineries offer incredible locally-produced wine and many serve up delicious food and cheese boards.
Can you think of a better way to spend a sunny afternoon?
3. Enjoy a Bike Ride Around Napier
The Hawke’s Bay Trails boast 200km of flat, easy-riding trails throughout the region, connecting award-winning wineries, unique cafés, quaint country pubs and artisan outlets.
For the more adventurous, our mountain bike parks are very highly-regarded and take in some spectacular scenery. Little legs are also catered for, with a selection of cycle skills tracks to impress even the most discerning mini-riders.
- Water Ride: Between 15 and 35km return depending on your route [Napier].
- Wineries Ride: Between 30 and 60km return [Hastings].
- Landscapes Ride: Between 15 and 42km return [Hastings].
Download: Your own Hawke’s Bay trail map.
4. Visit the Region’s Incredible Art Deco Buildings
Sadly, Napier was devastated by an earthquake in 1931.
Not long after, the city was rebuilt in the architectural style of the time — Art Deco.
In town, there are three buildings that demonstrate Art Deco particularly well. They are the:
- Art Deco Masonic Hotel: 2 Tennyson Street, Napier South, Napier 4110
- Daily Telegraph Building: 49 Tennyson Street, Napier South, Napier 4110
- National Tobacco Company Building: 1 Ossian Street, Ahuriri, Napier 4110.
Keep your eyes peeled though as these stunning buildings are all around the town.
In fact, it is said that Napier is the best example of Art Deco architecture anywhere in the world — only ours has a unique twist with the inclusion of some Māori designs.
This makes Napier all the more special.
Book: Art deco guided walk.
5. Take a Step Back in Time at the Napier Prison
If you’re looking for a unique experience in Napier, head along to the old prison.
The Napier Prison was the oldest penal complex in Aotearoa, having opened in 1862. It was eventually shut in 1993, but affordable self-guided tours (using a map and audio device) are now available through the facility.
Throughout the experience, you’ll learn unforgettable stories and be transported back in time. Walk through undulating corridors (which managed to survive the massive earthquake of 1931), get dressed up in prison gear, have a mugshot snapped, take your fingerprints and much more.
This informative tour is fun for everyone and totally unique to the area.
Did you know? The prison also offers a self-guided tour aimed at younger members of the family.
6. Learn From the Past at MTG Hawke’s Bay
The MTG (which stands for Museum, Theatre, Gallery) is the home of art, culture and history in Napier.
Telling the story of the 1931 earthquake, whilst showcasing a range of interesting exhibitions (including a range of Māori artefacts and local collections), the MTG is open to all visitors and is free to visit.
If you’re travelling with kids, be sure to pay a visit to the MTG. They host a family-friendly drop-in zone each weekend, along with fun and interactive activities and workshops aimed at kids.
There really is something for everyone at this unique museum.
7. Warm-Up at the Ocean Spa
The Ocean Spa is Napier’s premier hot pool complex.
It has a range of pools, allowing visitors to unwind with incredible views of the ocean right in front.
The pools are part of an open-air complex and feature heated, chlorinated water, allowing visitors to enjoy facilities year-round.
For peace of mind too, you’ll feel confident knowing they have qualified lifeguards on patrol at all times. This is a real bonus if you’re travelling with children.
8. Enjoy the Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens in Napier are the perfect place to relax whilst visiting town.
Covering an impressive 18 acres, this floral oasis is home to an aviary, duck pond and two historic wells.
Visitors can enjoy walking a number of tracks, each of them weaving their way through beautiful plantings.
We were surprised by the size of this colourful garden. We also enjoyed walking in the old cemetery where most tombstones have been there since the 1800’s. Easy parking, families bring their picnic and eat on their gorgeous lawn surrounded by majestic old trees.Daniele
Pro Tip: The Botanical Gardens are built into a hill so be prepared with a water bottle and comfortable walking shoes — and expect plenty of steps. Don’t let that put you off though as the gardens are beautiful.
9. Check Out the National Aquarium of New Zealand
Located on Marine Parade, the National Aquarium hosts a range of native and exotic sea life.
Visit Penguin Cove and watch the famous little penguins (from the Good and Naughty Penguin of the Month social media fame) feed and play. Each of these little guys was rescued and given a safe new home in the aquarium. They’re a real highlight of any visit!
You’ll also see sharks, stingrays and fish swimming over you in the 1.5 million litre oceanarium tunnel and have the chance to spot New Zealand’s native wildlife — including tuatara, kiwi and eels.
Discover an exciting world both above and below the water at the National Aquarium of New Zealand.
Pro Tip: Try to time your visit to coincide with daily feeding times. 10.00 am for the reef fish, 2 pm for the sharks and the little penguins at 9.30 am, 1.30 pm and 3.30 pm.
10. Take a Step Back in Time at the Faraday Centre
Centrally located in Napier, the Faraday Centre is Hawke’s Bay’s Museum of Technology.
It’s a place of discovery where history comes alive through hands-on experience. Rather than reading and looking at pieces of history, they encourage visitors to touch and hold items, pull levers and truly discover how things would’ve been in days gone by.
The Faraday Centre is an amazing place to experience the evolution of technology in a hands-on, meaningful way.
With interactive displays and surprising exhibits, this is one museum that’s sure to hook in both children (wanting a glimpse into the past) and people who’ve lived through these incredible times.
11. Climb Bluff Hill
Bluff Hill is undoubtedly home to the best views in all of Napier.
This hill sits just beyond the main town, overlooking the bustling Port of Napier.
You can choose to drive up the Bluff Hill Domain Lookout to enjoy views out over the water, or walk to the top.
If you choose to drive, be sure to take your time — though the drive is short, the roads up are steep and have tight corners.
If you’d rather walk, allow approximately 30 minutes from town and be prepared for lots of steps on the way to the lookout. We recommend you find the path up through Sturm’s Gully via the Lighthouse Road entrance, though there are a number of ways to access the lookout.
On a clear day, it’s possible to see the Mahia Peninsula, Wairoa, Ruahine Range and Cape Kidnappers (which is home to the gannets which we’ll soon discuss).
Did you know? The lookout was built on the concrete remains of two 6-inch gun emplacements that were built on Bluff Hill in preparation for World War II.
12. Take a Guided Tour of Napier
Though it’s possible to plan your own self-guided tour of Napier with the ideas on this list, sometimes it’s nice to sit back and relax whilst someone else shows you the sights.
Thanks to the incredibly unique history in this area, Napier is a great place to join a guided tour.
Whilst on board, you’ll learn about the 1931 earthquake that shaped the city (and its rebuild) whilst also visiting a number of the stops on this list.
You will also benefit from commentary, as shared by a local.
Book: A private customisable tour in a luxury vehicle (for up to 6).
Book: A tour in a vintage car.
Book: A cruise ship shore excursion and be back on board on time.
13. Visit a Local Art Gallery
Napier is home to more than its fair share of art galleries and exhibition spaces.
Whether you’re keen to peruse local art whilst visiting or want to purchase a piece to take home as a reminder of your visit, the following galleries are worth checking out.
- Boyd-Dunlop Gallery and Ahuriri Contemporary: 4 Hastings Street, Napier South, Napier 4110
- SPA_CE Napier: 3 Market Street, Napier South, Napier 4110
- Creative Arts Napier: 16 Byron Street, Napier South, Napier 4110
- Tennyson Gallery: 63 Hastings Street, Napier South, Napier 4110
- The Art Shed: 511 Main North Road, Bay View, Napier 4104.
We took a piece home on our last visit to Napier — you might like to do the same.
Pro Tip: Whilst in town, be sure to check out the community outdoor art installations too.
14. Hit Napier’s Op Shops & Antique Stores
As a town, Napier looks very much like the past. It’s unsurprising then, to learn that this unique town is also home to a thriving retro scene that includes quality op shops and antique stores.
If you’d like to take a piece of the past home with you, be sure to pay a visit to one of the following stores.
- Napier Antique & Jewellery Centre: 65 Tennyson St, Napier 4110
- Whales Tale Antiques: Cnr Bridge Street Cnr Bridge & Waghorne Street, Ahuriri, Napier 4110
- Decorum of Art Deco Napier: 4 Herschell Street, Napier South, Napier 4110.
15. Marvel at New Zealand’s Largest Collection of Irons
Whilst you’re in the Art Deco capital, of both New Zealand and the world, and surrounded by retro items, you may as well go all-in.
Esk-Ironz is the largest collection of laundry irons (and related memorabilia) in the country and what a collection it is! Privately owned, this extensive exhibit shows the evolution of domestic laundry chores, with examples from around the world.
They are open by appointment and your entry includes a personalised, guided tour by the owners. Suitable for all ages (and wheelchair-friendly). this is a great opportunity to learn about this quirky collection.
Ironing has never been so much fun!
1133 Waipunga Road, Eskdale, Napier 4181
16. Treat Yourself to a Locally Made Ice Cream
Lick this! have been serving delicious fresh ice cream, gelato, sorbet and ice blocks for almost 20 years.
Made mostly on-site using local ingredients, they serve up more than 40 different flavours — many of which have a distinctly kiwi twist.
If you ask us, a frosty treat from Lick this! is the perfect afternoon tea treat.
This place is always on our “must visit” list when we are in Napier. It is usually quite busy but the friendly and efficient staff seem to keep everything moving. There are so many flavour choices and while we tend to stick to old favourites, it pays to try something new as sometimes there’s a flavour you just never knew you’d love! I love how unique it is in that most is made on-site, can’t be bought anywhere else in NZ, and is clearly made with a lot of love and passion for quality ice cream.Amy
290 Marine Parade, Napier South, Napier 4110
17. Shop at a Local Farmers’ Market
The Napier Urban Farmers’ Market is smaller than the more established Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Markets (which feature next on our list) but they’re a convenient option for those wanting to stay within Napier.
There you’ll find a collection of fresh pastries, coffee and produce to help stock your fridge and pantry from the source.
Located in central Napier, not your usual Farmers Market but a small version with an emphasis on local produce. Amazing selection of fruit, veg and plants. Cupcakes were a highlight with the kids and the best bacon sandwiches we have ever had.Victoria
The Napier Urban Farmer’s Market runs each Saturday from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm.
Clive Square East, Napier South, Napier 4110
Worthwhile Things to Do Near Napier
18. Visit One of the Oldest and Best Farmers’ Markets in New Zealand – Hastings
The Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market is world-famous in New Zealand, and an absolute must-see if you’re in the region on a Sunday.
Just a 12-minute drive from Napier, these are widely regarded as being the best farmers’ markets in the country.
As the original market in the area, they have operated for 20 years. Since then, they’ve consistently served a wide range of the freshest produce and a selection of delicious treats.
Meet the growers and producers as you wander the market, enjoying live music in the sunshine.
Tomoana A&P Showgrounds, Kenilworth Rd, Hastings, Hawke’s Bay
19. Cool Off at Splash Planet – Hastings
Splash Planet is only a 15-minute drive from Napier, located in neighbouring Hastings.
This is now New Zealand’s only water theme park and it’s a heck of a lot of fun!
Originally opened in 1968 (as Fantasyland), it has been a family favourite for generations.
Now, it is home to a wide range of awesome’ attractions, including water slides and swimming pools, making it perfect for a warm summer’s day.
Splash Planet is only open only in the summer season (and on either side of it) so be sure to visit their website to check their operating hours.
20. Visit the Gannets – Cape Kidnappers
Only 25 minutes from central Napier, you’ll find the largest mainland gannet colony in the world.
These quirky birds are entertaining to watch and the scenery on the way out to the colony is every bit as worthwhile.
To visit the colony you have two options – both of which require joining a guided tour.
- Option 1: Hop on the back of a tractor-trailer and ride along the shoreline to the gannet colony. Upon arriving at the end, you’ll climb up the side of the cliff to the gannet colony. This is a great option for those looking for an adventure, but is tide-dependent and requires a reasonable level of fitness.
- Option 2: Join a guided tour and travel over two local stations to access the gannet colony by land. This tour runs regardless of the tides and gives much better protection to guests in poor weather. They get you nice and close to the gannets so next-to-no walking is required. This is the tour we joined when visiting and we can’t recommend it enough – book your spot below.
The gannets themselves are graceful in the air but incredibly clumsy on land – keep your eyes peeled for their crash landings!
21. Check Out the Views from Te Mata Peak – Havelock North
Less than 30 minutes from Napier you’ll find the towering Mata Peak.
Offering 360° views of Hawke’s Bay, this 399m high landform draws visitors in from all around. In fact, it’s even possible to see Mount Ruapehu in National Park on a clear day.
Accessing Te Mata Peak is easy. It’s possible to drive right to the top, though if you’re in a campervan we suggest you stop before the top car park (where the road really does narrow).
The park is made up of almost 100 hectares of parkland that includes walking/running trails, mountain biking tracks and a large redwood grove.
At the top, you’ll even find a paragliding/hang gliding platform where you can watch brave locals take to the sky.
Whether Te Mata Peak is bathed in sun or peaking out through the fog, it’s well worth paying this lookout a visit.
The Māori creation myth of Te Mata Peak. “It is said that Maori chief Te Mata fell in love with the daughter of his rival, the Heretaunga chief. To prove his worthiness and win the beautiful Māori maiden’s love, Te Mata accepted a series of near-impossible challenges. The handsome chief choked and died attempting his final task, which was to eat his way through this rocky range. Te Mata Peak depicts the outline of his prostrate body and is called the Sleeping Giant by locals.”Hawke’s Bay New Zealand
Did you know? Two million years ago the seafloor tilted. This created the landform that we now know as Te Mata Peak.
Napier (and the Hawke’s Bay in general) is such a diverse and beautiful part of New Zealand.
Be sure to include it on your next North Island adventure.