It’s renowned for turning out topnotch wines but Hawke’s Bay has a few other tricks up its sleeve, such as wild beauty and a thriving food scene.
Being framed by mountains that snag rain clouds to leave its coastal plains bathed in year-round sunshine would be enough to make New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay a getaway go-to. The fact that it’s home to some of the country’s top syrah and chardonnay vineyards (and some of its priciest wines), flourishing food producers, a treasury of Art Deco architecture in Napier and a gorgeous sweep of Pacific coastline? This region on the east coast of the country’s North Island is just showing off. It’s also a place to visit in all seasons, for all reasons (not least for the 2020 vintage – it’s one for the ages)...
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers Half an hour’s drive south of Napier but a million miles from care, the 22 one- or two-bedroom cottages and four-bedroom Owner’s Cottage at Cape Kidnappers Lodge combine luxurious living with soothing panoramas over the peninsula and Hawke’s Bay. Set on a 2400-hectare working farm of black Angus and sheep, the property also harbours The Cape Sanctuary, a reserve for threatened local fauna, from kiwis and kakariki parrots to the prehistoric tuatara. As well, there’s a world-renowned 18-hole golf course, lavish spa, a 3500 bottle wine cellar, plus resident seal and gannet colonies to make a stay here extra special.
Black Barn Retreats
There are 17 designer holiday homes in Black Barn’s stable but few match the convenience and charm of the original two-bedroom Black Barn in Havelock North. Surrounded by 10 hectares of vines, the property is a short stroll from an amphitheatre – popular for concerts and festivals – a summer farmers’ market and a terrific bistro. Interiors are chic and rustic, equipped with every comfort (including a cellar selection of estate wines) and access to a tennis court. The majority of Black Barn’s other properties are larger, often with pools, and winningly positioned beside the Tukituki River or Waimarama Beach.
Eat and drink
What began as a lockdown-inspired spin-off of the two-hatted Craggy Range restaurant now has its own digs in fashionable Havelock North village, the best spot for great eating in the bay. Mary’s is a lively bistro with a feel-good menu of mains, snacks and share plates ranging from steamed dumplings and pulled pork tacos to burgers, pastas and tiramisu. In the same block there’s Alessandro’s for woodfired pizza, Piku Izakaya Japanese and the popular Pipi café.
This landmark vineyard estate splayed between the Tukituki River and Te Mata Peak is a popular destination for cellar door tastings and winery tours, luxe accommodation and one of New Zealand’s top regional restaurants. Head chef Casey McDonald’s hyper-local cuisine melds ingredients from his kitchen garden and artisan producers into choice snacks, such as beef cheek croquettes, and wine-friendly mains, like pecorino soufflé with burnt butter and pickled shiitake or tarragon-stuffed chicken with pine nut “risotto”. Match your meal with Craggy Range wines in a luminous, relaxed dining space among the vines.
Black Barn Bistro
This modern, airy cellar-door restaurant in Havelock North is a social hub of Hawke’s Bay. Equal parts casual and sharp, the lofty indoor eatery opens to trellised vines that shade courtyard tables where lazy summer lunches unfold. Executive chef Regnar Christensen favours flavour-packed dishes such as fried Jerusalem artichoke with ’nduja mayo and Houhora heritage pork loin with chicken sauce served alongside handpicked wines and spirits from New Zealand and beyond.
Central Fire Station
Chefs Sam Clark and Florencia Menehem have put this Art Deco former fire station in Napier firmly on the hot list with a seasonal, organic menu of prime local produce. Settle into teal banquettes beneath pendant lanterns to savour dishes such as Te Mana lamb, asparagus and grains, terrine of duck and pistachio or hazelnut, pumpkin seed and beetroot tart. Aside from one champagne, the wine list is proudly local and reasonably priced.
The Figgery Café & Shop
Grab an alfresco table at Murray Douglas and Helen Walker’s newish Figgery Café & Shop in Havelock North for a taste of Mediterranean-style dining. The on-site orchard is a charming setting for feasting on platters laden with every imaginable figgy product, from anise- and cinnamon-spiked “salamis” – best sliced and topped with local camembert – to salmon smoked over fig wood. Entertaining tours of their organic orchard, the country’s largest fig producer, are highly recommended.
Coastal Wine Cycles
With a network of more than 200 kilometres of bike trails, cycling between vineyards is an accessible and scenic way to discover the region’s wine and winemakers. Tours by Coastal Wine Cycles are led by Master of Wine Simon Nash, an affable host and wine connoisseur. Itineraries vary but usually trace the Kidnappers Coast cycle trail, dropping in on such stellar producers as Te Awanga and Clearview Estate. Trips come with a “no hills” guarantee but for less athletic sightseeing, Prinsy’s Tours offers luxury wine safaris by Mercedes van.
Towering 400 metres above the ocean, the mighty Te Mata Peak is this region’s prized natural playground and the massive sleeping form of chief Rongokako, according to Maori legend. Its 99 hectare parklands are laced with hiking trails that run from easy, 40-minute circuits filled with bushland and birdlife to the full, three-hour Giant Circuit to the summit and back. Road and mountain biking are also popular pastimes or you can simply drive to the peak for 360-degree outlooks over rippled mountains, riverine plains and ocean.
Art Deco walking tour
The devastating 1931 earthquake that destroyed Napier city, the heart of Hawke’s Bay, left an architectural marvel in its wake. The city was rebuilt in the prevailing Art Deco style and today stands as one of the world’s most intact examples of the genre, unique for its use of Maori symbols. Buildings are simple to admire on self-guided walks but for expert insights, book one of the daily tours run by the Art Deco Trust on foot or by vintage car. Napier’s annual Art Deco Festival happens in February.