This summer, visitors to Napier and the greater Hawke’s Bay region have more activities than ever to look forward to.
The weather forecasters predict a warm dry holiday period so here’s a short-list of some specific activities and destinations you don’t want to miss during your stay in ‘the Bay’;
1. Explore the Hawke’s Bay Cycleways and stop in at Bivvy Vineyard Cafe
Since it’s beginnings in 2002, the network of dedicated cycleways has grown to cover the Napier, Clive and Hastings areas as well as the countryside beyond. Now more than 200 kilometres of dedicated cycleway allows safe, scenic, fun-filled travelling at your own pace as you meander around our stunning region.
Three main ‘loop’ rides have been devised (see the map below) allowing for various interests and time frames. A favourite is the ‘Landscapes Ride’. This will take you south from Napier along the foreshore, across the Clive River and onto the pristine limestone pathways atop the stopbank (levee) beside the Tukituki River. This runs all the way to the lovely village of Havelock North.
Following the west bank past vineyards, farms and orchards between Black Bridge and River Road you’ll come across the Bivvy Vineyard Cafe. This ‘pop-up’ cafe is nestled in a vineyard at the foot of the stopbank and is only accessible to cyclists or walkers coming along pathway. No road access at all! Delicious coffee, snacks and, of course, Bivvy Vineyard wine are available to revive the weary traveller as they rest amongst the vines. When you can tear yourself away, carry on to Havelock North for lunch and a look around before heading back to Napier. If the legs don’t fancy the return journey, just chuck your bikes on the bus and enjoy the ride back. What a wonderful day out in the Hawke’s Bay countryside.
2. Swim with sharks at the National Aquarium of New Zealand
Along Napier’s Marine Parade at the southern end sits the National Aquarium of New Zealand. As well as sea turtles, stingrays, crocodiles, piranha and all manner of other delightful aquatic life, this is the only place in the country where you can Swim With Sharks.
With only a wetsuit and snorkel (both provided) a 30 minute swim amongst 3 different species of shark, stingrays, skates and deep water fish like snapper is quite a thrill. Beneath you in the huge aquarium tank are glass tunnels that your fellow visitors can wander through and watch your plight. If you’re looking for an adrenalin rush, how are you feeling as the first shark swims towards you for a sniff? Can you hold your nerve?
While you’re there take the only opportunity in Napier to see our beloved national bird, the beautiful flightless Kiwi in its darkened nocturn house. Also see the amazing Tuatara lizard – native to New Zealand and the creature with the only direct lineage back to the dinosaurs. Phew! And all right at your door in Napier.
3. Visit New Zealand’s largest Farmers’ Market in Hastings
Every Sunday morning, beneath the huge old trees next to the lake at Waikoko Gardens in Hastings, thousands of locals and visitors alike visit the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market – the largest in the country. The trees offer shade from the heat of a clear blue Hawke’s Bay sky, to the dozens of stallholders who have brought their produce and food products to sell.
From edible flowers to fresh baked baguettes, from local smoked bacon to locally roasted coffee and local wineries, there isn’t a better place to spend a couple of hours on a sunny Sunday morning. The variety and quality of goods on show is astonishing. And the glade-like venue, within the Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds complex is stunning. If you want to capture the essence of Hawke’s Bay in one spot, the Farmers’ Market is it.
4. Head up Te Mata Peak in the early morning
The view from the 399 metre high Te Mata Peak is rightfully hailed as the best in Hawke’s Bay. When you stand at the top by the trig you have 360 degrees views. If you’re in ‘the Bay’ in summer, try to get up there before 10am. The sun won’t be high in the sky yet and the heat haze, which can limit the clarity of the view later in the day, hasn’t developed.
Early in the morning the sun will still be behind you as you look west across Hastings and the Heretaunga Plains towards the ranges in the distance. On a clear day without the heat haze you can see Mt Ruapehu, in the central North Island, through the Kaweka Saddle. To the north you can see the Mahia Peninsula across the huge Hawke Bay itself. Looking eastward you have stunning views of the Tukituki River valley directly below you and out towards Cape Kidnappers and Waimarama. Allow a couple of hours and enjoy some of the many walking tracks around the Peak that the locals love so much.
Visiting these spots, and many other gems, are what spending time in beautiful, abundant Hawke’s Bay is all about.