As the heat of high summer gradually retreats and the crowds of holiday-makers thin out, autumn is a brilliant time to visit Hawke’s Bay and enjoy everything it has to offer.
By mid-March both the annual apple harvest and grape vintage are under way. Vine leaves will begin to turn golden as soon as their fruit is picked and by May the full fiery, vivid colours of autumn with dominate the province.
Late March, April and May are a great time to visit Hawke’s Bay. The weather is generally still dry and sunny without the withering heat of high summer. The air is crystal-clear and without the summer heat haze you can see forever.
Here are the 5 best reasons to visit Hawke’s Bay over this autumn season;
1) Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans Festival.
Napier has just hosted the first Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans Festival to be staged in New Zealand. Over 11 days in mid-March, nearly 30 artists from around the world created murals on the walls of public buildings highlighting the plight of the worlds’ oceans. Napier’s coastal location and huge collection of classic 1930’s buildings provided the perfect backdrop, and the town joins Los Angeles, Vietnam, Mexico and Sri Lanka as a Sea Wall Festival venue.
Tip: Grab a ‘Sea Walls’ map, showing all the mural locations, from the Napier i-Site Visitors Centre and check out these amazing and thought-provoking pieces of street art throughout the Napier CBD and the old port village of Ahuriri.
2) The Annual Grape Harvest
From mid-March, right through April and into May, Hawke’s Bay’s more than 4700 hectares of vineyards are abuzz harvesting approximately 45,000 tonnes of grapes across a wider range of varieties than any other New Zealand wine region. The excitement in the wineries is infectious. If you’re wanting to take a wine tour of this country’s pre-eminent wine region this is the time to do it.
Tip: Check out the wine tours on offer daily from Bay Tours, Hawke’s Bay’s wine and sightseeing tour specialists. As well as a selection of premium wineries visited, the Gold Reserve wine tour takes you behind the scenes in the vineyard and there’s the added bonus of a mid-afternoon Gourmet Platter showcasing some of Hawke’s Bay’s many artisan food producers.
3) Burnt Golds & Clear Blue Skies
No region in New Zealand’s North Island experiences the visual glory of autumn like Hawke’s Bay. The trees and vineyards turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red against a backdrop of flawless blue skies. Without the summer heat haze, the views seem to go on for ever.
Tip: Head to the beautiful village of Havelock North at the foot of Te Mata Peak. Enjoy the amazing colours on parade as you walk the banks of the Karamu Stream between the Crosses Rd and Havelock Rd bridges.
Or take the drive south out of Havelock North along Middle Road. The 40km trip to the little settlement of Otane will provide some of the most stunning rural autumnal vistas you’ll ever see.
4) Galleries and Exhibitions
Hawke’s Bay has long been a popular place for artists to reside and create. There’s a well-developed arts infrastructure throughout the region that supports both dealer and community galleries as well as the extensive collections held and displayed by the award-winning MTG Hawke’s Bay in Napier and Hastings City Art Gallery.
Why not combine some outdoor activities that make the best of the Hawke’s Bay autumn weather with visits to a couple of art or craft galleries.
Tip: Until March 28th Creative Arts Napier are hosting the internationally acclaimed ‘Rembrandt Re-mastered’ exhibition at their Byron Street gallery. In association with the Rembrandt Research Project Foundation, the exhibition displays dozens of the Dutch master’s works digitally re-mastered in life size.
Then wander across the road to Napier’s MTG and check out the astonishing ‘Lalique’ exhibition featuring the priceless Art Nouveau glassware by the world-famous Frenchman.
5) Pedal Power Paradise
In Mid-March another new section of cycle trails was opened between Hastings and Havelock North, taking the length of specific cycle trails around Hawke’s Bay to well in excess of 200km.
Over the autumn months you can meander around various cycle trails between Napier and Hastings without the repressive heat of summer and with the Hawke’s Bay countryside awash with colour. The trails aren’t as crowded and you can get a seat at any cafe you want along the way.
Tip: Try the ‘The Water Ride’ which heads from Napier’s foreshore along the waterfront of Ahuriri village and Westshore up to Bay View before looping around the Ahuriri Estuary Sanctuary to Church Road and back to the village. Stunning views and scenery all the way.
If you forgot to chuck your bikes on the rack, or couldn’t be bothered, just wander over to Fishbike Rentals on the waterfront just north of Ocean Spa on Marine Parade in Napier. Owner, Brian, has a huge selection of bikes for everyone from beginners to old hands (and feet).
No matter what you’re interests are, there isn’t a better place to head to for a few days of fun in autumn than Hawke’s Bay. Feed the soul, get to ‘the Bay’.