We went to Napier over the weekend.
It was a family vay-cay to celebrate my in-law’s 40th (!!) wedding anniversary.
There was me, my husband Taka and our one year old Zeke, my sister-in-law Ari and her fiancé Josh, and Taka’s commitment level 5000 parents, Pat and Maxene.
It was basically a Big Fat Greek Wedding Anniversary, minus the Greek part.
It was also the first family getaway we’ve been on since little man escaped the womb, and it was awesome.
Kate, the Travel Writer
Napier is a coastal city in the Hawke’s Bay of New Zealand that is famous for fruit, wine, and having an uncanny resemblance to a Universal Studios set street.
That’s because in 1931, Napier experienced the deadliest natural disaster in New Zealand history.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
On 3 February at 10.47am, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake violently shook the Hawke’s Bay for two and a half minutes, killing 256 people and injuring thousands.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the quake also ignited devastating fires that tragically finished off was left of Napier’s city centre.
At the time, The Dominion newspaper described Napier as a town “wiped off the map”.
If you’re interested in history, I recommend checking out the MTL (Museum Theatre Library) next time you’re in Napier.
And this is coming from an uncultured non-fan of museums, so believe me when I say this one really is worth the visit.
Silver Linings Playbook
The MTL also have an exhibition on the rebuild of Napier, because the silver lining to this (again, not Greek) tragedy is that the city was then redesigned amidst the Art Deco taste of the ’20s.
In an impressive display of Kiwi ingenuity and team work make the dream work, four Napier architectural firms banded together and worked around the clock to redesign their town.
Beauty for ashes – Isaiah 61
Amazingly, this meant Napier was nearly entirely rebuilt within two years of the disaster, and in an archetypally Art Deco style that has made it one of the New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations.
Kate’s Top 5 Napier Faves
1. Te Mata Peak – it’s about a 30 minute drive from Napier, but it’ll make your trip approximately 30 million times better.
The landscape was so sweeping and picturesque, I felt like I was in a board meeting for Lord of the Rings cinematography (an award category you will not be seeing aired at the Oscars this year, ohhh! #popculture).
2. Hapī – this allergen/vegan/Keto/Millennial-friendly eatery was seriously delicious considering it’s definitive lack of gluten and refined sugar.
I can’t remember exactly how many times we went there, but it was a lot …
3. MTL – as I said, I’m not a museum fan. I’m the heathen who thought the Lourve was only worth it for the fine art gallery and gift shop.
Ps. Taka spent a solid hour agog at old vases. I kid you not. I have never seen a brother so jazzed about pottery (he has a Classics degree, so let’s not judge … either of us).
That said, I loved the Māori exhibition at MTL, and the sea-life art installation made from recycled plastic was legitimately incredible.
(As was the gift shop.)
4. Par2 Mini Golf next to the Sunken Gardens (um, bad ass name alert, way to sound like El Dorado or Atlantis, Napier foreshore).
I don’t know what it is about mini golf, but it’s just such good clean fun.
10/10 would recommend.
5. The Street Art – it might be my Wellingtonian showing, but I love a big ol’ graphic mural on a city wall.
So fun. So vibrant. So great for the gram.
Fun Historical Facts with Kate!
Did you know … neighbouring cities Napier and Hastings are both named after English dudes who helped run colonised India on behalf of the British Monarchy?
Charles Napier, was the Commander-in-Chief of India from 1848-1849, and Warren Hastings was the first Governor-General of India from 1773-1785.
I am Carmen Sandiago.
4 Things That Had Me Shooketh
1. Splash Planet is super loose, and super Kiwi! We went on an insane scorcher of a Saturday, and the water theme park was basically bursting at the seams. So much so that people had parked all over the grassy verges, and apparently that was totally cool and normal.
You were also encouraged to bring along your own picnics and BBQs.
The delicious smell of sausages was almost as strong as my regret for not bringing a full Christmas Day-worthy banquet to the pools like the people next door to us.
Although you know your girl stopped in at Hapī on the way back to the motel though …
2. You can’t swim in the sea! A beautiful beachside tourist town, and there wasn’t a single person to be seen ducking up and down in the waves.
Upon further investigation, I found out: “They have a poo problem.” 💩💩💩
I’m no Mayor. Obviously. But I would (bio) hazard a guess that fixing a sea sewerage problem should be the top of your town to do (do) list …?
Editor’s note: I have since found out that Napier beach has a fairly fierce undertow, so even without the water pollution, the pull of the beach would be a rip – not a fun family day in the waves.
3. We were hit by an ambulance on the way home. Technically it was a patient transfer van, but the irony remains.
Our little black Golf is looking like it’s going to be written off, but thankfully, the driver ploughed into the only door without someone next to it.
The locals of the small town we were passing through were also incredibly kind, and so was the extremely apologetic St John’s driver. No harm, small foul.
As a side note, If you have any recommendations for a reliable, chic, not too expensive, family-friendly car I’d be very interested.
4. Zeke slept through the night! 😱 My child is over a year old and has famously never slept through the night.
Except in Napier. When apparently he’s King if Sleep.
We might need to move.
3 Benefits of Having a Baby Wake You Up at 4am in Napier
On Saturday, our little man was ready to carpe diem and seize the day at 4am. Which actually had its benefits.
1. I tried out a Centr workout in the motel room, because I’m Chris Hemsworth, obvs.
2. We saw the sun rise at Bluff Hill Lookout
3. And had a glorious wander (my favourite way to see a city) down the Art Deco main streets, and along the waterfront.
And then it was 10am!
2 Go-To Coffee Spots
I’m an unbearable Wellington coffee snob from way back, and these two places served from seriously delicious brews.
1. Ajuna Eatery: it had a really nice vibe and a pop art picture of Queen Elizabeth that I wanted to smuggle home with me, and they did a solidly good Mojo flat white.
2. Six Sisters: the hipster bicycle on the roof of this place filled me with confidence that a quality flat white was coming my way, and it did not disappoint.
Alas these were the only cafes I tried over the visit, but the internet tells me Crazy Good is also crazy good, so give them a try too.
1 Door To Rule Them All
Napier is home to the most Instagrammable door in New Zealand (maybe a #fact).
If you want to find it and get that gram, this is the address:
National Tobacco Company Building Ltd
1 Ossian St,
Have you been to Napier? What was your favourite part? Do you know a better New Zealand door?! But for real, what would be a good car for us? We need help.