Bay's past and present full of charm

Early mornings showcase Napier's Art Deco buildings in all their glory. Photo: Hawke's Bay Tourism
Early mornings showcase Napier's Art Deco buildings in all their glory. Photo: Hawke's Bay Tourism
When not enjoying the bounty of Hawke's Bay's food and wine festival, Rebecca Fox discovers there is plenty to do. 

It is the fascinating details that really hook you in when you look at the history behind Napier's Art Deco rebirth.

Contemplation, by Dunedin School of Art graduate Kay Wekett, in the Wildflower Sculpture Garden....
Contemplation, by Dunedin School of Art graduate Kay Wekett, in the Wildflower Sculpture Garden. Photo: Rebecca Fox
Such as the fires that followed the earthquake in 1931 and burned for more than 30 hours, hampering rescue efforts, or that 2230ha was reclaimed from the sea after the seabed rose nearly 2m.

While you will encounter many examples of the Art Deco style the city is renowned for just by walking from your hotel to the bay, going on a tour run by the Art Deco Trust gives you many more insights.

Watching The Day that Changed the Bay at Napier's Art Deco Centre, you get a greater appreciation of the carnage behind the city's rebuild into what is now a showcase of Art Deco architecture.

On a guided walk around the city centre, you learn the small details of the 1930s Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical architecture and the uses of the old buildings before they were transformed into the central shopping centre - such as the bank building, now home to ASB, which features Art Deco and Maori motifs.

Or that, when rebuilding, the decision was made to make the streets wider and to put the electricity and phone lines underground - unusual for the time.

So, an hour and a-half wondering around the city centre with an informative guide gives you a new appreciation for the thought that went into recreating and then, as years have gone on, preserving the city's heritage.

Of course, after a walk like that, lunch is always a good idea and a fun place to stop for a bite is Mister D - named after the Rolling Stones song Dancing with Mr D.

Hawke's Bay Farmers Market in Hastings. Photo: Hawke's Bay Tourism
Hawke's Bay Farmers Market in Hastings. Photo: Hawke's Bay Tourism
It is "famous" for its filled donuts and fried bread, which are oh so morish. Its duck risotto hit the spot, too. And if you get a seat in the back, you can watch the chefs at work in the kitchen.

If you're lucky enough to visit when the Wildflower Sculpture Garden exhibit is on, it is a must-see.

They have been holding exhibitions at Round Pond Garden, in Hastings, every other year for 10 years as a fundraiser for Cranford Hospice.

It is a mind-boggling walk through a variety of sculptures and art, including a wildflower garden from which a large bird sculpture soared and large-scale sculptures from materials as varied as steel, chicken wire, bushes, wood, ceramics, glass and more, created by about 80 artists from around the country.

If you feel like putting your feet up but still seeing a bit of the countryside, Napier is home to a superbike tour.

The four-seater trike (similar to the one that operates in Dunedin) is a great way to see the sights when you are pushed for time. Riding the Chevrolet 5700cc V8 all the way to the top of Te Mata Peak is exhilarating and has the added bonus of great views over Hawke's Bay.

The ceiling in the ASB Bank Building in Napier. Photo: Hawke's Bay Tourism
The ceiling in the ASB Bank Building in Napier. Photo: Hawke's Bay Tourism
The small village of Havelock North is also worth a visit to check its great boutique shops and, of course, it is adjacent to many of the area's well-known wineries. It even has its own boutique hotel - Porters - right in the village.

No visit to Hawke's Bay is complete without a visit to its Sunday-morning farmers' market.

While we are spoilt by our own farmers' market, the Hawke's Bay one has the advantage of being able to spread out. It has ample space for entertainment and to put your feet up and enjoy a coffee in the sun or do a quick whip-around for your weekly shop.

It's always fascinating to look around at the local produce - you could pick and mix your avocados by levels of ripeness to get you through the week, organise a selection of in-season vegetables to be delivered to your door or stock up on your favourite local olive oil.

If you cannot make it out to the showgrounds, a stop at the urban market on Saturday morning in the centre of Napier is well worth it - a smaller version of the Sunday market, it comes complete with coffee, fresh produce, plants and condiments.

And if you need to walk off that snack, a stroll along Napier's marine parade provides fantastic sea views and a chance to view more of the city's Art Deco buildings.

 

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