Napier – Wine and Art Deco

by David on December 29, 2009

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I had time for one destination between Taupo and Wellington. During the planning stages of my trip, I’d heard little about Napier except for its reputation for wine, so I wasn’t particularly drawn to it.

When I found out my chosen bus line (the cheap and efficient Naked Bus) didn’t go from Taupo to the west coast without some serious backtracking, I decided Napier was my best bet.

Napier has a very distinct character, and the history behind it is interesting. The city was devastated by a massive earthquake in 1931. Nearly all of its European-style brick buildings were shaken to pieces. With the world in the grips of the Great Depression, Napier suddenly had a lot of construction projects on its hands.

The rebuilding effort brought the community together and gave it a spirit of progress it had never experienced. They chose the roaring twenties style of Art Deco, to commemorate its new-found vitality and modernness. Much of the city looks like the set of a gangster movie.

I stayed at the Criterion Art Deco, a 1930s hotel converted to a hostel. It was like stepping back in time.

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I only had two nights and one full day to spend there, and I wish I’d had more. The weather was beautiful. Both evenings, my hostel comrades and I sat on the balcony, drank wine and watched two incredible sunsets. I wonder if they get them every day in Napier.

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I tried to pack as much in my day as possible. I began with a guided walking tour, then I set out on my own. I visited the National Aquarium, which was great, but struck me as a little too small to be “National.” I walked around taking pictures, and found as much beauty of the botanical kind as the architectural.

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Napier went too quickly. Three nights is about the minimum to really see some portion of a city, two was more of a tease than anything. So two quick nights and I was off to the nation’s capital.

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January 31, 2015 at 7:35 pm


Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) December 30, 2009 at 3:35 pm

the sunset pictures were amazing~ their esplanade looks similar to here in Cairns, except we have a kilometer of mud before the sea.

kitty looks contented…

David January 1, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Yes I don’t think I’ve ever seen sunsets that were as big as those. The pictures can’t capture their scale; it was like we were under a glowing orange silk sheet.

Brenda December 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Hi David. It’s strange to see blooming plants at a time when much of the US is blanketed in snow. Has springtime there messed with your internal clock?

David January 1, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Hi Brenda. My internal clock is still a bit messed. For instance, I can never guess what time of day it is here. Christmas was bizarre, hiking and cooking in the sun.

Angelika December 31, 2009 at 9:09 pm

… wow Art Deco in Kiwi-Land, I am impressed (make that capital), yet another interesting read … and more “cat content” with a content cat.
paws up, Angelika

David January 1, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Very friendly cat, that one. He lived in the hostel under the pool table.

Avi January 5, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Wow, some of those buildings look like they belong in an old-timey movie.

Erin January 6, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Love the style of building. What a lovely place.

Delias Hozzlethorn. January 6, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Jets go 5-1 down the stretch, clinch wildcard birth.

Blair Rogers May 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Arh – Napier old town.

My hometown – grew up there and will always be a special place for me.

Glad you enjoyed it.

David May 16, 2010 at 12:18 am

I only wish I’d scheduled more than two nights there. It wasn’t quite enough. I’ll be back!

Suzy April 14, 2015 at 12:31 am

I was born in Napier it truly is a magical place, especially in the 70s and 80s when I grew up. I had so much freedom,, so much fun, riding my bike out to brookfields river, swimming all day, or going up to the madigra fair at xmas on the marine parade and eating cream filled waffles..the criterion was an old haunt in my teens. out on the balcony dancing to queen. OMG I actually feel homesick looking at these pics..

Shahid Aziz June 25, 2015 at 10:59 pm

I perpetually love to go New Zealand.
I am a Pakistani National and I love New Zealand.
Such a great country on the surface of earth.
Really an amazing country.

Peg September 1, 2015 at 4:00 pm

We have friends that have moved to Napier and we are looking for a cruise that will take us to Napier. Thanks for the info and pictures now we really want to go there.

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