Quirky New Zealand’s cities are often painted as drab in comparison to other metropolitan hotspots. The Kiwi country is better known for its outdoor activities, natural beauty, and dramatic landscapes. But, there is a city in New Zealand that stands out and breaks the mold.
Napier overflows with charm and fascinating attractions. It is positioned on the southeastern side of the north island of New Zealand, a five-hour drive from the capital Wellington. Napier is famed for its Art Deco architecture, old fashion atmosphere, and long waterfront.
If you want to explore off the beaten path and engage in a variety of interesting activities, there are plenty of fun things to do in Napier. Keep reading to find out about all the great attractions you can put into your Napier itinerary.
Best Napier Activities
Napier is one of the sunniest places in the country. This means you’ll have plenty of light and warmth to enjoy while taking part in all the great activities on offer.
Between wine tasting and vintage car rides, cruise ships, and bay tours, there are plenty of activities in Napier for you to try.
1. Explore the Coastal Trails of Hawke’s Bay
There’s nothing more exhilarating than hopping on a bike and cycling through a new country. Especially when that country has a gorgeous coastline to explore and several prestigious wineries.
Grab a map and a bicycle in Napier and head out on the beachside roads and bicycle trails in and around Hawke’s Bay. A little pre-planning with a route beforehand will make for a stress-free ride. And you can take some rest stops at beaches along the way.
If you love cycling and wine tasting, try a self-guided scenic bike ride to the coastal wineries. This means you’ll get the thrill of the wind in your hair as you race past the stunning New Zealand countryside.
And, after your ride, you can enjoy an exquisite wine tasting before being picked up and dropped back in Napier.
2. Take an Art Deco Tour
You can’t visit the Art Deco hub without seeing what makes the city worthy of the Great Gatsby himself, old sport. You can expect a great story from Napier as well as an aura of romance.
You can take a tour on foot by organizing one with the Art Deco Trust in Napier. A knowledgeable guide will take you through the city and share the tale of how the city was reborn in the thriving 1930s.
One of the best ways to take a tour of the city is to do it in true vintage fashion. Take in the extraordinary Napier highlights on a private tour in a classic car.
Your personal chauffeur will guide you around the city’s attractions while recounting its intriguing history – a truly extravagant way to travel.
3. Enjoy a Napier Wine Tour
Napier has some spectacular wineries located in magnificent buildings. Chardonnay is the leading wine produced in the Hawke’s Bay region within which Napier sits. But, luckily there’s plenty of Sauvignon Blanc and a variety of Bordeaux and Shiraz blends around too.
You can take your pick between wineries such as:
- Mission Estate: Famous as the oldest winery in New Zealand (1851)
- Church Road Winery: French-owned with a flair for crafted wines
- The Urban Winery: Napier’s newest addition to the vine scene
Whether you lean towards the old-school or prefer a more trendy establishment, there’s a winery for you.
If you’re a real wine connoisseur, why not book a tour that visits all the aforementioned estates plus a scenic drive past the Esk Valley vineyards? There’s even an optional craft beer tasting.
You’ll get to taste some remarkable vintages and enjoy a complimentary cheese board to complement the indulgences.
4. Visit a Māori Village
A visit to Napier, New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without experiencing some of the Māori people’s customs. The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand’s mainland and still have a strong cultural presence today.
While in Napier, you can learn about the history of the Māori people by visiting one of their villages. One of the Māori family members will share their sacred sites with you. You’ll learn about their bush lore, folklore, language, and culture.
Book a tour of the village of Waimarama and you’ll achieve an insider’s perspective of what it means to be Māori. You’ll be immersed in the hopes and aspirations of their people while enjoying a friendly and relaxed encounter.
Exciting Napier Attractions
From the above you can see that there are a variety of things to do in this city, now let’s look at Napier’s tourist attractions. Below are some great sightseeing ideas for your New Zealand trip.
1. Soak Up the Napier Sea Walls
The activist in you will love the Napier Sea Walls. The Napier Sea Walls were the subject of a street art project designed to highlight the plight of the oceans through art and activism.
The beautiful sea wall murals seen throughout Napier are the result of a collaboration of internationally renowned artists. The project began in 2016 with 29 large murals being created, followed by an additional 21 being painted in 2017.
These artists aimed to promote the sustainability of natural resources through these bright and attention-grabbing murals. They emphasized issues such as overfishing, plastics, and pollution in these artworks.
The Napier Sea Walls are some of the most colorful and interesting places to visit in Napier. Here’s a Hello Hawke’s Bay map of all the mural locations so you can make a day of it.
2. Meander through the Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking for one of the more gentle, scenic things to do, Napier offers the Botanical Gardens as a great option. These gardens form an 18-acre floral paradise in the center of the city. An idyllic retreat into a place of natural splendor.
Towards the lower end of the gardens are the remains of two historic wells over 100 years old, as well as a small aviary and picturesque pond. A variety of walking trails lead up to the higher end of the park, which borders the old cemetery.
History and nature are everywhere to be seen in this gorgeous setting, making it a must-visit attraction in Napier.
3. Look Around Napier Prison
Opened in 1862, Napier Prison is the oldest penal institution in the country. The jail closed in 1993 before being restored in 2002 and reopened to the public.
The prison offers self-guided audio tours – available every day of the week between 9 am and 5 pm. You don’t need to prebook and the audio tours are available in 15 languages. Have some fun by getting your mug shots done and fingerprints recorded.
You can learn about this jail’s fascinating past by taking the historical prison tour. Or, if you enjoy all things supernatural, you can join the ghost tour to hear tales relating to the paranormal. Both tours are available at the prison.
4. Sample the Goods at the Napier Urban Farmers’ Market
Take a stroll down Emerson Street and you’ll discover a little gem. The Napier Urban Farmers’ Market is a foodie haven with fresh vegetables, homemade preserves, delicious baked goods, and heavenly roast coffee available from a variety of colorful stalls.
The market is located in the center of Napier and is open every Saturday morning. Make sure to chat to the locals and the growers while you taste your way through the decadence on offer.
They’ll have some great tips for places to see and off-the-beaten-track things to do in Napier, NZ.
What to Do in Napier with Kids
Some of the activities above, like the wine farm tour and botanical gardens, might be a bit dry for kids. But don’t stress, if you’re traveling with children in tow, here are some ideas of what to do in Napier, NZ.
1. Marvel at Marine Life at the Aquarium
Kids go crazy over marine life at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. It’s home to over 100 saltwater, freshwater, and even land animal exhibits. From vibrant exotic reef fish to shark and penguin-feeding tours, the little ones will have a blast running from tank to exhibit.
The aquarium includes native species as well as species from America, Australia, and Asia. You can book personal experiences with penguins, unique tuatara, or piranha. The aquarium is open every day and the feeding times follow this schedule:
- Reef fish: 10 am
- Penguins: 9:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm
- Sharks: 2 pm
2. Run Around the Marine Parade
Marine Parade is an absolute must for your Napier to-do list. It is a kiddie’s oasis filled with fun things to do for your little ones. The Marine Parade is a 3 km stretch of seafront. It links Napier to the Pacific Ocean, granting awe-inspiring views of Hawke Bay.
When it comes to Napier and what to do with kids, Marine Parade offers a ton of family activities including:
- A junior bike track
- A large playground for small and older children
- BaySkate skate park
- The Sunken Gardens – an escape from the urban surrounds
- Mini golf
- Water fountains – great for kids that love water
- Ocean Spa complex
With so much action packed into one attraction, your kids won’t have time to get restless or mutter the dreaded words, “I’m bored”. And neither will you!
Best Places to Stay in Napier
Now that your list of things to do in Napier, New Zealand is full, you cast your mind to where you can stay in this wondrous city. Here are three great options to consider.
Quality Inn Napier
The Quality Inn Napier is located opposite the Pacific Ocean and Marineland – you couldn’t ask for better neighbors. It’s also 5 minutes from the city center and 15 minutes from the airport.
The Inn itself offers apartments and studios with satellite TV, kitchenettes, and private bathrooms. You have the convenience of your emails at your fingertips thanks to free WiFi. And, a swim is just a plunge away with the covered swimming pool.
Pebble Beach Motor Inn
Pebble Beach Motor Inn is the perfect accommodation for families. It’s positioned along the Marine Parade, meaning there’s a massive children’s playground, bike trails, mini-golf, and an aquarium close by.
The Inn features self-contained suites with freshwater spa baths and rain showers. Guests have access to their own fully-equipped kitchens. As well as a flatscreen TV to pop the kids in front of after a long day of exploring Napier.
The County Hotel
The County Hotel is a luxurious 5-star accommodation located in the center of the Art Deco capital. Originally built in 1909, this hotel is one of only two important buildings to have survived the legendary 1931 earthquake.
The hotel is decorated in grand 1930s style with an elegant design and antique furnishings. Each of the rooms contains tea/coffee-making facilities, a satellite TV, a DVD player, and a work desk.
You can dine at the award-winning Wine Street Restaurant or enjoy a beverage or two at Churchill’s Champagne & Cozy Bar with its excellent selection of wine and whiskeys.
Wine fans will also love the hotel’s proximity to the famous Hawke’s Bay Vineyards.
Final Thoughts on Napier Things to Do
Tour fanatics will love being guided around the fabulous Art Deco capital and sampling their way through some of New Zealand’s best vineyards. Cultural buffs will appreciate getting to know the Māori customs and experiencing the local legends.
Whether you prefer tours, sightseeing, or fun activities with your kids, you’ll find a multitude of things to do in Napier from this list. Pick a few to make a jam-packed itinerary that will give you the vacation of a lifetime.
Before you go, if you plan on visiting New Zealand as part of a multi-stop trip, take a look at this post on reasons to visit Australia.
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