A Day in Hawke's Bay
Hawke’s Bay Region on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island is known for its vineyards, fresh produce, art deco buildings and sunny days. The region has a rich history, including rebuilding from a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the area in 1931. This was New Zealand’s deadliest recorded natural disaster.
While I find the earthquake history interesting, I went to Hawke's Bay to discover a different history - my family history. My dad and his family are from the Hawke’s Bay town of Hastings. My grandfather was actually a baby in a stroller on the streets of Napier when the earthquake hit. The purpose was of my trip was to see family that I hadn't seen in ages, or had never met before.
My alarm blared at 5 am last Saturday morning. I quickly shoved some essentials into a carry-on bag and drove to my Auckland-based cousin Rachel's house. The drive took twice as long as Google Maps said it would because the motorway was covered in a thick fog and I could barely make out the headlights of other vehicles. The fog persisted as we drove from Rachel's house the airport. When we got there, we quickly checked in with a sigh of relief as we were worried that we would miss our flight. An announcement came over the loudspeaker saying that our flight had been delayed. 'Fair enough,' we thought. So went to the food court and ordered juice.
Six hours later, we were still at the gate - crouched in a cramped corner with several others who were also trying to suck a sufficient amount of phone charge out of a power point. I was about ready to give up on our plans for the weekend when an announcement came over the loud speaker that we were FINALLY able to board.
A solid seven hours later and our flight managed to take off into what was now a flawless blue sky. We flew above the mountains and rolling green hills of the North Island before landing in Napier. We were greeted by the smiling faces of my cousin Fiona and her kids. In what was less than 24 hours in the Hawke's Bay, they showed us just how beautiful their home is.
Here are some of the things that we got up to this weekend:
After driving from the airport past Pandora Pond, we jumped out of the car to catch the sunset from Perfume Point at the mouth of the Ahuriri Estuary.
NAPIER MATARIKI FESTIVAL
Matariki is the Maōri name for the Pleiades cluster of stars that rise above the New Zealand skies in late winter. This symbolizes the start of the Maōri New Year. We went to a festival celebrating Matariki at the Napier Soundshell on Marine Parade we enjoyed some traditional kai (food) and watched live performances while the kids bounced away on the jumping castles.
This is Napier's main shopping strip and home to some stunning Art Deco buildings. In the alleyways and side streets that extend from Emerson Street, there's street art, as well as images and information of the Napier Earthquake. The photo below is my cousin Nicole posing in front of a wall in one of the alleyways - can you tell we are related?
At night, this palm tree studded square in central Napier is illuminated with different coloured lights, giving off some serious Coachella vibes.
SUNRISE ON TE MATA PEAK
Just south of Hastings, this 399 meter peak boasts stunning views across the region. My cousins and I woke up early in the morning, put on our biggest jackets and huddled into the car to watch the sunrise from Te Mata Peak. By the time we reached the top, we were rejoined by that dreaded fog that'd held us hostage at the airport the day before. As the sun rose and some of the fog cleared, we got a breathtaking glimpse of the rolling hills below.
Sitting pretty in Havelock North is 17 hectares of formal gardens and parklands. It's a great place to come for a picnic, some fresh air or for one of the classes in the community facilities for arts and crafts. There is a functioning mini-train that goes around the gardens. It operates on the first and third Sunday of every month.
SILKY OAK CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Hanging out with my family made me realize that chocolate addiction is genetic and very much in my DNA. We couldn't resist stopping at this chocolate factory for some chocolate and fudge, made on site.
While it is not a functioning prison today, this historic facility is New Zealand's oldest prison. My cousins particularly loved the wall of famous offenders (Hello OJ Simpson and Charlie Sheen) and the number plate of the car parked out the front - 'PRIZON'.
These beautifully landscaped gardens were developed in 1974 to celebrate the establishment of Napier as a city. Before this, the space was a quarry, maintained by inmates of the Napier Prison. The waterfall in these gardens is at least 40 metres high and certainly steals the show.
During WWII, this 102-metre-high lookout point in Napier was used to protect the area. Bluff Hill looks out over the Port of Napier, to Mahia in the north and Cape Kidnappers in the south.
Rachel and I loved our time spent exploring Hawke's Bay with our cousins. It may have only been short, but it was definitely worth the wait.