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Explore Napier on Foot

Home > The World > Vintage and Retro | Outdoor | Architecture | Walks | Weekend Escapes
by Carole Liivrand (subscribe)
I love to explore & share my experiences and photographs with others on the off-chance that they too get a buzz out of simple things at their own back door.
Published January 17th 2013
Art Deco Capital of the World
A city reborn after a massive earthquake and fire is now a fantastic tourist attraction.

Napier, Hawkes Bay

Napier was flattened in 1931, killing 162 people and causing major devastation. Two years later she was rebuilt in the styles of the era: Spanish Mission, Striped Classical and Art Deco.

Art Deco Architecture Typical of Napier

Often likened to the French Riviera and referred to as the "Nice of the Pacific", Napier attracts tourists from near and abroad to experience the unique collection of architecture and participate in Art Deco events. One should not forget the palm fringed sandy beaches either.

It's easy to explore Napier on foot, either self-guided or with a local expert. You can't get lost, and with a little help from the shore-side Visitor Information Centre, you can buy a map and booklet ($3) to guide yourself on a walk around the major art deco attractions.

If walking is a problem, or you prefer to mix it up, you can choose from :
10.00am Guided Walk 11.30am Deco Bus Tour
11.30am Bus Tour 2.00pm Guided Walk
10.00am or 2.00 pm Guided Walk Vintage Car Tour

Walking was our preferred mode, as time was limited as we were sailing out of the Port of Napier in the early afternoon.

It's easy to start on the waterfront, where the New Napier Arch, on Marine Parade, frames the Pacific Ocean.

The Colonnade comprises three arches — the largest being the New Napier Arch. This is the memorial to the earthquake victims and the people who survived and rebuilt. At the northern end of the Marine Parade Gardens are two major features — the Tom Parker Fountain (which is lit up at night) and the bronze statue known as Pania of the Reef.

We started at the Colonnade and somehow stumbled across the Art Deco Centre at 7 Tennyson Street. It was like the invisible guide was taking us there via a gorgeous homewares store, Linens to Love, and the Egyptian influenced Art Deco Pan Pac Theatre - now a theatre and function venue.

Vntage Car
One of the Many Vintage Cars in this City

We had no idea of the history or culture of this town so when we saw our first vintage car we assumed it was a collector's treasure. Several cars later, and locals dressed in period costume playing brass instruments outside the Art Deco Trust Centre soon painted a clearer picture.

Art Deco Centre

This place is a 'must' to visit. Their small theatrette runs historical footage showing what actually happened in the town in 1931. Here you will gain a much better understanding of Napier and it's peoples.

One thing is for certain. They are [still] resourceful and exceptionally friendly and determined that this spirit lives on. Each February they host the largest of all Art Deco events: the GEON Art Deco Weekend. Comprising more that 200 activities in total: hundreds of 1920s and 30s cars, aerobatic flying displays, steam train rides, a great Gatsby picnic, dinner dance extravaganzas and free outdoor concerts to name a few.
Many thousands of locals and guests get with the theme, dressing elegantly in garments from the depicted era bringing glamour to the City streets.

City Tours can be taken in cars like this

Other points of interest on the Walking Trail include:
St John's Cathedral, which has 13 contemporary stained glass windows and a specially designed Maori chapel
• About ninety fine examples of art deco, including the Hotel Central on Emerson Street , and Kidson's Building opposite it.
• The pillared Public Trust Building, built in 1922
• A colourfully-painted row of colonial houses known as the "six sisters" on Marine Parade. Originally built by a wealthy businessman for his six daughters, they now house arts and craft shops and restaurants.
• Napier's other main attraction is the National Aquarium showing New Zealand's largest display of aquatic life and unique New Zealand wildlife, including sharks, stingrays, living coral, kiwi, tuatara and a huge range of fish species.

This little known place in New Zealand is one of those gems that made an impact on me and my friends. The town went all out to greet the several thousand guests arriving on our cruise ship. This is something that happens regularly when cruise ships arrive in port.

For more sites of interest and accommodation, visit:

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Why? Sun, Beaches, Beauty, Art Deco, History, Culture and great scenery
When: Summer, Autumn & Spring. Art Deco Weekend February each year.
Phone: 64 6 835 0022
Where: Napier, New Zealand
Your Comment
Hello, I have lived in Napier and it is a great town. However you made it sound as though there are always many vintage cars and people dressed up but this is only when there is a cruise ship in port or during Art Deco week. Also the museum could be added to the list of attractions as it has a good section on the earthquake. 3 Feb is not always the Art Deco weekend - early Feb sometime. Autumn has an N missing.
by jenni (score: 1|41) 3729 days ago
aug 2007 special visit to napier from Adelaide not ontinery of most travel agent s.however jet set &kirra made for a most memorable trip of nz I like the the way kiwis kick us fellow ANZACs One guide stated ,"of course NZnever had convicts the only convicts we had were theones that escaped from SYDNEY". S AUST 1836 I might point out was a free settle ment luv u all from Christchurch:s sister city ADELAIDE errata it was a 2010 visit
by Jfost (score: 0|2) 3661 days ago
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