Arriving in Napier can feel like walking onto a 1930s film set where any second bootlegging gangsters in town cars are going to come peeling around the corner, tommy guns blazing. The centre of town is a shrine to Art Deco architecture, with some of the best intact examples in the world.
When a 1931 earthquake devastated Napier, the city was rebuilt in the prevailing style of the day. Today, one of the biggest attractions of this cosmopolitan town of nearly 58,000 is the town itself, drawing architecture buffs to admire its Art Deco and Spanish Mission buildings. Every February, the city holds an Art Deco weekend to celebrate its unique heritage.
Many of Napier’s Art Deco buildings line Emerson Street; Marine Parade, with its shady Norfolk Island Pines, is home to some more recent tourist attractions. There’s a Kiwi House at the northern end of the street, which may be your best chance to see a real live kiwi. Further south along Marine Parade is the Hawkes Bay Museum, and then there’s the ever popular Marineland and the Hawkes Bay Aquarium.
Napier has a fairly refined dining and café scene for a small city. The city’s cosmopolitan air is reflected in its street names, many of which are British authors: Carlyle, Thackeray, Tennyson, Dickens and Shakespeare.
Local bus services in Napier and the Hawkes Bay region are operated by goBay.
Cash fares are $3.60–4.20 (depending on how far you travel), although it is around 20% cheaper ($2.88–3.65) if you pay using a goBay smartcard.