The Napier of today – a charismatic, sunny, composed city with the air of an affluent English seaside resort – is the silver lining of the dark cloud that was the deadly 1931 earthquake. Rebuilt in the popular architectural styles of the time, the city retains a unique concentration of art-deco buildings. Don’t expect the Chrysler Building – Napier is resolutely low-rise – but you will find amazingly intact 1930s facades and streetscapes, which can provoke a Great Gatsby-esque swagger in the least romantic soul. Linger a while to discover some of regional New Zealand’s best restaurants and also a few excellent wineries less visited than the bigger names around nearby Hastings and Havelock North.
The climate is warm and relatively dry resulting from its location on the east coast of the North Island. Most of New Zealand’s weather patterns cross the country from the west, and the city lies in the rain shadow of the North Island Volcanic Plateau and surrounding ranges such as the Kaweka Range.
Tourism and architecture
Napier’s major tourist attraction is its architecture, which draws Art Deco and architecture enthusiasts from around the world. The rebuilding period after the 1931 earthquake coincided with the short-lived and rapidly changing Art Deco era and the Great Depression, when little “mainstreet” development was being undertaken elsewhere. As a result, Napier’s architecture is strikingly different from any other city; the other notable Art Deco city, Miami Beach, has Streamline Moderne Art Deco. The whole centre of Napier was rebuilt simultaneously.
Other tourist attractions in Napier include MTG Hawke’s Bay (the museum, art gallery and theatre) which features information on both the 1931 earthquake and Napier’s redesign as an Art Deco city, the National Aquarium, the Napier Prison, the Soundshell and the Pania of the Reef statue. The Pania statue on Marine Parade is regarded in Napier in much the same way that the Little Mermaidstatue is regarded in Copenhagen. In October 2005 the statue was stolen, but it was recovered a week later, largely unharmed. Marineland was a tourist attraction from 1965 until it closed in 2009.
The National Aquarium is one of the foremost aquariums in New Zealand. The historic Napier Prison is the oldest prison in New Zealand and visitors can learn about the history of prisons as well as witness the path of the 1931 earthquake. It is the only place in Napier where some of the earthquake damage has been left in place. Tourists flock to Napier in February for Art Deco weekend and the Mission Estate Winery Concert in the Napier suburb of Greenmeadows which has featured Chris De Burgh, Olivia Newton-John, Eric Clapton, Kenny Rogers, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Sting performing with the NZ Symphony Orchestra, Shirley Bassey, Beach Boys, Doobie Brothers, Tom Jones, and in 2013 Barry Gibb with Carol King.
Attractions nearby include the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony and many vineyards bordering Taradale, Hastings City, and north of Napier around Bay View and the Esk Valley.
|Languages spoken||English & Maori|
|Currency used||New Zealand Dollar (NZD)|
|Area (km2)||106 km2|