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Napier – Guide for Backpackers

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Things to do in Napier.

Sunshine, wine, funky architecture, cycling, mountain biking, walks, Maori history… There’s certainly more to the Hawke’s Bay city of Napier than meets the eye. Most backpackers when they hear about Napier they think “that Art Deco place”. But Napier has so much more…

Not only is the city centre a treat with photo-worthy Art Deco architecture, but who can resist the lure of Napier’s beaches well connected with cycle trails and walking tracks? Many nights have been enjoyed with fish and chips and an ice cream on the beach watching the sunset. Napier is also a great base for exploring Hawke’s Bay’s hikes, mountain biking and beaches.

If you’re looking for some short-term work, Napier has a lot of seasonal work opportunities ideal for those on a working holiday visa. All in all, Napier can provide an ideal balance of work and play for backpackers.

Things you can’t miss in Napier

  • Explore the city centre and marvel at the Art Deco architecture!
  • Grab a fish and chips in Westshore and watch the sunset at Westshore Beach
  • Discover a fascinating Maori history at the Otarara Pa Reserve
  • Cycle around the city on the Water Ride
  • Taste some famous Hawke’s Bay wine!
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Hawke's Bay Tourism

Art Deco Architecture in Napier

Major earthquakes in New Zealand are few and far between. Although they have savaged some cities in New Zealand, Napier is an example of making the most of a bad situation by rebuilding possibly the coolest and quirkiest city in New Zealand in terms of architecture. After the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 1931, Napier has been rebuilt as the “Art Deco Capital of New Zealand”. The Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco architecture provides the perfect excuse to simply walk around the city centre and snap up some unique architectural photos.

Napier has 140 Art Deco buildings, with some of the best examples down Emerson, Tennyson and Hastings Streets. The Daily Telegraph building and Municipal Theatre on Tennyson Street are a must-see, as well as the National Tobacco Company offices on the corner of Ossian Street in Ahuriri.

To really get into the swing of the Art Deco era, time your visit to Napier with the Tremains Art Deco Weekend (usually in mid-February). Get to an $2 store or op-shop, buy yourself some period clothing, and join in on the celebrations .

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Beaches in Napier

With Napier being in one of the most sunniest regions in New Zealand, its beaches are way too inviting to ignore.

Sandy Bay is hard to miss along Marine Parade in Napier city centre. It’s a pretty popular place in summer so come down early to claim your spot.

Ahuriri, just five minutes by car or 10 minutes by bike from Napier city centre, is hidden over the Napier hill. It’s like a little town of its own with plenty of cafes and ice cream parlours so you have something a little extra for a walk on the beach. Of course, a dip in the sea is a must!

A little further away from Napier city centre is the suburb of Westshore. As well as a beach and plenty of places to grab fish and chips, Westshore is right next to the Ahuriri Estuary where boardwalks take you to see wading birds.

Finally, there’s a long-stretching beach at the outer suburb of Bay View, perfect for long walks.

You’re never too far of a drive away from some of Hawke’s Bay’s more secluded beaches. Take a look at 10 Beautiful Beaches in Hawke’s Bay.

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Walking and cycling in Napier

If you have your own vehicle, you can access some stunning walks all within reasonable driving distance from Napier. Just check out 10 Wonderful Walks in Hawke’s Bay for more information. For something a little closer to the city, check out the Otarara Pa Reserve. This is a real dose of Maori history on this one-hour walk exploring an ancient Maori pa site (a fortified village). Otatara Pa is near Taradale between Napier and Hastings.

Check out the beach section above to find great places to walk along the beach and walk on the boardwalks of the Ahuriri Estuary.

Napier and the neighbouring city of Hastings are well-connected with bike trails making it a great way to explore the area. Napier’s easy grade Water Ride spans 68km covering beach fronts, the Ahuririri Estuary, charming suburbs, rivers and the Horseshoe Wetland. For more information, check out Mountain Biking in Hawke’s Bay. Keen mountain bikers will love Napier Pumping Track and Taradale Dirt Park.

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Wineries and Seasonal work in Napier

Napier is the main hub of New Zealand second-largest wine-making region, Hawke’s Bay. Hawke’s Bay produces 80% of New Zealand’s plantings of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes. Most Hawke’s Bay wines can be sampled in bars in city centre, Ahuriri and West Quay. You can also visit one or many of the Hawke’s Bay wineries, the closest of which to Napier are the Mission Estate and Church Road Wineries in Taradale. Of course, the supermarkets are the most affordable option.

The great thing about wineries other than, of course, wine, is the abundance of seasonal work on offer for backpackers. Demand for seasonal workers in Napier peaks in November until Christmas and from mid-February until May. Get in just before the picking season starts to increase your chances of getting a job. Find out more in Picking Seasons in New Zealand and Working a Fruit Picking Job in New Zealand.

If you have more time in Napier…

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Where to stay in Napier?

  • Criterion Art Deco Backpackers
  • Stables Lodge Backpackers
  • Archies Bunker
  • The Art House Backpackers
  • Portside Inn
  • Toad Hall Backpackers
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