Napier and Hawke’s Bay

Today, we headed southeast to visit Napier and the Hawke’s Bay area. The zig zagging road between Taupo and our destination was stunning — evergreen laced mountains, rivers and waterfalls, steep grassy hills dotted with sheep and finally, pretty Napier, sitting on its perch along the Pacific Ocean coast.

In 1931, a massive earthquake – 7.9 on the Richter scale – rocked the Napier area for more than three minutes. Nearly 260 people died and most of the buildings were demolished. On the positive side, the land rose nearly six feet, draining swampland and increasing the city’s buildable land. And rebuild they did! While the rest of the world suffered through the Great Depression, Napier was quickly rebuilt. New buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times and the city is now known as the world’s most pure art deco city.

After a self-guided walking tour of the city, we visited the Classic Sheepskins factory. They walked us through the tanning and manufacturing processes of creating their super-soft sheepskin rugs. (Ohhhh, how I wish I had unlimited space in my suitcase!!!)

If you’re a wine drinker, no doubt you’re familiar with Hawke’s Bay. Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine region, famous for some chardonnays but mostly for its reds. Frank and I visited two vineyards. The first, Moana Park, is a highly-awarded boutique winery whose focus is on low allergen, natural winemaking. We asked for a tour and were directed outside to a picnic table, where the two of us sat with our host drinking wine in the warm sunshine. He was passionate and down-to-earth, explaining each selection, along with the vineyard’s wine-making philosophy, in a simple, understandable manner. It was so relaxing and truly enjoyable! Our next stop was New Zealand’s oldest winery, Mission Estate. Established by monks in 1851, it is the birthplace of wine in New Zealand. Nowhere near as warm and welcoming as Moana Park, it was worth visiting in that the building and grounds were gorgeous. We ended our little day trip with wine and a late lunch on the grassy terrace overlooking the vineyard.

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