Roughly three and half hours drive from Pacific Coast Village, Napier is a place to reminisce of childhood and golden summers past. The sunken gardens blossom with the memories of many a marriage proposal, while the sun-warmed smoothness of Pania of the Reef, immortalized in bronze upon her rock, soaks up the beat radiating from the Sound Shell stage along the seaward Colonnade.
This, like many of the town’s exquisitely restored Art Deco facades really comes to life every year in February when Napier hosts its renowned Art Deco Weekend. It’s a time when locals polish their vintage cars, pull out their best clothes and take part in ‘bubbly’ breakfasts, café crawls, celebrity tea parties, and glitzy costume and coiffure competitions.
All of this wouldn’t be happening of course, without the tragic events of 1931, when the entire landscape of Napier was destroyed in an earthquake and subsequently redesigned in the modern art deco styling of the time.
Today Napier is a haven for design buffs, a place where you can step back in time surrounded by the zigzags, sunbursts and fountains of a bygone era. Over the past 25 years or so building frontages throughout the city have progressively embraced their art deco heritage and been given new life in attractive and striking colour schemes.
Diverse housing styles from ornate art deco through to smooth modern lines reflect the trends in residential architecture over the past 86 years and have earned the city a worldwide reputation as an art deco display centre. To make the most of it all, take a walking tour with a guide from the Art Deco Trust or pick up a self-guided driving map and be caught up in this town’s spirit of Art Deco optimism.
When you’re done there’s a long line-up of other nostalgic highlights to experience including - if you're up to it - a bumpy tractor trailer-ride along the beach to enormous chalk-white cliffs of Cape Kidnappers' to get up close and personal with the gannet colony. Then there's the chance to discover information about Napier’s devastating quake and its fiery aftermath at the Hawke’s Bay Museum and Exhibition Centre, visit the National Aquarium, or take a soak in the indoor and outdoor heated pools of the Ocean Spa complex. And let's not forget the region’s elegant sufficiency of local wine, sun-ripened fruit and gourmet treats galore.
Be warned: you’ll need at least a week to make the most of it all.
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