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When disaster struck on 3 February 1931 in Napier and Hastings 258 people died, and the twin-cities were destroyed by the worst earthquake in New Zealand's (human) history, measuring 7.9 on the Richter Scale, followed by devastating fires. (More about earthquakes and disasters on my introduction page to the North Island.)
But both cities rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Napier was redesigned in the Art Déco style with its simple and clean lines and has become the Art Déco capital of New Zealand. As local architect Louis Hay incorporated some Maori features in the buildings Napier got a unique style. The pastel colours give the city a joyful atmosphere. Coincidentally this jazzy style had been at its height in the 1930s.
The Art Déco Trust has a Visitor Centre from where guided walks start twice daily (10am and 2pm). You can also get a booklet ($4) for self-guided tours. Brochures also available at the Visitor Centre (Marine Parade) where the morning tours leave.
Address: The Art Deco Shop, 163 Tennyson St (next to Clive Square)
Tel. (06) 835 0022
Those walks are just a little part of the many Art Déco activities, there are also vintage deco car tours, deco bus tours, not to forget the art déco festival on the third weekend in February (Brebner Print Art Déco Weedend) when the cities is full of people in vintage clothes and cars.
Hastings has some Art Déco buildings but was mostly created in the Spanish Mission style with its arched windows and wrought columns. This style came from California, created by Spanish missionaries. Do not miss the Methodist Church, the Hawke's Bay Opera House, the Dominion Restaurant and the Westerman's building. There are guided walks each Saturday (11am) in summer, bookings must be made from the Hastings Visitor Centre:
Address: Cnr Russell & Heretaunga Sts, tel. (06) 873 5526, tollfree (0800) 429 537
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Address: Napier Visitor Information, 100 Marine Parade
Phone: (06) 834 1911, (0800) 847 4887
Tongariro National Park is the oldest National Park in New Zealand. It is located in the central part of North Island and includes the volcanoes Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro. It is a Natural World Heritage Sites of the UNESCO.
Main activities are hiking and climbing in summer and skiing in winter. The famous hiking trail "Tongariro crossing" leads from east to west across the National Park.
On the eastern slope of Mt. Ruapehu there's a visitor center at the small hamlet of Whakapapa.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
At the RNZAF base Ohakea you can visit a small museum and see two military aircrafts and some air force related stuff.
You can't spent a lot of time here, but it is a good place for a stopover on your way to or from Wellington.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Phone: +64 (06) 351-5020
Auckland is your landing point and there are plenty of vans there to rent.
With regard your route you could head South from the airport in Auckland, stay at the Miranda Hot pools the first night, then on to the Coromandel peninsula on the East Coast, travel to the top of the peninsula, cross to the Eastern side and travel South. Lots of beaches, hot pools, a goldmine in Waihi, see the river workings in the gorge and tramp through some tunnels. Then down to Tauranga, great scenery, through kiwifruit country, visit Mount Maunganui Surf beach, then inland to Rotorua. You'll visit thermal wonderland, watch a Maori Concert show and visit a Marae (Maori village), see the buried village (in an earthquake ages ago) see trout in gin clear rivers, travel through forest and lake country. Then inland to Lake Taupo, go trout fishing, see snow covered mountains. Then out to the coast again to Napier our Art Deco city, lots of wineries here, then down the East Coast to Masterton where there are more wineries and great sheep country, do a farm tour. Then inland to Palmerston North, university town, visit a magnificent car museum then amble into Wellington. There you can see our natonal museum Te Papa, possibly do a daily ferry trip to the South Island and back, then leave your vehicle and fly out. Sound good? If you need more detail let me know. And if you want hire rates just pop over to my site. www.campervanhirenz.net Enjoy your visit, John
Written Sep 23, 2010
Address: North Island New Zealand
Just got back from NZ and Rotorua, I agree with the reply about the Sheep Shearing demo at the Agrodome being great. Just the Host's greeting to the crowd is a show in it's self. Take your video camera.
Also spend some time in the Polynesian Spa, for $20 NZ you can soak in 7 pools of varying tempetures from 37 to 42 degrees with a view of the Lake. You can rent swimsuits for $4NZ a session.
Written Nov 8, 2009
Of course, the architecture is the main point of interest when you visit Napier and Hastings.
The second reason why people visit is the mainland gannet colony at nearby Cape Kidnappers.
But there are so many other things to see and do in the region - first of all because Hawkes Bay has a wonderful mild climate and is NZ's oldest wine growing region. So wine tours are high on the agenda. About 70 wineries offer their products, especially great chardonnay.
You can relax at the Ocean Spa, visit the National Aquarium of NZ, and, rather unique, Opossum World where you can learn about those pest animals.
I find the latter rather intriguing as you are so conditioned to hate those animals when you live in NZ that you nearly expect a monster staring at you. You forget that you fed them in Australia where they love and protect them, and that you found them rather cute.
After being introduced from Australia, the possums have really become a nightmare in NZ, as the estimated 70 million possums eat 21,000 tonnes of foliage each night, and endanger NZ plant and animal life in an incredible way. We also have a visiting possum in the garden sometimes, it steals tomatoes and other fruit and plants.
At Opossum World you can learn about the possums - and buy possum products which are really wonderful, like rugs, slippers and knitware made of a mix of possum and merino wool. What I do not understand is that those things are so incredibly expensive as it costs nothing to kill the animals, and we do not have to raise and feed them as - unfortunately - we have them in abundance in the wild.
The educational centre is opposite the Visitor Centre on Marine Parade.
A fun activity for kids in Hastings is Splash Planet, a water park with lots of slides, pools and motorised rides.
Websites which contain more links:
Update September 2008
Until recently Marineland was a major attraction of Napier. The dolphins were the stars but they also had seals, a kiwi house and tuatara. Now the last dolphin has died, having reached twice the age of dolphins in the wild, and they are not allowed to acquire new dolphins. So for now Marineland is closed. They say the dolphins were such a big drawcard and the visitors came mainly for them. The people of Napier will decide whether to keep and reopen Marineland. I will keep you posted whatever the outcome will be.
Update 26 April 2009
It looks as if Marineland would close down today forever. Although the people of Napier had voted to keep it, and it had been opened for some months, the mayor said the facility has lost its sparkle without the dolphins, and the facility is run down. It would need a major overhaul to be reopened again. Now they are thinking over it again. But really, it does not look good. The seals, sea lions, little blue penguins and the sulphur-crested parakeet would have to be relocated to other zoos.
Updated Apr 25, 2009
Although I have not travelled in this area for quite a long time I suppose the drive along the Bay of Plenty to the East Cape has not changed a lot. After you have left the relatively busy tourist towns of Tauranga/Mt. Maunganui and Whakatane/Ohope behind, you get a feeling for the old NZ where life happens at a lower pace.
The sad thing about Tauranga and Whakatane, especially the Tauranga area, is that we nearly always see it in negative light on the TV news, for gang-related crimes, and out-of-control youths. This is a pity as the stretch between Mt. Maunganui and Ohope is nearly one endless sandy beach you should enjoy. In Te Puke is Kiwifruit Country where you can learn everything about NZ's national fruit. From Whakatane you can make trips to volcanic White Island, and inland to Te Urewera Nat. Park.
Shortly before Opotiki you should stop at a carpark with two huge wooden poles and learn a bit about Maori history as you now enter a region which is easily recognisable as Maori land, with lots of Marae (meeting grounds), small colonial churches and vast uninhabited landscapes, sheep or cows on the road.
This place is called "Te Ara ki te Rawhiti" - the Pathway to the Sunrise. You find carvings of Tarawa, the ancestor from Hawaiki, with a fish, the canoe Te Tohora. On the other pole is Rawhiti, the rising sun - and the rest of NZ history: Pakeha and Wahine (white and Maori people), Kiwi, Fern and Pine, and Tane Mahuta, the God of the Forest.
The trip is magic around the end of the year as the whole coast wears a red ribbon of flowering pohutokawa, which is as magic as on the Coromandel, and the sea is shimmering turquoise-blue.
We stopped a million times to photograph incredible bays and picture-postcard views, as the road meanders softly up and down along the coast. And all those Maori places...
Outstandingly beautiful places were Te Kaha Tukaki with its Marae, and a nice white church, amidst grazing horses and cows, or Raukokore with its lonesome Anglican church, next to a huge pine tree.
In Waihau Bay you just have to stop, so spectacular is its location. Funnily enough we nearly drove into a cow on the road near Cape Runaway ;-)
And then you reach Hicks Bay and the East Cape, and the magic gets just better...
Updated Sep 23, 2008
Click here for Part 1.
(Sorry for splitting up this tip - but this is from the time when 2000 characters were the maximum for a tip on VT...)
I had given up my attempt to reach the summit, as I was soaking wet from my walk through the clouds and could not see further than my next two or three steps. When you are in the middle of clouds and you have no idea how far they will reach, it makes no sense to take a risk.
Perhaps I had given up too early - because when we were back down at the foot of Mt. Egmont on a splendid sunny summer day we saw that this ring of clouds was below the summit, and on the summit we would have had perfect conditions and perfect views. But I think better safe than sorry.
It is said the climb and back takes between 7 and 11 hours. I tend more to the 7 hours - 4 hours up and 3 down. That is also what they had told us at the Visitor Centre before the start, and we had advanced to a quite high altitude when we made our U-turn. The track was very well marked BTW. If there had been any risk of getting lost in the clouds I would not have walked any further.
As we have relatives in Taranaki with direct view to Mt. Egmont we know that you can see the volcano quite often. You must just be there at the right time ;-) I even saw it from the Tongariro Crossing Track the whole day. It seemed to greet me ;-)
Like in so many other things the Maori legends have the explanation why Taranaki/Mt. Egmont is so often covered in mist. And like so many times the root lies in a love story. To cut the long story short: When Taranaki was still part of the central plateau he fancied Tongariro's wife Pihanga, and Tongariro caught them in the act. After a struggle Tongariro chased him away. But he still loves Pihanga, and when he is covered in mist he is weeping for his lost love. Tongariro is still furious, and Pihanga sighs when she thinks of Taranaki.
Some hard facts: Mt. Egmont last erupted in 1636. The volcano is dormant, not extinct. It once was not higher than 1500 m. When it had grown to 1525 m due to volcanic eruptions it was dormant for a very long time until a series of eruptions raised it up to its now impressive 2518 m.
Updated Sep 23, 2008
If the world needed to be recreated, 2518 m high Taranaki/Mt. Egmont would be the model for a perfect volcanic cone. Ok, perhaps not perfectly perfect ;-) Fantham's Peak, a subsidiary cone namend after the first woman who climed this peak in 1885, marres the perfect symmetry a little bit.
If you ever have the chance to see this magnificent mountain from the airplane on a domestic flight from Christchurch to Auckland or vice-versa you will be fascinated by the sheer beauty of this dormant volcano in the western corner of the North Island. It covers an incredibly big circular area, with innumerous rivers running down the cone on all sides, and due to its isolated location it has a distinctive flora. You find a lot of rimu and rata in the lowland forest, and further up kamahi, totara and kaikawaka, then subalpine scrub and tussock lands.
The volcano is not only beautiful to look at, it is also rather easy to climb. IF... If it shows up. Already Abel Tasman did not see it on his discovery tour in 1642, so Captain Cook was the first European to see the peak in 1770, and name it after Earl of Egmont, then First Lord of the Admiralty. Today it is more referred to as Taranaki, the Maori name of the volcano and the region.
Close to the sea, it is clear that the weather conditions can change veeeeeeery quickly. So even on a beautiful day you might not reach the summit. This is what happened to me. "Always watch the clouds", they told us at the hotel, and we wondered why, as there was no cloud in the sky.
The track access is at the North Egmont Visitor Centre off SH 4 at Egmont Village. Everything was fine there. So we walked and walked, and somehow a ring cloud formed below the summit. My friend went on strike, said I could keep on walking if I wanted, and I said, ok, I will walk one more hour uphill and see if I could get through the cloud. So she sat down on a rock and had some cigarettes to warm up. She still sat there when I came back after one and half hours ;-)
- cont. part 2
Updated Sep 23, 2008
Address: North Egmont Visitor Centre, off SH 4
Phone: +64 (0)6 756 0990
The main reason for me to go there was the fact that they have some birds we do not have on the South Island, especially the Kokako, a blue-greyish bird with striking blue wattles beside the beak. But what struck me most were the 80 wild kaka (parrots, similar to the kea of the South Island) which fly in every afternoon for a snack, having a party and making a lot of noise.
It is a great place for a stop if you are on the way to Wellington or on the way from Wellington to Napier, or just enjoying a relaxing time on the Wairarapa wine trail (which is part of the NZ Classical Wine Trail).
Pukaha Mt. Bruce - 30 km north of Masterton and 10km south of Eketahuna on SH2, two hours from Wellington and Napier and just one hour from Palmerston North - is the Department of Conservation's (DOC) breeding centre for rare native and endemic birds including the kaka, kokako, stitchbird, and last year they released the takahe there. Also on view for the public are kiwi - actually there are two North Island Brown Kiwi on display in the nocturnal house.
You can have very close encounters with birds and other wildlife in the remnant of a very old forest which one was a "70 mile bush". For example, in favourable weather conditions they present a tuatara to the public, but only from 1 October to 30 April, and only on weekends and public holidays at 12.15pm. In colder weather the tuatara are inactive and cannot be handled or displayed.
Every day at 3pm the kaka - forest parrots, similar to the much more well-known kea - are presented and could well delight you with their cheeky antics.
Open daily except Christmas Day, 9am - 4.30pm, café until 4pm.
Entry fee $ 10. (Will check new family rates; children up to 17yrs free.
Guided Tours ($15; family $45) are available on weekends and public holidays from 10.30am to 12pm and 2pm to 3.30pm, at other times by arrangement ($12pp for groups of 10 and more), also guided twilight tours for groups of 20 and more people at $12 per person, and then you can have dinner at the Takahe Café.
(Prices as April 2007; only general entry fee is updated/Aug. 2008 - will update this soon and write more about the experience.)
Updated Aug 23, 2008
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