North Island, New Zealand
In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the east coast of the North Island and fire tore te downtown of Napier apart. The residents rebuilt in the popular architectural style of the day, and now the port city stands alongside Miami Beach as one of the world’s great examples of an Art Deco community. February’s annual Art Deco Weekend, replete with vintage cars and women dressed as flappers, attests to the locals’ love of their home-town’s history, but it’s also one of their many excuses to indulge in their true passion: food and wine.
The Hawkes Bay area is the second largest wine-growing region in New Zealand – after South Island’s Marlborough – with more than 70 vineyards. French missionaries first planted vines here in 1851 and started the Mission Estate Winery, still immensely popular and offering both historical tours and some of the bay’s finest bottles. The same missionaries built a nearby church that’s now converted to a restaurant fittingly called the Old Church. It is one of the town’s finest dining establishments and arguably the most beautiful building in which to sample fine food as well as local red wines and chardonnays. A more rustic (but sophisticated) experience awaits at the French-flavoured Terroir, which sits on the scenic grounds of the Craggy Range winery.
While many would be happy to simply eat and drink their way through Hawkes Bay (plenty of local companies run vineyard tours), the mild weather demands that one venture away to breathe the coastal air – and maybe hit the links. Golf Magazine rated the championship course at Cape Kidnappers as one of the world’s finest. Set atop rolling cliffs that plunge dramatically into the sea, it’s 30 minutes south of Napier and part of a 6,000-acre sheep farm that includes an exclusive lodge and the largest, most easily glimpsed mainland colony of gannets in the world; around 17,000 of them nest here from September through May.
If you prefer to be closer to Napier and the vineyards, stay at the award-winning Master’s Lodge, a converted plantation house with just two exquisite suites that sits upon Bluff Hill, a lush piece of property that used to be an island until the earthquake raised it 20 feet out of water and connected it to the mainland. Your dollars will stretch further if you stay at the welcoming Havelock House, a luxurious B&B whose three suites and one apartment overlook flowering gardens, a pool, and tennis courts.
WHERE: Napier is 196 miles/315 km north of Wellington.
BEST TIME: Oct – Apr for good weather; Feb for Apr Deco Weekend in Napier.
EXPERIENCE: this through Experiential Travel Journeys. Please Call us or Email us.