The Must-Dos in Napier
Some amazing experiences await in Napier! The North Island city is not only the largest city in the sunny Hawke’s Bay region, but it’s also the quirkiest with its fascination with all things “Art Deco”. Art Deco is a style taken from the 1920s with geometric patterns and symbols of freedom that was chosen to decorate the city after a devastating earthquake destroyed the city. Needless to say, exploring Napier city is a must but also the wider region with famous wineries to visit, Maori cultural experiences, breathtaking landscapes and wildlife, and so much more. We’ll go through all the highlights in this list of super fun things to do in Napier!
After adding these Napier things to do to your bucket list, no doubt that you’ll need a place to stay to make the most of the activities. Check out our 10 Best Hotels in Napier or 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Napier.
1. Do a Self-Guided City Tour
Let’s kick off our list of the best things to do in Napier with a classic. Napier is one good-looking city thanks to its art deco style architecture. After an earthquake that devastated the city in 1931, the city was rebuilt in this quirky and vibrant style. Learn about the history and stories behind Napier’s architecture on a self-guided tour of the city. Interpretation panels can be found all around the city giving context to key sights. Either go for a walk and see what you discover (it’s a small city and you’ll get around easily) or pick up a self-guided walk brochure from the Art Deco Trust Centre or Napier i-SITE.
Location: Napier city centre.
2. Do an Art Deco Tour
Experiencing the “Art Deco” town is one of the most popular Napier activities. Several tour operators offer guided tours of Napier city focusing on its history and local stories through art deco architecture. It’s a great way to discover the city if you have just arrived with an easy-to-digest way to learn about the city. Book your walking tour with the Art Deco Trust (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or a vintage car tour with Napier Classic Cars (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Art Deco Trust – 7 Tennyson Street. Napier Classic Cars – accommodation/cruise ship pick-ups available.
3. Check Out the Views from Bluff Hill
The most prominent Napier attraction is Bluff Hill. Get your bearings and a few awesome photo opportunities from the top! The steep climb (don’t worry, you can drive it) takes you to the site of a World War II Battery. A plaque commemorates the presence of the soldiers at the site, while there are plenty of seating areas and garden displays to enjoy while taking in the views of Napier city and the Port of Napier. The lookout is about 7 minutes drive/35 minutes walk from the city centre.
Location: End of Lighthouse Road, Bluff Hill, approximately 2km (1.2 miles) from Napier city centre.
4. Tour the Hawke’s Bay Wineries
Napier is the hub of the Hawke’s Bay region, one of the most popular winemaking regions in New Zealand! It would almost be a sin to not get out there and taste the local wines in the heart of where it is all made. Plenty of tour operators, such as Vines and Views (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Hawke’s Bay Scenic Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor), can take you on a winery crawl from Napier. Alternatively, do a self-guided tour by bike or car (just don’t drink and drive) to cellar doors offering tastings and tours, such as Church Road, Mission Estate and Brookfields Vineyards. After a few glasses, this will be your favourite thing to do out of all the Napier activities. See more romantic experiences like this in the 8 Romantic Activities in Napier for Couples.
Location: All over the Hawke’s Bay region. Church Road is 8.4km (5.2 miles) from Napier at 150 Church Road, Taradale. Mission Estate is 8km from Napier at 198 Church Road, Poraiti. Brookfields Vineyards is 9km (5.6 miles) from Napier at 378 Brookfields Road, Meeanee. Wine tours usually offer accommodation pick-up.
5. Get Spooked at the Napier Prison
The scariest, spookiest and funniest Napier attraction is the Napier Prison. That’s right, Napier is home to one of the creepiest places in New Zealand! Napier Prison offers self-guided tours with audio handsets to make your way through New Zealand’s oldest prison, established in 1862. Learn stories of famous New Zealand prison inmates and visit their old cells. There are costumes to get dressed up for some hilarious photos! Find out more about Napier Prison on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: 55 Coote Road, Bluff Hill, approximately 1km (0.6 miles) from Napier city centre.
6. Try Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is kind of a big deal in New Zealand. Learn how to paddle in Napier either at the local beaches or harbour depending on the weather conditions. SUP schools, such as Paddle Boarding Hawke’s Bay, will get you standing on the board in no time! Note that Paddle Boarding Hawke’s Bay only operates between mid-December and April. Check out more 10 Best Places to SUP in New Zealand.
Location: Tours depart from either Meeanee Quay Reserve or Napier Sailing Club Reserve, approximately 4km (2.5 miles) from Napier city centre.
7. Culture Yourself at MTG Hawke’s Bay
If you are looking for what to do in Napier on a rainy day, this is the thing. Get your museum fix at MTG Hawke’s Bay! Learn about Napier’s history, the story of the earthquake, the Maori heritage and more in this museum for the Hawke’s Bay region. The museum is also a theatre and art gallery with ever-changing exhibitions and shows. What’s more, entry is free! See more experiences like this in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Napier.
Location: 1 Tennyson Street.
8. Stroll Along Marine Parade
Still wondering what to do in Napier? Go for a stroll! The waterfront of Napier city is a pretty awesome place to stretch your legs or ride a bike. See water fountains, garden displays, statues, the beach, an aquarium, mini golf, children’s playgrounds and skateparks and more all dotted along Marine Parade and its walkway. See more family-friendly activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Napier with Kids.
Location: Marine Parade.
9. Check Out the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market
The neighbouring town of Hastings proudly hosts New Zealand’s longest-running farmers market at the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market. There are lots of free tastings of local produce. Plus, it’s a great place to pick up some authentic New Zealand souvenirs. It’s a great morning out with live music and other forms of street entertainment. Catch the market every Sunday from 8.30am to 12.30pm. If you’re into food, this will be one of your favourite things to do in Napier. See more experiences like this in the 10 Things to Do in Napier for Foodies.
Location: Kenilworth Road, Waipatu, Hastings, approximately 18km (11 miles) from Napier.
10. See Gannets at Cape Kidnappers
Hawke’s Bay’s most iconic natural attraction is Cape Kidnappers. Not only will the geology of this unique area amaze you, but it’s also home to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony. Reaching the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony and best coastline views can only be achieved at low tide by following the Cape Kidnappers Track (5 hours return) from Clifton or by taking a tractor tour from Te Awanga with Gannet Beach Adventures (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). Note that the walk and tractor tour can only be done at low tide. Plus, be wary of landslips.
Location: Take State Highway 2 then turn onto Mill Road just after Clive. Continue toward Clifton. It is approximately 23km (14 miles) from Napier city centre.
11. Experience a Maori Cultural Tour
If you are looking to venture further off the beaten track, consider heading to the small coastal town of Waimarama. Not only is it home to a stunning beach, but Waimarama Maori Tours offers an authentic Maori experience to learn more about New Zealand’s indigenous culture and visit significant Maori sites around the area. This is one of the most engaging Napier attractions. Find out more about Waimarama Maori Tours on Viator and Tripadvisor. See more experiences like this in the 10 Luxury Activities in Napier.
Location: Waimarama, approximately 50km (31 miles) from Napier.
12. Discover the Mohaka River Through White Water Rafting
Looking to get wet and tackle the most epic of all the Napier attractions? For a wilderness adventure experience near Napier, check out white water rafting on the Mohaka River! Choose from a grade 3 or grade 5 white water rafting experience with heaps of cliff jumps, river floats, tunnels, waterfalls and more in-between tackling some epic rapids. Check out white water rafting tours with Mohaka Rafting on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, find out more at our 7 Places to go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.
Location: 3408 State Highway 5, approximately 47km (29 miles) from Napier.
13. Climb Te Mata Peak
Te Mata Peak is the ultimate photo opportunity in the Hawke’s Bay region! Capture some breathtaking views from the top of the 399m (1,309ft) peak standing tall in the middle of Te Mata Park. The park also has several walking and mountain biking trails to enjoy making Te Mata Peak the most popular Napier attraction for locals.
Location: Te Mata Peak, Tuki Tuki, approximately 27km (17 miles) from Napier city centre.
14. Visit Otatara Pa
Otatara Pa is one of the best examples of remaining pa sites (Maori fortified villages) in New Zealand. A 45-minute one way walk around the reserve allows you to see archaeological features, as well as soak in commanding views of the surrounding region.
Location: Otatara Pa is in Taradale. Follow Gloucester Road south onto Springfield Junction where Otatara Pa is signposted. It is approximately 10.4km (6.5 miles) from Napier.
15. Hit the Hawke’s Bay Cycle Trail
Wrapping up our list of the best things to do in Napier is a “bike & wine” experience. Napier and the surrounding Hawke’s Bay region is incredibly well connected with cycle trails making it one of the best ways to explore the area. For a gentle cycle along the coast, take the Water Ride. Or discover more of the landscapes and tastes of the region with the cruisy Landscapes Ride or Wineries Ride. For something more adventurous, we recommend biking at Te Mata Peak or Pan Pac Eskdale Mountain Bike Park. Find further information on all those cycle trails and more in our Mountain Biking in Hawke’s Bay.
Location: All over Hawke’s Bay – see the link above for specific locations.
More Must-Dos and Things to Do in Napier
Still looking for what to do in Napier? We’ve got you covered with more Napier activities featured in those articles: