The Napier Activities You Have to Try
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 8 Best Backpacker Hostels in Napier and Hastings or more budget accommodation ideas in our Accommodation Guide to 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 the art deco architecture. It’s a great way to discover the city if you have just arrived and experience and an easy-to-digest way to learn about the city. Book your walking tour with the Art Deco Trust or a vintage car tour with Napier Classic Cars.
Location: Napier City Centre.
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 at the top of Bluff Hill! 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, Napier.
4. Go on a Wine Tour
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 or Hawke’s Bay Scenic Tours, 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.
Location: All over the Hawke’s Bay region. Church Road is 8.4km from Napier at 150 Church Road, Taradale. Mission Estate is 8km from Napier at 198 Church Road, Poraiti. Brookfields Vineyards is 9km from Napier at 378 Brookfields Road, Meeanee.
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!
Location: 55 Coote Road, Bluff Hill.
6. Try Stand-up Paddle Boarding
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (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 will get you standing on the board in no time! Check out more 10 Best Places to SUP in New Zealand.
Location: Napier City.
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!
Location: 1 Tennyson Street, Napier.
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 take a stroll. See water fountains, garden displays, statues, the beach, an aquarium, mini-golf and more all dotted along Marine Parade and its walkway.
Location: Marine Parade.
9. 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 8.30am – 12.30pm. If you’re into food, this will be one of your favourite things to do in Napier.
Location: 18km from Napier. Kenilworth Road, Waipatu, Hastings.
10. See Gannets at Cape Kidnappers
[Update: This walk is currently closed – look for track updates on the Department of Conservation website. Gannet Beach Adventures provides access to the first gannet colony on their Black Reef Tours].
One of the most popular Napier activities involves a lot of birds. 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.
Location: 23km from Napier. Take State Highway 2 then turn onto Mill Road just after Clive. Continue toward Clifton.
11. Take 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.
Location: Waimarama. 50km 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. Find out more at our 7 Places to go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.
Location: 47km from Napier. 3408, State Highway 5.
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 peak standing tall in the middle of the 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: 27km from Napier. Te Mata Peak, Tuki Tuki.
14. Visit Otatara Pa
The 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: 10.4km from Napier. Otatara Pa is in Taradale. Follow Gloucester Road south onto Springfield Junction where Otatara Pa is signposted.
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 regional 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.