With buckets of sunshine and a fertile coastal landscape, Hawke’s Bay is not only New Zealand’s second largest wine producing region but it’s also the oldest. They’ve been growing grapes here since 1851 and the abundance of quality wine that’s come from the region ever since has shaped the nature of tourism.
No visit is complete without a wine tour or tasting and with more than 30 of the 70-plus vineyards offering cellar-door experiences, there are many opportunities to enjoy Hawke’s Bay highly prized wine in beautiful locations. The region is known as ‘the food bowl of New Zealand’ so as well as enjoying fine wines you’ll find the freshest local produce prepared by some of the country’s top chefs. Many wineries have restaurants or alfresco dining and vineyard cycle tours take advantage of the relatively flat landscape and pleasant climate.
The Hawke's Bay wine region covers several sub-regions – Gimblett Gravels, the Bridge Pa Triangle, Te Awanga, Esk River and Havelock North – and vantage points like the iconic landmark of Te Mata Peak give a 360 deg overview of the landscape which puts the varying terrain into perspective. The region is best known for award-winning reds (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah) and rich, complex Chardonnay.
Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s Art Deco capital, with the cities of Napier and Hastings rebuilt in the architectural styles of the time following the devastating 1931 earthquake. Year-round guided tours and vintage car rides are supercharged each February as tens of thousands flock to participate in the week-long Art Deco Festival.
This is a region that certainly knows how to celebrate its attributes. Hawke’s Bay hosts some of New Zealand's most vibrant events including the popular FAWC! Food and Wine Classic, a winter and summer event series celebrating the best of New Zealand's wine and food.
The region has more than 200 kilometres of off-road cycle trails through stunning landscapes connecting events, attractions, wineries and eateries. And with other outdoor pursuits like golf – Cape Kidnappers regularly listed among the world’s Top 50 links – cultural tours and wildlife adventures including the world’s largest accessible mainland gannet colony – there are plenty of ways to offset any possible over-indulgence in this wine and food mecca.
Hawke’s Bay is well connected by air with regular flights from Auckland (65 mins), Wellington (60 mins) and Christchurch (95 mins). The scenic drive across from Lake Taupo takes less than two hours and with Hawke’s Bay the start of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, self-drive is a great option whether you want to tour the region or embark on a more extensive journey.
Don’t miss hiking or driving up culturally significant Te Mata Peak – preferably en route to the stunning east coast beach of Waimarama (about 20 mins’ drive from Havelock North past the spectacular Craggy Range). The long stretch of golden sandy beach is perfect for walking, jogging, swimming, surfing and fishing. It’s also worth noting that Hawke’s Bay’s Lake Waikaremoana walking track is one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks.