Out and About in Napier, NZ

After two-and-a-half amazing weeks on the South Island, we finally transferred to the North Island. Two quick, smooth Air New Zealand flights took us from Nelson to Wellington to Napier, where we rented another Toyota Camry. For the rest of our travel day and all of the next day, we took in the fantastic Art Deco architecture of Napier’s central business district [we just missed the annual Art Deco festival – bad planning 🙁 ], stopped at the historic Clifton Station where we learned all about sheep shearing, drove to the top of Te Mata peak to survey the surrounding landscape and walked the wind and tide sculpted sand beach at Ocean Beach.

Sophie, owner of Long Island Guides, crammed so much great stuff into our full day tour of the Hawke’s Bay region that it was challenging to limit the number of photos included in the post. I did my best, but there are still lots! To minimize loading time, I’ve opted to use embedded WordPress galleries to share them with you, so feel free to “click” on any photo you’d like to view in a larger size.

Clifton Station – The historic Clifton Station woolshed was built in 1886. Today it’s where the Tom Gordon (6th generation owner) and his sheep-shearing partner Ian Gillespie, share the history of Clifton Station and demonstrate how sheep shearing has evolved over the years.

Napier Art Deco – There are so many fantastic Art Deco structures in Napier! We enjoyed wandering along the pedestrian streets, cameras in hand. Mr. GeoK has a particularly strong interest in architectural photography.

National Tobacco Building – This fabulous Art Deco building is outside Napier’s central business district, but well worth the extra effort.

After a morning shearing sheep and wandering the streets of Napier, lunch was a welcome break. Having grown up in the area, Sophie introduced us to an off the beaten track, very picturesque place: The Old Church Restaurant. Our outdoor table proved to be an ideal spot for lunch and we were soon rested, re-fueled and read for the afternoon.

Te Mata Peak – Just 399 meters at the summit, Te Mata Peak (The Sleeping Giant) offers a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding Heretaunga Plains. And we were shocked to discover that you can drive all the way to the very top!! The paved road is very narrow and winding; Sophie told us that it’s closed to other vehicular traffic when cruise ship excursion buses are scheduled to make the drive to the top. In addition to the amazing views, there’s a prominent trig (survey) marker and a hang glider launching platform up top. We saw cyclists grunting their way to the top (the ride back down on the tracks would probably be a lot of fun) and there are a couple of walking tracks that also reach the summit.

Ocean Beach – After a bit of a drive through scenic farming country, Sophie ended our tour with a stop at Ocean Beach. It was really windy and we watched the gusts blow individual grains of sand over the ripple-patterned beach. The crashing of waves along the shore and the squawks of seagulls reeling overhead combined with the howling of the wind to create a strangely harmonious natural sound track for our short walk.

As you can probably tell from the many photographs in this post, we really appreciated that the day aligned with our interests in photography, the natural landscape and a bit of the local culture. Thanks Sophie!

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