Napier is a funky, unique city located on New Zealand’s North Island. Known as the Art Deco City, it has impressive architecture, great restaurants, and plenty to do. There’s something for everyone, from the foodie to the adrenaline junkie to the wildlife enthusiast. If you’re planning a trip to Napier, here’s our roundup of the best things to do in Napier. Read on to get tips from Napier locals!
The Top 16 Attractions in Napier
If you’re not sure how to spend your time in Napier, don’t worry! There’s plenty to choose from, so here are our tips on the best attractions and things to do in Napier, New Zealand!
Take in the Amazing Architecture
It’s impossible to explore Napier without noticing the beautiful Art Deco architecture. The devastating 1931 earthquake destroyed much of the city and shocked the population. But the result was a flourish of 1930’s Art Deco buildings that have been preserved in all their glory ever since. As you wander the streets, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time. Without a doubt, the gorgeous architecture is one of the most well-known attractions in the city.
Head to the Art Deco Trust, where you can pick up some tips and a map, and set off on a self-guided tour. Or you can join an organised tour to find out more about the history and culture of this quaint little city. The Art Deco Trust runs guided tours and walks every single day for an affordable price.
Taste the Local Wines
Napier is located right in the centre of Hawke’s Bay, one of the largest winemaking regions in New Zealand. So, it would almost be a crime not to taste some of the region’s wines during your stay! You can order the wines at most restaurants, bars, and cafes in Napier. However, if you want to get the full experience, visit one of the nearby wineries.
There’s nothing quite like walking through the vineyards where the wine is produced. Then, you can enjoy a wine tasting session and learn more about the process. Or even better, going on a full wine tasting tour! You’ll get tips from the experts and the chance to stock up on a few bottles, too. You can book an organised tour through an operator like Hawke’s Bay Scenic Tours, or hire a rental car and head off on a mini road trip.
Visit the Aquarium
You can’t visit Napier without taking a look around the aquarium – it’s one of the biggest attractions in town. Napier is home to the National Aquarium of New Zealand, which boasts an incredible range of marine species.
As you’d expect, many of the aquatic creatures here are from Hawke’s Bay and the waters all around NZ. You can also find iconic species like the kiwi and the tuatara. If you want to get up close, book an Encounter with the penguins, where you’ll feed them and learn all about these cute little guys.
Enjoy a Leisurely Walk along Marine Parade
The Marine Parade stretches for more than 3 km, offering incredible views of the ocean along the entire route. Don’t miss the chance to stroll along the Parade during your visit. There’s a lot to see along the way, including the Tom Parker Fountain, the gorgeous sunken gardens, and a fun playground for the kids.
It’s a great spot for everyone, young and old – families will find lots to do together. You can enjoy a game of mini-golf, or hire rental bikes and hit the junior bike track. The Ocean Viewing Platform offers breathtaking views of the Hawke’s Bay region.
You’ll also come across the statue of Pania of the Reef. According to Maori legend, Pania was a sea maiden who fell in love with a Maori chief’s son, Karitoki. However, she has to return to the sea every day, and the story ends with the couple tragically parted forever. Pania’s Reef statue has become a recognised symbol of the city, so don’t miss it on your walk!
Give Stand Up Paddle Boarding a Try!
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is rapidly becoming a favourite pastime in New Zealand. Paddling around on one of the sturdy, long paddleboards is an excellent way to explore NZ’s lakes and coastlines, Napier included.
If you’re a complete beginner, book a lesson or two to get you started. The experienced instructors at Paddle Boarding Hawke’s Bay offer beginner and improver lessons, as well as group sessions. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can also hire a board if you want to head out on your own.
Go Birdwatching at Cape Kidnappers
Just 23 km south of Napier is one of the most incredible natural attractions in New Zealand: the largest mainland gannet colony in the world. When the tide is low, it’s possible to walk along the coast for incredible views of more than 6,500 breeding gannet couples. Unfortunately, the walk is currently closed due to the risk of falling rocks. You can check for updates at the New Zealand Department for Conservation website.
Go Surfing at Ocean Beach
Just a short drive south of Napier, you’ll find the pristine Ocean Beach: a hotspot for surfers, sunbathers, and families alike. If you’re looking for places to go on day trips, Ocean Beach is the perfect spot. This gorgeous beach offers incredible waves, so bring your surfboard or hire one for the day. Kids will also enjoy digging sandcastles in the clean, golden sand. It can get busy in the summer, but there’s always enough space for everyone.
You can also enjoy two scenic (but long) walks from Ocean Beach. If you head north along the beach, you can walk to Whakapau Bluff (8 km). Set off south, and you’ll head towards Waimarana (7.5 km). Just make sure you check the tides and leave yourself enough time to get back safely.
Check out the Marine Wildlife at Te Angiangi Reserve
If you’re interested in marine wildlife, don’t miss the Te Angiangi Marine Reserve, on the coast south of Napier. The drive takes about 1.5 hours, but it’s worth it. You can see a wide range of unusual species, including octopuses, sea urchins, anemones, crabs, and limpets. It’s best to visit at low tide, when a wide rock platform covered in rock pools is revealed. Take care not to disturb the wildlife too much!
You can also go snorkelling or scuba diving in the reserve if the conditions are right. It’s a rare opportunity to explore an incredible underwater world, and get up close to even more marine wildlife. Dive through kelp forests, see shoals of butterfly perch, colourful moki, crayfish, and much more.
Hike to Te Mata Peak
Te Mata is one of the major attractions in the Hawke’s Bay Region. If you’re feeling fit, you can hike or cycle up the mountain, which rises 400m above sea level. The main walk takes about 2 hours, but you can choose to drive if you prefer.
Once you reach the peak, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most stunning views around. Look north to the Mahia Peninsula, south over the rolling hills and vineyards, and on towards the ocean. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most breathtaking natural attractions in the Hawke’s Bay region.
Visit the Church Road Winery
Hawke’s Bay is a significant winemaking area in New Zealand, with 76 wineries in the region. Church Road is one of the most historic wineries, dating back to 1897. If you take wine seriously, make sure you visit and book one of their outstanding tasting menus or wine experiences. Or you can treat yourself to some delicious food at the luxury Church Road restaurant. Here, every dish is carefully paired with the best wine flights.
Adrenaline Junkies: Go White Water Rafting!
If you’re a thrill-seeker looking for things to do, set off on a road trip to the Mohaka River for some white water rafting. You’ll travel through ancient canyons, spot some NZ wildlife, and get your adrenaline going in Grade 3-5 waters! There are plenty of challenging rapids and gorges, so you’ll be sure to make some unforgettable memories!
Soak Up Some Culture at MTG Hawke’s Bay
MTG Hawke’s Bay is one of Napier’s proudest attractions, and a great place to visit, come rain or shine. This impressive building contains a museum, gallery, and theatre. You can discover more about the history of Napier, the earthquake that almost levelled the town in 1931, and Maori culture in the region. Catch a live performance or a film screening in the theatre, or explore the gallery, with new exhibitions and exciting things going on in Napier throughout the year.
Enjoy the Views from Bluff Hill
The ocean views from the Bluff Hill Lookout make it well worth the trip. If you fancy the challenge, you can hike up the hill, but it’s not an easy walk. For everyone else, it’s possible to drive to the summit to admire the lookout views. From this vantage point, you can take in the city of Napier, the port, and the coastline. At the summit of Bluff Hill, there’s a memorial for WW2 soldiers, and seating areas where you can rest and take in your surroundings.
Discover More About Maori Culture
While you’re in Napier, it’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about the rich Maori culture. Book the Ancient Village Traverse Tour with Napier Maori Tours to explore the Ōtātara Pā Historic Reserve and discover more about Maori traditions.
Your guides, Hinewai and Cameron, will show you around the ancient Maori site, explain the customs, and share some legendary Maori stories with you. You’ll also have the chance to try your hand at hunter-gathering and eat a delicious meal in the gorgeous natural surroundings. If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Napier New Zealand, don’t miss the chance to learn about the Maori culture and share some authentic food!
Visit Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market
Every Saturday, you’ll find the Napier Urban Farmers Market in Clive Square. It’s good fun to wander the stalls, taste the Hawke’s Bay produce, and grab some souvenirs from NZ. You’ll find everything from freshly baked bread, fragrant coffee, and milk straight from the farm, to everything you need to cook a delicious meal. If you’re peckish, grab a bite to eat from the food stalls and listen to live music as you enjoy the relaxed atmosphere! You’ll feel like a local here!
Tour the Napier Prison
If you’re not easily spooked, head to Napier Prison. It’s the oldest prison in all of New Zealand, dating back to 1862, and well worth a visit. Grab an audio handset and set off on a self-guided tour to find out the history of the prison and its inmates.
Alternatively, you can book a night tour to explore this creepy place in the darkness of the night. You can take a look around the old cells, peek into the hanging yard, and dress up in some period costumes! Napier Prison even has three atmospheric Escape Rooms in one of the best ever settings. So if you fancy a challenge, bring some mates and test yourselves to escape in under 60 minutes!
Things To Do in Napier FAQ
What is there to do in Napier for free?
Napier offers lots of free attractions for visitors. There are lots of walks you can do, each with something different to offer. You can stroll along the Marine Parade, or walk to the historic Maori site of Otatara Pa. A self-guided tour of the Art Deco City is a must-do, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike up Te Mata Peak. Entry to the museum/gallery, MTG Hawke’s Bay, is also completely free, and you can easily spend an afternoon here.
What is Napier famous for?
Napier is famous for its well-preserved Art Deco architecture, sunny weather, and bountiful wineries. In the beautiful area of Hawke’s Bay, you can go surfing, hiking, or enjoy a wine tasting session. Or, you can just explore the city and take in the unique Art Deco buildings.
What is there to do in Napier at night?
Napier is bustling and vibrant at night. You can enjoy a delicious meal in one of Napier’s top restaurants, listen to live music, or take in a performance at MTG Hawke’s Bay. The city has some excellent bars which stock a wide range of drinks, including the best local wines. You won’t get bored in the Art Deco City at night!
What is there to do in Napier for kids?
Napier is an excellent destination for families with kids, with lots on offer to keep everyone amused. Head to one of the nearby beaches for swimming, surfing, or digging sandcastles. Walking along the Marine Parade also offers plenty of attractions for kids, including a great playground, mini-golf, and more. You can visit the fascinating Faraday Centre, go on a family hike, or hire bikes and set off on a ride. The National Aquarium is always a hit with the kids, too.
The Wrap Up
Napier is an gorgeous little city, just waiting to be discovered by you! You can wander the charming streets, taking in all the Art Deco architecture. If you get hungry, there are tonnes of great cafes and restaurants. For wine lovers, a wine tasting trip to the local wineries and vineyards is essential. Sporty visitors will enjoy hiking, cycling, or paddleboarding in the beautiful surrounding countryside.
There’s no limit of attractions and things to do in and around Napier, NZ. So what are you waiting for? Book that trip – we can’t wait to see you here! If you found this article helpful, don’t forget to share our tips on Facebook!