Hawke’s Bay is a region on the east coast of the North Island. From the art deco town of Napier to the impressive wineries around Havelock North, Hawke’s Bay is reason alone to visit the North Island. Wine lovers, this is for you.
Wine Tasting in Hawke’s Bay
As the oldest and second largest wine-producing region in New Zealand, some of the countries finest wines are produced here. Stand out varietals are Chardonnay and Viognier. Apart from the quality of the wine, it was the welcoming atmosphere of the wineries that we really loved. We highly recommend wandering between cellar doors and doing as much tasting as you’re able. But, we also highly recommend dining at the wineries. Many wineries have adjoined restaurants that specialize in new-concept food, elevating New Zealand cuisine to an art. Our best meals in the North Island of New Zealand were at these wineries.
- Elephant Hill Wine Estate – This place makes an impression. The cuisine and wine (chardonnay) are exceptional. The service is kind and attentive. We treated ourselves to dinner here after hiking to Cape Kidnappers.
- Black Barn Vineyards – Light-filled modern bistro. We came here for lunch and had a remarkable fish dish. The viognier was liquid heaven. If you time your visit right, there are sometimes open-air concerts.
- Craggy Range – Directly facing Te Mata Peak, this must be the most beautiful winery in the region. We had an excellent wine tasting experience here. If you decide to linger, check out their Terrôir Restaurant.
Bonus: Don’t leave the area without getting a Neapolitan Pizza at Alessandro’s Pizzeria Napoletana in Havelock North.
Gannet-watching at Cape Kidnappers
Bird sanctuaries and wildlife parks are enjoyable, but if you have an opportunity to witness birds in their natural habitat, it’s far more rewarding. Cape Kidnappers is home to four gannet colonies, where an estimated total of 15,700 gannets live. Because gannets are surprisingly tolerant of humans, you can observe them up close. This is one of the best wildlife experiences you can have, so please prioritize it on your New Zealand North Island itinerary.
They nest in close proximity to one another. So, you’ll see hundreds of birds soaring around the colonies, guarding their chicks and displaying unique “partner” behavior. For example, paired gannets will rub their beaks and necks together when a partner returns home to its nest site.
How to get to the Plateau Colony:
- Hike. The hike starts at the carpark at Clifton. It’s a 2-hour beach walk to reach the Black Reef Colony and an additional 45 min to reach the Plateau Colony. It gets really windy along the coast, so make sure you have a proper rain/wind jacket.
- For those that are unable to hike, or have less time, there are several different tour operators offering shuttle tours (via roads), tractor and trailer tours (via beach), or quadbike rentals (via beach).
When to go: early November to late February (when the chicks have hatched). In March, the gannets start their migration to Australia.
What time to go: low tide. Lonely Planet recommends: “leave no earlier than 3 hours after high tide; start back no later than 1.5 hours after low tide.” Use MetService to check the tide, as it varies each day.
Stay in Napier, Hastings or Havelock North