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Port Review: Napier, New Zealand

Joanna Hall

Napier is the type of place that can make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, thanks to the presence of art deco buildings throughout a compact town centre. 

The Facts

Location: On the North Island of New Zealand.

Language: English.

Currency: New Zealand dollar. 

Docking/anchoring: Ships dock at just outside town at an industrial port which is about two kilometres from the CBD.

Transport: Because this is a working port, shuttles run from the ship to the town centre and are frequent. 


Napier was devastated by an earthquake in 1931 and was rebuilt in the the popular style of the time, and now architecture buffs wander the streets on walking tours while vintage car enthusiasts add to the atmosphere as they cruise around, especially on weekends. Most ships will spend a full or half day in port, either way giving guests enough time to see the key sights.

Don’t Miss

The city’s architectural history is showcased in a guided Art Deco Walk at 10am and 2pm conducted by local Art Deco Trust members often dressed in 1930’s outfits. You can also buy a collection of self-guided tours if you don’t want to be on a schedule. The Art Deco Trust is at 163 Tennyson Street.   

Marine Parade runs adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and is a destination in its own right and also features a pedestrian and cycling path to take in the ocean breezes with the art deco architecture as a backdrop. On the southern end there’s also the National Aquarium of New Zealand.

Best Photo Op

On Marine Parade you can can get a great photo of the famous art deco Dome Building, framed through Marine Parade Arch which was also built in the 1930‘s. You can’t get much more art deco than this.


For a souvenir with a difference, Opossum World on Marine Parade near the Visitor Centre promises a “unique shopping and educational experience while creating useful products from an ecological menace”. Possums are an introduced species in New Zealand and they wreak havoc on the local habitat, and now their furs are turned into warm jackets, scarfs, slippers, gloves and more.  

Food And Drink

Napier is the main centre of the Hawke’s Bay region which is regarded as the “food bowl” of New Zealand and because of this, the produce and quality of cafes, restaurants and wine is excellent. On weekends Napier has several farmer’s markets around the city, as does nearby Hastings, and the Napier Farmer’s Market on Lower Emerson Street opens on Saturday morning and the Hawkes Bay Farmers Market opens on Sunday at the Showgrounds in Hastings.

Pick of the Excursions  

The Hawkes Bay area is famous for its wines and vineyard tours are very popular with cruise ships travellers that visit. If time in port is limited, some tours include an art deco city tour with one or two vineyards and this is a great way to get a quick snapshot of the region. Oenophiles can also opt for a specialised wine tour which takes in around three vineyards where you can try the area’s famous chardonnay and pinot noir.

Some cruise lines offer a Mohaka River Float Trip which is a safe rafting experience through beautiful countryside. The 40 kilometre drive to the Mohaka Rafting Base provides some great New Zealand landscapes in itself, and the rafting is a 12 kilometre ride through low canyons and native vegetation with the occasional rolling rapids along the way.    


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