This weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the New Zealand town of Napier. Napier is Southeast of Palmerston North, in the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand. The town is well known for its Art Deco buildings and for the wine grapes grown in the region.
was well worth the time. Once we arrived in Napier, our first task was to find our backpacker hostel. We stayed at the Criterion Art Deco Backpacker hostel right in the midst of Napier. Once we had set our stuff down in our room, Katy and I headed for the “beach” to eat our lunches. The beach however, was not a white sand beach for sunbathing. On the contrary, the beach was covered solid in tiny black pebbles and rocks. While we enjoyed looking at the ocean, we probably would have enjoyed going in the water. However, due to a large undercurrent and steep drop off, no swimming was allowed at this particular beach Nonetheless, the black pebble beach was perfect for sitting to eat our lunch.
Looking to the left out into the ocean, our view at the beach included a picturesque island lined with steep cliffs. The island was Cape Kidnappers, named by Captain Cook during his first voyage to New Zealand due to a quarrel that nearly ended in kidnapping. The island today draws many visitors who come to see the largest most accessible gannet colony in the world.
After finishing our lunches, Katy and I strolled through the town to familiarize ourselves. To have some fun, we rented rollerblades and skated along a path paralleling the ocean. After a ways, we came to the National Aquarium of New Zealand (in Maori, Te Whare Tangaroa O Aoteraroa, meaning the house of the guardian of the ocean of New Zealand). From the outside the aquarium didn’t look very impressive, but nonetheless, Katy and I headed inside. We first began with the shark tank where two divers were feeding the marine animals. We then wandered through to see some tropical fish. Our last stop at the aquarium was into the dark, cool, musty basement. While that may not sound very appealing, that is the perfect habitat for the famous bird of New Zealand, the Kiwi. The Kiwi is a national symbol of New Zealand; however, it is an endangered species. Seeing the Kiwis was by far my favourite part of the aquarium. Some facts I learned about Kiwis include:
Ø Kiwis have nostrils on the end of their flexible bills that help them search for food
Ø There are three different types of Kiwi birds
Ø Kiwis lay the largest egg of any bird in comparison to their body size. A single egg can be up to 20% of the weight of the female.
From the Aquarium, Katy and I skated our way back to where we rented our rollerblades. Our next stop was “Opossum World.” Opossums are relatively common in New Zealand, however they are not the same as the ‘possums in the United States. American opossums remind me of large rodents and never appear to be very friendly. New Zealand opossums however remind me of oversized Sugar Gliders. Now, you are probably wondering why there would ever be a place called “Opossum World.” No, there were not live possums there. Actually, opossum hair is frequently woven with lamb’s wool to create expensive sweaters, hats, gloves, and other knitted items and these items were for sale at the store. Opossums are very common in New Zealand with an estimate several years ago being that there were 20 opossums for every person in the country!
From “Opossum World” our next stop was the Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery. The museum featured a multitude of exhibits including one that told about a massive earthquake that had hit Napier in the 1930s. The earthquake was both devastation and a defining point for Napier. After the Earthquake, the city was rebuilt with Art Deco Architecture and has become an international icon of that style.
After a busy day, Katy and I grabbed a bite to eat for dinner at a place called Breaker’s Cafe and then relaxed in the hot tubs at “Ocean Spa,” which was built on the site of an original hot sea water baths. After a busy day, I had no problem falling asleep Saturday night.
The next day, Sunday, began with breakfast at our hostel and then a walk down to the beach. We decided to go down toward the water. We stood with our feet just touching the water until a rather large wave came and soaked my pants with sea water. From the beach, we trekked up Bluff Hill to see over Napier. Bluff Hill, which was once used during battle, provided us the chance to see the Port of Napier and the scenery of the area. After spending some time at the lookout, Katy and I headed back toward town to explore some of the boutique shops.
Our time in Napier was quickly coming to an end. Our two days in Napier had flown by, but we had definitely enjoyed our time there. The bus rides were a chance to witness the beautiful country side of New Zealand dotted with thousands of sheep and our time in Napier was a chance to explore someplace new!