Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s premium tourist destinations and as you would imagine, you will not be short of things to do in Hawke’s Bay.

Renowned for its wine-growing, the Hawke’s Bay region is about so much more than wine, however, if you are into wine, then you will find few finer places on earth to enjoy a glass or two of locally produced vino.

However, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Whilst many of our GO Explorers will be familiar with the Hawke’s Bay region, there will be many who aren’t and so before we get into some of the amazing things to do in Hawke’s Bay, let’s first find out a bit more about the region.

Where is Hawke’s Bay?

Hawkes Bay Panorama

Hawke’s Bay is a region of New Zealand on the east coast of the North Island. It spans an area in a semi-circle from Mahia Peninsula at the northern end to Cape Kidnappers at the southern end.

The name Hawke’s Bay comes from Hawke Bay, so named by Captain Cook on discovery in honour of Admiral Edward Hawke.

The region, as you might expect, is best known for its hilly coastline, however, as you start to head inland, you come across the floodplains of the Wairoa River in the north and the wide fertile Heretaunga Plains close to Hastings in the south.

The interior of the region is also hilly and home to the Kaweka and Ruahine Ranges.

What are the largest town and cities in Hawke’s Bay?

There are two main cities in Hawke’s Bay – Napier and Hastings – and this is where the majority of the population in the region lives (64.3%). Havelock North is the next biggest town with a population of around 15,000.

Napier and Hastings were devasted in 1931 by New Zealand’s worst natural disaster – an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale that killed 256 people.

When both cities were rebuilt, they were done in the Art Deco style that was popular at the time and the region celebrates its heritage every year over Art Deco Weekend. Napier is famous for its Art Deco buildings (more of that in a while) and it is one of the big attractions for tourists to the region.

Things to do in Hawke’s Bay

Hopefully, this gives you a better idea about the geography and location of Hawke’s Bay so we can now crack on with things to do in the region. We have covered off a range of activities and attractions in Hawke’s Bay to suit everyone – old and young – so we hope you will find a bit of something for everyone. Let’s GO!

1.      Te Mata Peak


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by #sky_brilliance (@sky_brilliance)

Te Mata Peak is one of the standout attractions in Hawke’s Bay as well as being one of New Zealand’s most photographed destinations. Sitting high above the valley below, Te Mata Peak enjoys 360-degree views of the Hawke’s Bay region from an elevation of 399m (1,309ft).

If you love walking, there are some magnificent walking trails that run all around Te Mata Peak and through Te Mata Park as well as biking trails and orienteering. If you are with the young ones (or the old ones), you can drive and park up at the top as well so lots of options for exploring this spectacular landmark on the Hawke’s Bay skyline.

Early birds can be one of the first people in the world to watch the sunrise from this spectacular location if you choose to get up early for a morning hike.

You can read more about Te Mata Peak in our recent post 11 of the best things to do in Havelock North

2.      Wine Tasting

The Hawke’s Bay region is home to some of New Zealand’s finest wineries, producing world-class, award-winning wines and putting New Zealand and the region on the map.

With over 30 cellar doors located throughout the region, you will be not short of opportunities to taste some of New Zealand’s finest wines. Some of the most popular wineries in the region include Church Road, Black Barn, Elephant Hill, Craggy Range, Mission Estate and The Urban Winery.

Mission Estate is New Zealand’s oldest winery that started way back in 1851 and has an incredible history behind it, so if you can only visit one winery on your tour of Hawke’s Bay, maybe Mission Estate can tick off more than just one box.

Most of these amazing wineries not only have cellar doors, but they also have amazing restaurants attached to them serving up the best of Hawke’s Bay on a plate so make sure you drop in around lunchtime and treat yourself.

To learn more about the wineries of Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand, check out our Complete Guide to Wineries in New Zealand

3.      Bike Tour

Hawke’s Bay is a fantastic region to explore by bike thanks to its network of cycle trails that span the entire region.

With approximately 200kms of cycle trails, there is a bit of something for everyone and you can do as little or as much as you like. From the flat cycling along the historic Napier Marine Parade to the hillier inland trails that will take you to wine tasting country and beyond.

Hawke’s Bay has also embraced the e-bike culture that is sweeping the world, and this is often a good option for those looking out to do more, but who perhaps lack the confidence or the fitness to cycle tens of kilometres each day.

4.      Honey Sampling

One of New Zealand’s premier honey producers is Arataki Honey, located in Havelock North. If you are a Kiwi, you will be very familiar with Arataki Honey, even if you have never tried it before. They tend to enjoy premium placement on the supermarket shelves here in New Zealand and have very distinguishable packaging and a delicious taste, no matter which type you go for.

Arataki Honey Visitors Centre is about much more than sampling their delicious honey, however. Arataki is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest beekeeping operation and at the visitor’s centre, you can learn all about the bees, the honey, and more, all through a range of interactive displays.

5.      Art Deco Adventures


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Bruce Nichol (@bwn_shotz)

We’ve already touched on the history behind the Art Deco scene in Napier and Hastings, but this is undoubtedly one of the premium attractions for visitors to the region.

Whilst the buildings were constructed in the then modern Art Deco style following the 1931 earthquake, a lot of restoration work has been carried out over the past 30 years to ensure these buildings can be enjoyed by generations to come.

You can enjoy the buildings yourself on a self-guided tour walking around the city, however, we highly recommend jumping on an official tour where you will find out much more about the buildings, the history and more.

If you are a true Art Deco fan, make sure you plan your trip to Hawke’s Bay in mid-February when they usually hold the Art Deco Festival in Napier – a great chance to dress up in 1920s style clothing and enjoy entertainment and musical performances as well as some great car displays and more.

If you are looking for more ideas for things to do in Napier, make sure you check out our post Is Napier worth visiting? 10 reasons why Napier should be on your summer hitlist

6.      Napier Municipal Theatre

Talking of Art Deco, one of the best examples of Art Deco is the Napier Municipal Theatre. Not only is the building absolutely spectacular, but it also plays host to a wide array of performing arts throughout the year, making it a great place to enjoy a night out.

From the outside, you will be wowed by the Art Deco styling of the building and once you step inside, you will find yourself in a warm and welcoming environment brimming with character. The rooms inside are decked out in coloured glass, and the high-quality furnishings and carpets set the tone in this stunning example of Art Dec style.

Still planning a visit to Napier? Make sure you check out our post 13 things to do in Napier – Art Deco and more!

7.      Bluff Hill Lookout


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Trip Ideas NZ (@tripideas.nz)

Te Mata Peak is not the only place to get a great view in Hawke’s Bay. The Bluff Hill Lookout is around a 4.5km walk from downtown Napier and is classed as “hard’ as a grading due to the steep climb. The effort is all worth it we promise you!

Once you reach the summit, you are rewarded with spectacular outlooks over Hawke Bay and the port of Napier. The viewing area was constructed over the top of a Word War II coastal defence gun emplacement so not only does it provide amazing views, but it is also steeped in history.

8.      Shine Falls

Rising 58 metres, Shine Falls is Hawke’s Bay’s most spectacular waterfall.

Shine Falls is roughly a 1.5 hours’ drive away from Napier, and the last 12km is gravel road – but it’s worth the trip!

The walking track to Shine Falls is a 1.5-hour return walk and this will lead you to the base of the waterfall. The walk passes through farmland and beneath towering sandstone bluffs. There are some uphill sections on the track as well as stream crossings, but they are all bridged and easy.

The falls are easy to find – head north out of Napier on SH2 for around 44kms until you see the Shine Falls sign and follow this to the car park that marks the start of the walk.

Whilst Shine Falls does not make it into our top ten, make sure you check out our post Do go chasing waterfalls – 10 of the best waterfalls in New Zealand

9.      National Aquarium of New Zealand

The National Aquarium of New Zealand stretches along Napier’s Marine Parade like a huge stingray. It’s home to a wide range of saltwater, freshwater, and land animal exhibits from New Zealand and around the world.

The 1.5 million litre Oceanarium showcases the varied aquatic species that exist in the adjacent Hawke Bay, including sharks, stingrays, and other reef fish. You can journey through the Oceanarium inside the amazing underwater viewing tunnel via a 50m travelator as fish swim and feed, above and around you.

This is an absolute must for families and one of the coolest attractions in the country. In 2002, the aquarium underwent an $8m redevelopment that now attracts thousands of visitors every year.

10.  Cape Kidnappers

Cape Kidnappers is located at the southern tip of the region and is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting the Hawke’s Bay region. The dramatic cliffs and rock formations make for the best photo opportunities of the area. The peninsula is very easy to access at only a 30-minute drive from Napier and Hastings.

Cape Kidnappers is home to the world’s largest gannet colony, and this is another major tourist attraction for the region. The colony can be reached on foot via the beach at low tide or you can organise a tour with one of several operators in the region but it’s definitely worth checking it out.

As well as the worlds-largest gannet colony, Cape Kidnappers is also home to one of the world’s best golf courses – Cape Kidnappers. Ranked in the top 20 golf courses in the world by Golf Digest Magazine, this is a must-play course for golfers in New Zealand.

11.  Sunken Gardens


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jamie Nichol (@nichol_jamie)

Formed in the 1960s, the Sunken Garden has been described as Napier Marine Parade’s ‘hidden treasure’ because, as it sits below the street level and offers a sense of serenity and separation from its urban surroundings.

When the gardens were created in the 1960s, the excavation team found all sorts of hidden treasures and remnants from the 1931 earthquake, with reminders of long-gone cafes, hotels and manufacturers.

The gardens are easily accessible and are found near the i-Site on Marine Parade.


We hope you find this list of things to do in Hawke’s Bay helpful when planning your next trip to the region. Of course, this list only scratches at the surface when it comes to things to do in Hawke’s Bay, however, these are 11 of our favourites and include some top tips from our GO Explorers as well as some of the highlights from the TripAdvisor top ten things to do in Hawke’s Bay.

If you want to find out more about Hawke’s Bay, make sure you check out our destination guide to Hawke’s Bay which includes tips on where to stay, where to eat out as well as more ideas for things to do in Hawke’s Bay.