Used: 2008

Napier was always on my to-do list but its location from Auckland was always a detrurrant. It’s too far for a day or weekend trip and too far for just 1.5 days, which is usually how much time I spent in each place during a holiday weekend. Plus, there were always places a lot closer with more to do, so Napier was pushed to the backburner during my main time in the country. When it came to organizing my summer hols back in the Land of the Long White Cloud, I quickly added Napier to my tour and tried to figure out a way to get there for a few days on my way back to the South Island. After my return to Rotorua after my East End weekend, I was finally on a Intercity bus out of town down south. The 3 hour ride wasn’t too bad and it was funny, at about the half way point, the driver stops on the side of the road and we wait for about 5 minutes before another bus stops going in the other direction. The drivers get out and switch, so each is driving the bus back in the direction they just came from. Too funny! I have also been on Intercity buses that drive to pick up or drop off drivers too at their houses. Only in New Zealand. Anyway, the bus stop in Napier is not in the center of town at all and it’s quick a hike into the main part of town, where my hostel was.

I stayed at the Criterion Art Deco Backpackers in the center of all the tourist stuff, right on the high street. I loved it! Cheap single, big rooms, loads of comfy couches both in the living area with computers as well as the tv room. Huge clean kitchen. Free breakfest! I was there during the week before Christmas and it was dead quiet. The streets might get loud during the weekend, but during the week, it was so quiet. The interior is really interesting as it’s an old hotel and very different. So not modern at all, but very clean (of course) and different, which I love.

I was in town for 2 full days and saw and did everything I wanted. The town was totally destroyed in an huge earthquake in 1931 and they rebuilt the town in the style of the day, which was art deco and most of the buildings are still around and it’s a largest collection of art deco buildings in the world. If you are into that, this place is a must! I went on the walking tour of town and it was really interesting. Even if I am not fully interested in the subject, I love stuff like this. In the afternoon I went on a tour of the town jail which is another thing I didn’t know much about but found the tour interesting. And it being New Zealand, if the prisoner was on good behavoir, they were allowed “free time” around town. Love it. That would have never happened in the US. Anyway, of course, it’s no longer a prison and actually was a backpackers accomodation when I was here, but apparently it’s not anymore, which is kind of dissapointing! I wonder why it’s not anymore. Anyway, a very interesting walk up to this side of town anyway.

Art Deco-ness in Napier

Napier Jail - Look at how easy it is to "escape". Classic New Zealand

The next day was super chill. Got a late start with Breakfast in town, took a nice long walk up to the Bluff Hill Domain (saw a corgi, my first in all the time I had been overseas!), talked to my family on the phone and just enjoyed the fantastic view. So beautiful that day. Walked back into town, went to Bugar Fuel for what would be the last time and can’t remember what I did in the afternoon.

View of Napier, from Bluff walk

The following day I went to Marineland which is/was sort of like a very small Sea World. It got a lot of flack for animal shows and is this animal cruelty” and all that whatnot. It actually officially closed down when their last dolphin died a few weeks before my visit, but to cash in a little bit on the summer tourists, they opened to limited hours and attractions and the one thing that appealed to me was getting to hold a little blue penguin! I had to buy the admission as well as the picture fee but for less then NZ$20, it was well worth it in my book. Yell that I committed animal curelty all you want, but if just sitting there with a towel and a penguin perched on my lap is cruel and unusual punnishment, then pah to you. Otherwise, yeah, the place was pretty depressing. But a good way to kill a morning before my bus ride to Wellington.

I'm holding a little blue penguin!

This region is known for its winary but doing wine tours alone really isn’t my thing, so I didn’t go to any. But apparently farther south in Hastings, it’s wine central. I certainly drank my share while in New Zealand, but going wine tasting isn’t really fun alone.

Moral: I loved Napier! It was such a surprise. I think the weather may have had something to do with it as it was lovely when I was there. This is an area I would love to return too as well as doing the East Cape on my own time too. Agh, I wish NZ wasn’t so far as I would love to do this all again in like 10 days. But travel for 10 days to do something I have kind of already done? There are other places that I want to go first. But this is on my top 10 places to return.

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