Deco de­lights

Fine de­signs and din­ing in a city re­born

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - CARO­LINE GLAD­STONE

A DIS­AS­TROUS START: Earth­quakes don’t usu­ally put a place on the map, but it was the dev­as­tati ing shake of Fe­bru­ary 3, 1931, that saw Napier, on the east coast of the North Is­land, trans­formed from a small town with a hand­ful of no­table Vic­to­rian build­ings to the art deco gem it is to­day. Two years af­ter the dis­as­ter, the city had been re­built in the style that was sweep­ing the world at the time, par­tic­u­larly in Los An­ge­les and New York. While de­nied UNESCO her­itage list­ing sev­eral years ago, Napier is said to have the most com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tion of deco build­ings in the world. The style was cho­sen for its look (zig­gu­rats and zigzags are re­cur­ring mo­tifs) but also be­cause it was easy to build and its solid block for­ma­tion was hoped to be dis­as­ter-proof. More: art­de­conapier.com.

ARCHITECTURALA AMBLES: There are sev­eral w ways to see the high­lights, which in­clude buildi ings in the Span­ish mis­sion and stripped clas­si­cal styles. Self-guided walks are leisurely al­though es­corted tours and vin­tage car rides, led by char­ac­ters in cos­tume, are a real treat. Or hop aboard the Hawke’s Bay Ex­press, a mo­torised train with three retro car­riages. Look out for the Louis Hay de­signs (the lo­cal ar­chi­tect was an ad­mirer of Frank Lloyd Wright), in­clud­ing the Daily Tele­graph, Cri­te­rion Ho­tel and Na­tional To­bacco Com­pany build­ings. The ABS Bank in­cor­po­rates Maori de­signs, while the green dome atop the T&G build­ing and the Sound Shell are well-known favourites. A fleet of well-pol­ished vin­tage cars is al­ways on standby and keen mo­torists can self-drive in style from a com­pany called Hoot­ers. More: hb­ex­press.co.nz; hoot­ers-hire.co.nz.

PUTTING ON THE RITZ: Napier goes Gatsby ga-ga in Fe­bru­ary each year when about 30,000 rev­ellers hit the streets dressed in flap­per fin­ery and boaters, blaz­ers and spats dur­ing the Art Deco Fes­ti­val. Next year marks the 30th an­niver­sary (Fe­bru­ary 14-18); glit­ter­ing dances, a pro­hi­bi­tion party, fash­ion pa­rades (even for dogs), bil­ly­cart races and a De­pres­sion din­ner are all on the bill. Or­gan­is­ers of the din­ner in­sist you “dress down” (women in hair curlers have been spot­ted), eat from tin plates and sing tunes from the 1930s. There’s no need to pack a suit­case of out­fits as plenty of stores bulge with clob­ber for hire. A smaller Win­ter Deco Weekend is held each July (14-16 this year; 13-15 in 2018).

CAPE CAPERS: A head­land at the south­east ex­trem­ity of Hawke’s Bay, Cape Kid­nap­pers is h home to a spec­tac­u­lar golf course, a five-star lodge set on farm­land, dra­matic cliffs and the largest main­land gan­net colony in the world. There are four­wheel-drive tours up-hill and down-dale to the cape (named for the at­tempt by Maori in 1769 to abduct one of Cap­tain Cook’s young crew) but a fun way to go is by trac­tor-drawn trailer along the beach. On the way, guides ex­plain how the 1931 earth­quake raised the seabed by 2.7m and point out fault lines and fos­sil de­posits in the cliffs. A 20,000-strong colony of golden crowned birds nest on the plateau and rocky out­crops from Septem­ber to April. More: gan­nets.com; capekid­nap­pers.com.

DRINK IN HIS­TORY: The old­est win­ery in New Zealand lies on the out­skirts of Napier on the h hills above the city with glo­ri­ous views over the vines. Mis­sion Es­tate was es­tab­lished by French Marist mis­sion­ar­ies in 1851 who brought vines and set about cul­ti­vat­ing sacra­men­tal and table wines. No longer hous­ing the reli­gious or­der, the 1880-built sem­i­nary is home to an ac­claimed res­tau­rant and cel­lar door and is set in huge grounds that play host to the an­nual Mis­sion Con­cert where the likes of Tom Jones and Rod Stewart have per­formed. This is the place to be­gin a tast­ing tour of Hawke’s Bay, the sec­ond largest wine­grow­ing re­gion in the coun­try (af­ter Marl­bor­ough) and renowned for mer­lot caber­net blends, syrah and chardon­nay. More: mis­sion­es­tate.co.nz; hawkes­bay­wine.co.nz.

FOODIE FES­TIV­I­TIES: Blessed with a Mediter­ranean cli­mate and shel­tered by the ranges to the west, Hawke’s Bay has long been New Zealand’s fruit bowl and to­day spe­cialises in ar­ti­san pro­duce. Farm­ers’ mar­kets abound, with Napier hold­ing the ur­ban mar­ket on Satur­days at Clive Square in the art deco hub, and stalls mov­ing to the Hawke’s Bay show­grounds at Hast­ings, Napier’s twin set­tle­ment, on Sun­days. In a fes­ti­val-made city, ex­pect a foodie fair or two. The FAWC (food and wine clas­sic) takes place over five week­ends in win­ter (from June 9 this year), while the sum­mer event starts cook­ing on Novem­ber 3. A long list of of­fer­ings in­cludes who­dunit din­ners in grand winer­ies. More: hawkes­bay­farm­ers­mar­ket.co.nz; fawc.co.nz.

T TWO-WHEELER TRAILS: With 200km of bike trails and a hand­ful of rental com­pa­nies that will h hap­pily send rid­ers off with maps and pick them up af­ter a day in the sad­dle, cy­cling is a great way to ex­plore Hawke’s Bay. The flat off-road trails around the winer­ies are per­fect for a leisurely day of pic­nick­ing and wine-tast­ing. Coastal Wine Cy­cles prom­ises there are no hills on its rec­om­mended paths that skirt the winer­ies and even claims its com­fort­able bikes are “‘wedgie-free”. Napier City Bike Hire and Fish Bike run art-cy­cle tours and es­corted jaunts along the shore­line vis­it­ing the old port sub­urb of Ahuriri north of Napier. More: fish­bike.co.nz; winecy­cles.co.nz; onyer­bike.co.nz; bike­hire­napier.co.nz.

A ARTS AND MU­RALS: With more than 30 gal­leries and artists’ stu­dios in Napier, Hast­ings and Have­lock North, there’s no short­age of tal­ent in this neck of the coast. Indige­nous pot­ters, weavers and sculp­tors show­case their works at the Waio­hiki Artists Vil­lage, and pub­lic art abounds. In­stal­la­tions such as the tow­er­ing Spirit of Napier statue and the A Wave in Time se­ries in Emer­son Street de­pict the city ris­ing from the dev­as­ta­tion of the quake. Pa­nia of the Reef, a legendary Maori mer­maid whose bronze im­age graces the fore­shore, is said to the most pho­tographed statue in the coun­try. The lat­est in­stal­la­tion, Sea Walls: Mu­rals for Oceans, com­prises 29 large-scale mu­rals painted on coun­cil build­ings and old ware­houses in Napier and nearby Ahuriri. Don’t miss the Earth­quake Gallery at the MTG Mu­seum. More: hawkes­baynz.com; mt­ghawkes­bay.com.

BISTRO A GO-GO: Housed in a Louis Hay art deco build­ing, Bistron­omy serves the most imag­i­na­tive fare in Napier. Chef James Beck, who set­tled in Hawke’s Bay af­ter glo­be­trot­ting in Europe for 10 years with stints at The Savoy in London and He­ston Blu­men­thal’s Fat Duck, has cre­ated a ca­sual bistro, of­fer­ing a menu of six cour­ses, taken as a de­gus­ta­tion or a la carte. It’s ideal to com­fort­ably dine solo, perched at the chef’s bench and watch­ing all the ac­tion of the open kitchen. My starters (or “bites’’) of beet tof­fee, or­ganic chicken wing and Manaaki white­bait ar­rive on steel skew­ers ar­tis­ti­cally stuck into a piece of drift­wood, which is lo­cal, of course, along with much of the pro­duce. More: bistron­omy.co.nz. STATELY AND STYLISH: Lo­ca­tion and nos­tal­gia meet at Art Deco Ma­sonic Ho­tel. With views over the bay and a stroll to the Sound Shell, the mu­seum and Art Deco Cen­tre, one might as well be back in the 30s, when the ho­tel was re­built af­ter the earth­quake. The 46 gue­strooms and lobby have been re­cently treated to a stylish makeover in keep­ing with the era. The Pa­cific Suite (pic­tured) is the best in the house, open­ing on to a long flower-filled bal­cony via French doors (the bal­cony is shared by a hand­ful of other rooms), while the Royal Suite was Queen El­iz­a­beth’s home away from home dur­ing her 1954 Corona­tion tour of the colonies. More: ma­sonic.co.nz.

Caro­line Glad­stone was a guest of Hawke’s Bay Tourism.

• hawkes­baynz.com • newzealand.com/au

Clas­sic cars out­side Art Deco Ma­sonic Ho­tel, Napier, top; Mis­sion Es­tate Win­ery, above; Na­tional To­bacco Com­pany build­ing, above right; shop­ping in Napier, be­low; the trac­tor ride to Cape Kid­nap­pers, bot­tom

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