Denizen’s Insider Guide to Hawke’s Bay: Everything to see and do while you’re there

In our three-part series on Hawke’s Bay, we delve into everything this beautiful destination has to offer, from delicious food to exciting happenings, and all the most special places to stay. Offering a truly multi-faceted experience to anyone who visits, Hawke’s Bay will quickly feel like a home away from home — provided you know all the best places to go. That’s where we come in.

Hawke’s Bay has far more to offer than food and wine alone. For visitors to this region, we suggest exploring all the beauty and culture and exciting happenings going on in the wider Hawke’s Bay area, by squeezing in a tour here or a festival there, or even a round of golf if you’re that way inclined — the perfect activities to pad out your day between visits to delicious restaurants, wineries and local markets. Here are our suggestions.


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The Hawke’s Bay Food and Wine Classic
Returning this November, Hawke’s Bay’s signature culinary festival is promising a mouth-watering lineup of local and international attractions. The hugely-popular Food and Wine Classic will draw some of Hawke’s Bay’s most talented producers, artisans, chefs, winemakers and craft brewers to showcase their superior culinary skills. A number of talented individuals from the wider Australasia region will also descend on Hawke’s Bay, as it transforms into the ultimate, foodie festival, playing host to a week of exquisite long lunches, intimate dinners, carpark parties, workshops, collaborations and a celebration of New Zealand’s best craft beer. Kicking off on the weekend of November the 3rd with one of the first fixtures being the anticipated Grand Long Lunch (at which guests will be treated to five courses designed by five of New Zealand’s leading chefs) the Summer Food and Wine Classic will run until November the 13th, packing in a huge number of fascinating, exciting and utterly delicious events that you don’t want to miss.

Church Road TOM Experience
Oenophiles should not pass up this exquisite new premium experience at Church Road Winery. Designed as the ultimate tribute to Church Road’s founder Tom McDonald, this in-depth, intimate wine tasting lasts for about an hour and a half and takes place in the winery’s atmospheric, underground museum. There, visitors will be guided through the current and past TOM vintages, garnering unique insight into the history, philosophy and character of Church Road’s globally-renowned, flagship range.

Discover the Heritage Trails
Hawke’s Bay is known for its extensive heritage trails, aimed at showcasing the region’s rich cultural, scenic and historical highlights, and encouraging visitors to immerse themselves in beautiful nature. With a range of trails to choose from (there have been 17 created since 1991) and visitors able to guide themselves along the paths via helpful signs and readily-available brochures, this is the perfect activity to truly understand what makes Hawke’s Bay so incredibly special. Lovers of history are sure to enjoy the Ongaonga Walking Tour (through the historic Ongaonga village, established in 1865 although falling to ruin in the 1900s), while those seeking nature will love the Waimarama Heritage Trail, peppered with breathtaking, natural features and historically significant moments.

Gannet sunrise tour
If you didn’t already know, the East Cape and Hawke’s Bay Coast are the first places in the world to see the sunrise, which makes a sunrise tour something that feels particularly special and an experience that we absolutely recommend. Gannet Safaris Overland offers private experiences to Hawke’s Bay’s magnificent gannet colonies, where visitors will get up close to the spectacular birds and witness their nesting, preening and performing their courtship dances, all against the striking backdrop of a rising sun. To top off the experience, you will be offered a gourmet breakfast as part of the tour, made to enjoy while looking over a vista you’re unlikely to forget.

Golf at Cape Kidnappers
Designed by legendary golf architect Tom Doak, the par 71 golf course at Cape Kidnappers is globally renowned — hailed by those in the know as one of the great modern marvels in golf. Set high up on Cape Kidnappers’ cliffs, against its jaw-dropping coastal backdrop and spanning 6,569 metres, this course is designed to challenge golfers of every skill level, and is sure to leave a lasting impression on even those who have played extensively.

Art Deco vintage car, gin and wine tour
What would a trip to Napier be without some kind of tour of its striking Art Deco architecture? An attraction that has long drawn the crowds to this beautiful town, comprehensive tours can be booked via the Art Deco Trust, and include pick-up in a vintage, 1930s car, a scenic architectural tour, a tour of the Tony Bish ‘Egg’ Barrel room, and a wine tasting at the Urban Winery before a gin-tasting at Napier’s renowned National Distillery Company next door.

Explore Hawke’s Bay on a bike
Discover the beauty of Hawke’s Bay from the back of a two-wheeler by embarking on one of the many local, guided cycling trails. Taking advantage of the trails that span the region, a guided, multi-day cycling tour will see visitors take in an impressive amount of Hawke’s Bay’s natural beauty, as well as enjoying some of the area’s delicious food and wine via a number of tasty stops along the way. Able to be customised to suit any desire or ability, these tours promise a fun, physical activity that will allow you to fully immerse yourself in everything Hawke’s Bay has to offer.

Heading to Hawke’s Bay? Consult Denizen’s Insider Guide on all the best places to eat and drink in the region here, as well as Denizen’s Insider Guide on the absolute best places to stay here.

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