On the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, you’ll find the spectacular Hawke’s Bay, the oldest wine region in the country and the second largest after Marlborough. Charming Napier, located close to Hastings, is a great central and coastal hub from which to explore the region. The area was once leveled by an earthquake in 1931, but the town was rebuilt with the style of the day in mind: Art Deco, leading to the highest concentration of this architectural style in the world. Before you start exploring Hawke’s Bay, make sure you rent a free car to explore the are properly and at your convenience.
Different varieties of grape thrive along this stretch of coast thanks to a year-round mild climate. Although unusually difficult to find in Australia, Hawke’s Bay wines are renowned globally, even more so over the last 20 years, surpassing Australian shiraz at prestigious events. New Zealander’s use the French term ‘syrah’ to distinguish their blend of full-bodied red wines, the cultivation of which was shaped by another natural disaster, a flood that exposed a large area of new land in 1867 which later became used as plots for winemaking in the 1980s.
The region is made beautiful by the varying landscapes, from ocean to coast, luscious countryside, hills, mountains, the 5 major rivers that flow through the region, the 200 km of cycling tracks, and of course the vineyards and wineries, of which there are over 70 in the region. With so many options on the table of where to sample and experience great wine and hospitality, it’s best to narrow it down to a handful of the very best cellar doors.
This spectacular cellar door was established by French missionaries in 1851 making it the oldest winery in New Zealand and as a result, is somewhat of a living museum, with the added bonus of stunning views of the coast, and incredible wines. Mission Estate stays true to its heritage, implementing viticulture and winemaking skills directly from the Brothers of the Order in France, and keeping a row of muscat grapes growing in the front garden from the original clusters bought to Hawke’s Bay. This place also offers accommodation and award-winning cuisine at its restaurant which is open for lunch and dinner every day.
This residence is a real architectural masterpiece, it is stunning, and state of the art, complete with ocean views, an amazing restaurant, and topnotch wines which are elegant and balanced in flavour. The wines are full of complexity and character and the grapes that make them have been hand-picked in order to carefully select only the best fruits.
The food here is also spectacular, and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner through the seasons. You can also stay at Elephant Hill Lodge which, like the rest of the architecture, is super modern, comforting and in balance with the surrounding nature.
Tours of the fascinating underground museum and cellar door wine tastings are held daily, and being paired with splendid food and top wines means that Church Road is an essential place to visit. A lot of thought and expertise has been put into matching the dishes on their restaurant’s menu which is all sourced from the local area and is available 7 days a week.
Not only does the museum hold the oldest wine-making relics in the country, but the ‘behind the scenes’ wine tasting tour will be accompanied by food matching to give the complete wine and food experience.
The concept of this Hawke’s Bay winery that produces world-class wines was born in London in 1987 between two restaurateurs who saw great potential and opportunity in the land. A collection of traditional Hawke’s Bay and European varieties were planted and gained critical acclaim with the first release of chardonnays, merlots, and cabernets in 1998.
The warm atmosphere of the cellar door will allow for maximum comfort during your wide selection of beverages, and in the summer months, a picnic can be enjoyed on the expansive lawn.
Apart from the award-winning wine, a local hill also resides in the Guinness Book of Records, who’s 90 character name will not be presented here, but makes for good further reading material for the curious. You can also reach this spot in a free one-way rental car to get more mileage out of your trip, just make sure you’ve had plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel.
Photo: Millar Road