A Little Bit of Culture

Quick pivot back from science to fun! (Not that I mean to say those things are in any way mutually exclusive. I think all my science posts are fun. But this post is all fun and no science, so be forewarned. Wooooooooooo…)

Way back when it was still nice out I took a long-weekend trip with my flatmates to Hawke’s Bay region, on the east coast of the North Island. While most of my trips are nature and tramping-based (which is somewhat governed by the fact that those are the best things to do in NZ), this trip was actually a bit more about culture and man-made stuff. The trip started with a long drive towards Taupo and then a few hours more, luckily I was buoyed by a coffee that fully justifies all the fun-making I do about the Kiwi accent.


Saying it funny is one thing, but this?

Along the way, on the advice of our soon-to-be couchsurfing host, we made a couple stops: a historic site of a Maori ambush of some British soldiers, a nice waterfall, and an awesome bridge where you can walk on the scaffolding underneath to get a great view.

We didn’t have much planned for the first night, so we just took a look around Napier, one of the main cities in the region, while we were killing time until we could meet our host. Napier is known for its “art deco” style architecture. The whole city has the same style because it basically was completely destroyed in a 1931 earthquake, which meant all the current buildings were built at roughly the same time, hence similar styles. To me it feels like walking around inside a comic book (with the street signs being a really nice extra touch)!

After dinner in town, we drove out to the countryside (waaay out there in the dark) to meet Dave, a 50something British transplant schoolteacher who loves hosting couchsurfers in his free time. He was super nice and gave us good advice on how to spend the rest of our days in the region.


I got my own room! It may have been the storage closet, but it was cozy and it was mine! 🙂

Based on the weather, we decided to make our next day our “nature stuff” day and go do all the outside things in the area. First up was Te Mata peak, a high point near Hastings, the region’s other big city. It was a nice nature reserve with some redwood trees and a few options for hikes. We took the longest one, a 2-3 hour hike that went to the top of the peak (it’s only 400m high, so not all that difficult of a climb). There was also a road to the top, so it was one of those instances where you get there only to find a bunch of tourists getting out of their cars…but we earned our view the hard way!

From there we took a drive over to Cape Kidnappers, a peninsula on the east coast a bit south of Napier and Hastings. It sticks a few km out into the Pacific Ocean, and got its name from an attempt by a few Maori men to kidnap one of Captain Cook’s crew members during his time in New Zealand. You can walk out along the beach under the high cliffs — if you walk far enough there is a gannet colony at the end. You can also take a tractor ride if you’re lazy. We didn’t make it out to the birds — you need to time your walk with the tides to make it all the way to the end — but we hiked out a decent ways before turning around..

Of course, more than anything, Hawke’s Bay is probably famous for its wine, so we couldn’t leave without visiting a winery! Dave had recommended his favorite, Abbey winery, so we drove over and hung out for a while. We got to taste a few of their wines and listen to a guy playing some nice acoustic covers of classic rock, a pretty chill afternoon.

That was it for the day, so after another dinner in Napier, we went back out to the country, where I noted Dave’s awesome taste in storage room wall posters.


Anyone who has volcano posters on their walls is cool in my book.

The next day we decided to explore Napier a bit more. We checked out the botanical gardens as well as the museum (no photographs allowed!) which had some cool artwork exhibits and a really interesting exhibit on the 1931 earthquake that leveled the town. After that we decided to just take a break and lie out by the beach for a bit.

Finally, we were told the the lady in the museum that there was a conservation-based street art exhibit all around Napier, and she gave us a map to go search out the different pieces, done right on the side of buildings. So we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around town, finding awesome graffiti murals.

And that’s it! The next day we headed back up to Auckland, having successfully explored one more region of the North Island!