Hawkes Bay is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island and is known for its sunny climate, stunning landscapes and agricultural produce, particularly its wine industry. In fact, Hawkes Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine region! So one of the best things to do in Hawkes Bay is wine tasting in some of the beautiful wineries. But there are plenty of other fun and adventurous things do. Te Mata Peak for example is a popular spot for hiking and provides stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Hawke’s Bay is also known for its beaches, which offer opportunities for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. Overall, Hawkes Bay is a beautiful region that offers a mix of stunning landscapes, outdoor activities and culinary delights. We have spend a few days in this stunning region of the North Island. So find in our complete guide the 12 best outdoor and adventurous things to do in Hawkes Bay!
Best things to do in Hawkes Bay
Book a wine tasting tour
One of the things you can’t miss when visiting Hawkes Bay is a wine tasting! With over 200 vineyards, 70 wineries and 30 cellar doors, Hawkes Bay is renowned for its wine production. In particular Chardonnay, Merlot Cabernet blends and Syrah are popular wines from Hawkes Bay. There are many different vineyards spread across Napier, Hastings and Havelock North which you can either visit on your own or by booking a wine tasting tour.
We would definitely recommend the last option of joining a tour, as you can then relax without having to worry about staying sober enough to drive. Joining a tour is also a great way of learning more about the winemaking process and history of the vineyard. Some wineries may also offer guided tours of their vineyards and winemaking facilities. This provides a deeper insight into the winemaking process. Joining a wine tour is a great way to experience multiple wineries in a single day and is one of the must things to do in Hawkes Bay.
Walk the trail to Maraetotara Falls
Visiting the Maraetotara Falls is a great way to explore the natural beauty of Hawke’s Bay’s forest and river landscape. The trailhead to the waterfall is located about 15 minutes’ drive from Havelock North. You will find the entrance along the Maraetotara Road, off State Highway 2 between Hastings and Havelock North. Via an easy 0.5-km out-and-back trail you can visit the Maraetotara Falls while enjoying the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
The trail is a gentle walk through a beautiful forest of mature trees, with the sound of the Maraetotara River as a constant companion. It is a perfect family friendly thing to do in Hawkes Bay and one of the few waterfalls you can visit in this region. The picturesque Maraetotara Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall, cascading down over mossy rocks and surrounded by lush forest. It’s a perfect spot to relax and take in the beautiful scenery. On a warm day you can take a swim in the natural pool, but keep yourself and kids safe from potential current.
Explore Hawke’s Bay by bike
Hawkes Bay boasts an extensive network of 200km of flat and easy-to-ride trails that connect award-winning wineries, country pubs and artisan outlets through it’s stunning landscape. You can either book this self-guided scenic bike tour from Napier where you’ll pass coastal wetlands and scenic riverbanks in combination with a visit to six wineries. Or book this self guided bike tour from Hawkes Bay where you’ll depart from Ash Ridge Wines’ vineyard which is centrally located in the wine region.
Marvel at the views on Te Mata Peak
The landform that we now know as Te Mata Peak originated two million years ago when the seafloor tilted. The 400 meter high landform offers stunning 360° views of Hawke’s Bay. It is in particular a popular spot to watch sunrise from, but sunset would be a good option as well! For photography sunrise would be the best time to visit the peak because the first sunlight will light up the side of Te Mata Peak, giving it a golden glow. Another fun fact is that it is even possible to see Mount Ruapehu in Tongariro on a clear day!
The best part is, you don’t have to hike to the best viewpoint. It is possible to drive right to the top of Te Mata Peak along the well maintained tarmac road. There is plenty of parking space and a few benches to sit on while taking in the view.
Halfway along the road down is a cafe called Peak House which opens from 9 AM until 4 PM. So that is a great option to grab a fresh morning coffee and breakfast after watching sunrise at Te Mata Peak. If you wish to explore more of the 100 hectares parkland of Te Mata peak, then you can hike some of the trails or grab a mountain bike to cross the different mountain bike tracks.
Go rafting on the Mohaka River (Grade 3)
Experience the wild Mohaka River with this full day rafting tour in Hawkes Bay that combines adventure and history. Get up close with Grade 3 rapids while enjoying the varied scenery as you raft down the river. The tour includes a visit to an historic goldmine and cliff jumps, ensuring an adrenaline rush alongside learning about local history. With all necessary equipment and a professional guide included, you can feel safe and focus on enjoying the ride without any worries.
Visit the Hawkes Bay Farmers Market
The Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market is the oldest and best farmers market in New Zealand. Every Sunday from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM, the Hawkes Bay Farmers market takes place at the Hawke’s Bay A&P Showgrounds on Kenilworth Road.
The market is a showcase for the region’s local produce, with over 60 different vendors. You can find a wide range of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, artisanal bread, honey, cheese, meat, seafood, and other products. All of the products are locally sourced and grown, and many of the vendors sell their products directly to consumers.
It is a must visit if you’re happen to be in the area. It is not only a great place to shop for fresh, high-quality produce but the market also has a very lively and friendly atmosphere. With live music and a range of food stalls offering a variety of tasty treats and drinks, it is a great way to start your Sunday morning.
The market also has a strong emphasis on sustainability and encourages visitors to bring their own bags and containers to reduce waste. So make sure to bring your reusable bag or coffee cup!
Stroll along Pekapeka wetlands
Visiting the Pekapeka wetlands is a great way to experience the rich biodiversity of New Zealand’s wetlands. It is a perfect opportunity for birdwatching and wildlife spotting while exploring the reserve via a network of walking tracks and boardwalks.
The wetlands are located just 10 minutes outside the city of Hastings, and cover an area of approximately 20 hectares. Pekapeka Wetlands is an important area for wetland conservation, providing a habitat for a variety of native plant and animal species. The reserve is home to several species of native birds, including the Pukeko, Kingfisher, Grey Warbler. And besides that it also supports a diverse range of plant life including Raupo, Flax, and Kahikatea trees.
Explore the Art Deco buildings in Napier
Napier is known for its unique and beautiful Art Deco architecture. These buildings are the result of a rebuilding effort following a devastating earthquake in 1931. After this earthquake, the city was rebuilt in the popular architectural style of the time, Art Deco. This style features geometric shapes, bold colors, and streamlined designs which you can see all over Napier.
The Art Deco architecture in Napier is characterized by its use of pastel colors, intricate details, and ornate designs. The buildings in Napier’s central business district feature a variety of architectural styles, including Spanish Mission, Stripped Classical, and Art Deco.
Some of the most notable buildings in Art Deco Napier district include the National Tobacco Company building. This building features intricate tile work and a distinctive clock tower. Another interesting building that demonstrates the Napier Art Deco very well is the Daily Telegraph building with intricate details and colorful patterns. Lastly the Municipal Theatre is worth a visit with its beautiful Art Deco façade and stunning interior.
Do you want to see the best of Hawkes Bay in a full day tour?
Then book this Grand Day Tour through Hawkes Bay.
Explore the highlights of Hawkes Bay; from Napier’s art deco streetscape to the stunning vistas from Te Mata peak. Try artisan products, including a tasting at the country’s oldest winery.
Hike the Kidnappers Cape trail
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast like us, then put the Cape Kidnappers Trail on your things to do in Hawkes Bay list! This trail takes you along the rugged coastline of Cape Kidnappers with its stunning views and unique rock formations. And one of the highlights is the chance to see the largest mainland gannet colony that nest on the rocky cliffs. You can see them soar above the trail, diving into the ocean to catch fish, and tending to their young in the nests.
Along the trail you can also see several unique rock formations, including the Elephant Rock and the Pillars of Hercules. These formations are the result of millions of years of erosion, and are a testament to the power of the ocean and the forces of nature.
The Kidnappers Cape trail is 8.5 kilometers one way and leads along the coast. Although it’s not the shortest hike, it is a pretty easy, flat hike. With only 100 meters elevation gain it takes around 3-4 hours to complete. The trail starts at Clifton Beach, where you can take a shuttle to the starting point at the top of the cliffs. From there, the trail descends down to the beach and then follows the coastline along the base of the cliffs. It is important to note that the trail is only accessible at low tide. Therefore it is essential to check the tide times before embarking on the hike.
Tours to see the Gannet Colony
If you don’t want to hike all the way to Cape Kidnappers there is another great option. You can book this private tour to the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony to learn more about the working farm, local history and the geology of the area. On this 3 hour private tour you will explore New Zealand’s largest privately-owned wildlife sanctuary and get up close with the world’s largest accessible mainland gannet colony.
Relax or be active at Ocean Beach
One of the most beautiful beaches in Hawkes Bay is Ocean Beach. Surrounded by stunning cliffs and headlands, Ocean Beach provides panoramic views of the coastline and surrounding countryside. With a wide range of activities available and its stunning scenery, Ocean Beach is one of the best places to visit in Hawkes Bay.
The beach itself stretches for several kilometers and has the most soft white sand and clear blue water. It is an excellent spot for swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and relaxing. The beach is also patrolled by lifeguards during the summer months, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all visitors. For hike lovers there are a number of walking and hiking trails to be found. Along these trail you can explore the rugged terrain and take in the breathtaking scenery.
For those looking for a more adventurous experience, Ocean Beach is also a popular destination for fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. There are several companies in the area that offer equipment rentals and guided tours for those interested in exploring the waterways and surrounding areas.
Explore TukiTuki valley
The Tuki Tuki Valley is a picturesque rural area in Hawke’s Bay known for its beautiful landscapes with rolling hills, fertile farmland, vineyards and the winding Tuki Tuki River. You can explore the valley via its scenic drives by bike or car and have breaks at the several restaurants and cafes or vineyards in the area.
The valley is also home to several hiking trails including the Tuki Tuki River Trail. This easy hike follows the river through the valley and offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Another popular activity here is fly fishing, as the Tuki Tuki River is renowned for its trout fishing opportunities.
Overall, the Tuki Tuki Valley is a must-visit destination for those looking to experience the beauty and tranquility of rural Hawke’s Bay.
Play Golf at Cape Kidnappers Golf Course
The Cape Kidnappers Golf Course is a world-renowned golf course located in Hawke’s Bay. It is widely considered one of the top golf courses in the world and is a must-visit destination for golf enthusiasts. Located on a stunning coastal property overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the golf course features 18 challenging and picturesque holes.
In addition to its stunning scenery and challenging layout, the Cape Kidnappers Golf Course also provides world-class amenities and services. The course features a state-of-the-art clubhouse, locker rooms, pro shop, as well as a restaurant that serves up delicious food and drinks.
Hawkes Bay weather and best time to visit Hawkes Bay
Hawke’s Bay has a warm, temperate climate, with sunny and dry summers and mild winters. The region receives plenty of sunshine, with an average of around 2,200 hours of sunshine per year. Overall the best time to visit Hawkes Bay is summer and autumn. However it really depends on what you’re looking to do and see in the region.
If you’re interested in exploring the outdoors the summer months (December to February) are the best time to visit. This is when the weather is warmest and driest, making it perfect for outdoor adventures. It is also the peak season for tourism, so expect larger crowds and higher prices.
If you’re interested in the region’s wine industry, the best time to visit is during the autumn months (March to May). Tthe vineyards are then in harvest season which is an interesting activity to see. This is a great time to experience the buzz and excitement of the grape harvest. Many of the wineries in Hawkes Bay also offer special events and tastings during this time.
For those interested in cultural events and festivals, the Hawke’s Bay region hosts a variety of events throughout the year. Some examples are the Napier Art Deco Festival in February, the Hawke’s Bay A&P Show in October, and the Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival in October.
Overall, the Hawke’s Bay region enjoys a pleasant climate with warm, sunny summers and mild winters. This makes it an ideal destination for outdoor activities and wine tasting throughout the year.
Where to stay in Hawkes Bay
Hawke’s Bay offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget. There are a few locations you can choose from to case yourself while exploring Hawkes Bay. Napier is the biggest city located along the coast with a rich history dating back to 1851. There are plenty of charming hotels located in Napier for a relaxing holiday. Other options to stay are in Hastings which is known for its rich agricultural heritage, with many farms, orchards, and vineyards located in the surrounding countryside. Here you will find more cottages and
Featured accommodation in Hawkes Bay
For a truly 5 star experience on a beautiful vineyard estate in Hawke’s Bay you have to check out Millar Road Estate in Hastings. With award-winning architectural design, the two and three bedroom villas offer stunning views on the vineyard with all amenities you need and contemporary furniture. The communal 15 meter swimming pool and BBQ facilities make this stay unforgettable and the perfect base to explore the beauty of Hawkes Bay.
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots. But for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are gravel or include crossing shallow rivers. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for these kind of roads.
The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick up date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a roadtrip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will you give you a true feeling of freedom and connects you with nature.
We personally recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn. They have a wide range of Stationwagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 road side assistance & long term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream roadtrip!
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the best things to do in Hawkes Bay on the North Island of New Zealand. Make sure to put this awesome destination on your New Zealand North Island itinerary!
There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides!