A wine lover's guide to Hawke's Bay
Hawke’s Bay is fast becoming one of New Zealand’s top wine destinations. Amanda Barnes shares her tips on where to go and what to do...
Hawke’s Bay travel guide
More than a million tourists make their way to this sunny wine region on New Zealand’s North Island each year, where three dozen cellar doors and over 200 vineyards await exploration by foot, bike or car.
What to do
Explore the cellar doors
As New Zealand’s oldest and second-largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay is a hotbed for wine tourism. With 76 wineries and counting, you could spend over a month wine tasting in Hawke’s Bay. Stretching from Esk Valley and Bayview in the north down to Central Hawke’s Bay further inland to the south, the wine region covers roughly 50km x 30km. However, if you only have a weekend, head for the top names that have helped put this wine region on the map.
Hastings, Havelock Hills & Te Awanga
Start your tour at Te Mata, one of New Zealand’s oldest wineries. Te Mata was founded in 1896 yet is still very much on top of its game – its top blend Coleraine is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed Fine Wines. Try the estate’s extensive range, including library vintages, and book a VIP tasting to taste Coleraine in the cellar.
While in the Havelock Hills area, hop over to Black Barn Vineyards which is a local favourite for its laid-back charm, country kitchen, regular live music and Saturday growers’ market in the summer. Other nearby highlights are the modern cellars and jaw-dropping view of Te Mata Peak and award-winning Terroir restaurant at Craggy Range.
Heading coastward visit the striking sub-region of Te Awanga where seaside views don’t come much better. Elephant Hill sits in a prime position with a stylish restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Kidnapper Cliffs. Nearby Clearview Estate also has a busy cellar door and a restaurant with live music every Friday in the summer.
Gimblett Gravels & Bridge Pa
Head further inland on your wine tasting tour to Gimblett Gravels, one of Hawke’s Bay’s most promising sub-regions where a dry riverbed offers well-draining and warm soils to produce characterful reds. Trinity Hill is one of the pioneers of Gimblett Gravels and its cellar door is a good opportunity to try not only the famous Syrah and Bordeaux blends of the region but also oddball grapes for New Zealand such as Montepulciano, Tempranillo, Marsanne and Touriga Nacional.
Stonecroft is another pioneer, in fact the pioneer, of Gimblett Gravels and Te Awa is a sought-after lunch spot in the gravels serving local cuisine daily. Just beyond Gimblett Gravels is the Bridge Pa triangle where you’ll find a handful of cellar doors that hold a wine festival in mid-January.
If you still have a thirst for more, head north towards Napier where well-known wineries in the Taradale region beckon. Mission Estate established in 1851, considers itself the birthplace of New Zealand wine; and other popular cellar doors include Moana Park and Church Road, which also boasts one of the best restaurants in the region.
Wine tasting is on the menu all year round but you’ll also find special wine, music and gastronomy festivals throughout the year including a classical music series, blues festival, an art deco weekend and an oyster festival.
Explore the great outdoors
The sunny climate of Hawke’s Bay makes it ideal for outdoor adventure. Hiking or cycling Te Mata Peak is a rite of passage for anyone visiting Hawke’s Bay. This large rocky peak is known as the ‘sleeping giant’ as Maori legend says it is the corpse of a giant who had fallen in love with the daughter of a rival tribe’s leader. The giant died in his attempt to eat through the mountains to be united with his love, leaving his broken remains as a 399m rocky outcrop.
You can do a cultural tour of the Peak with a Maori elder, or you may feel comfortable climbing up the star-crossed lover’s remains unaccompanied. The Te Mata Park offers unparalleled views across the bay with exhilarating climbs, Redwood forest hikes and cross-country cycling. Other outdoor highlights include visiting Waimarama Beach, the swimming hole at Maraetotara Falls or a round of golf at Cape Kidnappers.
Where to stay
Napier, which was entirely rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and has been immortalised in the art deco style of the time, boasts some stylish city hotels. However, wine lovers might want to indulge in accommodation among the vines.
Craggy Range has a village of private vineyard cottages dotted around its estate, at the centre of which lies a four-bedroom luxury lodge with stunning views of Te Mata Peak, with the vineyards and riverbed below. Lodge guests can take a dip in the outdoor pool overlooking Tukituki river, enjoy a privately catered meal in the open-plan dining and living room, or stargaze by the large outdoor fireplace.
Other excellent vineyard accommodation includes the lodges at Black Barn and Elephant Hill.
When to go
Hawke’s Bay’s temperate maritime climate with mild winters and warm summers make it an appealing destination all year round. The flurry of festivals takes place in summer and autumn (November-April).
Fly to: Napier/Hastings airport is in the heart of Hawke’s Bay and Air New Zealand operates daily flights from Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland (with international connections). You can also add Hawke’s Bay onto a road trip around the North Island.
Top tip: Most cellar doors will pour you wine without a reservation but if you want a tour or VIP tasting, book ahead. Hawke’s Bay gets particularly busy at the weekends when large groups pour in.