Art Deco Napier

No trip to Hawkes Bay is complete without a visit to Art Deco Napier, a town pretty much fully built in 1920’s style with a fascinating history.

In 1931 a 7.8 on the Richter scale earthquake hit 15km north of Napier. The Earthquake lasted two and a half minutes and destroyed most of the town. The few buildings that weren’t destroyed by the force of the quake were quickly levelled by the ensuing fires.

However, within two years the town was rebuilt – the Kiwis can really crack on when they put their minds to it – and it wasn’t just any old rebuild. Taking inspiration from the architectural fashion of the times Napier was reconstructed in a style that reflected the Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical fashion of the 1930’s.

As a result Napier is now probably the best preserved Art Deco town in the world, the colourful buildings, bold arches and geometric design bringing the streets to life.

We think the best way to see the town is on a walking tour organised by the local Art Deco Trust and guided by volunteers. The tours leave the I-Site at 10am and 2pm from the Art Deco Centre and take around an hour as you meander down Marine Parade, under the iconic Norfolk pine trees and through the streets of the town taking a look inside some of the buildings as well as admiring them from the outside.

Last time we visited we joined a tour led by Tony, one of the regular guides. He exudes a passion the guides all seem to share for their town’s heritage, and as well as being a fount of knowledge he kept us all entertained with stories of the characters that were involved in rebuilding the town too.

What our travellers enjoyed about the Art Deco Tours…

  • The town has a few fabulous vintage shops where you can pick up some fabulous Art Deco treasures to take home
  • If you’re lucky enough to be passing through in February, you won’t be able to miss the fabulous Tremains Art Deco weekend as it takes over the town and everyone gets into character for the weekend
  • Splashing out and taking a tour around the town in a vintage 1930’s car to see the sights in style