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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

A day in Napier New Zealand

With the world’s most complete collection of 1930s art deco buildings, Napier is a popular tourist city in the north island of New Zealand. Around 90 cruise ships a year visit this town, often two at a time. The wharf is located in the town and shuttle busses can ferry passengers into the heart of the city.


Art Deco is defined as "the predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colours and used most notably in household objects and in architecture". - Dictionary definition


An earthquake that registered 7.9 on the Richter scale razed much of the city and the nearby town of Hastings on 3 February 1931. The town was rebuilt after this in the Art Deco style of the times. One of the best examples is the Masonic Hotel. This 42-room hotel has a bar with many distinct and stylish decorations from the past, with a wide choice of cold drinks and delicious hot food.

The Masonic Hotel in Napier New Zealand has the word Masonic made out of stained glass. The external walls are decorated in 1930s art deco style adornments.
the foyer of the Masonic hotel in Napier New Zealand has a 1930s style cloakroom door, lead light lamp and a statue of a woman wearing a great gatsby style dress. the floors are tiled in a geometric red, green and white pattern

There is an Art Deco festival held every February in the town. Around 45,000 visitors enjoy the vintage cars, fashions, music and architecture.


The Temperance and General Insurance building was completed in 1935 and its impressive copper domed roof with its clocktower stands proud on the corner of Marine Parade and Emerson Street.

the clocktower of the T&G building stands atop a copper dome above a white art deco building, trimmed in a heritage red colour.  its curved facade on the corner of two meeting streets has side buildings to the left and right

Napier is home to around 66,000 permanent residents and located on a large semi-circular bay. The foreshore, Marine Parade, has been well developed with parks and extensive walkways. The Norfolk Pine lined boulevard has fountains, gardens, mini golf, statues, an aquarium, swimming pools and spas. It is a favourite place for families to spend time together, as well as tourists who admire the ocean front and the gorgeous flower beds that line the pathways.

orange, red and pink flowers form the beds along the walkway of Marine terrace

Statues celebrating the 1930s are located throughout the city. The wide pedestrian only streets in the centre of Napier are a fabulous place to grab one of New Zealand's famous coffees, or a delectable meal.

a bronze statue of a lady from the 1930s era, out walking her dog. her had is raised high in the air as if greeting a friend. Her plain style hat and smooth knee length dress are in the gatsby style

Tourists come to see the architecture as well as the nearby vineyards. There are over 70 wineries located within the region, of which 30 are open for tastings. The shopping district hosts art galleries, potter studios, wood turners and boutique stores. Look up when strolling the streets to see the beautifully preserved art deco features on the upper stories of the buildings.

the double story art deco decorated buildings have the geometric designs of the period. pastle greens, whites and oranges decorate the outside walls. coloured glass windows also are geometrically desighed to attract people to look upwards. the downstairs shops have been renovated in the 1970s and 1980s, without art deco styling. they are just plain glass windows and doors.

Even buildings that were constructed years after the earthquake have kept to the theme of the town. The Quest hotel was originally built in 1919 by the Ancient Order of Forresters. Refurbished in 2009, the outside still has the charm of a by-gone era, with a stylishly modern interior.

the quest hotel in napier new zealand is a two storey building with white walls and grey accents. it has been kept in the same art deco style as the rest of town

The gardens in the heart of the town are worth strolling through. The flower beds burst with colour and the scent of their perfume gently entices passersby to linger a bit longer.

the flower beds in the central park of Napier New Zealand burst with orange, yellow, pink and white colours. The tall palm trees are a glorious green with the perfect backdrop of an azure blue cloudless sky

The Art Deco trust is a great place to shop for local mementos and clothing appropriate to the Art Deco era. Vintage 1930s car tours can be arranged from here, as well as guided town walks. Located at 7 Tennyson St Napier, the wonderful volunteers are a wealth of information about the town and its history.

a 1930s motorcar stands outside the Art Deco trust building and is available to take tourists on tours

Napier is a great place to visit where you can sightsee, shop, eat and admire the town. Tours can take tourists out into the countryside for various wine tours, and bikes (including ebikes) can be hired for those who want a more leisurely way to look around. Napier is a New Zealand city that is definitely worth stopping at.


Happy Travels!



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2 Comments


kenneth.driskel
Mar 24, 2023

Would love that place! Like old past 20s 30s era . My kind of place ! Nice job on sharing this era place blast from past ,in todays world .

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Neil Spurgeon
Neil Spurgeon
Mar 24, 2023

Never actually got into Napier myself, although we hunted deer on the outskirts. It is a glorious city of great contrasts well illustrated in your excellent piece. Thank you for all these memories of a very peaceful time in my life.

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