This weekend, two of my girlfriends and I headed to Napier to explore! We left on Thursday afternoon and came back to Palmy on Sunday afternoon, so we had three whole days to explore the city and it was great. Napier is about two and a half hours northwest of Palmy, and we were lucky enough to catch a ride with one of our friends who was driving up to see her boyfriend. Much nicer than the bus! Napier is fight on the coast of New Zealand and is the Art Deco capital of the country so we were really excited to look around! Plus it was my first time leaving Palmy since coming to New Zealand, so I couldn’t wait!
We arrived in Napier around 4 pm on Thursday, and checked into our hostel right away. I had never stayed at a hostel before, so i was kind of nervous about the whole process. I was pleasantly surprised; our hostel was clean and much larger than I was anticipating . It had a full kitchen, a living room/dining area, and a TV and computer lounge on each floor. There was also a back porch area with picnic tables and a barbecue, which is where we ate our dinner for the night (frozen dinners from Pack N Save, only the finest for us). After checking in, we explored the city a little and decided to check out a little Irish bar we stumbled upon. We ordered a drink (hard cider for me, not as good as Angry Orchard, but maybe I’m bias) and looked for a place to sit. We ended up finding a little corner of the bar with a fireplace, a bookshelf full of old NZ books, and board games. Being the wild, fun loving girls we are, we decided to play a game of Scrabble and flip through some New Zealand joke books.
It also happened to be karaoke night, which was very entertaining even though Eve refused to sing Justin Bieber for us. We ended up hanging out here for a couple hours before deciding to call it a night. We had big plans to check out the National Aquarium of New Zealand in the morning, so we obviously needed our beauty rest.
We woke up bright and early (10 is considered early in my book) and walked over to the aquarium, which turned out to be just a few blocks down from our hostel! On our way there, we passed by an ice cream shop called “Lick This” and we clearly couldn’t pass up an opportunity for ice cream at 10 am. I went with a kids cone of Hokey Pokey gelato. Hokey Pokey is a NZ candy and it’s really popular in ice cream treats here? It tasted almost like honeycomb…or something. I have no idea what it was, but it was delicious.
After our ice cream breakfast, we were ready for the aquarium. We saw piranhas, alligators, starfish, penguins, and a giant sea turtle, among other water-things. My favorites were definitely the seahorses, which I had never seen before. They are kind of freaky looking and not as cute as you would imagine. Also the pregnant ones were HUGE. Like, it looked like they swallowed an egg huge.
Napier is known as “wine country” of the wine island, so you know I had to make sure we did some wine sampling. We decided to go to Church Road winery since it was right on a bus route and it was open until 5 (we spent longer than anticipated at the aquarium…typical). It was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend (in my
alcoholic humble opinion).
We got to try a Rosé, a Pinot Gris, a Chardonnay, and a few different reds (I didn’t pay attention to those because I didn’t like them…bad student). The Pinot Gris was definitely my favorite; it was really fruity and a little bit acidic, but not too sweet. Yummmm. The man who took us through the tasting was really knowledgable and put up with all our questions and our annoying American accents. He even showed us the different types of grapes that are used to make different kinds of wine and we got to sample those too. After we tried all the wines, we decided to split a cheese plate to keep our classy theme going. We sat outside and devoured the whole thing, it was glorious.
After the winery we went back to town and headed to dinner. We decided on this really pretty indian place called Indigo. I had some kind of lentil curry with rice and it was delicious.
We had originally only planned on staying over Friday and Saturday, but plans changed so ended up having to book two different hostels. The second hostel was more like the image I had in my mind. There were more people around our age there (the other place had mostly older people and families) and it just felt more hostel-y, if that makes sense. (It probably doesn’t.) We couldn’t decide what to do with ourselves that night, but the other people staying at the hostel invited us to join them for a bonfire on the beach which was exactly what we were looking for.
We built a fire and roasted marshmallows (s’more’s aren’t a thing here???) and made friends with the other hostel goers. We also learned a new campfire trick that I am definitely bringing back home with me. The Germans made a dough before we left the hostel which we brought with us and toasted on the fire. It was SO good! After eating for the 17th time that day, we got sleepy and decided to head back to bed.
Saturday morning we woke up with plans to explore the city and try walking to the beach since the beach directly across from our hostel wasn’t safe to swim in (and instead of sand it was rocks). Our first stop was the Napier Farmers Market.
We sampled everything there was to sample, and eventually bought some cheese and bread for a mini picnic in the park. Best idea we ever had. After relaxing in the sun for a while, we decided to explore the rest of the city. I seriously fell in love with the downtown area of Napier. It had so much character and I loved all the cute outdoor cafes and the art deco architecture.
After we had explored the downtown for a while, we decided to walk to the beach in the next town over since the beach across from our hostel wasn’t safe for swimming or even laying out (rocks instead of sand). On our way to the beach, we found a centennial garden and decided it was worth a stop. It was so beautiful; flowers everywhere, and an awesome waterfall (I had never seen a waterfall in real life before!!).
Our walk to the beach took about 45 minutes, but it was so beautiful we didn’t really notice. It also probably took us longer because we stopped every two minutes to take pictures.
I have literally been dying to go to the beach since the second I got off the plane, so I was in heaven. The water was insanely blue and the water was really warm. We weren’t in our swim suits so we could only wade in a little bit, but it was still awesome. Put me anywhere near a body of water and I’m a happy girl (especially one that looks this pretty). We stopped at a cafe along the water for a snack and some much needed water (it was super hot out). The cafe had a great view of the beach and was also a prime people watching location (even if the waitress gave us a hard time for being American).
After our snack, we started walking back towards town. We randomly found a hike up to Bluff Hill Lookout, and decided to walk up and check it out. The walk was intense (almost all uphill– and steep) and we got lost a few times (Napier Bowling Club?), but it was totally worth it. There were great views of the ocean and the port, as well as the downtown area.
After our hike we were hungry again (surprise, surprise) and decided on Subway since it was cheap and filling. We had a little picnic in the park and then headed back to the hostel to change into swimsuits. We had plans to go to a place called Ocean Spa, which was right across from our hostel. It was a gym/sporting facility that offers guest passes for their pools, hot tubs, and saunas. We soaked in a hot tub for about an hour and a half and finished off in the steam room where we lasted approximately 5 minutes, it was so intense. It was a perfect way to relax after a long day of walking around.
We had to check out of our hostel at 10 am, but we weren’t planning on leaving Napier until 3:30 so we decided to make the most out of our homeless-ness and cafe hop until it was time to drive home. My cutest friend Erika is obsessed with all things coffee and chocolate and she had been raving all weekend about a mocha (called a mochachino here) that she had at a place called 2 Fat Lattes. I had never had a mocha before, so we decided to take a self led mocha tasting tour. We had 2 overall and they were both so fancy and delicious! I may have a new obsession on my hands…
We killed time reading New Zealand tabloids, eating at the cafes, and just having girl talk until it was finally time to head back to Palmy!
I had SO much fun in Napier, and I would go back in a second! I seriously fell in love with the whole area. Napier has basically all of my favorite things in one place– hot tubs, coffee, wine, and the beach. I’m obsessed.