At some stage in the past few years, Hawke’s Bay got a bit cool. How cool? Cool enough that there’s a boutique gin distillery on the main street of provincial Hastings. But not so cool, luckily, that you can’t order a regular flat white alongside your slow brew. Here’s the best way to spend 48 hours in this beautiful part of New Zealand.
1pm Lying back in Kelly Cutfield’s curved dentist’s chair might sound like a terrifying way to begin your weekend, but the exact opposite is true. Kelly is a dermal therapist, meaning she’ll level up your standard issue facial to something that gives you a truly unmistakable glow, using the innovative ZO range of skin treatments. Muse Skin also offers fillers and injectables – but, honestly, the facials are so good you’d never need them.
3pm Heretaunga St East is Hastings’ bustling heart, lined on both sides with glorious shopping opportunities. French industrial furniture and objet d’art? So Vintage has you covered. Loose linen smocks, candles and stainless steel clothes pegs? Call into Blackbird Goods. Fancy a deep dive into a book and board game utopia? The Little Red Book Shop is your next stop.
4:30pm Happy hour at Mary’s begins at 4:30pm sharp – or wait a little longer and order dinner from an ever-changing menu of incredible fare. Sit outside on the terrace at this bijou wine bar and watch Havelock North wind down for the weekend while nibbling on the KFQ (nuggets of fried quail that are so tasty there would be a national outcry if they were removed from the menu), comforting baked potato gnocchi, or Scotch fillet expertly cooked over coals.
8pm It’s time to check into The Beach House, a Cape Cod-inspired property that’s both effortlessly stylish and wonderfully cosy. Positioned across the lawn from Waimārama Beach’s golden sands, this private retreat has sweeping views out to Te Motu-o-Kura/Bare Island from the deck, a comfortable entertainer’s kitchen, roaring open fires inside and out, spacious bedrooms and a cool separate bunkroom if you’re travelling with kids. Oh, and it’s really well stocked with local Black Barn Vineyards wine – so you never have to leave.
7am Blow out the cobwebs with a beach walk. Although Waimārama is only a half hour drive over the hill from urbane Havelock North, it feels a world away – you’ll spot locals winding in their catches of gurnard or kahawai, runabouts returning to shore laden with crayfish, and dedicated surfers catching a break. Breathe deep – there’s a lot of eating to be done today.
9am Start by picking up a pastry and flat white from Red Bridge Coffee in the Tuki Tuki Valley, then head straight back into town to meet Juliet Harbutt. The food writer and cheese expert runs Hunter Gatherer Tours, and loves nothing better than to take visitors to fossick in figgeries, ogle olive oils and sip syrah. Allow a few hours to gather your favourite bites, finishing with lunch cooked by Juliet at her place overlooking the vines – and a cheese tasting, of course.
2pm Hawke’s Bay is teeming with clever artists – many of whom throw open their studio doors during the weekend, or by appointment. Check out the Hawke’s Bay Art Guide online and make a plan – perhaps you might pop in to see Lizzie Beere and her wild, loose, large botanical paintings, visit Jo Wilson for sweet ceramics, baked with love in her kiln and carefully hand-painted, or drop by Rae West and partake in one of her Let’s Get Sticky resin workshops. The Hastings City Art Gallery is also a must-do – Brian Campbell and Dali Susanto are two of the nationally acclaimed artists exhibiting in May.
4pm The good folk at Hastings Distillers are gin geniuses. The botanicals they painstakingly source from “gin gardens” dotted across Hawke’s Bay include biodynamically grown citrus, aromatics and herbs, which are then distilled with fresh spring water to create a small but perfectly curated range.
Nestle in to one of the velvet banquettes in the beautifully appointed tasting room and enjoy a flight of three gins, including the gold medal-winning Albertine.
6:30pm In a plush art deco building in Napier’s Tennyson St, Central Fire Station Bistro turns out plate after plate of dazzling food. Each of chef/owner Sam Clark’s dishes showcases local meat, seafood and produce beautifully, without being showy. Favourites include the venison tartare and the Matangi beef (the cut on offer rotates, with accompaniments depending on season). Co-owner /pastry chef Florencia Menehem’s jaw-dropping desserts are outstanding – try her mousse with dark chocolate sorbet and roasted plums. The service is accomplished and unhurried, and do check out the wine list of 100 percent local drops.
9am Pixie is a small cafe with a big city attitude, serving up a range of plant-based breakfast bowls, salads and delicious sandwiches (there’s a salmon option for those craving something more visceral) alongside excellent coffee and an array of tempting teas. Co-owners Hannah Moore and Zoe Chisholm have created a light, breezy space and a tribe of faithful local followers who flock (usually in their active wear) to this Havelock North spot daily. A must.
11:30am Napier’s seaside suburb of Ahuriri just keeps getting cooler. Historically a fishing village, it’s the ideal spot for a stroll, a swim (there’s a small sandy beach next to Napier Port where Hawke’s Bay’s hardiest head for a dip, even in winter) and, yes, a wine. Cellar Ahuriri stocks interesting and hard-to-find wines and spirits in Carl Hayes’ Bridge St store, where this consummate wine pro also arranges tastings, private wine tours and wine appreciation classes.
1pm It’s time to go, but not before grabbing one last bite (and stocking up on all the Hawke’s Bay produce you’ve enjoyed so much) at Bellatino’s Food Lovers Market. A paradise for gourmands, Bellatino’s carries local and imported specialty items such as organic chocolate, charcuterie, jams and chutneys as well as freshly made sourdough loaves, pastries and sandwiches. Even better, its two locations mean you can fill your suitcase before heading south (Havelock North) or north (Bay View, Napier) – the perfect end to your Hawke’s Bay holiday.