There’s no doubting that New Zealand is one of the world’s most desirable destinations. After all, this is the land of Middle Earth—where the landscape is carved of mountain and sea and reality and fantasy are one. Despite the nation’s popularity, however, the eastern cape of New Zealand’s North Island largely goes unnoticed. Much of this has to do with the fact there’s no international airport, but for those who endure the winding journey to the land surrounding Hawke’s Bay, one of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets is waiting out on the coast. The main towns of Napier and Hastings are awash in art deco architecture, and the region is rapidly making a name for its numerous award-winning wines. The Maori culture here in Hawke’s Bay is some of New Zealand’s strongest, and the Matariki Maori New Year is celebrated here more heavily and fully than anywhere else in the country. Take a stroll on Cape Kidnappers past thousands of nesting seabirds, or visit the National Aquarium of New Zealand on Napier’s Marine Parade. This is the world’s first spot to experience dawn and a land of empty shorelines—and New Zealand travelers would rave about it more if only they knew it was here.
Hawke’s Bay is located nearly six hours from Auckland and three hours from Wellington. Taupo and Rotorua are a little bit closer at only two hours away, and Hawke’s Bay airport outside of Napier is serviced by domestic flights. This area is also one of New Zealand’s sunniest and there’s never a bad time to visit, and making the journey all the way out east is often half of the fun.