Posted by , 28 January 2016

A night in Napier in the Royal Suite.

We arrived in Napier in the rain.

On arrival at the Art Deco Masonic Hotel, we were greeted with the news that we would be in the Royal Suite for the night. Yes, this was indeed the suite that Queen Elizabeth II stayed in during her Coronation Tour of New Zealand. No doubt a lot has changed over the last 50 years, but it was interesting to look at the photos of the Queen waving from the balcony and realise that the balcony is just outside that door!

It rained the whole time we were in Napier, which meant we really didn’t get to explore the art deco delights of this town. After a walk in the rain, we settled down in a local pub to just have a drink and a nibble – sometimes, enforced idleness isn’t a bad thing but I hate it when our stay is so short.

In the morning, we belatedly made a booking for the Hawke’s Bay Express. It seemed to be the only way we could get to see the town whilst staying dry but if we had stayed longer there were other options too (winery tour? vintage car tour?). The tour simulates a train ride – albeit with an engine made from a converted tractor – but each of the cars is enclosed so as I say we were able to stay dry. The commentary was informative and funny – definitely a local – and covers a lot of ground both historically and geographically. You don’t have to spend long in Napier to find out about it’s redevelopment in the art deco style following an earthquake and the tour takes us around the central part of town with commentary on how the rebuilding work was done. But the tour also covers other parts of Napier’s history and role, including in wool, wine-making and broader agriculture. We stopped off at the old National Tobacco Company Building which is well preserved both inside and out, had a look at a small factory producing sheepskin products and the drove past the large port.

But we were only in Napier for the day, so after lunch we set off for the long drive to Wellington. The early part of the drive is through rolling countryside dotted with vineyards. Most of the drive is through the middle of the island which is more of the mixed farming and towns that we’re used to seeing in Australia.


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