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Hawkes Bay Spotlight

June 01, 2021

cape kidnappers

Why visit Hawke’s Bay?

If you’ve ever wanted plentiful sun, delectable food and wine, and awe-inspiring sightseeing in a single location, Hawke’s Bay should be your next holiday destination.

This picturesque region is bursting with outstanding eateries, wineries, hiking and biking trails, and sightseeing opportunities. A haven for Kiwis seeking a temperate climate, Hawke’s Bay also provides a seasonal destination for thousands of gannets. Their colony on Cape Kidnappers is a popular tourist spot between September and April each year.

We profiled Hawke’s Bay in our latest Hibernate magazine (Autumn 2021). But we couldn’t fit every incredible thing this region has to offer on the pages. So, here are a few of our favourites that didn’t make it into Hibernate.


Eat and Drink


Church Road Winery
With over 120 years of winemaking experience, Church Road Winery is not only one of New Zealand’s oldest vineyards but also one of Hawke’s Bay’s most awarded. Founded in 1897, Church Road Winery offers a wide range of experiences for oenophiles and foodies alike. Follow up a Cellar Door wine tasting and winery experience with food from the winery restaurant. Topped off by locally sourced artisanal products. With stunning grounds available for relaxation and scenery-soaking, Church Road Winery is definitely worth a visit.

Hygge at Clifton Bay
The Danish word ‘hygge’ describes a state of contentment and comfort. Hygge at Clifton Bay encompasses just that. Popular with local families and tourists alike, Hygge offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Cape Kidnappers. With an expansive menu of locally sourced produce and options for most tastes and requirements, no diner will feel left out at Hygge at Clifton Bay. Perfectly positioned for a rest, Hygge lies beside the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony tour pick-up and drop-off point. Whether you’re after a quick bite to eat or a long and leisurely lunch, Hygge at Clifton Bay has what you need.

Art and Culture

Tennyson Gallery
Found on the corner of Tennyson and Hastings Streets in Napier, Tennyson Gallery showcases talented Hawke’s Bay, and New Zealand, artists. Inside, you’ll discover an array of beautifully curated handcrafted objects, jewellery, ceramics, and fine art. A welcoming and vibrant space in the heart of Napier City, Tennyson celebrates creativity, individuality, and beauty across many mediums. So, whether you’re an art collector or art admirer, be sure to pop by Tennyson Gallery for a browse.

Morere Hot Springs
Did someone say therapeutic relaxation? At the Morere Hot Springs, you’re likely to leave with newfound energy and a revitalized body and mind. While soaking amid native greenery we’re pretty sure you’ll agree that this is one of Hawke’s Bay’s best offerings. Nestled in 364 hectares of beautiful native rainforest and producing up to 250,000 litres of hot seawater daily, Morere Hot Springs offers a variety of natural hot pools. Enjoy the bliss of being surrounded by mountain views and steaming pools as you unwind.

National Aquarium of New Zealand
An adventure for the whole family. An astonishing number of species enjoy the water at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Watch the fascinating little penguins in their cove and check out the graceful sharks and stingrays as they glide around the oceanarium. On the other side of the glass, of course! And for insight into land animal conservation, the native New Zealand icons exhibition is home to uniquely New Zealand species. Tuatara and kiwis are waiting to see you. With an emphasis on conservation education, the National Aquarium is well worth a visit.



Te Mata Peak
Standing nearly 400m above sea-level to the west of the Heretaunga Plains is Te Mata Peak. Scenery-lovers can enjoy biking, driving, or hiking to this legendary peak for panoramic views of Cape Kidnappers and the Ruahine, Kaweka, and Maungaharuru ranges. The nature trails leading to the peak are a great source of cardio exercise for hikers and bikers alike with the expansive views more than making up for the exertion required to reach it. If you’re staying a while, explore the trails throughout Te Mata Trust Park, including routes along limestone valleys.

Lake Tūtira
Popular for swimming and picnics, Lake Tūtira is nestled within a large country park between Wairoa and Napier. The wildlife refuge was declared a bird sanctuary in 1929. We recommend that you take the time to spot a variety of bird species as you hike the walkway toward the lake. Home to native birdlife including pukeko, fantails (pīwakawaka), and New Zealand wood pigeons, Lake Tūtira is also known for good trout fishing, courtesy of a stream that flows into its northern reaches. For many years Māori lived seasonally by the lake, and visitors can see the remnants of six pā sites. An idyllic and unforgettable place to have a picnic and enjoy the scenery, add Lake Tūtira to your must-see list for Hawke’s Bay.

Cape Kidnappers Gannets – A Closer Look

There are a total of three gannet species soaring about the globe with the Australasian gannet visiting Cape Kidnappers each year from September to April.

Fortunately for New Zealander, the Cape Kidnappers colony is the largest and most accessible gannet colony in the world. Birds began breeding at the cape in the 1880s and visitors have been flocking there ever since. Cape Kidnappers now hosts more than 20,000 gannets during peak times.

Located half an hour’s drive east of Hastings, the gannet experience is quite remarkable. Seeing gannets in their natural habitat is a rare delight. Visitors can get very close to observe the birds as they nest in tightly set rows or swoop overhead, delivering the catch of the day. With an impressive monochromatic plumage, yellow crowns, and a wingspan of 1.5 - 2 meters, it’s no surprise that gannets are so popular among bird enthusiasts and visitors to the region. And for you photo-takers, their impressive wingspan and ability to glide through the air create incredible photo opportunities!

The water at Cape Kidnappers is filled with gannet favourites, like anchovies and pilchards. If you’ve ever wondered where the term ‘gannet’ comes from, in reference to eating ravenously, here’s your answer! Gannets are known for eating significant quantities of fish and the way they catch their food is incredible to watch. A head-first plunge into the sea at speeds of up to 145 km per hour creates a spectacular splash as they catch their prey unawares. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot some dive bomb action from the lookout at Cape Kidnappers.

As this is a nesting site, visitors in mid to late November will be able to view hatching gannets. The eggs are kept incubated under the gannets until it’s time to hatch. Gannet chicks build strength and learn how to survive on their own during their first 15 weeks before fleeing the colony for Australia. Once their offspring have departed the colony, the adult gannets begin to leave as well. Their sights are set on Australian land for its more temperate climate over the cooler months.

Fledglings often remain in Australia until their third year when they decide to venture back to their homeland; New Zealand. Once paired with another, Australasian gannets are loyal creatures often remaining with one breeding partner for many seasons. These astounding birds can live up to 30 years of age, and unlike many other species, their numbers are growing thanks to conservation efforts.

If you’re heading to the Hawke’s Bay to see the gannets before they head across the ditch, why not make a trip of it? With so much on offer, the region almost demands that visitors stay a while!