Hawke's Bay is a well-known destination for kiwis to head to for some relaxation time. The region is simply beautiful, tucked on the far east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. At the southern end, you'll find the town of Napier, the art deco capital of the country with tons of awesome shops to wander. At the northern end, you'll find Gisborne, a busy port city. In between? Beauty.
The best way to get around Hawke's Bay is with your own wheels. We did this mini roadie in our little van Bongo, stopping along the way at various free campgrounds and hanging out beach front in our bed looking out onto the ocean. Note that all my 'stay' suggestions below are for campgrounds!
Start your Hawke's Bay roadtrip in Napier, a bustling art deco centre. We enjoyed a couple days here wandering fantastic shops such as secondhand bookstores, jewellery shops, home decor havens, antique centres and more.
STAY: There's plenty of free camping to be found in Napier. We particularly enjoyed the oceanside spots at both Perfume Point, in the northern end of Napier, and the Pump Track carpark, south of Napier.
- walk around the art deco capital of New Zealand!
- wander along the parade
- drive up to the peak of Te Mata
- explore Cape Kidnappers
- go shopping in some of the best shops in town
READ MORE: check out my guide to 5 awesome shops to visit in Napier
Drive along the beautiful coastline to the tiny little hamlet of Waipatiki. This is a small and cozy beachfront town with no service and a free library for all your reading desires. Hanging out on the beach with a book sounds pretty idyllic to me!
STAY: There's a paid holiday park right on the beach here (we didn't stay, but it was beautiful!).
- hang out on the beach
- go for long walks in the countryside
- pick up a book (and leave one in return!) at the little free library
Heading up towards the northern part of Hawke's Bay, you'll find the tiny town of Opoutama. We camped here for our 1-year anniversary and enjoyed the stunning sheltered little beach.
STAY: Opoutama Beach has a free campground with nice, clean toilets and plenty of space to run around!
- hang out on the beach
- go for a walk along the coast
- enjoy the sunshine
Finally, you'll reach Gisborne, a great place to end the road trip. This is a bustling port town with all the amenities you may need. Gisborne is also the closest city to where the sun first rises in the world every day, which is a pretty special thing to experience. There's plenty of beaches around from where to watch the sunrise over the ocean.
STAY: Makorori Beach is an incredible beach - beautiful, wide and the perfect sunrise-watching spot. We weren't impressed with the toilets, though!!
- explore the beach
- watch the first sunrise in the world!