Our wonderfully lively tour guide Wyn took us on a 90 minute walk through the heart of this Art-Deco-by-necessity town. The original Napier was almost completely destroyed in a devastating earthquake in 1931 (which ironically also created potential for the town, raising the ground by 7m and turning a lagoon with a protected port into a full-scale town). Rebuilt during the Great Depression with future earthquakes in mind, architects used the style of the day that was both affordable (concrete is cheap) and practical (reinforced concrete is earthquake-safe and low-relief decorations don't fall on your head)
. Most of the buildings in the central business district have been preserved, thanks to the Art Deco Trust, and the effect is magnificent, though the modern signs on the overhangs are a bit distracting (we've cropped them out of most of the photos). Wyn was super-knowledgeable and we learned lots about the town's history and about Art Deco motifs as well as some fun stories. My favourite was about one business where the work bench collapsed trapping one of the workmen by the leg. The manager had run out during the quake and came back in to find his man, begging him to cut his leg off and save him. The manager turned pale and said he couldn't possibly do that - "But I insist, it is a wooden leg".
Definitely one of the best tours we've been on this trip.
After a day of high quality Hawke's Bay wine tasting (Trinity Hill, Craggy Range, and Black Barn) including a delicious lunch at Terroirs, the restaurant at Craggy Range, and a failed attempt to see the Gannet colonies at Cape Kidnapper's (low tide is critical), we pulled into Napier just in time for the evening Art Deco walk.