10 Best Things to Do in Napier Port (New Zealand) + Port Guide

Napier downtown, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Known as “Funky Little Napier”, the beautiful city of Napier is located in Hawke’s Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

It is situated 410 km/255 miles southeast of Auckland, 650 km/403 miles away from the Bay of Islands, 270 km/168 miles southeast of Tauranga, and 323 km/200 miles northeast of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.

With a population of around 66.300, Napier is a relatively small city and a popular tourist destination whose seaport is a frequent stop in New Zealand cruise itineraries.

The city of Napier was completely rebuilt in Art Deco architectural style after a devastating earthquake in 1931. Set amid the renowned wine-producing region of Hawke’s Bay, Napier is one of the largest New Zealand’s export seaports and the largest producer of grapes, apples, pears, stone fruit, sheep’s wool, frozen meat, and other products.

In this article, I share with you insider information on:

  • Napier cruise port (Napier cruise terminal, getting around the port)
  • 10 best things to do in Napier port and the best Napier shore excursions

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Napier Port Guide

Cruise ships dock at the port of Napier, within a short walking distance from the downtown. Right in front of the dock, you will find a lot of friendly locals welcoming the arrival of your cruise ship with their iconic vintage cars and music. 

The downtown also has lots of vintage cars exposed, which makes Napier city so very special. The city is also known for numerous classic car parades held annually.

Napier cruise terminal, New Zealand
Napier cruise terminal. Photo courtesy of Roxana Popescu.

There are no facilities available on the pier (no shops, no toilets, etc.)

Although the cruise vessels dock at the downtown area, it is not allowed to walk on the pier due to port’s safety regulation (as the Napier cruise terminal is primarily containership terminal).

The downtown is located around 1 km/0.6 mile from the pier, and there are free shuttle bus services offered to drop cruise passengers off right by the entrance to downtown.

Taxis are available at the shuttle bus drop-off point and may be available on the pier based on the request (prior reservation required).

Internet/free wi-fi in Napier is available, however, it’s very limited. You may be able to find it in public libraries or certain pubs/restaurants for an extra charge.

Napier cruise schedules

See Napier port on Google maps

Within Walking Distance from the Port

Napier is a very small town with only a couple of main streets.

Near the shuttle bus drop-off point, there is a spectacular long beach without facilities backed by a beautiful waterfront promenade, and the popular Marine Parade where you’ll find a few streets with a multitude of shops, restaurants, bars, museums, event places, monuments and landmarks. You can climb Bluff Hill Lookout for breathtaking views of the harbour and the city, check out the Ocean viewing platform, or the famous Pania of the Reef statue.

Napier downtown cars
Napier downtown. Photo courtesy of Roxana Popescu.

In the downtown, you will also find a few independent tour operators running local tours and you may be able to see Napier Hop on Hop Off sightseeing bus.

If you decide to take a tour around the city’s countryside (traveling time up to 30 minutes), you will learn a lot about the Art Deco style and the heritage and architecture of the 1930’s era reflected in the city’s main highlights such as the National Tobacco Company Building, the old AMP building, the Criterion Hotel, and Napier Municipal Theatre.

Napier downtown statue
Napier. Photo courtesy of Roxana Popescu.

Useful tips:

  • Closed-toe shoes are recommended if you plan to explore the city on foot. Suggested article: 25 Top Shore Excursion Packing List Items
  • Bring a credit card or cash, preferably in local currency. The currency in New Zealand is New Zealand Dollar (NZD), and 1 US dollar equals 1.44 NZD. See the currency converter
  • The official languages in New Zealand are English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language.
  • The emergency telephone number in New Zealand is 111
  • Napier only has a domestic airport (Hawke’s Bay-Napier-West Shores Airport) located 7 km/4.4 miles (a 10-minute drive) northwest of the port of Napier.

Suggested article: What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 50 Cruise Essentials 

Hotels in Napier

Check out the best Napier hotels on Booking.com, Agoda, Tripadvisor, Expedia, Hotels.com

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10 Best Things to Do in Napier Port of Call

Before I share with you the top 10 things to do in Napier, I invite you to sign up below and get my exclusive, insider Shore Excursion Guide for FREE!

1. Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay is a large region on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island known for its award-winning wines, outstanding Art Deco architecture, a warm, temperate climate and magnificent landscapes.

It comprises two major cities, Napier and Hastings, located around 16 km/10 miles south of Napier. For many years the Hastings District was known as “New Zealand’s fruit bowl” due to its stone and pip production. When it comes to history, Hawke’s Bay has so much to offer due to its strong Māori heritage and the variety of historic landmarks you’ll find on its soil.

Hawke's Bay New Zealand
Hawke’s Bay. Source: Viator.com

Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s leading producers of wine, and for wine lovers, there are many wine tasting tours allowing you to delight in New Zealand’s finest wines and visit its renowned wineries.

One of the most requested shore excursions is a narrated ride on a vintage train where you can learn the history of Napier, Hastings and enjoy Hawke’s Bay’s spectacular sceneries. 

Check out the top-rated Hawke’s Bay tours and activities on Viator and Tripadvisor

2. Hawke’s Bay Cycle Trail

Cycling in Napier is considered the main attraction of the Napier port as it offers incredible panoramic views of the region from Napier all the way to Ōtātara Pā, a scenic Historic Reserve that is one of the largest and most ancient Māori pā sites in New Zealand.

Hawke's Bay Cycle Trail, Napier, New Zealand
Hawke’s Bay Cycle Trail. Photo courtesy of Roxana Popescu.

You will cycle on New Zealand Cycle Trails (Māori: Ngā Haerenga) and enjoy the views of picturesque vineyards, lush orchards and Tutaekuri River. If you want to explore Hawke’s Bay’s verdant countryside and gorgeous landscapes from a different perspective, cycling is the most unique way and a great opportunity to do so!

More info on New Zealand Cycle Trails on https://www.nzcycletrail.com/

Useful tips:

  • You can also rent a bicycle where the shuttle drops you off, but it will be non-guided and you won’t be able to see all the sites. It is more recommended to check guided tour options as it will take you to the most beautiful corners and places on a trail!
  • Bike tours are strenuous and involve at least 2 hours of cycling.
  • Closed-toe shoes are recommended.
  • Bring a bottle of water and have some local currency on you.

Suggested article: 25 Top Shore Excursion Packing List Items

Check out guided bike tours from Napier on Viator and Tripadvisor

3. Hawke’s Bay Wineries

As mentioned earlier, Hawke’s Bay is one of the leading producers of wine in New Zealand boasting stunning red wines (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah) and chardonnay.

There are quite a few popular wineries around the city of Napier such as Sileni Estates (a 20-minute drive), Mission Estate Winery (a 5-minute drive) and Church Road Winery (a 5-minute drive). You can visit decades-old wine cellars, vineyards and delight in delicious samples of exquisite red and white wines in one of these (and many other) renowned wineries.

Church Road Winery Napier
Church Road Winery

Educational and guided tours are offered so that visitors can get a bigger picture and learn about the winemaking process, the history of New Zealand’s wines, food and wine pairing, and so much more.

Useful tips:

  • Tourists must be 18 years or older to consume alcohol.
  • In case you decide to purchase alcohol, check with the cruise ship how many bottles of wine are permitted to bring onboard per adult.

Check out Napier wine tours on Viator and Tripadvisor

4. Church Road Winery Museum

Founded in 1897, Church Road Winery is one of Hawke’s Bay’s most awarded wineries and the oldest winery in New Zealand. If you want to enjoy the full winery experience that includes learning about the history of wineries and wines in Hawke’s Bay, then this is the perfect winery for you!

Check out Church Road Wine Cellar Door tours and activities on Viator and Tripadvisor

5. Hawke’s Bay Horse Trekking

For thrill-seekers and lovers of outdoor activities, New Zealand is a perfect destination due to its natural treasures and breathtaking sceneries. For nature lovers that are looking to experience one of New Zealand’s most remote and mystical areas on horseback, Hawke’s Bay is ideal as it offers stunning views from the mountains of Hawke’s Bay to Mohaka Valley.

You will get to see the country’s native flora, beautiful valleys, rivers, pine forests, unique fauna, and ride to the foothills of the Maungaharuru mountain range.

Useful tips:

  • Traveling time from the dock to the location is between 45 minutes to 1 hour each way.
  • Long pants and closed-toe shoes are recommended.
  • It is mandatory to wear a helmet and fill out a medical waiver. A full safety briefing will be provided.

6. Mohaka River Rafting

Mohaka is a small settlement in the northern Hawke’s Bay region known for its gorges, canyons, spectacular views and lush native vegetation.

If you are a nature and adventure lover, there are outdoor activities offered and one of them is a seven-mile river rafting on Mohaka River. On this incredible journey, you’ll float through Hawke’s Bay canyons and wilderness and enjoy the thrilling ride that you’ll remember for a lifetime!

There are 5 Grades that you can choose from based on your physical performance and strength level, so this activity can be suitable for both families with kids (Grade 2 – a relaxing float) and the bravest ones (Grade 4/5).

Useful tips:

  • Traveling time to the Mohaka River from the Napier port is approximately 1 hour each way.
  • Small groups will be assigned per raft.
  • Raft gear is provided and mandatory.
  • Travel light, no valuables.

Check out Mohaka River rafting tours on Viator and Tripadvisor

7. National Aquarium of New Zealand

Located in the heart of Napier city, the National Aquarium of New Zealand is the place where you can see and learn about hundreds of native New Zealand species including Kiwi – New Zealand’s iconic, nocturnal, flightless bird, and the oldest living Tuatara in captivity.

The aquarium also hosts a wide range of beautiful sea creatures, reptiles, native birds, and other marine and land animals. Walk through the underwater glass tunnel while sharks, stingrays and colorful fish swim around you, see penguins, giant turtles and wonderful corals in this unique aquarium!

Check out prices and opening hours on the official website https://www.nationalaquarium.co.nz/

Useful tips:

The aquarium involves over 40 steps so might be considered strenuous for people with walking difficulties.

8. Napier Farms

You can’t travel to New Zealand without seeing at least one sheepdog demo and learning about New Zealand’s culture and way of living.

Napier boasts incredibly beautiful countryside and a variety of farms where you can taste the local wine and cheese, watch sheepdog demos, and take in unforgettable views offering unique photo opportunities.

Napier countryside, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Napier countryside and wine country. Photo courtesy of Roxana Popescu.

Useful tips:

  • Traveling time from the dock to Napier’s countryside is approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Closed-toe shoes are recommended.
  • Bring cash (preferably local currency)

Check out Napier countryside tours and activities

9. Cape Kidnappers

Cape Kidnappers is located 30 km/18.5 miles southeast of Napier cruise port. Known for its towering cliffs, stunning sceneries and the world’s largest mainland gannet colony, this place is a true gem offering a wide range of activities for everyone.

This place was named after an attempt by a local Maori to kidnap one of Captain Cook’s crew.

Useful tips:

  • Traveling time is around 45 minutes to 1 hour each way.
  • Closed-toe shoes are mandatory.
  • A rain/wind jacket is recommended.
  • To reach the location you may encounter bumpy roads, and 4×4 or safari may be used as transportation.
  • Visiting Cape Kidnappers is not recommended for tourists with back and neck problems.

Check out Cape Kidnappers tours and activities on Viator and Tripadvisor

10. Learn about Maori Culture

New Zealand boasts an incredible cultural and historic heritage, traditions and rituals. To learn about the stories, myths and legends about the proud Maori people, head over to the Hakikino Conservation Reserve set in the rural, coastal Waimārama seaside village in Hastings District.

Waimārama Māori Tours
Waimārama Māori Tours

Useful tips

  • Traveling time from the dock is approximately 1 hour each way.
  • Closed-toe shoes are recommended.
  • Bring cash (local currency recommended).

Check out Waimārama Māori Tours on Tripadvisor

To Wrap Up

Whatever you decide to do in this beautiful port of call, make sure you plan your day carefully and accordingly to the ship’s scheduled time in port. If you are planning a cruise to New Zealand, feel free to check out my guides to the cruise ports of Milford Sound, Dunedin, Akaroa, Picton, Bay of IslandsAuckland, Wellington, Tauranga


10 Best Things to Do in Napier Cruise Port
  1. Hawke’s Bay
  2. Hawke’s Bay Cycle Trail
  3. Hawke’s Bay Wineries
  4. Church Road Winery Museum
  5. Hawke’s Bay Horse Trekking
  6. Mohaka River Rafting
  7. National Aquarium of New Zealand
  8. Napier Farms
  9. Cape Kidnappers
  10. Waimārama Māori Tours
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