In the heart of the Hawke’s Bay, Napier is a delight. It’s the perfect stepping off point for wineries, art deco architecture, beautiful beaches and the stunning Cape Kidnappers. Not that I saw any of those.
And I blame that on the Econo Lodge Napier.
Now let me backtrack a bit here. I was pretty pumped about setting off on a road trip through the middle of the North Island. My itinerary would see me visit Rotorua, Tauranga and Auckland and start in the picturesque coastal city of Napier.
Checking through my itinerary, I didn’t have high hopes that my Napier accommodation was going to blow me away. The property is one of Choice Hotels’ lower budget, more value-friendly options.
From the outside, the Econo Lodge Napier didn’t impress. Looking like a roadside pub, the hotel did not initially thrill me. But my opinion changed when owner-operator Jeremy greeted me with some good old-fashioned hospitality. To add to this, the rooms were immaculately clean and modern. Kitchen facilities are available for self-catering, and the hotel is a short stroll to the beach.
But I can’t lie, the best part was the bar. I really wasn’t expecting to be greeted with a selection of 30 craft beers from an impressive selection of New Zealand microbreweries. This was more than the good old Monteith’s Special Selection or Speight’s Dark that many bars claim as “craft beers”.
Watching the sunset from Te Mata Peak is a spectacular sight. But I missed that as well. Instead, I went to explore the onsite restaurant, Westshore Beach Inn, and was lured in by the smells of traditional Filipino food. I wasn’t disappointed with my meal. After dinner, it was time to spend some time with Jeremy. The man was a true host and after sampling quite a few of his finest and having a good chat with other guests at the bar, I accepted the fact that sightseeing wasn’t going to happen and headed to bed. I had a big day ahead.
Cycling in the Hawke’s Bay is big business. And with a stunning selection of coastal cycle trails on offer, it’s a must do when you’re here. Bright and early, I met Jenny from Takaro Trails, who set me up for a self-guided bike ride. Now, cycling is something I know a bit about. I have been lucky enough to do a lot of trails around New Zealand in my previous life with NZByBike. And as a Queenstown local, I’m lucky enough to have world-class trail rides and downhill tracks in my backyard. Napier didn’t disappoint.
Jenny and the team at Takaro Trails operate a range of cycle tours utilising the Hawke’s Bay Trail, an impressive network of bike tracks around the area. 200km of mostly off-road trails wind their way through the scenic highlights of Napier, Hastings and Havelock North.
Takaro Trails offer self-guided day rides, privately guided rides, multi-day rides and bike transport. Short on time, I headed out on the Water Trail North and Bay View Trail. This 20km ride is perfect for riders of any ability and takes 2 to 3 hours. The trail is a great intro to cycle touring or for anyone wanting to get a taste of the Hawke’s Bay scenery. Takaro Trails has an excellent selection of bikes, and their rates include bike hire, pannier, helmet, water bottle, route instructions and backup support if needed (which of course, I didn’t!).
I instantly felt back in my bike riding happy place, and could have ridden all day. But I had an itinerary to stick to.
So, I said farewell to Napier with minimal regret that I had missed Napier’s art deco architecture, the famous Hawke’s Bay wineries, or the gannet colony, or the.. oh, never mind. I’ll be going back for sure.
Next stop… Vegas.