Napier: Family fun in the bay

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Napier has plenty to amuse and entertain young and old, writes Donna McIntyre.

A Celeste Byers sea wall mural, Napier. Photo / Tre Packard
A Celeste Byers sea wall mural, Napier. Photo / Tre Packard

Napier does family holidays well. The flat terrain by the waterfront means that despite lots of places to stop and visit, little legs don’t get weary too quickly. Walks are broken into do-able sections by the pier, walking and cycling paths, public areas to find shelter and sculptures (including Pania of the Reef), playgrounds, icecream parlours and cafes, sunken gardens, the floral clock and info boards.

The waterfront also offers a great choice of places to stay and eat. And if the children are old enough to ride a scooter or bike, it is easy to cover a lot of ground. If you’re lucky, there may be music at the sound shell after they have made their way along the junior bike trail (with double lanes, stop signs and traffic lights to make them more safety aware).

A newcomer to waterfront activities for the young and those young at heart is Bay Skate, a council-led initiative providing a hub for boarders, scooter riders, bladers and skaters and BMXers, and all in a positive supervised environment. There’s a grandstand (revamped from its former life in Marineland) and shaded seating areas for spectators.

Bay Skate, Napier.
Bay Skate, Napier.

Next to Bay Skate is Lick This. Not only are the icecreams (many made on site) way too delicious with ever-changing flavours (think black sambuca and strawberry, and New York brownies), but do check out owner Steve Manning’s 400-plus scoops, some in the form of a giant icecream art work and others in display cabinets.

If the kids fancy mini golf, Par 2 has two courses set in landscaped gardens. Also on the waterfront is the National Aquarium, where the kids can view native fish, sharks, stingrays, penguins, and even an alligator in the water displays. On dry land are kiwi and tuatara, which you can watch being fed. Kids will love the funny antics of aquarist diver Matt Gowan as he feeds the fish. Those feeling brave can don wetsuits, masks and flippers and feed the sharks. And, after you’ve seen the aquarium and earthquake display and had a bite to eat at the cafe, do go to the back of the aquarium to check out the Sea Walls mural by Jason Botkin and Cinzah, one of several walls around Napier painted in 2016 to raise awareness of the oceans’ beauty.

As you move around town, remember to look up for more of the Sea Wall murals, the Art Deco building’s architectural details (try to spot some of the irregularities in the designs), and the words on walls in the alleyways and back blocks of buildings (including one in mirror writing).

Shops range from brands popular with kids through to boutique stores and craft offerings, and there are plenty of cafes and bars in which to linger.

If you have timed your visit to include a Sunday morning, leave enough room in your bags to take home some produce from the farmers’ market at the A&P showgrounds in Hastings.

Napier Farmers Market.
Napier Farmers Market.

Need a rest? Head to Magnet, Napier’s newest waterfront initiative and especially on target for families looking for an open space where the kids can play while adults get a minutes’ reprieve for a coffee break and a yummy snack.


Getting there: JetStar flies Auckland to Napier four times daily (three times on Saturdays) .

Stay: At the Scenic Hotel Te Pania.

Car Rental: See NZ Dicount Car Rental.

Further information: See

Donna McIntyre. (16th March, 2017).Napier: Family fun in the bay. Retrieved from

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