Beaches, cycle trails and walks in Napier

With a fabulous climate, lengthy coastline and plenty of trails for cycling and walks, Hawke's Bay is an outdoorsy paradise.

If you like being outside, you'll love the huge range of activities to choose from in Napier and the wider Hawke's Bay. The long sandy beaches are clean and uncrowded. There's more than 200km of bike trails for exploring towns, coastlines, wetlands and wineries. And the strolls in Hawke's Bay range from easy Art Deco Napier walks to the amazing Cape Kidnappers gannet hike and Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk.

Hawke's Bay beaches

Hawke's Bay is blissful for beach lovers. The 360km-long coastline includes some of the most perfect swimming beaches you could imagine. Local i-Site visitor information centres can help you find the ideal strip of sand for you, but in the meantime here are a few of the locals' favourites:

  • Curved and sandy, Waipatiki Beach is sheltered by towering cliffs and backed by native forest. There are bush walks, a fresh water creek that's perfect for kids to paddle in and a camp ground for overnight stays
  • Westshore Beach, one of the best Napier beaches, is long, popular and relatively calm, with surf lifesaving patrols throughout summer
  • The pebble beach along Napier's foreshore is great for oceanside walks and there's a jetty that takes you out past the wave break
  • To the south, in the Hastings District, Ocean Beach is a beautiful, long sandy beach with an undeveloped feel and lifesavers during the long summer holiday. There's a beach walk to the north and, at low tide, around the southern bluff to Waimarama. Both take about 4.5 hours return
  • Continuing south to the Central Hawke's Bay district, Kairakau Beach, Pourerere Beach and Blackhead Beach are all magnificent. Each has a campground if you want to stay for more than a day

At low tide, walk along the beach from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers and follow an easy well-marked trail up to the world's largest mainland gannet colony.

Hawke's Bay cycling

Hawke's Bay cycle trails are all flat and easy to ride, so you can pedal your way around the attractions whether you're new to cycling or frequently perched on two wheels in bright lycra. There are plenty of places to hire a bike, like Napier City Bike Hire and Tours right on Marine Parade. You can book comfy cruisers, bikes with suspension, tandems and electric bikes, as well as kids' trainer bikes and even trailers for towing little ones. Takaro Trails Cycle Tours also offer a wide range of self-guided, all-inclusive itineraries from short rides to multi-day tours.

Marine Parade cycle path

The 15km one-way Marine Parade path is perfect for families. Flat, off-road and mainly concrete, it follows Napier's picturesque oceanfront. The trail passes the Junior Bike Park, which has miniature streets complete with traffic lights and signs, and the 500m Napier Pump Track, with its concrete jumps, berms and rollers designed for kids.

Napier city loop cycle trail

From Napier city this 39km loop heads around the base of Napier Hill to Ahuriri's cafes and bars, past the estuary and south along a short section of Church Road to several urban wineries. From there the loop follows a riverside trail towards the ocean and back north along the Marine Parade path. This trail is a great sampler that lets you experience many of the attractions Hawke's Bay is famous for.

Napier wetlands cycle trail

Known as the Water Ride, this popular loop trail includes large areas of wetland frequented by migratory birds that arrive every summer from places as far away as Siberia. It follows the coast north from Napier along Westshore Beach to Bayview, then turns inland to wetlands and south past the airport through more wetlands to Ahuriri. The full ride is 35km, but it's easily broken into shorter sections if you're not up for a full-day ride.

Puketapu Loop cycle trail

This picturesque 18km trail starts and ends at Riverside Park near Taradale. It follows the tree-lined banks of the Tutaekuri River to the village of Puketapu and back. The Puketapu Pub welcomes cyclists and makes a perfect stop for lunch and liquid refreshments. You'll also find some great swimming and picnic spots just off the trail.

Hawke's Bay wine trail

Cycling the vineyards is the active and adventurous way to explore Hawke's Bay's famous Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa wine regions. Located near Hastings, the Wineries Ride is a 30km loop that takes in some of the region's finest wine makers, as well as the Roosters Craft Brewery. There's also a 1.5km on-road detour to Zeffer Cider Co, for another type of bevvy. Bike hire company, On Yer Bike, is located right on the trail.

Hastings cycle trails

From Clive, at the southern end of the Marine Parade cycle path, you can ride inland to Hastings and Havelock North on mostly off-road cycle routes. Another option is to explore the 15km Kidnappers Coast trail through pretty beachside communities like Haumoana, Te Awanga and Clifton.

Cycle to the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony

You can book fat-tyre bikes from Gannet Bikes in Clifton for riding along the beach to the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony; it means you won't sink into the sand or have to pedal too hard. Departure times are set for low tide and about 10 minutes after the Gannet Beach Adventures tractor tours depart. It's about a 4.5 hour return trip.

Mountain biking trails

Mountain bikes can be hired from several places throughout Hawke's Bay and some offer a shuttle service to the best MTB trails. Whether you prefer a leg-burning climb or yahoo-inducing downhill, Hawke's Bay has your ride. Here's an intro to a couple of the top mountain bike parks.

Te Mata Peak mountain biking

Mountain bikers will love the exhilarating free trails at Te Mata Peak, a highlight of mountain biking in Hawke's Bay. There are five trails to choose from, ranging from Grade 2 (easy) to Grade 6 (extreme), so there's definitely something for every rider. The views from the top of Mata Peak, 399m above sea level, are exceptional. You can ride up to Te Mata Peak Park from Havelock North or drive to one of the Te Mata Peak carparks and ride from there.

Pan Pac Mountain Bike Park

Just a 10-minute drive from Napier, this internationally-celebrated park has around 44km of trails built by the Hawke's Bay Mountain Bike Club, as well as many kilometres of forest road rides. This combination ensures there are tracks ranging from easy to advanced. Set in a private working forest, some areas can occasionally be temporarily closed for safety reasons. A permit is always required for access. These are readily available from most local bike shops.

Hawke's Bay walks in nature

Cape Kidnappers walk

At low tide, you can walk along the beach from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers and follow an easy, well-marked trail up to the world's largest mainland gannet colony. To enjoy the gannets, it's best to visit between early November and late February, when they're nesting and raising chicks. The walk is 19km return and typically takes around five hours. It's essential you leave Clifton three hours before low tide and head back from the colony at least 1.5 hours before high tide. The spectacular cliffs that rise from the beach are unstable, so be sure not to climb them or rest beneath them.

Maraetotara Falls, Hastings

When it comes to waterfalls, Hawke's Bay really delivers. One of the best natural water features is 15m high Maraetotara Falls, just a short drive from Havelock North. The water tumbles into a large swimming hole, providing a refreshing way to cool off in the bay's glorious summer. You can also wander through native forest to limestone formations and the site of an old power station on the Maraetotara Falls walk and the riverside Maraetotara Heritage Walk.

Te Mata Peak walk

Sacred to local Maori and known as 'the sleeping giant', Te Mata Peak rises 399m above Havelock North and the surrounding plains. The views from Te Mata Peak lookout are legendary. Although you can drive to the summit, there are walking routes to the top for visitors who fancy a bit of exercise. From the main gates car park, two 5.5km trails lead to the summit and back, typically taking less than 2.5 hours to complete.

Redwood forest walks, Te Mata Park

From the main gates car park on the lower slopes of Te Mata Peak, you'll find a 2.7km, one-hour loop track that leads to Big Redwood Forest, a magnificent stand of 223 California redwoods that climb more than 40m into the sky. Shaded by the towering trees, the forest floor is open and clear of undergrowth, creating a beautiful place to wander or enjoy a picnic. Kids love this magical place.

Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk

Set in the vast Te Urewera wilderness area, the ancestral home of the Tūhoe people, the four-to-five day Lake Waikaremoana hike is one of New Zealand's Great Walks. The lake's name means 'sea of rippling waters' and the surrounding podocarp rainforest is awe-inspiring.

The Lake Waikaremoana track ends are 30km apart, so you'll need to book water taxi or road transport. Huts and campsites along the way must also be pre-booked through the Department of Conservation website. If overnight hiking is not your thing, there are lots of Lake Waikaremoana day walks in the area, ranging from 30 minutes to eight hours return. With these short walks you can choose to discover waterfalls, caves, wetlands, ancient native forest and more. The visitor centre beside the lake can help you find your perfect hike and there's a holiday park with campsites and chalet-style cabins if you'd like to stay more than a day.