Napier – Art Deco Capital

Our next port of call was Napier in the Hawke’s Bay area. I had been looking forward to seeing Napier more than any other port because of the large number of art deco buildings in the town.
The reason there are so many is that on February 3 1931 an earthquake rocked Napier and the nearby town of Hastings. Many people were killed in both towns and buildings were destroyed. In Napier fires started in three local chemist shops and with little or no water pressure to fight the fires several blocks of the town’s business district were completely destroyed.

As a result of the earthquake both towns were rebuilt over the next two years and Napier in particular gained a large number of buildings designed in the art deco style that was popular at the time.
In recent times Napier has embraced its architecture as a tourist attraction and now hosts an Art Deco weekend every year as well as organising tours and events for visitors all year round.
I love this style of building myself so I was very excited to be able to spend a day in Napier.

When we arrived on Monday morning it was looking a little bit overcast but the rain stayed away as we were bussed into the town centre.Outside the tourist information centre were stalls touting tours of the town and surrounding area. There were vintage cars parked outside and the local guides were dressed in period costume.

This gentleman appears on posers advertising Napier. Photo N. Bovill
This gentleman appears on posters advertising Napier. Photo N. Bovill
Napier's main street.
Napier’s main street.

My first impression was that Napier was much larger than we expected. Naomi and I headed off down the main street trying to take it all in, there were so many beautiful buildings to admire. I could not stop taking photographs. There were some shops selling vintage or vintage inspired clothing and gift ware the largest being the Art Deco Centre near the sea front. In the shop there was a small theatrette showing a film about the disaster. I didn’t get a chance to see it but Naomi did and said that it was very interesting. I found a film on YouTube which I believe might be the same one and have included a link at the end of this post if anyone would like to see it.

The Art Deco Shop
The Art Deco Shop
Retro shopping
Retro shopping

I’ll let the pictures tell the story from here and try to give a little taste of what we saw.


After a while Naomi and I decided to split up. She wanted to visit the Art Deco Shop again and go for a walk on the esplanade. I had seen a park with beautiful flowers which I wanted to photograph. It was raining by this time and I had to shelter for a while but the flowers were so lovely that I went out into the rain to photograph them once it had slowed to just a drizzle.

Our day in Napier was much shorter than we would have liked as we had to be back on board Explorer of the Seas before 3pm. It was still a bit drizzly when we returned but we went out on deck to see the last of Napier as we sailed away. On the shore a jazz band played for us until we sailed and then a gentleman made a short speech thanking us for visiting and they all stayed and waved as we left.

Goodbye Napier
Goodbye Napier


If you would like to know more about the Hawke’s Bay earthquake of 1931 here are some links and some information about Napier’s Art Deco Trust and what it does.


I was born in England in 1957 and lived there until our family came to Australia in 1966. I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where I met and married my husband, David. We came together over a mutual love of trains. Both of us worked for the railways for many years, his job was with Australian National Railways, while I spent 12 years working for the STA, later TransAdelaide the Adelaide city transit system. After leaving that job I worked in hospitality until 2008. We moved to Tasmania in 2002 to live in the beautiful Huon Valley. In 2015 David became ill and passed away in October of that year. I currently co-write two blogs on with my sister Naomi. Our doll blog "Dolls, Dolls, Dolls", and "Our Other Blog" which is about everything else but with a focus on photographs and places in Tasmania. In November 2019 I began a new life in the house that Naomi and I intend to make our retirement home at Sisters Beach in Tasmania's northwest. Currently we have five pets between us. Naomi's two dogs Toby and Teddy and cats, Tigerwoods and Panther and my cat Polly. My dog Cindy passed away aged 16 in April 2022.


  1. Looks like another wonderful place to visit! The video on the earthquake was interesting to watch, although it makes me feel a little more nervous about one hitting here. All that devastation!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.