Napier, New Zealand | the Art Deco city

We decided to make an impromptu side trip today to Napier, New Zealand. (We are staying at the Farm at Cape Kidnappers, about 30 minutes to the south). Napier is a small beach town on New Zealand's North Island, known as the Art Deco city. Dropped off at the local tourism office, we learned that we had just missed the regularly scheduled daily walking tour of Napier. We made arrangements for a private walking tour after lunch, then went off on our own.

At 1:30 p.m., we met up with our guide and began our tour. The town of Napier suffered a strong earthquake in 1931 that devastated the town. The 7.8 magnitude quake shook the town for two-and-one-half minutes, destroying everything that wasn't constructed of reinforced concrete. The leaders of Napier decided to rebuild the town using an Art Deco design motif for the new buildings of the town. Our guide talked about the reasons for that decision, described various design elements of Art Deco, and then took us around town. She pointed out the external architectural features of the buildings, noted some of the decisions made by the city planners (underground utilities, splayed corners, street names on the sidewalk), and took us into a number of buildings with extremely attractive interiors. It was a fascinating hour.

I was struck by the difference between the first 3 hours spent exploring on our own and the final hour walking around Napier with our knowledgeable guide. While everything she showed us was obviously there for anyone to see ... with our untrained eyes, we had missed it all. Napier had not seemed like much of a destination, but now through the trained eyes of an expert guide, we could appreciate that Napier was a very special place with a unique story. I highly recommend spending a morning or an afternoon, and be sure to sign up for the daily scheduled tour!

More information on Napier, New Zealand, contact the Art Deco Trust or your travel consultant.

Napier, New Zealand (search here on Google)

copyright (c) 2009 by David J. Ourisman. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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