Napier, the Art Deco capital of the world, is the capital city of the Hawke's Bay province.
Pre European, Napier and the surrounding area has a long Maori history with Ngati Awa, Rangitane, Whatumamoa and Ngati Tara living in the area, prior to the Ngati Kahungunu taking over the area and becoming the dominant force from Wellington to Poverty Bay, with the remains on many Pa sites (villages) visible today.
The first Europeans to sight Napier were on the sailing ship Endeavour, captained by the explorer Captain James Cook in October 1769, when he sailed down the east coast after making landfall in Poverty Bay.
In referring to Napier Hill, the future site of the city and its inner harbour Captain Cook wrote in ships journal....
"On each side of this bluff head is a low, narrow sand or stone beach, between these beaches and the mainland is a pretty large lake of salt water I suppose."
The first Europeans to visit the area regularly for short periods were traders, whalers and missionaries. In the 1850's saw the arrival of more permanent residents, farmers and hotel keepers.
In 1851 the Crown purchased the area known as the Ahuriri block, and in 1854 a plan was prepared and the town named Napier, after Sir Charles Napier.
In 1874 Napier became a borough.
The early development of Napier was confined to Bluff Hill and the port area of Ahuriri, with Napier quickly growing and becoming a flourishing commerical centre servicing a wide area, with a bustling port.
At 10.47 am on Tuesday 3rd February 1931 Napier suffered a disastrous earthquake, centred just 15kms north of Napier, measuring magnitude 7.8 and lasting two and a half terrifying minutes.
Nearly all the buildings in central Napier and Hastings were destroyed, with those surviving the earthquake being destroyed by fire following the earthquake. Thousands of people were injured and 256 people killed in what is New Zealand's worst natural disaster.
The landscape changed dramtically with the coastal areas raised by 2 metres or more, with the most noticeable (rising 2.7 metres) being where the Hawke's Bay airport is now located.
From the tragedy of the earthquake and its resulting death and destruction, Napier was presented with a unique opportunity - to plan the rebirth of its entire city centre. In the two years following the quake, the city was completely rebuilt, thus making Napier unique with its Art Deco, Spanish Mission and unique Maori Art forms. Napier represents the most complete and significant group of Art Deco buildings in the world, recognised as the "Art Deco Capital of the world".
Today Napier is a vibrant, picturesque seaside city with palm-lined streets and world-class Art Deco architecture. The mixture of these "re-birthed" buildings, early colonial houses and modern houses give Napier a special charm.
It's compact layout makes it easy to get around, along with an intriguing and beautiful city centre full of pleasant surprises, makes Napier like no other city in the country.