Te Mata Peak, in the Hawke's Bay. The view from the top takes in a tremendous expanse of land, river and sea. And there's the clue to the food treasures around here. Sheep, beef and dairy farming. A lot of produce, especially orchard fruit. Not to mention the famous vineyards. Time to leave the peak, and explore.....
A bay and region
We're in the Hawke's Bay, a really impressive food region on the east coast of the North Island. Home to Napier, Havelock North and Hastings.
The region’s name comes from Hawke Bay, into which Captain James Cook sailed the Endeavour in 1769 and named it in honour of Sir Edward Hawke, First Lord of the Admiralty. The story goes that captain and crew remained on board, but local Māori paid a visit, and traded some goods. Fresh and welcome food, no doubt.
So there’s Hawke Bay, the bay, and Hawke’s Bay, the region. And the Māori name for Hawke Bay is Te Matau-a-Māui, from the legend of the fish hook Māui used to fish up the North Island. The fish hook is the great curve of Hawke Bay. Hawke’s Bay, the region, was known as Heretaunga (here, meaning to tie, and taunga, meaning to come to rest). The canoe was tied up here.
And these shaky isles
There's that varied landscape, mountains, hill country, coast and flat plains. It's close to where the Australian tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate, so it's prone to earthquakes.
Famously the largest earthquake recorded was nearly a century ago, causing many deaths and a rebuild of the cities of Napier and Hastings. Napier now reflects that 1931 rebuild, a city of impressive art deco buildings, and a celebration of that period.
First stop Napier
Enjoy that impressive art deco architecture, and the warm, dry climate. Stop by roadside stalls for tremendous produce, call in to fishmongers for seafood fresh from the nearby ocean, and discover butchery offerings with a stunning selection of New Zealand raised meat and poultry.
Then on to Havelock North
There’s Te Mata Peak, delivering panoramic views of the region, and reminders of the legend of Te Mata O Rongokako, the sleeping giant.
The story is told that Rongokako was a giant, terrorising the Heretaunga tribe until falling in love with the chiefteness Hinerakau. Before consenting to marriage, the chief of the tribe asked Rongokako to bite a path through the hills. But Rongokako choked on the earth and died, falling in such a way that his shape can be seen today. He forms the hills and peak, Te Mata O Rongokako, the face of Rongokako…..
And Te Mata gives its name to impressive food producers around here - figs, mushrooms and wine. Discover honey stories, famous coffee, olive oil, and more terrific produce at roadside stalls.
And off to Hastings
The orchards and vineyards surround the Hastings urban area. Especially in summer, you’ll find roadside stalls overflowing with pip fruit and fresh produce. Find delicious bakeries, handmade chocolates and more famous coffee.
And then every Sunday morning, the local farmers market turns on a delicious kiwi shopping experience - handmade cheeses, fresh produce, bakery and other goods, and marvellous meat products. It’s rightly called a jewel in the farmers market crown.
Hawke’s, Hawkes and Hawke
And we can't leave without considering the apostrophe. Hawke’s Bay – apostrophe or not? Captain Cook first recorded it as "Hawke’s Bay". A day later he dropped the apostrophe, and used "Hawkes Bay". The official map of the voyage uses the same form. But back then, there was often a bit of inconsistency.
And Hawke’s Bay, with apostrophe, became the official name, as used in early statutes and official documents. Remember the bay itself is called Hawke Bay, following conventional naming practice. So there. That's the official line.....
What came home
From a region such as this, so plentiful in delicious New Zealand food treasures, you'd be mad not to put it together and create a little sweet treat. Click here to see our simple Hawke's Bay fig, citrus and chocolate deliciousness.
And for more...
For more on what to find and enjoy on Hawke's Bay travels, explore food treasures on our North Island Food Travel Guide app - click here. You'll find delightful cafes, artisan producers, farmers markets, speciality grocers, and more.....