Where we live and fly…

Vineyards of Hawke's Bay

Vineyards, vineyards everywhere – and not a drop to drink from up here. The grape-rich landscape south of Hastings aerodrome and, top, Porangahau in Central Hawke’s Bay, both pictured by Peter Scott

Hawke’s Bay is known by Maori as Heretaunga. This seems to translate as “the fertile land of rich, fat people unable to carry their luggage”. Our place lies on the east coast of the country’s North Island.

Hawke’s Bay is famous for its climate, its wines and its abundant food. The title is based on Captain Cook’s name for the Hawke Bay. The region’s most recognised coastline extends for 100 kilometres from the Mahia Peninsula to Cape Kidnappers but it actually runs much further south to include lonely beaches and sparsely populated countryside. Hawke’s Bay’s western borders are set by some of the forbidding mountain ranges that divide the North Island.

The region includes dramatically varied coastal land in the northern sector of a¬†long and gently curving bay, the floodplains of the Wairoa River, the broad and fertile Heretaunga Plains around Hastings in the south, and a hilly interior stretching up into the Kaweka and Ruahine Ranges. To the north-east lies the scenic Mahia Peninsula, and the region borders Lake Waikaremoana and the Ureweras, homeland of the Tuhoe tribe (also known as the Children of the Mist). Some say that Waikaremoana is New Zealand’s most beautiful lake.

To the south, Central Hawke’s Bay features some unusual microclimates and wonderful coastline – and its people have a reputation for an off-beat view of the world.

Hawke’s Bay’s long, hot summers and cool winters provide an ideal climate for growing grapes. Missionaries in the mid-19th Century planted the first vines (and these days the Mission vineyard is venue for an annual open-air concert that has featured artists such as Eric Clapton, Sting and Rod Stewart performing before audiences of more than 25,000). Hawke’s Bay produces unusual, full-bodied red wines, the best of which come from the Gimblett Gravels which sit above an enormous and ancient water source.

Hordes await the arrival of Sting at the Mission Concert 2011. Picture by Chandeleah (http://chandeleah.wordpress.com/)

The Bay is New Zealand’s fruit and vegetable bowl, and the soils of the Heretaunga Plains are among the world’s most fertile. In the hilly parts of the region, sheep and cattle farming is a feature, with forestry blocks in the rougher areas.

The climate is dry and temperate – rather like parts of Southern France, but the weather can be dramatically different from the Mediterranean. The rugged western ranges protect Hawke’s Bay from much of the effects of New Zealand’s predominantly westerly flow of weather. But when an easterly¬†trend beds in, it may persist for days, banking up against the ranges and producing incessant rain or drizzle and poor visibility. Many times, pilots have been stuck in the Bay for days, waiting for it to clear.

The two main centres are Napier, famous for its post-1931 earthquake Art Deco architecture, and Hastings, the commercial hub, where many post-quake buildings reflect the Spanish style. The region is home to about 155,000 people. Hawke’s Bay has always had the potential to be one of the North Island’s most attractive tourist destinations, but its development has been hampered because of difficult access by road or rail.

The result? For most people, our place is still a hidden treasure. Unless you are a pilot…

There are five main aerodromes:

– Hawke’s Bay Airport in Napier

– Hastings aerodrome at Bridge Pa

– Wairoa

– Waipukurau and

– Dannevirke

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