216km (134 miles) SW of Gisborne; 423km (262 miles) SE of Auckland; 228km (141 miles) SE of Rotorua

Napier is bursting at the seams with pride, and so it should be: It is the prettiest little city in New Zealand. It boasts an unbeatable combination of fabulous climate, elegant Art Deco architecture, as much award-winning wine as anyone could want, plus sea, surf, and pretty vineyards - and, combined with Hastings and Havelock North, the best selection of unique boutique accommodations in the country. A wealth of unexpected surprises awaits - it's one of my favorite places.

It hasn't always been this good. In 1931, a massive earthquake demolished the whole of Napier and nearby Hastings, killing hundreds of people. But like the phoenix, Napier rose again, this time on new ground lifted out of the harbor by the force of the earthquake. Rebuilt during the Depression, the town opted for the Art Deco and Spanish mission architecture so popular at the time. As a result, Napier (pop. 58,600) easily claims one of the world's largest collections of buildings in these styles.

Hastings (pop. 67,428) is something of a nonentity by comparison, though it does have some fine Spanish mission architecture, plus Te Mata Peak, with the best views in the district, and it's closest to the famous gannet colonies. It also has excellent wineries and some great accommodations.

Havelock North (pop. 8,507) is a genteel community surrounded by wineries, farms, and fruit orchards. It boasts some of the best-regarded private schools and some of the oldest commercial wine cellars in the country.