At 10:47 on 3 February 1931, Napier and the wider Hawke's Bay was struck by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake, killing 256 people and destroying (along with the subsequent fire) much of the downtown business area. When this area was rebuilt, it was reconstructed in the prevailing Art Deco style. Now it is the Art Deco capital of the world. The demolition rubble was dumped along the eastern foreshore and turned into gardens and a recreational reserve.
The earthquake also raised the land by several metres. The airport and low lying land in the industrial land of Onekawa and Pandora, and the suburbs of Pirimai and Tamatea were previously an estuary. Some of the streets in the area have retained the names they had when they were on the coastline - streets called a quay or a bay may be inland now.
The suburb of Taradale, a separate town until 1968, has the region's oldest and most famous wineries, which host concerts during the summer seasons.
- By car: State Highway 2 passes through the centre of Napier just outside the downtown area. If driving the 142 km from Taupo, check your petrol level before leaving as there are no petrol stations en route.
- By plane: Hawke's Bay Airport is just north of town, beyond Westshore.
- By bus: National bus operators InterCity Coachlines and Newmans Coachlines provide daily services in and out of Napier with connections throughout the North Island. Fares start from just $1 and can be purchased online or via numerous local ticketing agents including the i-SITE information network. Services arrive and depart from 120 Dalton St.
- Taxi. Taxis are relatively inexpensive and can take you anywhere, anytime.
- Bus. The public buses are not very frequent. It pays to grab a timetable in advance. Information regarding fares, zones and timetables can be found on the Hawke's Bay Regional Council public transport webpage.
- Art Deco tour. Take a guided tour or buy a booklet at the Information Centre and give yourself a self-guided tour. Even a few blocks will take you past many of the most significant buildings that exemplify the style.
- MTG Hawke's Bay, formerly Hawke's Bay Museum and Art Gallery, 1 Tennyson St. Daily 10am-6pm. Reopened Sept 2013. $15.
- Napier prison, 55 Coote Rd, Bluff Hill, ☎ . Take a tour of New Zealand's oldest prison.
- National Aquarium of New Zealand, 546 Marine Parade. Has a reef tank, a travelator which spirals its way beneath the enormous Oceanarium, creating the impression of a true underwater experience, and a typical New Zealand rocky shore environment. There are sharks, stingray and hundreds of fish species, many of them representative of the catches from along the East Coast. There are eels, trout, sea horse, turtles, octopus, tropical marine fish, kiwi, tuatara, water dragons, native frogs and crocodile also on display.
- Soundshell and Pania of the Reef, Marine Parade. One of the most photographed landmarks in New Zealand, Pania is a figure of Māori mythology, and a symbol of Napier. She is a short stroll from the city center.
There are plenty of activities for the whole family. For a comprehensive guide on what activities are available visit the local information centre on the Marine Parade. There you will find maps, travel guides and directions and can book tours and transport.
- Art Deco Weekend. Visit Napier in February to experience the sights and sounds of Art Deco weekend. Dress up and eat at one of the picnics around the city, watch the soapbox derby or admire the vintage cars.
- Kiwi Adventure Trust, 58 West Quay, Ahuriri, Napier, ☎ . Spectacular indoor climbing wall. Good value for money indoor activity for the whole family. All day climbing pass $15, children under 12 years $12, under 6 years $6.
- Food and wine tours. Meet like-minded people and share an appreciation of Hawke's Bay's wines. Taste great wines and learn of the area's unique growing conditions. Cheese boards are provided on all tours. Take home great tasting wines and memories.  Depart Napier 1PM, return 5PM. Visit 4 or 5 local wineries. Tour includes tasting Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and much more. Some of New Zealand's finest cheeses matched with wine. Walk amongst the vines and learn about Terroir. Winery tour can be arranged if requested when booking. We like to keep our tours as flexible as possible and always set time aside for people wanting to take time for a winery lunch. We start half an hour earlier if lunch is requested.
- Spend a day at the beach. The golden sanded southern Hawke's Bay beaches of Waimarama and Ocean Beach are located approximately 30 min south of Napier by car and are local retreats in the summer months. These long sandy beaches cater for surfing, fishing, and long walks to check out the native habitat.
- Cape Kidnappers is at the southern tip of Hawke Bay where you will find a colony of gannets. These gannets migrate seasonally and are popular with tourists during the season. You can jump on a trailer towed by tractors to reach the Cape, run by a local business out of the small community of Te Awanga. Bookings and information about these tours are available from the information centre.
The main shopping areas in Napier are down Emerson Street, Dickens Street and in the nearby suburb of Taradale. As well as the usual franchise stores seen across most of New Zealand, Napier also has a handful of independent stores that can be found in the city centre.
- Degas - Womens Clothing & Fashion Boutique, 35 Tennyson St, ☎ .
- Hawkes Bay Book And Music Exchange, 66 Dalton St, ☎ .
- Napier i-SITE Visitor Centre Souvenir Shop, 100 Marine Parade, ☎ .
- Opossum World, 157 Marine Parade, ☎ .
- Groove Kitchen Espresso, 112 Tennyson St, ☎ .
- Hog's Breath Cafe Napier, 49 Marine Parade, ☎ .
- Hot Chick Restaurant, 4 Hardinge Rd, Ahuriri, ☎ .
- Raffles Cafe, 72 Raffles St 4110, ☎ .
- Ujazi Cafe, 28 Tennyson St, ☎ .
- Mint Restaurant, 189 Marine Parade, Napier, ☎ . 5.30pm-10pm. Contemporary cuisine, fully licensed, relax in Mint's stylish interior, enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the lounge before dinner. Reserve your table by phone or our website booking service.
- Shed 2, ☎ . Shed 2 is an Ahuriri icon which was the first establishment to emerge on the atmospheric West Quay. Step inside and you step back 125 years, for the converted storage shed goes right back to the days the square-riggers tied up just metres from its front deck.
- Speight's Alehouse, 60 West Quay, Ahuriri, ☎ . The Napier Alehouse is one of 12 specialised Speight's hostelries nationwide and the only bar in the bay serving all seven of the Dunedin brewery's beers on tap, from top-seller Speight's Gold through to the crafted pilsner, pale ale, porter, old dark and a seasonal ale.
- Thirsty Whale, 62 West Quay, Ahuriri, ☎ . The Thirsty Whale Bar and Restaurant is located beautiful Ahuriri marina. Facilities include outdoor decking, big screen TVs, private bar, and mezzanine restaurant with sea views. Prices for dinner start at around $15.
Accommodation is abundant in Napier and the surrounding area and ranges from luxury to budget; hotels, self-catering apartments, motels and lodges (some with restaurants), homestay; holiday parks and motor camps with self-catering units, budget cabins and campsites. There is also a beachfront youth hostel for backpackers. Families and groups welcome at most establishments; seasonal and group discounts may apply.
It pays to ring and book in advance for several places due to regional events like Art Deco weekend. Such events are very popular and accommodation can be scarce during these events.
Just north of Napier past the airport is the Esk Valley. This is an area that is now mainly orchard, vineyards and a lavender farm. The area is peaceful but only 10 minutes from the bars and restaurants of Napier. It provides a good place to stay for those who want to experience New Zealand country life or stay on a vineyard. There are numerous accommodation options including Esk Valley Lodge which is a renovated house of character formed from one of the original homesteads in the valley.
- Esk Valley Lodge, 342 Hill Rd, ☎ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Boutique bed and breakfast accommodation in gardens and vineyard 15 minutes north of Napier. $150-220.
- The Green House on the Hill, 18b Milton Rd (off Tennyson St), ☎ . Check-in: 3pm, check-out: 10am. Small, friendly bed and breakfast 5 minutes walk from the heart of Napier, in a quiet setting, surrounded by trees. $140.
- The suburb of Taradale is a 10 min drive.
- Hastings city is close by.
- Taupo is a two hour drive away.