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On The Pulse: It's All Happening In Hastings

If you haven’t discovered Hastings district yet, put it on the must-do list. And if you have, you might be surprised at just how many fresh encounters are waiting.

Head into Hastings city centre and you’ll soon encounter a palpable buzz. Art installations and murals in beautiful public parks and spaces are just the beginning of a rejuvenated city, brimming with possibilities. The undoubted jewel in the crown is the newly opened Municipal Building at Toitoi-Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre.

Closed for eight years for earthquake strengthening, this Category One heritage building is now brightening up the urban landscape and bringing with it a host of new ventures. Here, you can map out your stay at the Hastings i-SITE and Visitor Information Centre, browse some culture at the Ākina Art Gallery and tempt the tastebuds at some incredible eateries, just some of the many that have sprung up all around the district. In fact, food-lovers will be agog at the choices on offer.

Municipal Building. Photo / Supplied

Local Hastings fan, Naomi Fergusson, group manager for marketing, communications & engagement at Hastings District Council, struggles to narrow down her recommendations, saying, “I could go on and on – food is what we do so well”. But perhaps a good place to start, she says, is the iconic Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market – one of the country’s first.

Here you’ll be able to literally get a taste of the region while talking to the people who produce the goods. You’ll no doubt be trying more of these on menus, as seasonal local food is passionately advocated for by eateries. Including winery menus, where a long lunch is de rigueur in Hawke’s Bay – and for good reason. “Craggy Range and Black Barn are set to impress, but you can also tuck into casual or platter style dining at place like Trinity Hill, Oak Estate and Clearview Estate,” suggests Naomi. While the wineries may have put Hawke’s Bay on the foodie map, the choices extend far beyond the vines.

Kindred Road Store. Photo / Supplied

Take East Block on Heretaunga street – this hospitality hub is abuzz with choices, with places like Fun Buns Asian Street Food (who also do a great line in cocktails) the iconic Common Room bar, Sazio Italian restaurant and Decibel Wines urban cellar to peruse. Then back at the shiny new Municipal Building, you can browse the artisan choices at Long Island Delicatessen; stop in for great tapas, or a main meal at Craft & Social; and, if you haven’t had enough of the vinous stuff, be sure not to miss Cellar 495 – due to open in September.

This wine bar, tasting room and cellar is headed up by Michael Henley, one of New Zealand’s few Masters of Wine (he is the 495th Master of Wine is the world, hence the name). Having nailed the wine scene, Hastings also has a burgeoning craft beer and cider industry, so a visit to a tap-room is also a must, reckons Naomi. “Check out Brave, Giant, Three Wise Birds, Zeffer and Abbey Breweries as a start.”

Gin lovers too, are in for a treat, with a sensational experience at Hastings Gin Distillery. Run by a talented duo, you’ll be treated to delicious platters while you undergo a personal tasting experience that allows their hand-crafted award-winning organic gin to really sing – and all in a rather elegant setting.

Hastings Distillers. Photo / Supplied

While wining and dining is something that Hastings does with particular panache – it’s by no means the end of its allure. “You can’t come to Hastings without visiting Te Mata Peak,” says Naomi. “The 360-degree views are breathtaking and although you can drive up, the walk through the extensive network of trails is definitely worth it, or, if you are really adventurous you can get your adrenaline pumping on the mountain bike trails.” Lake Tūtira and Shines Fall are two more great day walks and the secret’s getting out now too about Bell Rock – “probably the best walking track you have never heard of. Killer views and amazing scenery,” she says.

It’s this diversity that makes Hastings such an exciting prospect – whatever the season. “I love that wherever you are you’re so close to a whole variety of outdoor activities from beaches to native bush. And within a few minutes’ drive you can be enjoying a fantastic meal and world-class wine or taking in a show at one of the best opera house’s in the Southern Hemisphere,” says Naomi. With Hastings hitting the so-hot-right-now radar, it’s definitely the time to get a slice of this paradise for yourself.

For more information and to plan your trip, visit @hastingsnz on Facebook or @hastings_nz on Instagram

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