Hawkes Bay

Come with me along historic Marine Parade, Napier

Got your scarf? Your hat? Jacket zipped to the neck? Bring your camera but forget the gloves; they’ll only be a nuisance. You need to be rugged up for this walk;  it’s the middle of winter, here. Today the sun’s come out and I’m taking you along one of the most interesting sea fronts in New Zealand. Brace yourself for the cold sea air and prepare to be enchanted by  visual delights that charm photographers from all over the world.

Yes, you and me, we’re going for a stroll along Napier’s Marine Parade.

Dear Reader, we have been there before – several times. This was the very first place I took my camera – remember the photo of a log on the beach – my foot an interloper? It’s where my father defied the threat of a tsunami.  And, it was here John and I met up with my blogging friends Jack, from Jack’s Jottings, and Pauline, from Gypsy Life.

Oriented now? I knew you would be.

Our walk will take us along the most historic part of the Marine Parade, built on the rubble from the 1931 Napier earthquake. I’ve talked about the quake before, too, probably quite often.

Right now, it’s only two in the afternoon and the midwinter sun is already low in the sky.

Looking towards Veronica Sun Bay

Looking towards Veronica Sun Bay

Our first stop is The Veronica Sun Bay. It’s named for the HMS Veronica, the navy ship that was in the harbour at the time of the earthquake. The crew were the first responders. This sun bay is actually a replica of the original. I think it’s a pretty good replica. I’ve lived here all my life and it seems almost the same as the sun bay I sat in many times as a kid.

One time I came here after a horrid job interview. Defeated, I was in tears. A complete stranger, a man who seemed really, really old to me but was probably only my age now, approached. He said, It won’t be as bad as it seems, my dear.

I’d never seen him before and have never seen him again but his words have become a bit of a mantra in my life. Amazingly, I did win the job. I turned it down – on account of a better offer.

Can you spot my shadow? I’m next to the shadow of the centre arch of the colonnade. Above the arch, itself, is the quote: Courage is the thing: all goes if courage goes. I reckon my Dad lived his life according to this motto.

Late lunch in the sun

Late lunch in the sun

No tears for these happy workers, taking advantage of the winter sun. There used to be a clear perspex behind the seats, a shield against the wind; gone now, a victim to vandalism.

Sun dial

Kirk Sun dial

When I was little I was always frustrated by this sun dial. The sun never seemed to be shining when I visited. Today the gnomon (very fancy word for pointer) casts a clear shadow.

The sun dial was one of the first attractions installed on the parade after the earthquake. It was donated by the mayor of Gisborne and designed by Louis Hay – he designed many of the Art Deco buildings in Napier. There are three inscriptions on the dial. The two on the top are a bit preachy, a sign of the times perhaps.

On the marble face:

Smiles equal sunshine in helping folks along.

 True enough, I suppose.

On the square base:

Serene I stand admidst the flowers to tell the passing of the hours.

I don’t know about you but when I want to know the time I am rarely serene.

Near the base of the structure, and probably overlooked by most, is a brass plaque acknowledging the donor. It says:

Calamity is man’s true touchstone.

No doubt earthquake survivors, like my parents, would be able to attest to that.

Kirk sun dial, Marine Parade, Napier

Where shall I go?

As a kid I was most entranced by the arrows at the base, pointing to far away places waiting for me to visit.

Tom Parker Fountain, Marine Parade, Napier

Tom Parker Fountain, Marine Parade, Napier

Further along, past the flower beds that this afternoon are looking a little bedraggled, is one of my childhood favourites – the Tom Parker Fountain.

It was a huge treat as a kid to be brought here to watch the colours in the fountain at night. When I take the first steps toward night photography it will likely be an early subject. Can you spot the moon, high in the sky?

Nearby is the floral clock – another childhood favourite. This, too, is a donated feature.

Floral clock, Marine Parade, Napier

Floral clock, Marine Parade, Napier

Look, it’s taken us half an hour to walk two hundred metres. We won’t get fit, or far, at this pace. But there’s so much to look at, so many photos to take.

I have one more spot to show you before we head back. It’s this: the site of our old paddling pool.

Swan Memorial, Marine Parade, Napier

Swan Memorial, Marine Parade, Napier

Check out the complexity, the detail in the design; the long lines of the bench, the angles and lattice effect in the ceiling, the curves in the stone pillars. So much, some might think too much, but I think,  somehow, it all works.

Of course, as a kid I took all this for granted. This was simply where my Mum brought us for a swim. We used to stand on this bench seat while she changed us into our togs (swim suits for northern hemisphere readers, currently enjoying summer and no doubt reading this in tee shirts and shorts, lucky you).

We would squirm and wriggle and try to hurry but togs weren’t then, and still aren’t, designed to pull on quickly.

In those days there was no fence. It was a paddling pool, free for anyone.

Nowadays a family pass for the swimming complex will set you back $30.00. The upside is that the water is heated; there’s even a sauna and a soak pool.

Some I know go to the pool when it’s threatening to snow. Who would that be I wonder? For myself, I draw the limit when the air temperature drops below 30 degrees – I’m talking Celsius.

On the road side of the wall is the bust of Mr Swan. He was a mayor of the town during the late 1800s.

Swan Memorial, Marine Parade, Napier

Swan Memorial, Marine Parade, Napier

Quite frankly those eyes are designed to freak out the bravest of kids.

It’s time to wander back along the Parade. Notice the old sea wall.

Old sea wall, Marine Parade, Napier

Old sea wall, Marine Parade, Napier

Okay, I’ll own up – I’ve cheated. I took this particular photo last spring; this is a virtual walk, right? The wall was built in the early 1900s to stop the sea spilling into the township during rough weather. It was effective but hasn’t been required for that purpose since 1931. The quake raised the land more than a metre here. In the far distance of the photo you might  glimpse the Veronica Sun Bay and the SoundShell. We’re heading back there, now.

At the Sun Bay turn 180° and this is the view.

Old navy canon and a  kowhai flower, Marine Parade, Napier

Old navy canon and a kowhai flower, Marine Parade, Napier

I can’t help but wonder at the juxtaposition of the canon and the kowhai. What are we telling ourselves? And others? What do you think?

Turn another 90° and you’ll see the T&G Building. It’s one of the most famous of the Art Deco buildings in Napier. I used to go to the dentist here, back in the day.

T & G Building, Marine Parade, Napier

T & G Building, Marine Parade, Napier

We wander down to the beach. Forget earthquakes, today the Pacific is thundering in with enough force to shake the ground. Although in the photo the waves look relatively benign, it’s not a a day to turn your back on the ocean.

The mighty South Pacific, Napier foreshore

The mighty South Pacific, Napier foreshore

No wonder the sea wall was a necessity. Best to retreat to the safety of the path.

A large white anchor catches my eye – stark against the blue sky. A cyclist winds his way towards us. We’ll wait for him to come into the shot. Let’s be surreptitious, we don’t want any posing, just an anchor and a man on a bike. But instead of cycling on by he comes right up to me. Hello, he says with a laugh and he plants a big kiss, smack on my lips.

Do you recognise him? It’s he who must swim when it’s threatening snow. He obliges and provides the photo – but it is posed.

Anchor from HMS Tui, Marine Parade Walkway, Napier

Anchor from HMS Tui, and John on the Napier foreshore.

And, yes, he’s wearing shorts! He doesn’t feel the cold, not like the rest of us.

For more walks, from all around the globe visit Jo’s Monday walks.

And if you like benches, they’re a thing over at Jude’s. This month her theme is unusual details.

31 replies »

  1. This is lovely – but I smiled at your comment about the Northern Hemisphere enjoying tee shirt and shorts weather. Greetings from Scotland! I’m wearing a huge cardigan. And it’s raining.


  2. What a great walk Jill I never tire of Napier and the Marine Parade and what blue, blue skies, but I know from experience those skies mean a cold frosty night. Thanks for the link to our blogs. That day with you and John is one I will never forget. I’ll look forward to your night photos too when the weather warms up.


  3. Thank you! I loved taking this winter walk with you. In Kansas City, the temps is in the upper 90s (F.) and since we’ve had so much rain, even the air is thick with humidity. These shots are fabulously clear. I especially liked the Tom Parker fountain. And yes, Mr. Swan’s eyes are pretty freak-out weird. Even for an adult. Cheers!


    • Hi Janet, Our climate is usually dry, and this winter so far has been particularly dry, which makes the cold a little more tolerable.Thanks for coming along with me. Poor old Mr Swan, such a shame to be inflicted with ghoulish eyes for all posterity.


  4. What a marvellous stroll with you today Jill. I certainly wrapped up well even though the sky and sea look so blue! What a lovely place to sit and eat lunch, though I’d like them to replace the windbreak. And I am a little confused as to why Delhi is further away than Cape Town? Given Canberra is in the same direction I assume we are pointing west. My only conclusion is that it is measured on the latitudinal points.Funnily enough there is a Napier in the Cape Overberg that is a mere 169 km from Cape Town 🙂


    • Hello Heyjude, I often wish for that windshield, especially when the wind is from the South. I wonder if the Napier in South Africa is named after the same British General?


  5. What a great tour! Sure those eyes are freaky! Now is Napier the place with the Art Deco houses along the water on reclaimed land? It have I mixed up my NZ cities?!


  6. Thanks for bring us along on you walk Jill. I love history and learning about far away places and your pictures are beautiful (and I don’t care when you took them). Sad to say that I took our dog for a walk an hour ago (7:00 am) and she was already hot. It’s only 70f but it’s very humid.

    The floral clock reminds me of one that we had in an amusement park when I was a kid. Actually, it’s still there, but the feeling that gets invoked is the one when I was young. I also loved looking at sundials, I even had a pocket sundial when I was a kid. The last picture I’ll comment on is the structure outside the paddling pool. I love lines and structure like this. It’s just fascinating to look at.

    Sometimes I wish I was the kind of person who can wear shorts in the winter…I’m not.


      • I recall it having a compass in the lid as well as some adjustments for major cities. You had to know which one you were closest to. It was a stamped brass imitation of the really nice pocket sundials that I watch being auctioned off on some reality TV shows. I think it cost about $1 at the time from the local “five and dime” store (I don’t know if you had such a thing.


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