Bluff Hill Domain Lookout

As one of the best vantage points in Napier, this rocky viewpoint has commanding views of the turquoise waters of Hawke’s Bay and the Port of Napier.

Drive up to the Bluff Hill Domain Lookout to see the Port of Napier from above and take in the stunning colors and features of Hawke’s Bay.

When the British explorer Captain Cook sailed by on October 15, 1769, he marked this spot as "Bluff Head" in his logbook, a perfect marker along the Hawke’s Bay coast.

On a clear day, try to spot the Mahia Peninsula and the hills beyond Wairoa to the north and the reflective white cliffs of Cape Kidnappers to the south. Turn around and you will be able to see the towering Ruahine Range to the west.

The peaceful birdsong of fantails, bellbirds and tuis in the little park on the top conceal the fact that the Bluff Hill Domain was once where gunners for the 77 Battery 10 Coast Regiment NZA were stationed. During World War II, this strategically perfect clifftop was chosen as the spot to defend the city from possible attacks. The lookout’s enclosures were built on the concrete remnants of the battery’s two 6-inch gun emplacements. The gunners' barracks were located behind the battery.

The Port of Napier is one of New Zealand’s largest working ports by volume. The docks are always a hive of activity and it’s fascinating to watch the heavy trucks drop off full containers and one of New Zealand’s main export items: forestry harvests. A real highlight in summer is watching cruise ships enter the harbor. From this high point, the massive cruise liners resemble toy ships.

If you plan on visiting the lookout on foot, note that it’s a half-hour walk from Napier city center. Find the path up through Sturm's Gully via its Lighthouse Road entrance to make the most of the shade its tall trees offer. Sturm was a botanist from Austria who started a plant nursery here around 1865. Be prepared to climb up lots of steps before you get to the lookout.

If you are driving, you’re in for some steep roads with hair-pin bends, but it's a short drive and the views are worth the trip. At the top there is ample parking, public toilets and rain shelters.