No visit to Napier and Hastings is complete without a visit to the world’s most accessible mainland gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and an exploration of the region’s surrounding seventy or so wineries.

Brief history

After James Cook’s ill-starred initial encounter with Maori at Gisborne, he sailed to the southern limit of Hawke Bay and anchored off the jagged peninsula known to the Ngati Kahungunu as Te Matua-a-maui, “the fishhook of Maui” – a reference to the origin of the North Island, which was, as legend has it, dragged from the oceans by Maui. Here, Maori traders noticed two young Tahitian interpreters aboard the Endeavour; believing them to be held against their will, the traders captured one of them and paddled away. The boy escaped back to the ship but Cook subsequently marked the point on his chart as Cape Kidnappers.

Neither Cook nor Joseph Banks, both meticulous in recording flora and fauna, mentioned any gannets on the peninsula’s final shark-tooth flourish of pinnacles. However, a hundred years later, twenty or so pairs were recorded, and now there are 20,000 birds – making this the largest mainland gannet colony in the world.

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