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Hawke Bay is a large bay on the eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It stretches from the Mahia Peninsula in the northeast to Cape Kidnappers in the southwest, a distance of some 100 kilometres.
Captain James Cook, sailing in HM Bark Endeavour, sailed into the bay on 12 October 1769. After exploring it, he named it for Sir Edward Hawke, First Lord of the Admiralty on 15 October 1769, describing it as some 13 leagues (about 40 miles) across.
This area of the New Zealand coast is subject to tectonic uplift, with the land being raised out of the sea. For this reason, the coastal land in this area has significant marine deposits, with both marine and land dinosaur fossils having been found inland. The Napier earthquake of 3 February 1931 resulted in several parts of the seabed close to the city of Napier being raised above sea level.
Because the central mountain ranges come close to the coast at the north end of the bay, much of the bay's northerly coastline has deeply eroded tablelands that end in steep seaside cliffs which descend to narrow beaches.
The town of Wairoa lies to the north end of the bay, at the mouth of the Wairoa River and its flood plain, while the port city of Napier lies on the coast and near the southern end of the bay sits the city of Hastings, on the edge of another flat river flood plain. The Hawke's Bay Region, which is distinct from the bay itself, lies on the coastal land around the bay and also in the hinterland to the south.
The bay itself is Hawke Bay, whereas the region which surrounds it bears the bay's former name, Hawke's Bay.