Clarke (100 not out) put aside his broken engagement to celebrity model Lara Bingle to help Australia to a comfortable 316 for 4 at stumps on Day 1.
Western Australian left-hander Marcus North, whose position in the team was under intense scrutiny, is still batting on 52 after sharing an unbeaten partnership of 140 with Clarke.
Earlier, opener Simon Katich [ Images ] got Australia off to a solid start, scoring a typically gritty 79 before being trapped LBW by debutant Brent Arnel.
Katich, who hit eight fours and one six, was lucky not to be out caught behind on 68 off Tim Southee's [ Images ] bowling and again in the next over he gave a chance to mid-on from spinner Daniel Vettori [ Images ] on 70.
Australian all-rounder Shane Watson pulled out with a hip injury at the last minute after a bruise inflicted by Kiwi paceman Shane Bond [ Images ] during the One-Day International series developed into a muscle strain.
With the absence of Watson, 21-year-old Hughes got the opportunity to play his seventh Test. However, Hughes failed to capitalise on a promising start and fell for a paultry 20 runs when he slashed a wide ball from debutant seamer Brent Arnel to slip in the sixth over.
Hughes hit four boundaries and faced only 24 deliveries.
Australia then reached 93 for 1 at lunch.
Ricky Ponting [ Images ] was run-out soon after lunch for 41 after a mix-up with Katich, who pushed a ball to cover and the skipper hesitated before falling well short of his ground at the striker's end.
Katich, who appeared to be the one who called, threw his head back in disappointment at his role in the key dismissal and Ponting was furious as he departed.
Mike Hussey [ Images ] (4) was caught in the slips off Chris Martin's bowling, reducing the Australians to115 for 3.
Australia named Victorian quick Clint McKay as 12th man while spinner Jeetan Patel [ Images ] will carry the drinks for the Black Caps.