5 Things to do in Gisborne & East Cape

Gisborne & the East Cape.

The most eastern city in New Zealand, Gisborne is surrounded by ocean and forested mountains. Eastland is a large underpopulated area with plenty of natural attractions and closeness to the culture of the local peoples.

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1. The First Sunrise in the World

Being the first city in the world to see the sun, Gisborne is the place to get out of bed early and find a suitable spot to see the first rays of light of a new day. Further north the sacred Mt Hikurangi, a non-volcanic 1752m high peak, standing tall over the Raukumara Range, is the first place to catch the dawn. Enjoy the statues of Maui and other of the demi-god's family, on your way to the summit. Drive 190 km north of the city, to East Cape, the most eastern point of the country, another choice for viewing daybreak, while the historic Lighthouse there is worth a visit even during the daytime. While in the area, call in and see Te Araroa, and the biggest and oldest Pohutukawa in the country at 600 years old. The church at nearby Tikitiki has an amazingly beautiful carved Maori church. Try fishing off the longest concrete wharf in the Southern Hemisphere at Tologa Bay.

2. The First European Landfall

On 6th October 1769, Nicholas Young, a surgeon's boy on the Endeavour, sighted land and that is remembered today with the name of Young Nick's Head on the south of Poverty Bay. The ship, captained by James Cook, made landfall on Kaiti Beach on the Gisborne waterfront. Today the Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve marks the spot, but it is no longer on the waterfront. The former waterline is now a mere dip in the ground in front of the memorial. The Waka (Canoes), Horouta and Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru that carried Maori to this area inn about 1350 were also believed to have landed close to the same spot. Incidentally, the waka, Nukutaimemeha, which Maui is said to have used for fishing is believed to lying on the slopes of Mt Hikurangi. The Kaiti Marae (Meeting House), Te Poho-O-Rawiri has a fantastic ornate interior with carvings of ancestral figures, but permission to visit must be obtained at the Visitors Centre.

3. Museums

The Tairawhiti Museum is a social and cultural collection of Taonga (treasure) of the East Cape region, with collections including Fine art, Photographs and Oral history. There are also collections of surfboards, Maori Taonga, and a display called Watersheds that tells of the struggles and endeavour involved in establishing the area. Wyllie Cottage is the oldest surviving European house in Gisborne and includes the stories of the people who have made this cottage their home in bygone years. As a rental property, both landlords and tenants over the years have had their stories traced and recorded. The East Coast Museum of Technology (ECMoT) have a number of vehicles on display such as Emergency, Military and Agricultural vehicles and also domestic goods such as historic whiteware and IT items.

4. Checking out the Countryside

One of New Zealand's nine best walks is the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk, a 46 km trail that will usually take 4-5 days to complete through native bush with giant trees, past isolated beaches, and in the depths of historical sites. The natural flora of the area includes more than 650 natives, many that are rare. Native birds are abundant as and both of New Zealand's bat species (both rare) are found here. Hunting, with permits, is welcomed to assist keeping deer, pigs and possums under control. Rere Falls is a popular place to visit and the Rere Rockslide is one of the greatest natural activities in the country. A naturally formed 60m long slide provides a wild ride for swimmers with tubes, boogie boards or rubber mattresses. Closer to town, the Waterfront and Town Beach Walkway is 2.5 km long walk along the banks of the Taruheru and Turanganui rivers and includes fantastic views. There is a 30-minute walk through the town, the Mural Walk, many depicting the history of the area.  

5. Eating & Drinking Poverty Bay  

It is surprising to many people to learn that Gisborne is the third largest wine region in New Zealand, and the wines produced there are not the usual wines either. Chardonnay is the most grown, but then the runner-up wine is Gewürztraminer, a relatively unknown variety. Ciders are also produced in the area. Local wines can be sampled at the Gisborne Wine Centre. The Harvest Cidery began making cider from their own apples in 1989, and today make a range of quality ciders. Craft Beer is also produced in Gisborne at the Sunshine Brewery, using natural ingredients. Tours of the Brewery are available. Every Saturday, local growers sell produce at the Gisborne Farmer's Market, with fresh fruit, vegetables in season, and hand-crafted cheese offered for sale.

6. BONUS: Steam Train Rides

The Gisborne City Vintage Railway offers rides on its Wa 165 Steam train on a daily ride to Muriwai.

7. BONUS: Build your own Surfboard

A novel adventure offered in Gisborne is the chance to 'build your own' surfboard in one of the city's surfboard workshops. Then you will be able to try out the Gisborne surf.


Mt Hikurangi Entry by permission only

Te Poho O Rawiri Entry by permission only

Tairawhiti Museum $5 pp Mondays only FOC

East Coast Museum of Technology (ECMoT) Adult $10 Child $1-2

Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk Hut Adult $32 per night,  Campsite Adult $14 per night

Gisborne City Vintage Railway Adult $30 Child $12

Build your own Surfboard $1500- $2000

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*Please note: Prices listed here are for reference only and it might change without notice. We recommend you call or visit the attraction's website for current pricing

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