Gisborne is the largest city in the region with a population of just under 40,000 people and is the first city in the world to witness the first sunrise of the year! This is due to New Zealand sitting just to one side of the international date line, while Samoa decided to join our side of the date line in 2011, thanks to the tilt of the earth during this time of year New Zealand still gets the first sunrise each year. This also makes Gisborne a popular new years eve destination as people can be the first in the world to party in the new year, Rhythm and Vines is a popular new years festival that attracts up to 30,000 people annually for a 3 day festival in one of the local vineyards just outside of the city.
Gisborne is also known for being one of the top surf destinations in New Zealand, with an outstanding range of surf beaches to choose from up and down the coast. Some of our favourite natural attractions near the city include Wainui Beach, and the Rere Rockslide. This 200ft natural rockslide is formed by moss and algae growing over a rock face smoothed over time by the river and is the best slip and slide you'll ever find! It pays to take something with you such as a body board to slide down on, and you do so at your own risk, this is a free attraction open to the public. After you've finished on the rockslide head downstream to check out the impressive 15m high Rere Falls.
Gisborne is located on the east coast pf the lower North Island, it is a little out of the way but it's definitely worth the visit! By road it will take 6-7 hours from Auckland or 4 hours from Tauranga, alternatively there is a local domestic airport very close to the city.
Tolaga Bay/Cooks Cove
Tolaga Bay is a large sheltered bay approximately 50km north of Gisborne and at the southern headland of the bay lies Cooks Cove, a bay where Captain James Cook and his men spent several days repairing their ship, the Endeavour, after being the first europeans to set foot on New Zealand soil. While the first European to sight New Zealand was Abel Tasman and his crew nearly 127 years earlier, they never set foot on land due to conflict with the native Maori people.
Cook went on to chart much of the New Zealand coastline and later led further expeditions back to New Zealand that paved the way for the British colonisation of the country and the shaping of our history. Cooks cove can be reached by a 3 hour return walk that takes you all the way to the sheltered beach and offers fantastic coastal views along the way.
Tolaga Bay itself is a stunning beach that boasts the longest pier in the southern hemisphere, opened in 1929 and originally used by large trading ships, the pier soon became obsolete as improving roads and motor vehicles began to outcompete coastal shipping. This picturesque 660m (2165ft) pier is a fantastic spot for exploring, fishing and photography.
Life runs a little slower in the most eastern parts of New Zealand, if you really want to step back in time and experience the real kiwi lifestyle, East Cape is the place to do it. The coastal highway 35 follows a winding route from Gisborne up and around the Cape before finishing up at Opotiki (or vice versa), this surreal stretch of coastline is virtually untouched from large developments and is worth taking the time to explore.
There are dozens of beautiful bays, many with small campgrounds and cabins such as Anaura Bay, Waihua Bay and Cape Runaway. St Mary's Church in Tikitiki is a surreal memorial to the Maori men who fought and died in World War One, and is a popular stop for visitors to witness the lovingly carved and decorated interior. Enjoy the beaches, meet the locals, travel back in time and don't be surprised is some of the locals trot by you on horseback. East Cape is truely on of New Zealand's hidden gems.
Mount Hikurangi is recognised as the first place on the New Zealand mainland to greet the sunrise each day, and holds cultural significance to the Maori people. According the Maori legend, a demigod name Maui fished the North Island from the ocean, as he did do Mount Hikurangi was the first point to emerge from the sea as it is the tallest non-volcanic peak in the North Island. To read more detailed history visit Te Ara - The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.
On the mountainside, 1000m above sea level there are 9 carved statues that depict Maui and his whanau (family), these carvings were created at the turn of the millennium as a tribute to the culture of the local people. You can join a four wheel drive tour of the area, or hike to the summit. Be aware that this is an alpine environment at with the summit standing at 1752m above sea level so come prepared and check the weather forecast, the track does cross private land so please respect this and stick to path. The hike to the summit takes 7 hours each way, with a hut about two thirds of the way up, if you plan to attempt this hike visit the DOC webpage for more information. Mount Hikurangi is approximately 80km or an hour and a half drive north of Gisborne.