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East Cape
-> Map of the East Cape

Our East Cape travel tips:

  • East CoastUsually only travellers with plenty of time on their hands think about visiting the East Cape region - and will be rewarded with lots of special experiences
  • The East Cape is a truly authentic part of New Zealand, but inland it gets even better with the Te Urewera National Park
  • Look out for the carved meeting houses on your way, this region has the finest carving tradition in New Zealand
  • You can follow the Pacific Coast Highway route all the way from Whakatane to Gisborne
  • Plan ahead, as accommodation options are not as diverse as in other parts of New Zealand
East Cape region: Tolaga Bay Wharf

Enchanting landscapes and ancient stories

Eastland is the place where the first Polynesian migration canoes landed, where Captain Cook made his first landfall and where Maori and European first encountered each other.

Maori life is evident in every settlement you see. There are carved meeting houses, beautifully painted Maori churches, children riding horses bareback on the beach and conversations in Te Reo. Deep in the misty Te Urewera Ranges, descendents of the ‘Children of the Mist’, the ancient Tuhoe tribe, still live in harmony with the forest around the village of Ruatahuna.

The landscape - coastal and inland - is untamed and wild. You can lose yourself in the hills and valleys, and renew your inner peace on the beautifully natural beaches.

East Cape region: carving in GisborneThe largest population centre in the region is Gisborne, a city that manages to combine the science of fine wine making with the laid back, down-to-earth attitude of life in the sun. Gisborne is Eastland’s biggest population centre and the first city in the world to see the sunrise each day. Known as the "Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand", Gisborne produces premium white wines.

Within its boundaries, Te Urewera National Park encloses Lake Waikaremoana and the largest untouched native forest in the North Island.

The touring route that follows State Highway 35 takes you to spectacular coastal scenery, with many interesting cultural highlights along the way.

See here for hotels on the East Cape.

Source: Tourism New Zealand

Highlights of the East Cape region

  • East Cape region: OpotikiOpotiki to East Cape: The drive starts in Opotiki with its historic missionary church from 1861 and the excellent Waiotahi Beach, passing through plenty of ideal beach camping spots and past carved meeting houses. Cape Runaway is not accessible, but Whangaparaoa village is the landing place of two Polynesian migrations and has its firm place in Maori history (look out for the carved Kauaetangohia Marae in town). Hicks Bay and Onepoto Bay are further steps on the way to the East Cape lighthouse, New Zealand's easternmost point. It's quite a climb up to this mystical spot, the first on the mainland to see the dawn of each day - apart from the top of nearby Mount Hikurangi (1,752 m) of course. In Te Araroa you can admire a giant Pohutukawa tree called Te Waha-o-Rerekohu.
  • East Cape region: Tikitiki churchEast Cape to Gisborne: The Saint Mary's Church in Tikitiki has one of the finest carved interiors in New Zealand. Tokomaru Bay is another delightful spot on the way, with its wild East Coast beach and the hills in the background. Tolaga Bay was named by James Cook, he would also have been impressed by the remarkable 660 metre long jetty not far south of town. Whangara is the village of the legendary whale rider, but the meeting house is not for public viewing. Close to Gisborne there is another great surf beach, Wainui Beach. James Cook also named Poverty Bay, where he first set foot on New Zealand soil. Contrary to the name, this valley where Gisborne was later built is actually extremely lush.
  • Gisborne: This Pacific town has a very nice swimming beach and plenty of Maori heritage, complete with an interesting museum. Ask at the visitor centre for opportunities to visit a meeting house in the area. On top of Kaiti Hill is the James Cook Observatory and a great lookout point. Gisborne is the beginning of wine country, as many will be pleased to hear.
  • East Cape region: giant rata tree in the Urewera ForestSouth of Gisborne: The road over Wharerata Hill has some highlights like the large Matawhero Saleyards and the beautiful marae of Manutuke, before reaching Mahia Peninsula via the Morere Hot Springs.
  • Inland roads: The Waioeka Scenic Highway links Opotiki and Gisborne, winding itself through beautiful native bush, don't miss the 5 minute detour to Tauranga Bridge from 1922, a historic suspension bridge. The Te Urewera Rainforest Route links Wairoa with Rotorua, leading through the very special Te Urewera National Park, home of the Tuhoe tribe (the 'children of the mist'), where hunting, horse riding and speaking Te Reo are still part of daily life. Lake Waikaremoana is the gorgeous heart of the National Park, where most activities and walks are based.

The best East Cape walks

  • East Cape region: Cooks Cove WalkwayAnaura Bay Scenic Reserve - coastal walks, with access to the Anaura Bay Walkway (4 h), at State Highway 35 between Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay
  • Cooks Cove Walkway - coastal walk with views (2,5 h return), 2 kms south of Tolaga Bay
  • Nikau Loop Track in the Morere Springs Scenic Reserve (20 min), access from the Morere Hot Springs Pool Complex, State Highway 2, south of Gisborne
  • Te Kuri Farm Walkway - round trip through farmland with the 290 m high Town Hill viewpoint on the way (3 h return), Shelley Road, Gisborne
  • East Cape region: Anaura Bay beachHukutaia Domain - wonderful hike to an ancient holy Puriri tree named Taketakerau (30 mins return), end of Woodlands Road, Opotiki
  • Te Waiti Nature Trail (1 h return), starts at the Boulders Campsite, also close is the Te Waiti Hut Walk with a river crossing (4 h return), starts at the Hastings Pole Bridge on Te Waiti Valley Road, near Opotiki
  • Motu Trails - extensive cycling routes south-west of Opotiki
  • Rere Falls and Rockslide - wide 25 metre high cascade, Rere Falls carpark, Wharekopae Road, 45 minutes west of Gisborne
  • Lake Waikaremoana - a wide range of walks, for example the Lake Waikareiti Walk (2 h return), most walks start at the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre

East Cape region: lighthouseThe best East Cape lookouts

  • Town Hill Lookout, Te Kuri Farm Walkway, Shelley Road, Gisborne
  • Titirangi Lookout, Kaiti Hill, Queens Drive, Gisborne
  • East Cape Lighthouse
  • Lou's Lookout near Lake Waikaremoana, 9 kms south of the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre

East Cape region: sunrise at Waipiro BayThe best East Cape museums

  • Tairawhiti Museum, Stout Street, Gisborne
  • Opotiki Museum, Church Street, Opotiki
  • East Coast Museum of Technology, Main Road, Makaraka

Map of the East Cape

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