There is Something New Under the Sun in Gisborne

Midway Beach – image by Brook Sabin
Midway Beach – image by Brook Sabin
First place to see the summer sun, Tairāwhiti Gisborne captures the best of New Zealand in one region. Here’s why it should be first choice for a summer getaway.

Take everything that makes a great holiday in Aotearoa New Zealand – sun, beaches, gourmet food and wine, adrenalin excitement – and weave in unique cultural experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. You’ve got Tairāwhiti Gisborne.

It’s “Gizzy”, the surfing Mecca. It’s mountain biking remote trails or through stunning vineyards. Meeting wild stingrays in their natural environment and thrilling to “the best free fun you can have in New Zealand”. It’s watching the dawn in the first place to see the summer sun.

All this, and more, is just over an hour’s flight from Auckland or Wellington.

Where better to begin your exploration than Hikurangi, the sacred mountain that welcomes the new day for much of the year? The mountain’s kaitiaki, Ngāti Porou iwi, has begun offering guided tours so people can better understand its history. The Maunga Hikurangi Experience – Journey to First Light takes visitors up the 1750m mountain.

Te Runanga o Ngati Porou

From the mountain to the sea

Tairāwhiti is the source of much of our history and culture – like that of Paikea, celebrated in the Whale Rider legend, book and movie – and the coast provides a range of experiences unlike any other in the country. 

Waka Voyagers Tairāwhiti offers unique sailing experiences aboard traditional waka hourua, the double-hulled canoe that carried the first settlers here. One of only nine of these craft in the world, you can learn the ancient art of navigation by the sun, moon, stars, waves, winds, clouds and birds across the Pacific around 1000 years ago. 

In the city, the Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve commemorates the European arrival in 1769. It’s also the landing place of the Horouta and Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru waka which carried Māori to the district, as the new Puhi Kai Iti space represents.

Explore the ocean and its beautiful inhabitants – Image by Brook Sabin

For many summer visitors, the area is all about the surf, with many different breaks for beginner, intermediate and expert boardriders. With great beaches at the end of the main street (Waikanae, Midway) and up and down the coast (Sponge Bay, Wainui) it’s little wonder that professionals such as Maz Quinn and Ricardo Christie call these waters home.

Beneath the waves, Dive Tatapouri is famous for interactive reef tours with wild stingrays, eagle rays and other marine life; at low tide. Meeting wild stingrays in their natural environment is an unforgettable adventure, voted one of the world’s best marine life experiences.

Who could miss “the best free fun you can have in New Zealand”? Rere Rockslide is a 60m natural formation that attracts hundreds each day in summer. From the riverbank you take a tyre tube, bodyboard, yoga mat or something smooth, jump into the water, get on and hold on, riding the current to the pool at the bottom. 

Idyllic Rere Rockslide – Image by Brook Sabin

Back on dry land, the region owns some of the country’s best cycling. The three Motu Trails have something for everyone, from coastal scenery with opportunities for picnics and swimming to mountain biking through fabulous forest and a hidden valley. The trails can be linked into a 91km loop or split into rides for most ages and abilities.

Gisborne Railbike offers a new and different experience. Two conventional bikes are linked so riders can pedal side-by-side along the coastal railway track between Gisborne and Wairoa. Itineraries include a relaxed three-hour, 32km ride through bush and tunnels to the Pacific Ocean and a one-hour meander through vineyards and countryside.

Cycle Gisborne has a fleet of on- and off-road cycles and routes. A popular choice is the gourmet vineyard tour along country roads, the chance to taste the district’s produce (it grows much of the fruit and vegetables in your supermarket) and famed wines.

Relax among the vines – Image by Brook Sabin

Here’s another first

This is one of the country’s oldest winegrowing regions, known worldwide for its whites – fruit-driven and full-flavoured chardonnay, bright pinot gris, viognier, gewürztraminer and chenin blanc. Many are available at the cellar doors of large producers and boutique wineries.

Garden lovers will be drawn to Eastwoodhill, 130ha planted in exotic and native trees, shrubs and climbers in 1910, elegantly described by world-renowned environmentalist David Bellamy as “a Garden of Eden held altogether by the best of the world’s trees.”

Time your visit right, and locations in the region offer the chance to watch the dawn of a new space age, as Rocket Lab blasts off from its Mahia Peninsula launchpad. After all those centuries of pioneering voyages, there’s always something new under the sun in Tairāwhiti Gisborne. 

To find out more about the land of the first light, visit www. 

Getting there

Air New Zealand offers nonstop flights to Gisborne from Auckland and Wellington with connections available across the domestic network; with seat, seat+bag, flexitime or flexidate fares. Auckland-Gisborne flights take 65 minutes and Wellington-Gisborne flights take 75 minutes. For more information visit



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