First to see the sun each day


First to see the sun each day

Being the easternmost point of New Zealand, the Tairawhiti region is a place of many firsts. It is said to have been one of the first places that todays Māori ancestors made landfall. It is also the place where Māori and Europeans first made contact when Captain James Cook arrived in what is now Gisborne in 1769. In summer months, it’s also one of the first places in the world to see the dawning of each new day.

Tairawhiti region marker

Despite all these firsts, Tairawhiti or East Cape as it’s also known, never really developed at the same pace as the rest of New Zealand. Even today, this region feels remote and isolated which makes it the perfect place to not only get away from the hustle & bustle but also experience New Zealand’s rich culture and history.

From an adventure perspective, Tairawhiti is just as inviting. Surfing is a big drawcard with six of New Zealand’s protected surf breaks in the region. There’s also diving, fishing, cycling, hiking and much more to experience in this sunny corner of the country.

With a population of just over 36,000, Gisborne is the main centre and a base from which to explore the region’s coastal and inland attractions. Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from Gisborne.

Drive times

  • Auckland to Gisborne (via Ōpōtiki and State Highway 2): 480 km / 298 miles – 6 hours 20 minutes
  • Tauranga to Gisborne (via Ōpōtiki and State Highway 2): 270 km / 168 miles – 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Napier to Gisborne: 214 km / 133 miles – 3 hours
  • Wellington to Gisborne: 530 km / 330 miles – 6 hours 50 minutes
  • Gisborne to Ōpōtiki (via State Highway 2): 140 km / 87 miles – 2 hours
  • Gisborne to Ōpōtiki (via State Highway 35): 330 km / 205 miles – 5 hours

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

Flight times
Gisborne Airport is a 10 minute drive from the city centre and the main airport for the area, with domestic flights operating regularly.

  • Auckland (AKL) to Gisborne (GIS): 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Gisborne (GIS): 1 hour 5 minutes

The Tairawhiti region has warm summers and mild winters. The average high in summer (December – February) is 24 °C / 75.2 °F while the average low is 13 °C / 55.4 °F. In winter (June – August) average temperatures drop to a mild 15 °C/ 59 °F high and 5 °C / 41 °F low.

Check current conditions and get the latest Gisborne weather forecast on MetService.com.

While there’s not much you can do about the weather once you’re here, it’s worth knowing what to expect at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. These two articles are well worth reading:

Top things to do in Tairawhiti

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Tairawhiti region.

Dive with stingrays

For a unique experience, try snorkeling with wild and friendly stingrays in Tatapouri Bay, north of Gisborne. If you’d prefer to stay dry, there’s a reef ecology tour at low tide that will also get you up close and personal with the rays and you may get to see other marine life like crayfish, octopus and eels.

Tatapouri rays

Ride the Motu Trails

One of twenty-three Great Rides that make up the New Zealand Cycle Trail, Motu Trails provides some great mountain biking, from a short family-friendly coastal route to some intermediate and advanced grade backcountry trails through remote bush and farmland. Trial maps, bike hire and shuttle information is all available on the Motu Trails website.

Motu trails

Visit Mt Hikurangi

At 1,754 metres and the highest non-volcanic peak in the North Island, Mt Hikurangi dominates the landscape. This mountain holds great significance for the local Ngāti Porou people and is steeped in history. There are a number of ways to explore this amazing place including guided four-wheel drive tours or, for the more experienced, a 6 to 8 hour hike to the summit and an overnight stay in a mountain hut. Access to the mountain is carefully managed with all of the relevant details available on the Maunga Hikurangi website.

Mt Hikurangi

Visit Rere Falls & Rockslide

Situated approximately 50 km / 31 miles west of Gisborne, picturesque Rere Falls is perfect for swimming and picnicking. But the really unique attraction is nearby Rere Rock Slide. This 60 metre natural rockslide is popular with both locals and tourists alike so don’t expect to have it all to yourself. Grab pretty much anything that floats and slide on down.

Rere Falls

Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

Heading east along the Pacific Coast Highway from Tauranga along State Highway 2 (SH2), many travellers are tempted to continue on SH2 towards Gisborne rather than taking Highway 35. It is after all almost 200 km / 124 miles shorter via SH2. But if you have the time, it’s definitely worth taking the long way around. This epic coastal route will take you past countless beautiful bays and beaches as well as a few unique features like East Cape Lighthouse (New Zealand’s most easterly lighthouse) and Tolaga Bay Wharf, New Zealand’s longest wharf at 660 metres.

Tolaga wharf