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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.