Exploring the East Coast
New Zealand's East Coast is the place to be this summer.
The East Coast of New Zealand is the place to be this summer, bountiful with attractions and activities ranging from family fun, surf, beaches, swimming, cycle ways, bush walks, tramping, hunting and shing to abundant local produce, seafood, craft beer, cider, ne wine and the country’s largest New Year’s Eve festival.
State Highway 35 around the East Coast of the North Island is one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives, and Opotiki, a pretty little town, is the northern gateway to the East Cape. The jewel in Opotiki’s crown is the Motu Trails, heaven for cycle enthusiasts. Of the trails, the Pakihi Track, a stunningly beautiful mountain bike trail, is not for the faint-hearted while the Dunes Trail starts at the centre of Opotiki and is a gentle ride along the coast line and great to do with children.
The drive up the north side from Opotiki to the East Cape hugs the coastline most of the way, passing beaches and coves that are starkly beautiful with their black, almost volcanic rocky inlets and native bush growing with wild abandon. When you reach the most eastern point of New Zealand and start heading south towards Gisborne, the road takes you inland and the landscape transforms into lush, rolling high country farms.
Perched above a sharp hairpin bend in Tikitiki, just north of Ruatoria, is St Mary’s Tikitiki Church. This is most de nitely one of the icons of the entire East Cape journey. Built in 1924 as a tribute to those who fell in WWI, it is a stunning example of what happens when two cultures are married together in harmony. From the stained glass windows to the carved altar and pulpit, you will struggle to nd a more beautiful and true work of art anywhere.
From Tikitiki, the highway follows the Waiapu River towards Ruatoria, the gateway to Mount Hikurangi. The sacred mountain of Ngati Porou is special as it demands reverence and will hold an unassailable place in your memory once it’s been experienced. It is said that the nal resting place for Maui's waka is on Mt Hikurangi. Guided tours are available with Ngati Porou Tourism; no one can give you the local history like those who live and breathe it.
A highlight of a journey around the coast is the Eco Marine Tour at Dive Tatapouri, where the stars of the show are the gentle and graceful stingrays that you can touch, feed and also snorkel with if you wish. Dive Tatapouri is the only place in New Zealand that you can get up close and personal with stingrays in the wild.
As you travel south from Tatapouri, the road once again hugs the coastline and as you get closer to Gisborne it seems that every bend in the road treats you to yet another stunning beach. Gisborne is renowned for its six surf breaks and surfers come from across the world to make the most of the legendary waves. If you’re a newcomer, there are surf lessons available to get your knowledge and con dence up to par before you hit the waves. Gisborne has a reputation as a producer of ne wines and heading south on SH2, you have the opportunity to experience this at any of the local wineries. If you love wild places, turn o towards the ocean down Browns Beach road for stunning views of Young Nick’s Head, the rst land sighted by the crew of HMS Endeavour when the British rst arrived in Aotearoa in 1769. It is also known as Te Kuri-a-Paoa (the dog of Paoa). Paoa was the captain of the Horouta waka (canoe) which carried Maori here many centuries before. "The drive up the north side from Opotiki to the East Cape hugs the coastline beaches and coves that are starkly beautiful with their black, almost volcanic rocky inlets" Wairoa, the southern gateway to Eastland, is situated on the banks of the broad Wairoa River. The Maori name means “Long water” and it is the gateway to the wilderness playgrounds of Te Urewera, the largest untouched native forest area remaining in the North Island, and also one of the Great Walks of New Zealand, Lake Waikaremoana. From watching the sunrise in the rst city to see the sun at the world class surf beach in Wainui to the iconic three- day event that is Rhythm and Vines, Summer in Eastland is not to be missed. Held at Waiohika Estate from December 29 to January 1, Rhythm and Vines has an eclectic mix of musicians that is sure to have a wide range of festival goers welcoming the New Year right here in the beautiful Eastland region.