Small City New Zealand: Gisborne

small city new zealand gisbornePerched on the very easterly edge of the North Island, Gisborne is popular with surfers, beach lovers and anyone looking for a few days complete peace and quiet. It’s got some interesting cycling opportunities too…

Getting there:
Getting to Gisborne is all part of the experience – it’s a long way from anywhere else! From Whakatane you have two options: scenic State Highway 2 or the even more scenic (and considerably longer!) drive around the East Cape. If you have time, this is well worth the extra fuel – you’ll pass beautiful beaches and coves and small, isolated settlements. Highlights along the way include: Waihau Bay – where the movie Boy was filmed, Te Araroa – home to the largest pohutukawa tree in the world, the East Cape Lighthouse – the most easterly place in mainland New Zealand, beautiful Tikitiki Church – built in 1924 as a tribute to those who fell in World War One and Tolaga Bay Wharf.

From Rotorua, you can take State Highway 38 through the wilderness of Lake Waikaremoana and the Te Urewera National Park. It’s mostly unsealed and slow going but it’s a drive you’ll never forget! This route brings you into Gisborne past the Mahia Peninsula, a popular spot with surfers and fishermen.

See the sunrise first
Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun rise. Head to Wainui Beach, Tatapouri or any other easterly facing beaches to catch the show. (The town beach faces west, so it’s best for sunset viewings).

Surf’s up
Beaches and surfing are what life in Gisborne is all about. Makorori and Wainui beaches offer reef, beach and point surf breaks and are lovely spots to wander. Waikanae Beach is a good learner’s spot.

Follow in the footsteps of Captain Cook
There’s a monument to Captain Cook at the bottom of Kaiti Hill – the spot where he first set foot on New Zealand soil. Close by, there’s a walking track which takes you up Titirangi (Kaiti Hill) for fine views of the coast, another Cook monument and the Cook Observatory.

Tairawhiti Museum
Learn about East Coast Maori and the region’s colonial history. The museum has excellent historic photographic displays and a maritime wing, with displays on waka, whaling, Cook’s Poverty Bay and a vintage surfboard collection.

The Rere Rockslide
Head to the Rere River, 50km northwest of Gisborne along Wharekopae Rd, where you’ll find a 60m-long rock slide. Tyre tube or boogie boards are recommended to cushion the ride. A few kilometres down the road are the stunning Rere Falls.

Eastwoodhill Arboretum
35km from Gisborne, this forest and garden contains New Zealand’s largest collection of northern hemisphere trees and shrubs set among 100 hectares of hills, valleys and ponds. A network of easy walking tracks makes it a great day out.

Riding around the East Cape is popular, although large logging trucks still use the road. It’s a 4-5 day trip that’s best ridden clockwise. Otherwise, pick up a map and explore the huge network of back country roads (these are mostly unsealed).

Mountain bikers can hit up the Whataupoko Reserve, which has great trails for all levels of rider. There’s also the Mander Road Mountain Bike Park. To ride here you’ll need to buy a permit from Avantiplus Maintrax, Bikeys or the Gisborne Cycle Tour Company. Permits are valid for a week.

The Rere Falls Trail is another great ride option. This runs from Gisborne to Matawai (or vice-versa) and links Gisborne to the Motu Trails. It’s 103km (one-way) and takes you past the Rere Falls and Eastwoodhill Arboretum.