On the East Coast of Aotearoa’s North Island, you’ll find Gisborne – Tūranganui-a-Kiwa in te reo Māori — and part of the Tairāwhiti region. While it’s been dealt more than its fair share of extreme weather events over the last 18 months, it’s a beautiful and culturally rich area known for its long, hot summers, excellent chardonnay and salt-crusted locals. More than six hours’ drive from both Wellington to the south and Auckland to the north, Gisborne has long been off the beaten track but, for those willing to make the trek, the region is the perfect place to unwind.

Ed’s note: Always check weather reports before you hit the road.


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On the edge of a wetland lake, 15 minutes from central Gisborne, Manutuke Eco Retreat is an idyllic safari tent for two adults. There’s even an outdoor clawfoot bath for a well-deserved soak. The Blackhouse is a luxurious lodge with space for 10. Situated on a four-hectare working station, it has hill country to the west and 180-degree ocean views to the east that you’ll be taking in as you make good use of the outdoor barbeque and sound systems.

Tatapouri Bay Oceanside Accommodation offers picturesque camping options, glamping tents or cabins. With the latter two you can book in for a sauna and spa. The on-site cafe is a stone’s throw from the water’s edge and is open on weekends for coffee, baked goods and Best Ugly Bagels.

Eat and drink
Enjoy your morning coffee at chilled-out cafe Zephyr. Even dairy lovers will take the plant-based plunge as the menu is entirely vegan, and it’s a great place to sit, chat and enjoy a colourful smoothie bowl, breakfast burrito or bagel.
Flagship Eatery will transport you from surf town back to the city. Occupying a charming heritage building, its light-filled interiors have exposed brick and high ceilings. A local favourite is the kimchi pancake with cashew yoghurt, seasonal greens, sweet chilli and a poached egg.
Your afternoon stop for a cold one is Sunshine Brewery. Founded in 1989, Sunshine proudly claims to be the oldest independently owned craft brewery in the country. Its Gisborne Gold lager has local legend status and the taproom offers a range of creative brews such as a pineapple and salted caramel sour.
Head harbourside to Crawford Road Kitchen inside Gisborne Wine Centre for dinner, where you can try a wine flight comprising mostly local ferments. There’s a seasonal tapas-style menu that celebrates local kaimoana and the chicken liver pate with carrot relish is so popular it hasn’t left the menu in seven years.

Wine bar and cellar Siduri is Sam Millton’s ode to his time at Melbourne’s Toorak Cellars. He’s a long-time wine aficionado, his parents having founded Aotearoa’s first organic and biodynamic winery – still a Gisborne stalwart. At Siduri, you can listen to impeccable tunes surrounded by pooling wax candles and dried flowers. Millton is constantly refining the wine list to his tastes, highlighting organic and natural wines from around the world. Food-wise there’s a selection of pared back but high quality sharing plates, or you can order in from Neptunes Pizzeria nearby.

Waking up early is worth it on the East Coast. Up on Titirangi/Kaiti Hill is the perfect vantage point to take in the sunrise, and you’ll get your heart rate up before the day has even begun. It’s also easily accessible by car.

Travel the world through trees at Eastwoodhill Arboretum. It’s home to plants from all over the globe, with picturesque winding garden paths and forest glades as romantic backdrops for a picnic lunch. You can fill your basket with cheeses and cold-cuts from Vetro, the local Mediterranean wholesaler.

For an unforgettable experience with nature, you can book a reef ecology tour with Dive Tatapouri. On the low-tide tour, you’ll be accompanied by knowledgeable guides as you wade out to the shallow waters; the area’s resident wild stingrays will come up to greet you for a gentle pat.

With its fretwork verandah facade and 19th-century domed ceiling, find The Dome Cinema in a colonial-style manor house. Tickets sell fast, but if you do nab one to attend one of the arthouse flicks on show, sink into a plush beanbag (in place of traditional folding seats) and order some tapas or a pizza at intermission.

You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches. Midway and Waikanae Beaches are both sheltered by a bay, making them perfect for those who aren’t so ocean savvy. Within 15 minutes’ drive from town, Wainui Beach is home to some world-class surf breaks and is best for hardy surfers. Aloe vera flowers hang from the dunes, and both quintessentially Kiwi baches and newly minted renovations line the streets nearby. Steep waves and strong currents are unforgiving, so definitely swim between the flags. Makorori Beach is the next bay to the north and is a favourite for families – when the cell reception drops out and slow waves waltz in from the point, you won’t want to be anywhere else.

This article was amended on October 20 to correct that Tūranganui-a-Kiwa is the te reo Māori name for Gisborne and Tairāwhiti is the wider region.

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