Gisborne is a sunny seaside town on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is a popular summertime destination as it has a relatively warm, dry and sunny climate, swimming and surf beaches, with a more relaxed pace of life than the larger cities. It is the first city in the world to see the sun each day.
Gisborne is three or four hours drive from Napier, the nearest city. It is a half day's drive from Rotorua, and a good day's drive from Auckland or Wellington, perhaps longer depending on the route you take.
There are frequent flights from Auckland (1h) and Wellington (1h) on Air New Zealand. Because it's not an international airport it can be quite expensive compared to flying between Auckland/Wellington/Christchurch, but you can find good deals on Air New Zealand's site Grab a Seat if you're lucky.
- Naked Bus offer low cost bus services between Gisborne and many other North Island towns with fares starting at $1.
- InterCity Coachlines is an alternative with similarly priced tickets most of the time so it's worth comparing the two.
Gisborne's a long town, as it is spread out along the coast. A car is handy, especially if you want to visit Wainui Beach (7 km north of the central business district), Rere Falls, or the outlying wineries.
The CBD is quite small and can be walked easily. It's an easy 10-15 min walk from the CBD to Waikanae Beach.
Tairawhiti Museum, 10 Stout St, ☎ . M-Sa 10:00-16:00; Su & public holidays 13:30-16:00. Solid local museum with Māori taonga and history displays. The basement houses a local surfing/ocean exhibit, including documentation of Captain Cook's first landfall in New Zealand and an entire boat wheelhouse from The Star of Canada, which sank in the harbour in 1912. There is also an historic house open to the public and a café on-site.
Eastwoodhill Arboretum, 2392 Wharekopae Rd, ☎ . New Zealand's largest planting of North American trees. It has plenty of walks and gardens, and is lovely in the autumn when the leaves change.
Gisborne's a great summer time destination. There are nice beaches in the middle of town (Waikanae). If you have a car, it's worth venturing a little further out to Wainui, Makarori or any of the bays that you find if you drive north up the coast. Surfing, swimming and fishing are all big parts of local culture, so give these a go if you get a chance.
Given New Zealand's proximity to the international date line, Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun rise. This is based on Mount Hikurangi receiving the first sun rays and makes Gisborne a good place to spend New Year's Eve if you're looking for a party.
Gisborne Olympic Pool Complex, Centennial Marine Drive opposite Midway Beach, ☎ . Summer daily 06:00-20:00; winter M-F 06:00-20:00, Sa-Su 06:00-18:00. The pool complex offers a 50 m lane pool year-round, and outdoor diving pools, 33 m pool with zero-depth area, and 98 m hydro-slide in summer. BBQs are available for hire (book in advance, especially in summer), and there is also a playground and a campsite suitable for large, self-catering groups.
Gisborne Cycle Tour Company, ☎ . Offers one-day wine-tasting cycle tours, city tours, and mountain biking. They also offer multi-day cycle tours throughout the district.
Gisborne Farmers Market. Sa 09:00-13:00. Has local fruit and veg, bakeries, delis, cheese, and wine tastings. Often local musicians play.
Vineyard and Winery Tours. Gisborne is one of New Zealand's largest grape growing regions with just over half its 2,000 hectares of vineyards planted in Chardonnay. A Mediterranean climate and suitable soils are the key factors in the success of wine production in this region which regularly produces unique, full-flavoured, award winning wines of international standard.
Rere Rock Slide. A natural sloping rock formation that a stream flows over it and a natural pool at the bottom. With a little care, you can slide down on body boards, tyres or backsides. It's not for the faint-hearted though, so pack some courage.
Reef Ecology Tour (Stingray Tour), SH35, Tatapouri, ☎ . Equipped with deep waders, you walk out onto the reef and enjoy some up close and personal time with stingrays and other sea life (you can even pat the stingrays). $40 for an adult, $20 for a child, $100 for a family.
Rhythm and Vines. A three day music festival to celebrate the new year. Held in a vineyard and includes popular New Zealand and international artists. Camping accommodation is set up in Watson Park especially for the event which has been increasing in size every year (from 1,800 people in 2004 to 25,000 people in 2010). From $229.
Tramp Waikaremoana, Te Urewera National Park. Not technically in Gisborne, but not far off is Te Urewera National Park and Lake Waikaremoana. If you like hiking/tramping this is a stunning walk that can be done in three to four days (or one if you run the whole way). You need to take all the supplies you'll need for the three days including food, fuel and medical kits.
Dining in Gisborne is fairly casual. Daytime cafes and evening takeaways, including fish and chips, dominate, and a local speciality is the "all sauces," or a scoop of chips with tomato sauce, mayo, and garlic butter.
Many restaurants mark their hours as "til late," meaning when their last customer of the night has finished. Eating out after about 21:00 can limit your options.
McDonald's. World's most easterly Macca's.
Zest, 22 Peel St, ☎ . Daytime café with large selection of counter food, including vegetarian and gluten-free.
Verve Cafe & Bar, 121 Gladstone Rd, ☎ . M-F 07:30-17:30 (full menu to 14:30), Sa-Su 08:00-15:00. Sunny cafe with art exhibits, tasty kitchen food and snacks. Lunch dishes $14–25.
Wainui Store, 4 Oneora Rd, Wainui Beach (7 km north of town), ☎ . Shop: 07:30-20:00; takeaways: 17:00-20:00. A general store that also serves fish and chips, burgers, and the best pizza in the East Coast.
Fettucine Brothers, 12-14 Peel St, ☎ . M-Sa 17:00- late. Classic white-tablecloth Italian restaurant with extensive wine menu. Pasta $19-25, mains $25-35.
Captain Morgans, 285 Grey St (opposite Waikanae Surf Lifesaving Club), ☎ . Daily 07:00-19:00. A local legend, this chippie has fish and chips, takeaways, counter food, and ice cream.
Gisborne Wine Centre, Shed 3, 50 The Esplanade, Inner Harbour, ☎ . Has tastings from local wineries and gourmet snack platters to share. They organize the Wine and Food Festival, held in October each year.
Lone Star Bar and Grill, Shed One, 60 The Esplanade, ☎ . Bar and cafe on the harbourside. Overpriced family dining during the day; a fun social atmosphere in the evenings. Music is mostly from a jukebox, but the drinks are pretty strong.
Flying Nun BBH Hostel, 147 Roebuck Rd. A cheap and dirty (emphasis on the dirty) option close to the CBD and town beaches. Has affordable long-term rates, so tends to be popular with seasonal workers. Dorms $24, dbl/twin $26, single $36.
YHA Gisborne, 11 Harris St, ☎ . Across the river but close to the CBD, the YHA is quiet, tidy budget option. Often closes seasonally Jul-Aug.
Emerald Hotel. Gisborne's luxury hotel option is in the heart of the CBD. Emerald Hotel's rooms and suites often overlook the river. It also hosts a function/conference centre, day spa, and in-house restaurant. $280-480/night.
- Go south to Morere (hot pools), Wairoa and Napier.
- Go north-west on State Highway 2 to the inland settlement of Matawai, on the Waioeka Gorge route to Opotiki.
- Head north-east to East Cape and round to Opotiki on coastal State Highway 35. This trip will take a full day and features spectacular coastal views and contains some of the most remote settlements in New Zealand.