The East Coast, also known as Eastland or the Gisborne Region, lies around and south of the East Cape of the North Island of New Zealand. It lies between the Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay. This part of New Zealand was the first to be sighted and explored by Captain Cook and the crew of HMS Endeavour in 1769.
- East Cape – the whole coastal region north of Gisborne
- Gisborne – a seaside city, the only large town in the region
- Matawai – a small inland settlement with outdoor and wilderness activities
Young Nick's Head, near Gisborne, was the first land sighted by Cook's expedition.
The area around Gisborne was named Poverty Bay by Captain Cook because his first landfall party was unsuccessful in obtaining provisions when the crew encountered hostile Maori inhabitants. Cook's landing is commemorated by a statue of him on the beach at Kaiti and replicas of his ship atop poles in Gisborne's main street.
The East Coast, particularly around East Cape, has a reputation for unemployment, poverty and isolation. Those who farm the land often have limited means and though they are able to live off the land and its produce, they are unable to derive a great income from it. Much of the area is multi-owner Maori Land, which makes it difficult to obtain development finance. However the cost of living on ancestral land is far less than in the cities, so many Maori remain here because it is inexpensive and offers a different lifestyle.
This is the area of New Zealand where the film Whale Rider was set and filmed. The film portrays the country lifestyle fairly well.
InterCity is a coach company that serves more than 600 destinations nationwide.
State Highway 2 passes through Poverty Bay on its way from the Bay of Plenty to the Hawkes Bay. However the Pacific Coast Highway goes right around East Cape.
While there are plenty of motels in Gisborne, there are few such establishments elsewhere on the East Coast. However, freedom camping is permitted in many beach areas along the coastal highway. Campers need to provide all their own facilities and there are restrictions on what sort of camps can be set up and how long a stay can be, but there are no charges. See Gisborne District Council's Freedom Camping Bylaw.