By Ian Trafford
Gisborne, the largest settlement in Eastland, is the first city in the world to see the sun each day.
The city is compact, easy to navigate and surrounded by world class surf beaches, quality vineyards, groves of citrus, magnificent trees and wild rivers that meander towards empty beaches.
In this relaxed and tucked-away part of the country, the world moves slowly; horses and bare feet are common forms of transport. You might wish to take a car but you’ll also want to take your time.
Drive along the Pacific Coast Highway and Maori culture is evident in every settlement you see. There are carved meeting houses, beautifully painted Maori churches, and conversations in Te Reo. Venture up Mount Hikurangi, the sacred mountain of the Ngati Porou people, and you'll see giant carvings of figures from Maori folklore. Other highlights are the impossibly long wharf at Tolaga Bay, stingray feeding at Tatapouri, the magnificent Tikitiki church, and sunrise at the East Cape Lighthouse.
Deep in the misty Te Urewera Ranges, descendants of the ‘Children of the Mist’, the ancient Tuhoe tribe, still live in harmony with the forest around the village of Ruatahuna. You’re unlikely to come across them if you go hiking in Te Urewera National Park, but hire a local guide and you’ll learn some of their stories and legends while exploring the largest untouched native forest in the North Island.
Sunny Eastland is famouss for its beautiful, often deserted beaches, and its exhilarating and diverse surf breaks. Hire a surf board and get out there, or watch the peeling waves from the comfort of your outstretched beach towel. Other popular pastimes include fishing, diving, cycling, mountain biking and golf.
Trying the wine here is a must. Known as the "chardonnay capital of New Zealand", Gisborne produces premium white wines that can be readily enjoyed on a scenic winery tour.
Accommodation in Eastland can be as fancy as an upmarket lodge, boutique B&B or waterfront hotel. But Eastland is also heaven for those in motorhomes or tents, with plenty of freedom camping amid picture-perfect scenery.
Content courtesy of Tourism NZ