The world’s easternmost city, Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the dawn of each day. This seaside city is located on the East Cape (also known as Eastland), in New Zealand’s North Island. Gisborne is a popular surfing destination also known for its great food and wine, sunshine, historical significance and Maori culture. Gisborne’s Kaiti Beach is the where Captain Cook first landed on New Zealand shores. Gisborne is the ultimate summer destination, check out our list of the best things to do in Gisborne.

1. Discover New Zealand History on a Gisborne Historical Walk

Discover New Zealand History on a Gisborne Historical Walk

Learn all about Gisborne’s rich history of early explorers, first migrations and first meetings. Discover the stories of the first Maori settlers to arrive in Gisborne and check out the site of the first British arrival on New Zealand shores.

Stop by the Gisborne i-SITE and pick up a Historic Walk leaflet full of fascinating information and a guide to the walk and set off on your way. The walk takes about one hour and takes you to various important landmarks and the sites of events that shaped the course of New Zealand history.

  • Prices: Free
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Times: All day
  • Best time: Year round
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

2. See the Sun Rise on Wainui Beach

See the Sun Rise on Wainui Beach

Experience what Gisborne is most famous for, be the first in the world to see the sunrise in the morning. Even if you’re not a morning person, it’s must, at least once during your visit.

Wainui Beach, just a short drive from the city, is the best place to watch the sun rising over the Pacific ocean, a special experience, well worth the early start!

  • Prices: Free
  • Duration: Around 1 hour
  • Times: Varies depending on the time of year, check sunrise hours.
  • Best time: Any time as long as the weather is good and isn’t cloudy.
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

3. Discover the Local Viticulture

Discover the Local Viticulture

Gisborne is New Zealand’s third largest wine region and is most famous for it’s Chardonnay. The region has also developed a reputation for it’s Gewürztraminer, Viognier and Pinot Gris production.

Some of the top places to sample the best of local wines include the Gisborne Wine Centre in the city centre with its harbour views, Wrights Vineyard and Winery with its handcrafted boutique wines that are low-allergen and produced in an environmentally friendly way, and the acclaimed Bushmere Estate with its award-winning wines.

All these places offer wine tastings where you can learn about the wines from expert sommeliers.

  • Prices: Varies depending on the winery. Tours priced at $180 to $450.
  • Times: Check winery opening hours.
    • Bushmere: Open all year round – Wednesdays to Sundays from 11 a.m.
    • Wright Vineyards: 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.
    • Gisborne wine centre: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Best time: September – May
  • Minimum age: 18 years

4. Explore Eastwoodhill Arboretum

Eastwoodhill is the National Arboretum of New Zealand and is a magnificent collection of native and exotic trees covering 135 hectares. Planted by Thomas Cook, the collection is renowned as the largest Southern Hemisphere collection of Northern Hemisphere trees.

The expansive domain is wonderfully peaceful and has tons of tranquil spaces, walkways and gardens to explore. Jeep tours are available for those with mobility issues. Eastwoodhill Arboretum is located 35 kilometres north of Gisborne city along Wharekopae Road.

  • Prices: Adults – $15; Senior citizens (over 65) – $12; Students (with ID) – $12; Children aged 5 – 16 years – $2; Children under 5 years no charge with paying adult; Family (2 adults, 4 children) – $28.
  • Duration: 2 hours minimum recommended
  • Times: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Best time: September – May
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

5. Rere Rockslide

Rere Rockslide

Grab a bodyboard, air mattress or even just a piece of cardboard and head to Rere Rockslide. Just 30 minutes from Gisborne, Rere Rockslide is a naturally formed rock water slide. Speed down the watery slopes and splash into the pool at the bottom. A fun-filled natural attraction for a hot summers day. Check out the beautiful Rere Waterfall while you’re there.

  • Prices: Free
  • Duration: 20 minutes to 1.5 hours
  • Times: All day
  • Best time: Summer
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

6. Climb Kaiti Hill

Climb Kaiti Hill

The base of Kaiti Hill is where Captain James Cook first set foot on New Zealand soil in 1769, and the place to take in panoramic views of Gisborne and Poverty Bay. Follow the walking track through native bush and experience the stunning views from the reserve’s four lookouts.

Also known as Titirangi, Kaiti Hill has plenty of interesting features including a statue of Captain Cook a native pohutakawa tree planted by the late Princess Diana and a World War II gun emplacement. The hill is an important ancestral site of the Ngati Oneone subtribe.

From the top, you can spot Wainui Beach and the cliffs of Young Nick’s Head – the first piece of New Zealand sighted by Captain Cook, and the landing place of the wakas (canoes) of early Maori settlers. It’s about a 30-minute walk to the top, which has quite a few steps and is steep in some places or, alternatively, you can drive to the top.

  • Prices: Free
  • Duration: 30-minute walk to the top
  • Times: All day
  • Best time: Any time as long as the weather is good
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

7. Surfing with Walking on Water Surf School surfboard surf beaches

The East Cape is known as an “off the grid” surf sport among Kiwi surfers. Wainui Beach, Makorori, Waikanae and Midway Beach are top surfing destinations in “Gizzy”. Even if you’re not up for hitting the waves, the beaches are gorgeous and well worth a visit just for the stunning views.

If you’re keen to take on the waves, you can rent a board for $30 a day or take a surfing lesson with Walking On Water Surf School. WOW Surf School has qualified instructors that can teach you how to tackle the waves, stand on your board and help you work on your style. Most importantly the lessons are loads of fun.

  • Prices: WOW Group Surf Lesson – $65
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Times: Summer – 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (1 November – 31 March); Winter 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (1 April – 31 October)
  • Best time: December – February
  • Minimum age: 7 years

8. Fishing at Tolaga Bay east cape

Fishing at Tolaga Bay east cape

A visit to Gisborne is not complete without a trip up the coast to the East Cape town of Tolaga Bay. The Tolaga Bay wharf is a historic landmark and is a spectacular site to see, this incredibly long wharf stretched 660 metres out into the deep, blue waters of Tolaga Bay.

Built in the 1920’s the wharf was an important lifeline for import and export of goods to and from the bay, back when road transport was more difficult. This old relic is now a great place to dangle a line and marvel at the spectacular coastal view, the Tolaga Bay is also a great spot for a swim.

  • Prices: Free
  • Duration: Half day – full day
  • Times: All day
  • Best time: December – February, sunrise and sunset
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

9. Soak up the Local Foodie Culture

Gisborne is renowned for its great food, you’ll find plenty of great eats to go with the fantastic Gisborne wine. The area is also renowned for its beer and cider. A great way to get a taste of the local foodie culture is to head to the market on Stout Street on a Saturday morning, where you’ll find a buzzing atmosphere and an abundance of local organic produce, freshly caught fish, local honey and artisan cheeses.

  • Prices: Free to explore
  • Times: Market time: 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Best time: All year
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

10. Tairawhiti Museum

Tairawhiti Museum

Get a real sense of the history and culture of Gisborne at the Tairawhiti Museum. The museum aims to showcase ancient and recent histories and culture, and includes an art gallery. Featuring fascinating semi-permanent exhibitions and often holds high-profile international exhibitions too. Some of the most popular exhibits include Maori artefacts and the restored ruins of the Star of Canada ship that sunk in the harbour in 1912.

  • Prices: Adults $5 (12 years and under and Friends of the Museum free entry) Free entry every day for local residents!
  • Duration: 2 hours recommended
  • Times: Monday – Saturday 10am – 4pm
  • Sunday and Public Holidays  1:30pm – 4:00pm Closed – Easter Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day
  • Best time: All year
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions