Things To See & Do In Gisborne, New Zealand
If you love surfing, wine or simply want to immerse yourself in the Maori culture, visiting Gisborne, New Zealand is the perfect destination for you and your family. When the sun rises upon the world each day, Gisborne is the first place to see it, and this charming city is known as the ‘Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand.’ No visit to Gisborne would be complete without learning more about the Maori culture, which is alive and well in this area, but there is much more to this area than wine and culture.
Our staff are fully knowledgeable about the region, and can provide you with a range of ideas for Gisborne activities. You could spend a day away from the motel, visiting vineyards around the region, tasting wines, and dining at a number of the local vineyards. On a day out from your motel room, you can dive, fish (perhaps take a charter boat out to fish), take horse rides, enjoy beautiful bush walks, or take the children to the local Alfred Cox Skate Park.
Gisborne is well known as a tourist destination, and though it is more isolated than other parts of New Zealand, this isolation has allowed this city to build its own unique coastal character. There is plenty to do during your stay, and below are all of the things that you can see and do the next time you find yourself in Gisborne, New Zealand.
Fun Family Activities
Visiting the Gisborne area is perfect for families, and there are many family-friendly activities that everyone will enjoy:
Gisborne Vintage Steam Railway
Kids love trains, and there is no better place to spend a few hours with the family than on the Wa165 steam locomotive. Almost every month there are two or three excursions available on the last remaining Wa class train. This is a very popular tourist activity, but locals love it, too, so tickets sell out quickly. There are family tickets available for the train ride, and each trip lasts for approximately two hours. Along the way, you will have the chance to stop for a picnic and take some photographs. You will also have the option of choosing a drop-off and pick up at a local winery for tastings along the way.
As the National Arboretum of New Zealand, Eastwoodhill Arboretum covers more than 135 hectares of native and exotic plants and shrubs. This botanical collection is the most comprehensive and largest grouping of native Northern Hemisphere trees in the Southern Hemisphere. There are several walking paths throughout the park, and mobility scooters are available for those who may require assistance.
Why is the Eastwoodhill Arboretum such a good destination in Gisborne? There are various gardens and parks throughout the land to explore. More than 25,000 species are represented in the park, and everyone in the family will love picnicking among the trees. The arboretum is also home to a playground, which has been described as the ‘Best Play Space in New Zealand.’ The playground offers easy access to the education centre, café and toilets, and has a designated area for preschool children away from the larger, more play area, which is better suited for older kids. This play area also boasts one of the biggest swings in New Zealand.
Gisborne is a coastal city, and experiencing the water is something that all visitors must do when in the area. The best way to do this is to plan a day at Dive Tatapouri. This venue is famous for its reef tour, where visitors will have the opportunity to meet reef dwellers, including wild stingrays and eagle rays face to face. There are also snorkelling excursions, fishing, surf lessons and dive charters available.
The interactive reef tour is the most popular activity at Dive Tatopouri, and it is appropriate for all ages. This is a two-hour tour that will allow you to feed the stingrays, come face to face with creatures such as conger eels and octopus, and you will learn about the Maori legends associated with this area of the sea.
Morere Hot Springs
Visit Morere Hot Springs, on SH 2, which is surrounded by 405 hectares of virgin rainforest.
Adventures in Gisborne
Though Gisborne is perfect for families, there are also many opportunities for those seeking out adventure on the North Island. Here are some of the highlights:
Whether you are looking for a guided tour or simply want to hire a bicycle and make your own way, you can do both with Cycle Gisborne. There are several day tours to choose from of varying skill levels and lengths. There are also tours that cater to the things you love, such as a vineyard tour, a tour through the Eastwoodhill Arboretum, a tour featuring local food, and even a cultural tour that will show you all about the history of Gisborne, including information about the famed Captain Cook.
Mountain biking is also offered from Cycle Gisborne, and you will have the opportunity to see the countryside in a unique way. Another mountain biking option is a visit to the local Mander Road Mountain Bike Park, where you can have fun in the dirt and mud while taking in incredible views that you will not soon forget.
Blitz Surf School
Surfing in Gisborne is a favourite local pastime, and as a visitor, you will get a good idea about Gisborne life by taking a surf lesson. Thanks to the unique location of Gisborne, there are almost constant waves and surf, which means ample opportunity to take your board out onto the water. There are plenty of areas appropriate for beginner surfers, and if you have some experience, the team at Blitz Surf School can offer suggestions. All lessons include equipment, and you can choose from traditional surf lessons or try out a stand-up paddleboard.
Cultural Experiences in Gisborne
Gisborne is well known for being a hub of Maori culture, and there are a number of historical and cultural experiences that you will encounter. Whether you have Maori roots or just wish to learn more about the native people of New Zealand, you may want to check out the following:
Hikurangi is a sacred mountain near Gisborne, and it holds a special place in the minds, souls and hearts of local Maori people. This landmark is considered the symbolic and spiritual ‘home’ for more than 70,000 people.
The mountain stands 1754 metres, and it is the highest mountain on the North Island that is non-volcanic. This mountain is also recognised as the first point on the mainland to greet the sun each morning. There are also tramping and four-wheel-drive tours available. When reaching about 1000 metres, you will gaze upon nine carvings that depict the Maori cultural hero Maui-Tikitiki-A-Taranga and his family.
The Tairawhiti Museum is one of the most inventive regional museums in the country. Located in Gisborne, this museum houses art and exhibits that show the legends and heritage of local Maori tribes. You will get an inside view of the lives of those who have lived in the region over the past centuries, and you will also learn about the arrival of Captain Cook and the settlers of Europe who first made contact with the Maori.
There are a shop and café on site, so you can spend the day exploring the Maori culture. There is a maritime wing at the museum along with whaling and waka displays. The highlight for many is the museum’s vintage surfboard collection.
Wine in Gisborne
In general, New Zealand is known worldwide for its wine, but the East Coast of New Zealand, including Gisborne, has some of the best wine growing environments in the world. There are both a sunny climate and fertile plains, which are perfect for growing grapes, and Gisborne is famous for Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot, Gewurztraminer, Malbec and Pinot Gris. The wine of Gisborne is part of the regions past, and will certainly be part of its future.
There are more than 20 wineries in the Gisborne area including the following:
Poverty Bay Wine and Bridge Estate Cellar Door
One well known local wine producer is Poverty Bay Wine and Bridge Estate Cellar Door. The vineyard pulls its name from the local waterway and has been producing grapes for wine for more than 30 years. It is known for Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot.
The tasting room is at the Cellar Door, which is a 120-year old structure. It is open seven days a week, and in addition to wine, there is a selection of both European and local food and cheese.
Kirkpatrick Estate Winery
You may also want to plan for a visit to Kirkpatrick Estate Winery. This is a boutique winery that is known for its Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Rose. Wine tasting and tours are available, and the views are fantastic. If you have ever dreamed of sipping wine and eating antipasto under the warm sun while gazing upon Malbec vines, this is the perfect option.
Wrights Vineyard and Winery
Another well-known winery and vineyard in Gisborne is Wrights, and this vineyard stands out due to its organic and green practices. There are both new and old world style wines available from Wrights.
Wine tasting is available, and the winery has a range of food to complement the wine. If you do not like or cannot drink wine, coffee, beer and non-alcoholic beverages are also served at Wrights.
Other Things to See and Do in Gisborne
Since Gisborne is such a vibrant area, there are also things to see and do that do not comfortably fit into any set category. Here are some of these:
East Cape Lighthouse
The East Cape Lighthouse is not in Gisborne, but if you are looking to get away from the area for the day, the East Cape Lighthouse is one of the areas finest attractions. In fact, many in Gisborne recommend that visitors make the three-hour scenic drive simply for the views. Along the way, you will pass by beautiful beaches, Maori history sites and other points of interest that allow you to make a day of it.
When arriving at the lighthouse, you will find that it stands approximately 154 metres above sea level, and to get to the location, you will have to walk up approximately 700 steps. For those who make it to the top, the views are spectacular and unlike anything you may have seen before.
The Rere Rockslide is located just north of Gisborne and is a natural slide made of rock. You can take tubes or boogie boards with you to slide down the rock, and the water from the Wharekopae River running across the surface makes it ideal for people who are looking for a bit of fun and adventure. Larger rafts and mattresses allow you to slide down the rock at a slower pace, but using tyres, boogie boards or other objects will ensure you fly down quickly. If you have time, make sure to take a walk downstream to see the Rere Waterfall, a 5-metre-high waterfall that has an open area behind the falling water. You can jump through the waterfall into the pool, which makes this a fun and exciting local Gisborne location.
Titirangi (Kaiti Hill)
Before leaving the Gisborne area, make sure to spend some time at Titirangi, otherwise known as Kaiti Hill. This is the area where Captain James Cook landed when first arriving in New Zealand, and there is a monument to the famed Captain. Additionally, there is a pohutukawa tree, which was planted by Diana, Princess of Wales, a park, fitness course, and several lookouts, where you can gaze upon Poverty Bay and the Gisborne area. You can also walk along nature trails, see various public works of art, and spend some time in the James Cook Observatory.
It does not matter if you are travelling to Gisborne with the family, or looking for some adventure on your own, you can find it all in this unique and bustling city. From walking through a gorgeous arboretum and walking in the footsteps of Captain Cook to feeding the stingrays and learning to surf, there is no limit to what you can do and experience in Gisborne. You will see landscapes that you can only imagine in your dreams, and hear stories of times gone by. Though the area is best known for its wine and cultural significance, there is much more to experience when travelling to Gisborne.
- Annual Rhythm and Vines Festival at New Year
- Jazz festivals
- Surf contests
- Gisborne Wine and Food Festival
Gisborne has no shortage of great restaurants, offering cuisine from many regions of the world, only 4km from Motel Oasis.