New Zealand is known for its mix of wildly divergent landscapes, but on the East Coast it’s the sociological contours that are most pronounced. There's a full spectrum of NZ life here, from the earthy settlements on the East Cape to Havelock North’s moneyed, wine-soaked streets.
Māori culture is never more visible than it is on the East Coast. Exquisitely carved marae (meeting house) complexes dot the landscape, and te reo and tikanga (the language and customs) are alive and well.
Intrepid types will have no trouble losing the tourist crowds – along the Pacific Coast Hwy, through rural back roads, on remote beaches or in the mystical wilds of Te Urewera. And when the call of the wild gives way to caffeine withdrawal, you can get a quick fix in Gisborne or Napier. You’ll also find plenty of wine here: the Hawke's Bay region is striped with vine rows.
- Napier Time-warping back to the 1930s, surrounded by art deco, in this mighty charming town.
- Hawke’s Bay Wine Region Sniffing and sipping your way around the local wineries.
- Gisborne Wineries Finding more fab NZ wine around Gisborne.
- Te Urewera Losing yourself in this area's mighty forests, rich in Māori culture.
- Pacific Coast Hwy Counting off landmarks as you cruise around the East Cape: Cape Kidnappers, Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay and the East Cape Lighthouse.
- Surfing in Gisborne Sliding a surfboard into the East Coast waves.
- Eastwoodhill Arboretum Searching for wood nymphs among the magical forest paths a short drive from Gisborne.
When to Go
- The East Coast basks in a warm, mainly dry climate. Temperatures in summer (from roughly December to March) around balmy Napier and sunny Gisborne nudge 25°C; in winter (around June to August) they rarely dip below 8°C.
- The Hawke’s Bay region enjoys mild, dry, grape-growing conditions year-round, with an average annual rainfall of just 800mm. Harvest time is autumn (March to May).
- In winter, heavy downpours sometimes wash out sections of the Pacific Coast Hwy (SH35) around the East Cape: check road conditions at either end (Opotiki or Gisborne) before you hit the highway.