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See the Best of the New Zealand's East Coast with These 4 Gisborne 'Bests'

Gisborne Surfing
Rugby Hongi Eastland

See the Best of the New Zealand's East Coast with These 4 Gisborne 'Bests'

story by: House of Travel

Gisborne, on the east coast of the North Island, has two major claims among New Zealand tourist cities:  It was at Kaiti Beach that Captain James Cook first landed on Kiwi shores on 9 October 1769, and it claims to be the first city in the world to see the sun rise every morning (although speak to the locals on Samoa and Tokelau and they might not agree with you).

Aside from claiming these two 'firsts,' it's a city steeped in wine - the self-proclaimed Chardonnay capital of New Zealand—deeply immersed in Maori culture, and brimming with great activities to entice holidaymakers. Surfing, hiking, golfing and much more—you'll find plenty to keep you busy there.

If you're keen on a trip to New Zealand's beautiful east coast, here are four tips to help you get the best from your holiday.

The best way to get there
Driving south along State Highway 2, Gisborne is under two hours from the small town of Opotiki, on the Bay of Plenty. But the savvier holidaymaker will swing a left at Opotiki and take the longer route, journeying along State Highway 35 (SH35) and the East Cape.

It's one of New Zealand's most scenic drives and takes in wonderful scenery and a myriad of fantastic beaches. The Raukumara ranges are a hiker's paradise, and the century-old Raukokore Anglican church that stands alone looking out over the ocean is one of the most photographed places on the whole East Cape.

The whole of SH35 can easily be completed in a day, including many stop-offs for a swim or a photo opportunity, but you'll find lots of charming accommodation and great camping spots if you want to really take your time getting to Gisborne.

The best Maori experience
The North Island's deep and mystic connections to the Maori people and culture are well known. The Maori comprise around half of the Gisborne population, so it's an ideal place to discover the culture. The Maori language is still spoken strongly in many communities and kapa haka (performing arts) are prevalent.

Mount Hikurangi, the sacred mountain of Ngati Porou, is perhaps the focal piece of the East Coast's Maori culture. At 1,754 metres, the views from its peak are stunning, while the nine carvings of Maui and his whanau (family) atop the summit are enchanting. You can visit Hikurangi on your journey along SH35 or on a tour from Gisborne.

The best New Zealand wine
Gisborne is New Zealand's third-largest wine producing region, so oenophiles will be in their element. Lots of sunshine and generally high temperatures make for the ideal grape-growing climate. Chardonnay is the region's poster boy, but you'll find lots of variety, with Merlot, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc in plentiful supply.

Gisborne's eclectic and high-quality dining scene will provide plenty of opportunity to compare the various wines, but to really learn about wine production in the area and practice your authentic wine-tasting techniques, take a tour to one of the fine vineyards. Wrights Vineyard and Winery and Kirkpatrick Estate Winery, both a short drive from Gisborne, are two of the most popular and are well-catered to tourists.

The best adrenaline rush
Gisborne is filled with plenty of activities for people who love their sport. From hunting and fishing to hiking and kayaking, there's no shortage of ways to spend your days getting your muscles moving. But for an unforgettable rush of adrenaline, jump into a cage and get face to face with nature's scariest creatures—sharks!

Dive Tatapouri is only 20 minutes up the coast from Gisborne and its shark diving tour will give you the most memorable experience of your life—and bring you back in one piece without any bite marks. The most common sharks they encounter are mako and blue sharks.

If that all sounds too intense for you, you can also go on a snorkelling trip or spot a variety of marine life on a reef ecology tour.

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