3 min read

nz travel • seven things to do in gisborne

Sun rising over the sea on wainui beach gisborne - the first land in the world to see the sun rise

Wal & Dog sculpture outside the library in Gisborne, NZ


so where’s gisborne?

gisborne is on the east coast of new zealand’s north island. it’s the southern gateway to the east cape and the first place land was spotted by captain cook on the endeavour. cook named this place poverty bay after landing in 1769 and having a bit of a run in with the local maoris when he misunderstood their local greetings. cook was forced to leave without any of the supplies they needed.

gisborne is just over two hours north of napier, a six hour drive from auckland through the waioeka gorge or around eight hours if you travel around east cape.

Sun rising over the sea on wainui beach gisborne - the first land in the world to see the sun rise

Tasting paddle at Sunshine Brewery, Gisborne NZ (c) Leonie Wise


  1. see the sunrise from the easternmost beach on earth

    gisborne (gizzy to the locals) is the first place in the world to see the daybreak. get yourself to wainui beach, just a few minutes north of the city, and greet the new day with a walk (or lie in bed & enjoy the view if you are lucky enough to find accommodation there). this 4 km (2.5 mile) long beach is the easternmost piece of land on earth. it’s also the home of the whales grave, a reminder of the tragic stranding and burial of 59 sperm whales in autumn 1970.

  2. check out the local sculpture

    the whale teeth on the main street: gisborne was a whaling town many years ago, and there two sculptures on the main street commissioned by the art in public places committee. the artist was a gisborne man, seymour may + visit wal and dog at the library: this massive bronze sculpture (pictured above) was created by weta workshop in wellington. a wonderful tribute to the late murray ball, who called gisborne his home, creator of the footrot flats comic books so many new zealanders love.

  3. walk, or drive, up to kaiti hill lookout at the top of titirangi domain

    on a clear day you get a fabulous view of the city below you. the white cliffs you see across the bay are young nick’s head–the first piece of new zealand spotted by captain cook’s ship the endeavour

  4. try a locally made beer at sunshine brewery

    this steam powered brewhouse is new zealand’s oldest brewery. the taproom offers tasting paddles and takeaways and has pizza and other bar snacks on the menu.

  5. visit the farmers’ market

    the gisborne farmers’ market happens every saturday from 9:30am – 12:30pm on the corner of stout street. it’s a great way to get a taste of the local foodie culture: think locally-produced honey and cheeses, organically-grown produce and freshly-caught fish. the perfect place to forage for ingredients to make a fabulous meal

  6. hop on a surfboard

    there’s great surf breaks on the coast here and loads of surf shops and places to get lessons. if you’re feeling crafty, head to red leaf surboards to make your own wooden surfboard. if bodysurfing is more your thing, take their workshop and make your own wooden handplane. all the wood they use for their workshops comes from sustainable sources. if surfing isn’t your thing, the beaches are worth visiting to take your fill of the stunning ocean views.

  7. do some forest bathing in new zealand’s national arboretum at eastwood hill

    situated 30 minutes drive west of gisborne, the arboretum boasts the largest collection of northern hemisphere plants south of the equator, eastwoodhill arboretum began its life in 1910 as part of douglas cook’s farm. it has since been gifted to the people of new zealand in perpetuity.


during our most recent visit…

we ate // kimchi pancakes at flagship eatery + chicken and jalapeño pizza at sunshine brewery

we drank // first press chardonnay and rosé grape juices mixed with sparkling water. a delicious 0% alcohol alternative to wine

we shopped at // the farmers market for locally made cheese and ciabatta + the local bookseller for some weekend reads + numerous secondhand stores for designer-label bargains

we stayed in // the pink house on wainui beach, with the storm and waves our background symphony