Gisborne is the most easterly city in New Zealand and famously the first to see the dawn each day. It sits on a stretch of land that was the first place Captain James Cook and his crew saw from the Endeavour on their voyage of 1769. They landed to seek supplies but, following a clash with local Maori, quickly departed again and Cook named the bay Poverty Bay as he felt it “did not afford a single article we wanted”. However, if wealth is marked by sweeping vistas, excellent and uncrowded surf beaches, a rich cultural heritage, and oodles of sunshine then this whole coastline is far from being poor. Despite a long history of land battles there continues to be a strong Maori presence here, making up half the population of the region, therefore Gisborne is an excellent place to learn about this important part of New Zealand history and culture.
If you continue east of Gisborne you will find yourself on a glorious drive around the East Cape, and if you thought that the rest of New Zealand was laid-back, well, prepare yourself to go down another gear. The road meanders through a number of small settlements where it feels like time has perhaps stood still, winds past rural farmland and every now and then presents you with vast beaches where you may well not see another soul. It’s a long way off the beaten track but for those with time, well worth it.