TOUR EAST CAPE  For the international and domestic tourist wanting to experience New Zealand the way it used to be, no highrise, fastfood outlets, shopping malls and thousands of tourists, take the unique journey to Eastland, on the PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY.  We find that generally for the domestic tourist, deciding to do the East Cape tour, is done after they have extensively travelled the rest of New Zealand.  State Highway 35 from Opotiki to Gisborne is one of the most scenic drives in the country,  plus rated one of the best for motor cycle tours, self drive tourists, sports and vintage car clubs.

The trip from Opotiki to Gisborne is 331kms and we strongly suggest you take the drive, over at least 2 days, the area is extremely interesting, along the way you will pass many maori settlements and marae (maori meeting houses), historical churches, and amazing scenery, with viewing pullovers for wonderful photo opportunities.  From Opotiki to Cape Runaway, a drive of 120kms, the road follows the ocean, winding past rocky foreshore, driftwood strewn beaches, sandy and rocky bays, spectacular cliff top ocean views.  From the top of the western side of the cape you will travel inland past remote sheep and beef stations, manuka covered hillsides to Hicks Bay  Te Araroa, and East Cape, on the eastern side of the cape.  The next 173kms to Gisborne is mostly inland, again passing beef and sheep stations, many maori settlements, marae and villages, you will view the ocean again at Tokomaru Bay, Tolaga Bay and Tatapouri before arriving in Gisborne.  

Many of our guests arrive in Waihau Bay, having missed some of the amazing historical sights along the way, or just off the main road, so we have compiled a small list of some the essential sights and things to do, also some places to stop for something to eat and a cup of tea or coffee.  Please be aware that there is not a lot of cafes, restaurants and accommodation in the East Cape region.   If you want a more extensive guide to the East Cape pick up the OPOTIKI, EAST CAPE & BEYOND VIA THE PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY from the information centres at Whakatane, Opotiki or Gisborne

If you are starting your tour in Whakatane then a visit to White Island is an absolute must.  This active volcano is considered to be New Zealands safety valve.  It is home to a variety of birdlife and has New Zealand's largest gannet colony.  White island tours operate daily trips to the island, however in peak times it is very important to book. are the only tour company with permission to land on the island.  Helicopter flights are also available to be booked.  We suggest you stay at the Pacific Coast Motor lodge on the main road, spacious new units. and lovely hosts.  If you are touring by motor bike or belong to a bike club such as the ulysses, with their Harley Davidson bikes , then stop into Thumpers at 33 McAlister St, for coffee, lunch a chat, and a brouse around their showroom.

From Whakatane take the Ohope road over the hill, on the left is a fabulous viewing pullover, and a clear day you can see Cape Runaway in the distance.  After travelling through Ohope on the Pacific Coast Highway, 1.5kms is the OHIWA HARBOUR OYSTER FARM.  If you are a shell fish lover you will be able to purchase fresh oysters, mussels and scallops in season along with a large selection of other seafood.

On arrival in Opotiki make sure you turn left at the T intersection, directions to State Highway 35, Te Kaha and Te Araroa are clearly sign posted.  If it is time for a coffee or something to eat, the HOT BREAD SHOP is on your left, they have their own bakery, ready to eat food,  plus a blackboard a la carte menu.  Follow the signs to SH35 at the roundabout along the road.  You are now on your way and will pass through many small maori settlements, pohutukawa lined beaches, and pebbly bays. 

24kms from Opotiki is Torere, drive up the hill and stop to view the magnificently carved Whakairo Gateway to the Torere School.   The 198 metre high Maraenui Hill provides look-out spots which give panoramic views of the coast all the way back to Whakatane and beyond.  Another 10 mins along the road is the mighty Motu river, well known for the annual motu river challange.  You can take a jet boat tour of the river,  with MOTU AAA JETBOAT TOURS (prebooking is essential in peak times contact Heremia & Hinemihi on 027 686 6489) The motu river runs through some of the most awesomely scenic country.  Its banks are covered with unique and rare flora such as orchids, koromiko, hebe, and native broom, scarely touched by humans.  The entire river is covered by a conservation order, and only accessible by water.  After crossing the Motu bridge, the Jetboat tours are located on the left side.

At Omaio country store, turn sharp left, to Pokohinu Point, this leads past some wonderful carvings on the Marae gateway, before continuing to the Hoani Waititi Reserve, with toilets, and many ideal picnic sites.  The next town is Te Kaha, a large settlement, which was an old whaling settlement.  Te Kaha's ideal climate has lead to many kiwifruit orchards being established, a popular vacation area, surrounded by beaches.  MAUNGAROA STATION HORSE TREKS, is located on the Maungaroa Scenic Drive off Cophenhagan Road.  This remote back country station nestled in the foothills of the Raukumara Ranges offer guided horse treks through magnificent bush, crystal clear rivers and awesome waterfalls.  If you would like to experience this amazing horse trekking experience, phone or email us and we will arrange this for you.  Also located in Te Kaha is Tukaki the beautifully carved marae. 

Another 20 mins along the road is Whanarua Bay. the tropical micro climate here as on so much of the coast, is ideal for growing bananas, avocados, babacos, cherimoya, kiwifruit and macadamias.  Stop at the PACIFIC COAST MACADAMIA FARM for espresso coffee and macadamia products, an absolute must is the macadamia and honey ice cream.  It is absolutely divine.  Further along the road Maraehako Horse Treks will take you on a trek around the Maraehako Bay area.

At Raukokore the easily recognised Anglican church is set on a promontory. People travel from all over New Zealand and internationally to be married in this church.  The church is opened daily for viewing and photography.

At the top of the hill, as you arrive in Waihau Bay, KEA CREATIONS creations is signposted, take the road on your left and follow it to the end of the cul de sac.  This art studio and gallery has a wonderful selection of locally made crafts, jewellery, souveniers, clothing, fishing gear and icecreams.  The small village of Waihau Bay, left at the bottom of the hill has petrol, a general store, hotel bar and backpackers accommodation.  Back on SH35 there is another cafe at the camping ground.  OCEANSIDE APARTMENTS is located opposite the sandy beach at the end of the bay.  On arrival you can relax and in the evening, watch what is often an amazing sunset.  On your departure we will be happy to discuss any further questions and arm you with maps, information booklets, accommodation guides etc, 

5 mins along the road is Whangaparoa. Take the time to learn some local history and stand where the warriors of the Tainui  and Arawa canoes first landed in New Zealand, the monument photographed is said to be the place where the canoes were first tethered, the carving is located on private land, so talk to us and we will guide you to the area.  This is also the spot where Kumaras were supposedly first introduced to New Zealand.  We can arrange a Guided Maori Historical and scenic walk, which can include a visit to the local marae, where the tribes history is depicted in mural form.  Cape Runaway is clearly visible but not accessible by land. However we can arrange fishing trips around the cape area.

From Cape Runaway the road travels inland, across to East Cape, Lottin point, well known for excellent land based fishing and diving, is a 10 min drive off the main road,  a narrow and winding drive but worth a visit if you have the time.  Just before Hicks Bay you will notice the aptly named Nipple Hill and the Waihirere Falls, in the bush to the right.   At the western end of Hicks Bay a freezing works and port were established, some of the old buildings are still in use today, the old Hicks Bay wharf is used by locals for jetty fishing. Hicks Bay marks the start of the large sheep and cattle stations which extend to the south of the North Island all along the east coast area, and for many miles inland.  Onepoto Bay at the eastern end has a tranquil and sheltered beach with a cluster of homes and beach houses.

Back onto SH35 at the top of the hill is a great lookout spot for photos of Hicks Bay, Te Araroa and East Cape. On the flat towards Te Araroa is the EAST CAPE MANUKA OIL FACTORY, the visitor centre and cafe serves coffee, muffins and smoothies.  The shop has a large selection of manuka products including manuka honey, manuka oil, and many other products. Here SH35  turns right but continue down the road a visit to the general store at Te Araroa on the left side is a must, here you will find the old style country store loaded up with everything from icecream to gumboots, and sink plugs to postcards.  Petrol is available here, and across the road is a cafe for toasted sandwiches, pies, hamburgers etc. On the foreshore  an information centre is open in the summer,  plus public toilets are located opposite.  Turn left just along the road in front of the school is the giant pohutukawa tree, Te Waha o Rerekohu, the largest in the country.   

The trip to THE EAST CAPE AND LIGHTHOUSE commences here.  The all weather road runs along the waterfront through private land.  This lighthouse is the most easterly in the world and the climb to the light is well worth the 728 plus stairs, where you can see East Island, the original site of the lighthouse.  The 40km round trip is most rewarding.

Next stop is Tikitiki, an interesting stop for the student of Maori, the people here are the decendents of Whatonga and Toi saga, the first to settle and establish themselves in this fertile valley.

ST MARY'S CHURCH, should not be missed.  The wonderful carvings and Tukutuku woven panels were created by local Ngati Porou craftspeople and the pulpit a gift from the Te Arawa tribe.  Entry to the church is a gold coin donation.  A further 19kms is the town of Ruatoria the largest town on the East cape and the only area with a bank an ATM machine, a well stocked supermarket, old style hotels, cafes, takeaways, radio station, and an information centre.  Ruatoria is the centre of the great Ngati Porou tribe. 

Mt Hikurangi at 1754 metres is clearly visible and majestic, the highest non volcanic peak in the North Island. Home to the Ngati Porou, legends which extol the sacredness of Hikurangi have nutured the minds and hearts of the descendants of Maui-Tikitiki-a-Taranga whose greatest exploit was fishing up the North Island of Aotearoa, known to all Maori as Te Ika a Maui (the great fish of Maui)  1000 metres above sea level on Hikurangi mountain are nine carved sculptures depiciting Maui and his Whanau (family) The massive Whakairo are a legacy and tribute to the cultural heritage and artistry that has evolved within the Ngati Porou.  Tour packages with booking essential, include 4 x 4  Whakairo, guided tour to the summit, Pick up and drop off service, plus Ngati porou Holiday Packages, contact Paora Brooking, Tourism Coordinator on

Continue your journey onto Te Puia Springs, and we understand that the thermal springs at the Hotel will be open.  There is a well stocked shop, petrol and toilets located here, plus a pleasant golf course.  The Te puia Springs information centre here is very helpful for information on the area.  A nice detour off the main road to Waipiro Bay, once a bustling coastal shipping township is an interesting drive, the bay has 3 historical marae, a school and church.  The loop road joins SH35 again.

Tokomaru Bay is a lovely white sandy beach with rocky headlands at each end.  The area is rich in culture and history.  Turn left and follow the coastal road to Waima at the eastern end of the bay and you will find the old wharf, and remains of the freezing works which closed down in 1952, relics of the era when transport on the coast was all by sea.  The harbour operated until 1963.  If it is a PUB lunch you enjoy then stop at the Te Puka Tavern, their bistro cafe serves a traditional pub lunch with seating inside and outdoor tables, this Tavern has one of the best views in the country.

If you are planning an overnight on the eastern side of the Cape then we strongly suggest you stay at RANGIMARIE BEACHSTAY ANAURA BAY. contact Judy Newell on or visit their website on  Judy is a wealth of information on the area, they have suites all with ensuite bathrooms, fabulous beach and ocean views, one self contained cottage, and a fabulous meal service. Anaura bay is located 7 kms from the main highway halfway between Tokomaru and Tolaga Bays.  It is one of the most beautiful bays on the eastern side and steeped in history.  Captain Cook berthed at Anaura and was walmly welcomed here after beating a speedy retreat from poverty bay.  There is a 3.5km coastal walk taking around 2 hours from the eastern end of the bay. Also excellent for fishing and swimming.

 Next stop is Tolaga Bay and larger than most settlements on the coast.  There is a nine hole golf course, a very picturesque colonial style hotel with a great cafe and good coffee.  The streets of this town are named after Captain Cooks crew, there are other takeaways, cafes, general stores and petrol available.  Tolaga is also well known for the very long jetty, which served as a wharf in the days of coastal shipping.  This is also the start of the Cooks cove walkway (2.5hours) which provides spectacular views of Cooks cove and the hole in the cliff wall.

Take the turnoff to Waihau Beach, also known as Loisels Beach, a 4.5km drive to view 5.6kms of unspolt beach nestled in a secluded bay.  The beach is alive with Dotterell and white-breasted shag colonies.

The next 25kms to Gisborne follows the coast with spectular ocean views, passing the Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve which covers 2450 hectares from the Pouawa to the Waimoko river mouths and up to 3.5kms offshore.  The road continues on past the deep sea fishing club at Tatapouri, then past Wainui beach and onto Gisborne.

In Gisborne we recommend two options for accommodation.  If you want to be amongst all the water action then stay at the Senator Motor Inn on the river.  All units have river views where you can sit and watch all the shipping coming and going including, commercial and recreational fisherman, rowing clubs practice daily, and kayaks are seen frequently.  From your motel you can walk to the city centre for shopping and cafes or across the river to alfresco dining and restaurants, opposite the motel.  Contact them on or visit their website on if you want a nice new motel, with large and spacious family units away from the hustle and bustle of the city then try the Alfresco Motor Lodge, located on the outskirts of the Gisborne township heading towards Wairoa and Whakatane back on State highway 2, contact them on or visit This lovely new motel won Motel of the year, has internet access, spa baths in several units, and a complimentary laundry.

For your stay in Gisborne we suggest you contact the information centre at 209 Grey st, the staff here are extremely helpful, email them on or visit their website on  Gisborne is lovely east coast city with a wide main street, paved side walks lined with palm trees, great cafes and restaurants.

We hope this has given you a bit more information on your tour of the East Cape