The East Cape is one of the most strikingly beautiful, rugged, and untouristed areas of the North Island. A drive along the Pacific Coast Highway (State Highway 35) reveals one awesome vista after another along a landscape of crooked pohutukawa trees, craggy cliffs, coastal toitoi plants, beaches, forests, mountains and endless sea.
As captivating as the landscape is, it is the people who make the East Cape even more special. The Māori presence here is stronger than anywhere else in New Zealand; and not in the Rotorua-performance way, but as an everyday living culture. Marae and wharenui (meeting houses) dot the countryside and opportunities abound for cultural interaction in real Māori communities. The connection between the people and the land here is palpable, and offers a powerful lesson of conservation and respect for nature.
A trip to catch the sunrise at the East Cape lighthouse, the easternmost point of New Zealand is a memorable experience. Gisborne is the main city of the East Cape, a provincial but increasingly cosmopolitan capital at the northern end of Poverty Bay.
Some of the hostels along the East Cape coast can boast the most beautiful settings anywhere on the North Island as well as some of the friendliest and most interesting owners.
This is a laid-back region of fishing and horseback riding, where you will quickly realise things move on “Cape Time”. So slow down when you’re here, and savour the rewards of this special, off-the-beaten-track corner of New Zealand.
There isn't much local transport around the East Cape and it is best enjoyed at your own pace in a rental car. If you don't have a car; your best option is Stray Travel's East Coaster bus, which does a good job of getting you around the cape. The Stray East Coaster bus starts and finishes in Rotorua, taking a trip around the cape with overnight stops in Maraehako Bay and Tatapouri. This pass runs between October and April and takes a minimum of three days, but it is recommended that you spend a week to slow down to “Cape Time”.