Gisborne is New Zealand's easternmost city and is perhaps best known for two "firsts" - it is for much of the year the first city in the world to see the sun each day and it was also the first place in the country to be set foot on by Europeans when Captain Cook arrived in 1769. Although relatively isolated, Gisborne is well worth a visit for its history and attractions.
Gisborne's Size and Location
Gisborne is located at the northern end of Poverty Bay on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. In addition to taking in the wide sweep of the Bay's magnificent beach, the city sits on the joining of three rivers, and has an important port. The flat, fertile plain which spreads out from the city is planted extensively in grapes and citrus. The remainder of the pastoral flat land is used for sheep and cattle farming. Forestry is also an important industry and a large quantity of pinus radiata (pine) logs are loaded onto ships for export from Gisborne's port.
Getting to Gisborne
Gisborne can be approached from three directions. The most direct route from the north is through the magnificent Waioeka Gorge which starts at Opotiki and is approximately 140 kilometers long. A much longer, but also spectacular, alternative route from opotiki and Whakatane is around the east coast of the Bay of Plenty. From the south, Gisborne is reached from Hastings/Napier in Hawkes Bay.
The population of Gisborne is around 34,000. There is a strong Maori presence which extends throughout most of the Eastland region.
Virtually surrounded on three sides by high hills and mountains, Gisborne is well sheltered from the prevailing westerly weather in New Zealand. The climate is warm, dry and sunny, making it ideal for wine production and orchard fruits.
Captain Cook set foot here in 1769 as the first European we know of to land in New Zealand. Maori were already well established here, and the tribal traditions continue strongly to this day (currently roughly 50 percent of the Gisborne region's population is Maori). The city's isolation and difficulty of access made progress since Cook's arrival slow; however, development increased as the road through the Waioeka Gorge improved.
Surfing: Gisborne is home to some of the best surf breaks in New Zealand.
Vineyards: Gisborne has more than 2000 hectares of vines and is known as the Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand. Several of the wineries offer sampling.
Beaches: Whether for swimming, surfing, sunbathing or strolling, the beaches along the Gisborne waterfront are as good as any in New Zealand.
Kaiti Hill: On the outskirts of the city, this gives unsurpassed views of the entire Poverty Bay and Gisborne City. It is not to be missed!
Captain Cook Monument: This stands on the spot where Cook first landed in New Zealand in 1769.
Wainui and Tolaga Bay: These two beaches are within 50km north of Gisborne and are well worth a visit.
Eastwoodhill Arboretum: An enormous display of trees and plants, both native and exotic, spread over 135 hectares.
Where to Eat in Gisborne
To be honest, Gisborne isn't a foodie's paradise. There are a couple of international-style restaurants in the marina area and a smattering of other cafes and restaurants in the city center. There are of course the ubiqutous fast food outlets throughout the town.
Where to Stay in Gisborne
The range of accommodations in Gisborne includes motor camps, motels and some inner city hotels. There is also a range B&Bs, including the charming Katoa Lodge, which also has some of the finest gardens in the district.
Things to Do in Gisborne
Strolling along the riverbanks, hitting the beach, sampling fine chardonnay and gewurztraminer wines, taking in one of the many coastal and rural walks - these are all things worth taking in during your visit to Gisborne.