TAIRĀWHITI'S TOP 10 SPOTS TO SEE THE SUNRISE
This article was written and originally published by Tairāwhiti Gisborne.
A LITTLE BIT OF WANDERLUST CAN TAKE YOU TO GREAT PLACES. HERE IN THE LAND OF THE FIRST LIGHT, THE FIRST PLACE IN THE WORLD TO GREET THE SUNRISE EACH AND EVERY DAY, YOU’LL BE SPOILED FOR CHOICE.
Here’s our ten most favourite spots to catch a sunrise in Tairāwhiti Gisborne – one of the first places in the world to see the sun.
1. Maunga Hikurangi
This may be well the sunrise of all sunrises – a world-first experience in every sense of the word. Maunga Hikurangi’s Te Urunga-Tu sunrise experience begins hours before the sun rises – but with some stargazing in the mix, it only makes the sunrise that much sweeter. You can find some accommodation in the nearby towns of Ruatoria, Tokomaru Bay or Hick's Bay, so you don’t have as much travel time for your pre-dawn meeting point.
The journey up to Maunga Hikurangi via 4wd vehicle is an experience itself - with a local guide from the Ngati Pouru tribe sharing cultural and historical info about this sacred mountain.
Standing high above Tairāwhiti Gisborne and amidst nine traditional Māori carvings, there's an otherwordly atmosphere that sets in. And when the sun begins to rise, watch as the skies transform into a kaleidoscope of colours, effortlessly taking your breath away.
2. Tolaga Bay Wharf
The Tolaga Bay Wharf was opened in 1929 and became an important part of Eastland history. At 660 meters in length, you need to allow half an hour to walk to the end of New Zealand's longest historic wharf and back.
Sunrise seekers be warned - the Tolaga Bay Wharf is also a great spot to catch a fish so if you're keen, bring a fishing pole! Chat with the local fisherman to get a few tips.
3. Dive Tatapouri
Sunrise with stingrays? Yes please! This is one of those surreal experiences you’ll remember for the rest of your days. Geared up in waders and a handy walking stick, you’ll encounter wild stingrays and other marine wildlife during your early morning reef tour. With the warmth of the rising sun reflecting on the calm waters of Tatapouri Bay and the stingrays nibbling at your feet, this is a once in a lifetime sunrise that you can only experience in Tairāwhiti Gisborne. Tours time depend on weather, tides and sea conditions so it’s best to enquire and plan ahead - learn more here.
4. Wainui Beach
An idyllic piece of paradise just 6km outside Gisborne city, you can drive to Wainui Beach or arrive by pedal power via the Gisborne - Wainui Beach Cycle Trail. Either mode of transport, it’s the perfect place for a sunrise stroll with a good chance that you’ll bump into some locals going about their everyday lives in paradise. This is also a popular beach for surfers with consistent waves all year round – so it may pay to bring your board for an epic sunrise ride. Come sun-up, there’s a hot cuppa waiting for you at the charming Wainui Store which serves barista coffee, fresh home baking, and tasty takeaways.
5. East Cape Lighthouse
Travelling from Gisborne, East Cape Lighthouse is a 3-hr scenic drive to what feels like the end of the earth. And what a beautiful place it is – you’ll enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
East Cape Lighthouse is located approximately 21 kilometres to the east of Te Araroa and is the most eastern tip of New Zealand. Standing 154 metres above sea level, it’s a steep climb to the lighthouse – about 800 steps all together so make sure you have plenty of time to ascend for sunrise.
6. Tokomaru Bay
A hidden gem along the East Coast, Tokomaru Bay is a small beachside community located 91km north of Gisborne. 8-kilometres of pristine coastline, you may be lucky enough to get this beachside sunrise all to yourself. The local population is popular with artists, musicians, craftspeople. With a strong Māori population, make sure to brush up on your Te Reo – a friendly Kia ora goes a long way in Tokomaru. Post-sunrise you can hit up Café 35 for a brunch by the bay – their legendary paua pies are always a hit.
7. The Pines Surf Break
This is the spot for a sunrise surf. The Pines Surf Break is located along the white sands of Wainui Beach out front of the Surf Club and is easily accessible by car. With the carpark offering some picturesque views, it's also a great place to watch all the action if you prefer to stay dry. Picnic tables available for those who want to pack a picnic brekky to enjoy in this beachside haven.
8. Titirangi Reserve
When you don’t want to travel far from the city, but still want some stunning views, Titirangi Reserve, also known as Kaiti Hill is your best bet. Perched on a hilltop overlooking Gisborne, Titirangi was once a pā or fortified village. This land is also an ancestral site of the Ngāti Oneone people with the Te Poho-o-Rāwiri marae at its base.
Road access to Titirangi is via Queens Drive so you can walk, run, bike or drive up for this sunrise mission. From here you can take in panoramic views of Poverty Bay, the harbour and the city – just pick your lookout. There’s a fitness course, picnic area, playground and scenic nature trails if you’re looking for some activities post-sunrise.
9. Te Kuri Farm Walkway
Just 5kms outside Gisborne city, the Te Kuri Farm Walkway is an easy drive out into the countryside and offers some breath-taking views to enjoy at sunrise. This 5.6 km loop walk moves through different terrain and vistas including Gisborne and its neighbouring communities, Poverty Bay and Te Kuri a Paoa (Young Nick's Head) in the distance. A steady climb to the top, Town Hill lookout is the highest point on the trail at 290 metres –but your efforts will be rewarded with some spectacular panoramas as far south as Mahia Peninsula and as far west at Maungapohatu on the eastern fringes of Te Urewera. It’s a 3hr return so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to arrive and start the walk (with head torches handy) so you are in perfect position to capture that sunrise.
10. Anaura Bay – Campground
One of the most stunning beaches along the East Coast, Anaura Bay’s beautiful golden sands is a tempting mission for a sunrise – even if you’re not a morning person.
Anaura Bay is north of Tolaga Bay and south of Tokomaru Bay, about 67 kilometres north of Gisborne. With a campsite situated on its scenic reserve, you know the views will be spectacular. The Anaura Bay Walking Track on the northern end of Anaura Bay is a 2-hour, 4.5 km loop walk through coastal bush, green hills and pine forests – absolutely sunrise worthy. The local DOC campground is a beautiful place to spend the evening before.