• Top things to do on the East Cape

Top things to do on the East Cape

The East Cape is a special place in New Zealand – wild, remote and rich in culture it’s worth a road trip all to itself. We’ve put together some of the top activities – paid and free – that you must tick off your list when planning a trip to the Cape.


1. Dive Tatapouri Reef Ecology Tour

Ever wanted to pat a friendly stingray in the wild? The Dive Tatapouri Reef Ecology tour is renowned and one of the most memorable wildlife tours you could ever do – what’s more, kids and adults alike will love it. You will be kitted out in waders, and the guide takes you out at low tide to see all sorts of reef wildlife such as kingfish, crayfish, eel, and octopus. But the stars of the show? Friendly short tail and eagle ray stingrays. Unafraid and keen for snacks, the puppy-like stingrays will rub up against your legs, receive pats on their satiny backs and if you’re game, these incredible animals will politely take food (provided by the guide) right out of your hands. Tatapouri Beach is 15 minutes north of Gisborne.

Dive Tatapouri

Meet stingrays in the wild with Dive Tatapouri

2. The East Cape Lighthouse

The East Cape Lighthouse on Otiki Hill is an iconic piece of East Cape history and one of the must-visits in the area. The track up to the lighthouse is accessible from a carpark at the end of the East Cape Road, about 21km past Te Araroa. It’s an 800-step workout to the top – so take a water bottle! You cannot enter the lighthouse, but the insta-worthy views take in beaches, hills and of course the magnificent Pacific Ocean. The lighthouse is most Easterly lighthouse in New Zealand, but it wasn’t always located on the Cape. It was built in 1900, with keepers and all, on the nearby Whangaokena (East Island). The island was unstable and so the lighthouse was shifted to the Cape in 1922. Its last keeper left in 1985.


3. Maunga Hikurangi

The first place on the planet to see the sun each day is the peak of Maunga Hikurangi (the highest non-volcanic peak in the North Island), so a sunrise experience here is unmissable. This mountain is a place of great spiritual and cultural significance to Ngati Porou, and our Te Urunga-Tu Sunrise experience will take you from Ruatoria to two-thirds the way up in a 4WD, off-roading under a starlit night sky. As the dawn breaks, you willl find yourself standing before nine magnificent whakairo (carvings), each with their own legend, which the guides will bring to life. This is certainly one of the more profound cultural experiences you can have (you can also do a day tour if you’re just not a morning person).

Maunga Hikurangi

Watch the sunrise of the new day at Maunga Hikurangi


4. Titirangi/Kaiti Hill

Titirangi/Kaiti Hill in Gisborne is perfect to get your bearings of the city and surrounds. Walk up from the port or drive up through the reserve, stopping along way at lookouts for views over the city, the three rivers, the plains with a myriad of vineyards and produce, the port loading its log ships, Young Nick’s Head and of course the sandy beaches on the Pacific Ocean.

Ngati Oneone are the hapu (sub-tribe) of this area. In the past there was a great pa (fortified settlement) on Titirangi and these days at its base, is the newly redeveloped Te Poho-o-Rāwiri marae, the centre of many community functions and gatherings. It was also at the base of this hill that in 1769 Captain Cook first set foot on New Zealand shores.


5. Wainui Beach

If you’re a water baby, a surf at Wainui Beach should be on your bucket list. The white sand Wainui beach is renowned in New Zealand, and its consistent, fast breaking barrels attract surfers from all over. Being out on the water amongst perfect swell lines is one of the more uplifting travel moments you could have! Watching the pros from the shore is also exciting (and drier). There’s toilets and showers at the Wainui surf club, and coffee at the Okitu Store. Makarori a couple of kilometres up the coast is also a popular surf break among locals (it has extensive rock pools to entertain the kids too).


6. Tolaga Bay Wharf

Tolaga Bay wharf – a Category One Heritage NZ Site and one of the top 100 historic sites to visit in the country. This wharf is famous and incredibly picturesque – its 660m make it the longest wharf of its type in the southern hemisphere (allow about 5-10 minutes to get to the end). It has beautiful views of the ocean and the incredible crumbling cliffs on the coast. If you’re a keen fisher you could take fishing rods and try your luck, or if you’re brave enough you could even do a bomb off the side – look for where the locals do it.


November 10, 2020


The seed planting that all visitors get to take part in on one of our tours is for the purpose of native plant re-generation on Maunga Hikurangi. Local, native trees in Raukumara Forest Park include rata, rimu, tawa, totara, kahikatea and beech. 🍒🌲

Be part of the eco-project by joining one of our tours, and experience the incredible views - perfect for a photo opportunity!

Discover more on the ‘Experiences’ page of our website.

📷: @belinda.macdonald 

#nzwinter #tairawhitigisborne #maungahikurangi #mthikurangi #firstlight #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa #kahikateaberries
Winter is upon us, yet the sun still rises each morning over Maunga Hikurangi. Join us for a day of culture on our Haramai Day Tour Experience! Stand with nine huge, carved sculptures as you listen to stories of our local history.

Find out more on our website under ‘Experiences’. 

#nzwinter #tairawhitigisborne #maungahikurangi #mthikurangi #firstlight #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa #suncarvings
A great shot of the first glimpse of sunlight from up here on Maunga Hikurangi! @lisaexplorerku started her hike up the maunga at 3:45am to make the most of her trip! 😲 It looks like it was well worth it to get this picture of the sun casting its golden rays 🌞✨

 📷: @lisaexplorerku 

#nzwinter #tairawhitigisborne #maungahikurangi #mthikurangi #firstlight #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa
Matariki, the Māori New Year, te Tau Hou Māori, was on June 24th. This is best the time to celebrate the past year with family and friends, and to look forward to the future. How did you celebrate over the weekend?

Maunga Hikurangi is the first place in the world to see the start of the new year. ✨🙌

📷: @matarikifestivalakl 

#nzwinter #tairawhitigisborne #maungahikurangi #mthikurangi #firstlight #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa #matariki
We are getting into the peak of winter now! But misty Maunga Hikurangi will still provide a spectacular sunrise on those clear mornings. If you’re planning to view the first light from the top of our maunga, be sure to wear lots of layers, appropriate footwear and a headtorch. The brisk air will surely wake you up ⛰🌞🧤

Check out our latest blog on our website to see what else you might want to bring.

📷: @mattcrawfordphoto 

#nzwinter #tairawhitigisborne #maungahikurangi #mthikurangi #firstlight #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa
The winter school holidays are quickly approaching. Looking for something a little bit different to do with the kids? Bundle up and try a day trip with us to the top of Maunga Hikurangi. Less of a commitment for the kids in your group than our sunrise tour, the Haramai Day Tour Experience takes about 4 hours, includes a light lunch featuring local produce and an exhilarating 4WD adventure! 🏔😎

#maungahikurangi #haramaidaytour #tairawhitigisborne #firstlight #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa
We pride ourselves on being the first to see the sun’s light each day. But our region is home to a number of famous lookouts to watch the sun rise and set from, like the iconic East Cape lighthouse. 

About 20kms from Te Araroa, enjoy a scenic drive there followed by a 20 minute walk up to the lighthouse itself. It might not be as tall as Maunga Hikurangi, but it’s a slice of history and makes for a great Instagram shot while you’re here! ♥

📷: @tairawhitigisbornenz 

#beachraces #carpediem #adventure ##tairawhitigisborne #maungahikurangi #firstlight #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa
Everyone who does our Te Urunga-Tu Sunrise tour has a unique experience. Greeting the sun’s first rays and planting a native seedling is truly memorable. If you’ve made it to the top of our maunga, what was your highlight?

#tairawhitigisborne #maungahikurangi #firstlight #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa
Aside from the beautiful views and landscape, our tours also offer a taste of local cuisine and produce. This nourishing lunch prepared by Hati Nati café of kumara salad, kangawaru (a sweetbread made from kumara, corn grit and flour), fruit and juice is a welcome bite after pushing to the top of our maunga! Well done, and hello world! 🥪🌱

#tairawhitigisborne #maungahikurangi #firstlight #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa
No one can deny the comfort and warmth of a classic Kiwi pie. But what about a paua pie? This unique spin on a cultural fave is what roadside hot spot, Café 35 in Tokomaru Bay,has become known for. So stop in and step up your pie game today! 🥧☕ 

📸: @cafe35toko

#cafe35 #tokomarubay #tairawhitigisborne #maungahikurangi #firstlight #ruatoria #gisborne #sunrise #aotearoa