The surf-ready beaches
Gisborne’s East Coast location makes it a hot-spot for surfers, swimmers, beach-bunnies, and even fishers. If you’re inclined to hit the waves, some of the top picks include Waikanae, Gizzy Pipe, Midway, Sponge Bay, Wainui Beach, and Makorori Point. These beaches have a strong reputation for powerful waves, clean swells, and unspoiled coastlines.
A treasure trove of interesting monuments
If you want to learn a bit of the local history, look no further than the various statues dotted around the city. Captain James Cook, whose first landing was on Poverty Bay, has a couple of monuments in his honour. Young Nick, the surgeon’s boy aboard the Endeavour who was the first to site the city, was also given his own sculpture in 1995.
The world’s first sunrise
If you know a bit about New Zealand, you’ll be well-aware that Gisborne is the first place in the world to see the sun rise. So it’s only fair to say that the city will bring you something highly memorable to cherish. You just have to make an effort to get up in the crack of dawn, and decide whether you want to see the sun from up high or just across the horizon. For the former, make your way up Otiki Hill and settle by East Cape Lighthouse; for the latter, Wainui Beach will offer plenty of exquisite views.
The iconic Rhythm and Vines festival
For those planning to visit in the summer months, this is an event not to be missed. Naturally, Gizzy is the first place to see in the New Year – and the Rhythm and Vines festival goes above and beyond in ensuring this is a truly epic celebration. The three-day event is incredibly popular, and tends to get sold out well in advance. People from all over New Zealand pitch up their tents and party up a storm as they listen to various musical acts across multiple stages.
It’s New Zealand’s ‘Chardonnay Capital’
Gisborne earned the unofficial ‘Chardonnay Capital’ title because of its award-winning viticulture. The grape varietal predominates the region’s wine production, though it’s not the only style it is renowned for. As the third largest wine producer in New Zealand, Gisborne’s relatively remote landscapes make it a prime location for cultivating aromatic varieties like Pinot Gris and Viognier.
Green landscapes are always within reach
First, there’s the Eastwoodhill Arboretum, with the largest collection of Northern Hemisphere trees in the southern part of the equator. Then, you’ve got the North Island’s largest non-volcanic peak, Mt Hikurangi. Noteworthy natural reserves are abundant, and also include Kaiti Hill, the Gisborne Botanical Gardens, Gray’s Bush Scenic Reserve, and Okitu Bush.
The photo opportunities are practically endless
With so many picturesque lookout points, there’s no excuse not to travel with a camera. Kaiti Hill is going to be the place you get the best panoramas – from the beach to the city landscape and the white headlands along Poverty Bay’s Young Nick’s Head.
An Art Deco experience awaits
Gisborne’s Art Deco architecture might not be as distinct as, say, Napier or Hastings, but there are a good amount of interesting nooks and crannies to set one’s sights onto. Most notably, the downtown Clock Tower, which was erected in the 1930s. The Gisborne Herald building is another Art Deco gem in the city centre. Kerridge House, a private residence that was originally built for local movie magnate Sir Robert Kerridge, is considered one of the finest examples of the architectural style in New Zealand.
Public art is all around
Gisborne’s Art In Public Places initiative successfully highlights the city’s artistic talent. Given that the area is known for having a sizable Maori population, many of the creative contributions have a strong heritage appeal. Artworks on display include a ceramic whale tooth sculpture, and the carving of a waka (canoe), prowl (te tauihu), and a cylindrical glass sculpture that represents the guardianship of the local Tairawhiti people.
You’ve also got underrated attractions like the Dome Cinema
A former gentleman’s club that made the most of its classic architecture by evolving into an elegant boutique movie theatre. The Dome Cinema, named as such because of its incredible glass-domed ceiling, primarily shows art house films to an audience sitting on plushy beanbags. There’s a side table for moviegoers to put their wine and pizza while the spectacle is on show. Aside from films, the cinema is also renowned for its lineup of musical performances.
Or the heritage gem that is Tairawhiti Museum
Tairawhiti Museum is the place in town to learn about Maori and colonial history. Its dynamic exhibition calendar brings an interesting showcase of paintings and photographic displays. Meanwhile, a semi-permanent maritime wing consists of displays on the Maori waka, whaling traditions, and Cook’s settlement on Poverty Bay. Other must-sees include the vintage surfboard collection, the Gisborne Photo News archival collection, and a reconstruction of Wylie House, New Zealand’s oldest cottage.
And the rustic haven in East Coast Museum of Technology
Farm equipment, fire engines, a milking barn, and myriad old-time appliances. The East Coast Museum of Technology is known for its appeal to the rough-around-the-edges rural culture of the past. Definitely worth seeing from up close if you’ve got a keen eye for analogue artifacts and automotive technologies.