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Wainui Beach, Gisborne | © russellstreet/Flickr
Wainui Beach, Gisborne | © russellstreet/Flickr
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12 Reasons Everyone Should Visit Gisborne, New Zealand

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 30 August 2017
Gisborne is a city that should be on all New Zealand travellers’ must-see lists. The summer months welcome visitors with a warm, vibrant flair, while the winter invites even the most discerning travellers to relish the great food and chilled out urban landscapes. If you need any convincing, here are 12 reasons that prove ‘Gizzy’ is a place everyone needs to put on their radar.

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.

Wainui Beach, Gisborne
Wainui Beach, Gisborne | © russellstreet/Flickr

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.

Captain Cook Statue, Waikanae Beach, Gisborne
Captain Cook Statue, Waikanae Beach, Gisborne | © ItravelNZ/Flickr

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.

Sunrise in Gisborne
Sunrise in Gisborne | © Pluies/Flickr

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.

Kiwi legends at a legendary Kiwi festival

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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.

Gisborne Peak Vineyard
Gisborne Peak Vineyard | © Nathan/Flickr

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.

Mt Hikurangi, East Coast, New Zealand
Mt Hikurangi, East Coast, New Zealand | © Phillip Capper/Flickr

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.

Kaiti Hill, Gisborne
Kaiti Hill, Gisborne | © Jens Hilligsøe/Flickr

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.

Gisborne Clock Tower
Gisborne Clock Tower | © russellstreet/Flickr

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.

Te Tauihu Tūranga Whakamana
Te Tauihu Tūranga Whakamana | © Felipe Skroski/Flickr

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.

Tim Blackman getting real at the Dome #lovesongs #takesabraveman 👏

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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.

Wylie Cottage. Tairawhiti Museum #tairawhitimuseum #museumdesign #victorianhouse

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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.

East Coast Museum of Technology, Gisborne
East Coast Museum of Technology, Gisborne | © Julie/Flickr