The East Cape is one of the most strikingly beautiful, rugged, and untouristed areas of the North Island. A drive along the Pacific Coast Highway (State Highway 35) reveals one awesome vista after another along a landscape of crooked pohutukawa trees, craggy cliffs, coastal toitoi plants, beaches, forests, mountains and endless sea.
As captivating as the landscape is, it is the people who make the East Cape even more special. The Māori presence here is stronger than anywhere else in New Zealand; and not in the Rotorua-performance way, but as an everyday living culture. Marae and wharenui (meeting houses) dot the countryside and opportunities abound for cultural interaction in real Māori communities. The connection between the people and the land here is palpable, and offers a powerful lesson of conservation and respect for nature.
A trip to catch the sunrise at the East Cape lighthouse, the easternmost point of New Zealand is a memorable experience. Gisborne is the main city of the East Cape, a provincial but increasingly cosmopolitan capital at the northern end of Poverty Bay.
Some of the hostels along the East Cape coast can boast the most beautiful settings anywhere on the North Island as well as some of the friendliest and most interesting owners.
This is a laid-back region of fishing and horseback riding, where you will quickly realise things move on “Cape Time”. So slow down when you’re here, and savour the rewards of this special, off-the-beaten-track corner of New Zealand.
There isn’t much local transport around the East Cape and it is best enjoyed at your own pace in a rental car. If you don’t have a car; your best option is Kiwi Experience’s East As bus, which does a good job of getting you around the cape. East As travels along State Highway 35 from Taupo to Rotorua and around the East Cape.
This small village is just 45km north of Gisborne, halfway between Gisborne and Tokomaru Bay. It has New Zealand’s longest wharf, which is necessary because of its unusually shallow bay.
Corner Solander Street & Cook Street (SH 35), Tolaga Bay
Tel (06) 862 6856
This small seaside town is most travellers’ first (or last) stop on the road around the cape. It is a laid back place with a couple of shops.
21 Potae Street, Tokomaru Bay
Tel (06) 864 5870
13 Potae Street, Tokomaru Bay
Tel (06) 864 5858
This rural location is the closest you can stay to East Cape, but Te Araroa is a shorter driving distance.
836 Rangitukia Road, Rangitukia
Tel (06) 864 3820
Te Araroa is the closest town with direct road access to East Cape and Hick’s Bay is just up the road.
Onepoto Beach Road, Hicks Bay
Tel (06) 864 4694
State Highway 35, Te Araroa
Tel (06) 864 4854
This beautiful seaside setting near the Opotiki end of the coastal highway is home to what may travellers describe as the best situated of the hostels in the East Cape region.
State Highway 35, Te Kaha, Whanarua Bay
Tel (07) 325 2648
This small community near Opotiki has a strong Māori culture and staying at the hostel here is a great way to experience it.
Te Kaha is the first overnight stop if you’re starting the East Cape trail in Opotiki.
State Highway 35, Te Kaha
Tel 07 325 2194