Where to Stop on State Highway 2 Between Wairoa and Gisborne
Exploring more than just your standard “Auckland to Rotorua to Wellington” stops in the North Island? Travellers looking to see the real North Island and some of its best coastal scenery and relaxed Kiwi towns should consider the road between Gisborne and Wairoa. Make your way on State Highway 2 between the laid-back town of Wairoa (check out stuff to do in Wairoa here) and the hub of the Eastland region, Gisborne. Along the way, you’ll discover hot pools nestled in palms, epic viewpoints across the coast on the Mahia Peninsula, side trips to breathtaking waterfalls and much more. Take a look at this list of the must-do stops between Gisborne & Wairoa for more inspiration!
While you’re here, you might also be interested in Eastland Road Trip Itinerary: Gisborne to Opotiki or Opotiki to Gisborne via The Waioeka Gorge: 8 Epic Stops!
1. The Wairoa Lighthouse
Before beginning your journey on State Highway 2 (SH2) and crossing the bridge to head north, you’ll notice New Zealand’s “only inland lighthouse” on the right-hand side. It’s a great picture opportunity and the lighthouse still lights up after dark!
Location: 0.2km from Wairoa centre.
2. View Over Whakaki Lagoon
As you begin to climb SH2, stop at the off-road parking area and admire the views of the Whakaki Lagoon. This 1,500-acre wetland is dedicated to the protection of migratory birds. You’ll also notice some strangely-humped hills toward the coast. According to Maori legend, these are the seven humped whales of Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti.
Location: 12km from Wairoa.
This small community has a number of notable buildings: the elaborately-carved Kahungunu Marae and the historic Nuhaka general store which has been open for more than 100 years. Stock up on fuel and use the general store if you need to before taking the roundabout turn-off to the Mahia Peninsula.
Location: 32.7km from Wairoa
4. Mahia Peninsula (Side Trip) – Opoutama Lookout
Follow the coastal road along the Mahia Peninsula and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The peninsula was once an island but sand accumulation has formed New Zealand’s largest tombolo landform. There are plenty of lookouts and off-road parking along the Mahia Peninsula road. A noteworthy one is at the Opoutama Lookout with spectacular views across the peninsula to Mahia Beach and the village. The wide shallow beach below was also used by the US army for training landing craft during World War 2.
Location: 10km from Nuhaka
5. Mahia Peninsula (Side Trip) – Mahia Beach
Stop by the beach at the main settlement of the peninsula. There’s a cafe, which is a great stop for lunch, and the beach is a pleasant spot for a walk. If you’re feeling more active, head 7km south of the village on Kinikini Road to the Mahia Peninsula Scenic Reserve where there is a 3.5km loop walk through a lush coastal forest to a lookout. Check out more things to do on the Mahia Peninsula here. Once you’re done, return on the road back to Nuhaka.
Location: 17km from Nuhaka
6. Morere Hot Springs Scenic Reserve
Nestled in nikau palm forest, the little village of Morere is a must-stop, whether it’s for its tearooms, to relax at the hot pools or to do one of the forest walks in the Morere Hot Springs Scenic Reserve. Walks range from an easy 20-minute stroll on the Nikau Loop Walk to the more adventurous Ridge Track or Mangakawa Track taking around 2h30min to walk.
Location: 41.1km from Wairoa
As you begin to approach Gisborne through the Muriwai settlement, look over the Wherowhero Estuary toward the white cliffs of Young Nick’s Head, named after Captain Cook’s surgeon’s boy, Nicholas Young, who spotted the cliffs from the Endeavour just before the first European landing on New Zealand in 1769.
Location: 77.9km from Wairoa
Soon after the roundabout, you will see a side road leading to the small settlement of Manutuke. Here, there are several interesting maraes, one of which is Te Poho o Rukupo and is one of the oldest meeting houses in Poverty Bay. Toko Toru Papu is an Anglican church with interesting carvings, as is the Whakato Marae. Admire them from the outside, as you will need permission to enter the grounds.
Location: 87.3km from Wairoa
9. Eastwoodhill Arboretum and Rere Falls (Side Trip)
At the roundabout, turn onto Wharekopae Road for another spectacular side trip before reaching the city. 25km along this road is the Eastwoodhill Arboretum which is one of the largest collections of native and exotic trees in the Southern Hemisphere – an excellent place for a walk and bird-watching. 40km down the road is Rere Falls, a wide cascade and a wonderful picture opportunity. A little further is the Rere Rockslide which is a natural waterslide leading into a freshwater pool. You will need a bodyboard or an inflatable lilo/tube to use it.
Location: Wharekope Road turnoff is 90.3km away from Wairoa
Back at the roundabout, turn to cross the Waipaoa River and arrive at Makaraka at the junction between Main Road and SH2. This area is known for its productive plains producing fruit orchards and vineyards. Stop by the Bushmere Estate Winery for a wine tasting. Finally, follow Main Road to enter into Gisborne! Check out how to spend your time there with our What to Do for 5 Days in Gisborne.
Location: 94km in Wairoa