The Must-Dos in Gisborne!
Every intrepid traveller wanting to explore New Zealand to its fullest makes a trip to the world’s easternmost city, Gisborne. The city is on the coast of the North Island’s East Cape or Eastland. With natural attractions as fun as the Rere Rockslide or the wine as aromatic as those served at the region’s wineries, how can you resist getting stuck into the amazing things to do in Gisborne?
Locals love Gisborne for its wine and festivals in vineyards, especially the New Year’s party Rhythm and Vines. In addition, the city is renowned for its significant historical sites and being a frankly epic surf spot. Whether you’re into food, culture or adventure, there’s something for you here in Tairawhiti/Gisborne. Find out what in this list of must-dos in Gisborne!
1. Check Out the Waterfront Statues
Strolling down the waterfront you will step across a number of historical spots marked by statues and plaques, such as the Captain Cook statue and Young Nick statue. This will take you back to the first European and Maori meetings in history to better understand New Zealand’s colonisation.
Location: Eastern end of Waikanae Beach, Gisborne waterfront.
2. Explore Eastwoodhill Arboretum
Be transported to forests from all over the world at the Eastwoodhill Arboretum. This collection of native and exotic trees covers a whopping 135 hectares (333 acres) making for an excellent place to immerse yourself in nature just outside of Gisborne. There are over 25km (15.5 miles) of walking trails to explore and more than 40 bird species to be seen across the plantation. See more experiences like this in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Gisborne.
Location: 2392 Wharekopae Road, approximately 35km (22 miles) from Gisborne city centre.
3. Enjoy the View from Kaiti Hill
Kaiti Hill, also known as the Titirangi Domain, is a great lookout point over Gisborne and its surroundings, including Wainui Beach and the white cliffs of Young Nick’s Head. The Cook’s Plaza along Queen’s Drive is Gisborne’s #1 selfie spot, while there are a number of trails in the domain ranging from 30 minutes to two hours. Learn more about the walks in the 10 Best Walks in Gisborne.
Location: Kaiti Hill is also known as Titirangi. Access is via Queens Drive or Kaiti Beach Road, approximately 3km (1.9 miles) from Gisborne city centre.
4. Learn About the Local Region and Culture at the Tairawhiti Museum
A great place to start when visiting any new town anywhere in New Zealand is the local museum. The Tairawhiti Museum located along the riverside has a wealth of exhibitions, telling tales of the local Maori through historic artefacts to how the early settlers used to live through the restored Wyllie House. The wheelhouse of what was once a shipwreck is another highlight to see and now overlooks the Taruheru River.
Location: Stout Street, Gisborne city centre.
5. Indulge in the Local Wines
Gisborne is the third-largest wine region in New Zealand so don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in fine wines and artisan food at some of the many cellar doors. The region is famous for its Chardonnay, but it also produces Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Merlot and more. Find out more about each winery in our 7 Best Breweries & Wineries in Gisborne.
Location: All around Gisborne – see the link above for specific locations.
6. Try Out Gisborne’s Natural Waterslide
Grab your air mattress, a tube or a simple bodyboard and head to the Rere Rockslide. Speed down the rocks of this natural waterslide and finish in a huge pool at the bottom. It is a natural attraction like no other! While in the area, check out the Rere Waterfall. This is also a good activity to combine with visiting Eastwoodhill Arboretum nearby (see point #2). [Update: Check the water quality at the rockslide on the Gisborne District Council website to avoid getting sick].
Location: Wharekopae Road, approximately 50km (31 miles) from Gisborne.
7. Check Out the City Centre
We’ve talked a lot about the amazing things to do around Gisborne but the city centre is also well worth exploring. The vibrant town is full of unique buildings and shops giving you an authentic taste of New Zealand culture and life. The town also holds New Zealand’s oldest European cottage, Wyllie House, built in 1912. That’s old for New Zealand, Ok?! And of course, don’t forget to get a photo of the Town Clock. Check out some excellent places to eat too using The Foodie Guide to Gisborne.
Location: Gisborne city centre.
8. Meet the Stingrays at Dive Tatapouri
At low tide, join the team from Dive Tatapouri for a reef ecology tour. You’ll be kitted up in waders and led out onto a shallow reef to feed the local residents: giant short-tail stingray, majestic eagle ray and the mischievous kingfish. Learn all about these beautiful creatures on this interactive tour just outside of Gisborne.
Location: 532 Whangara Road, approximately 14.5km (9 miles) from Gisborne city centre.
9. Visit the Gisborne Farmers’ Market
Who doesn’t love a classic New Zealand farmers’ market?! If you haven’t had a chance to discover one for yourself yet, then make your first one at the Gisborne Farmers’ Market! Try local fruit, vegetables, cheese, wines and bread, as well as other artisan products. When you’re done browsing all of the goodies, relax with a coffee while listening to live music. The Gisborne Farmers’ Market is on every Saturday from 9.30am to 12.30pm. See more experiences like this in the 8 Things to Do in Gisborne for Foodies.
Location: Army Hall Carpark, corner of Fitzherbert and Stout Street, Gisborne city centre.
10. Explore Gisborne by Bike
Hire a bike from the Gisborne i-SITE or Cycle Gisborne and explore the town on two wheels. The bike-friendly footpaths alongside the rivers and waterfront of Gisborne make it a great place to get on your bike and see the city highlights quickly. Plus, it’s one of the very few cities in New Zealand that’s almost entirely flat!
Location: Gisborne i-SITE – 209 Grey Street. Cycle Gisborne – 124 Ormond Road.
11. Relax in the Botanical Gardens
Located along the Taruheru River, the Gisborne Botanical Gardens is a great spot to unwind. Take a picnic and settle on one of the many grass patches or stay active by taking one of the multiple bushwalks of the gardens.
Location: Beside the Taruheru River off Aberdeen Road, approximately 1.6km (1 mile) from Gisborne city centre.
Surfing in Gisborne couldn’t be easier with two fantastic surf beaches accessible from town. Waikanae Beach at the end of Roberts Road is a popular spot for beginners and surf lessons, while intermediates might want to try Gizzy Pipe located just in front of the surf club. Those looking for more of an adventure, check out the breaks at Sponge Bay, The Island (for advanced surfers only), Wainui Beach and Makorori Beach.
Location: Waikanae Beach, Gisborne city centre. Makorori Beach, approximately 13km (8 miles) from Gisborne city centre. Wainui Beach, approximately 6km (4 miles) from Gisborne city centre.
13. Hop on a WA165 Steam Train
If you’re lucky enough to be in Gisborne during a summer or holiday weekends then you’ll get the chance to ride a WA165 steam locomotive through the city and countryside of Gisborne. Highlights of the trip include travelling straight across an airport runway and over a 329m (1,079ft) bridge. Pick up your tickets to the Gisborne City Vintage Railway from the Gisborne i-SITE.
Location: Gisborne Railway Station, Grey Street, Gisborne city centre.
14. Discover Gisborne’s Walking Trails
Discover photo-worthy viewpoints, native bush, coastal walkways and historical sites along the many walkways in and around Gisborne. Enjoy an easy stroll along the boarded Town Beach Walkway, spot native birds in the Gray’s Bush Scenic Reserve, and capture magnificent views from the Te Kuri Farm Walkway. Get more details on each of these walks and more in our 10 Gisborne Walks You Can’t Miss.
Location: In and around Gisborne – see the link above for specific locaitons.
15. Play Mini Golf – Gizzy Style!
If you’re only going to do one mini golf course in New Zealand, make it the fun and characterful Gisborne i-SITE Mini Golf! With each hole, you’ll take a whirlwind tour around the East Coast of New Zealand, from the surf waves of Gisborne to the East Cape Lighthouse. There are 18 holes in total and it’s fun for all ages.
Location: Gisborne i-SITE, 209 Grey Street, Gisborne city centre.
16. See in the New Year with One of New Zealand’s Biggest Festivals
The Rhythm & Vines Festival is arguably New Zealand’s biggest and most iconic festival. Held in December over the New Year period, the three-day festival often has an amazing guest list spread over multiple stages. It’s a must-do for any festival lover!
Location: Waiohika Estate, approximately 11.5km (7 miles) from Gisborne.
17. Watch the First Sunrise in the World
Gisborne is world-famous for one thing: being the first city to see the sunrise every day. So set your alarm clock early, don’t drink too much the day before (quite hard in Gisborne, we know), and sit on the beach to enjoy the show. You’ll feel oh so special that you are the first one to see the new day.
Location: Gisborne waterfront or beaches.