Natural (and Free) Things to Do in Eastland
Nature has packed a lot into the Eastland region of the North Island, also known as the East Coast or Gisborne region. In the most inland part of the region, you have vast lakes surrounded by dense forest, which can be hiked as part of a New Zealand Great Walk. As you make your way to the coast, visiting waterfalls and natural water slides along the way, you’ll find sand dunes to impress, as well as stunning beaches, bays and coves steeped in history. Nature even reigns in the waters where you can snorkel amongst different fish species in a marine reserve. It’s fair to say there’s plenty of natural attractions in Eastland.
So while travelling out east, make sure you soak in the wilderness and natural wonders that Eastland, Gisborne and Wairoa behold! Want to know more about this region? Check out our complete destination category for Gisborne and Eastland.
1. Mt Hikurangi
The highest peak in the Raukumara Range rises to 1,752m (5,748ft). It is sacred land for the natives that believed the mountain was the first part of New Zealandtoemerge from the sea when created by gods. Because we are all about admiring the spectacle of nature in this article, we strongly advise arranging to be there for sunrise. It is said to be the first point on mainland New Zealand that the sunlight hits during the sunrise.
Location: 25km (16 miles) from Ruatoria. Turn off State Highway 35 onto the gravel Tapuaeroa Valley Road and follow the signs for Pakihiroa Station. Access to the mountain is via a 7-hour one-way hike.
2. Rere Rockslide
In New Zealand, we don’t need water parks… Get a simple bodyboard or an inflated air mattress and use what nature has created for us: the Rere Rockslide! You can spend hours going up and down this flat piece of rock. Stop by the champagne pools and the waterfall nearby if you have a spare hour.
Location: 50km (31 miles) north of Gisborne on the Wharekopae Road.
3. Hicks Bay
The charming beaches in the bay offer some great swimming spots. Better yet, the volcanic peaks are a stunning backdrop to the bay making it an awesome photo opportunity. You’ve just found your new Facebook cover!
Location: Hicks Bay is along State Highway 35 between Potaka and Te Araroa.
4. Eastwoodhill Arboretum
Spreading over 135 hectares (334 acres), the National Arboretum of New Zealand includes 25km (16 miles) of tracks and 15,000 trees. Keen botanists will spot some pretty rare species and some unique South Hemisphere species.
Location: Along Wharekopae Road, 35km (22 miles) from Gisborne.
5. Motu Trails
The Motu Trails are a network of three mountain biking trails which are highly accessible. The trails encapsulate a bit of everything: farmlands, sand dunes and thick forest. If you have 6 hours at the most to spare, these trails are worth riding. Check out our full guide on the Eastland Motu Trails.
Location: On the border of Eastland and the Bay of Plenty. Trails go near the settlements of Opotiki, Omarumutu, Matawai, Motu, Toatoa and Waiaua.
6. Cooks Cove
The elegant cove was one of the stops of Captain Cook when navigating around New Zealand in 1769. The Cooks Cove Walkway (2h30mins one way) information boards explaining significant history in New Zealand. While in the area, don’t miss Tolaga Bay Wharf, New Zealand’s longest wharf.
Location: 52km (32 miles) north of Gisborne. On State Highway 35 take the Wharf Road turnoff, 2km south of Tolaga Bay town. Start the walkway from the southern end of Tolaga Bay.
7. Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve
Snorkel or dive to see crayfish, blue moki fish and more in this marine reserve with eight different habitat types. Get yourself in the rock pools and reefs and see what you find.
Location: 16km (10 miles) north of Gisborne. Along State Highway 35, turn off at Pouawa.
8. Te Urewera
The famous national park (that is actually no longer a national park) is a gigantic reserve covering a big part of Eastland. The park has a real Jurassic feel with lush thick forest, mossy trees and huge waterfalls. Check out our Te Urewera guide for tons of hikes and memorable spots.
Location: Eastland/Bay of Plenty.
9. Lake Waikareiti
The turquoise lake is a sight of its own in the Te Urewera park. Take the 2-hour track or get a rowing boat to explore every inch of the lake and its islands. Lake Waikareiti is nicknamed: lake-on-an-island-in-a-lake… We’ll let you figure out why.
Location: In the Te Urewera park. Access is via a walking track starting 200 metres (219 yards) from the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre on State Highway 38.
10. Lake Waikaremoana
Eastland has one of the nine famous New Zealand Great Walks! The 3-day hike is one of the hardest to access but is certainly unique. Hike through areas that feel thousands of years old. Remember to pack your “togs” (Kiwi for swimsuit) and camera to snap some amazing scenery.
Location: In the Te Urewera park. 60km (37 miles) northwest of Wairoa and 80km (50 miles) southwest of Gisborne.