How to Plan a Trip to Gisborne
Tucked away at the bottom of New Zealand’s less-visited East Cape, Gisborne is far from pretty much everywhere and that’s what is so great about it. Sheltered valleys, warm dry weather and breathtaking coastal scenery, Gisborne is a must for anyone who wants to see an alternative beach destination on the North Island.
On top of stunning scenery, Gisborne is steeped in history being the location of the first encounter between the Maori and Captain James Cook. Discovering its history and culture through the local museum or authentic Maori tours will help you discover New Zealand’s history in a whole new light. Speaking of light, Gisborne’s other claim to fame is being the first city in the world to welcome in the new day thanks to its position close to the International Date Line.
So, discover the natural attractions, the foodie experiences, the premium tours, budget activities, as well as things that are ideal for all types of travellers, from couples to families, with this complete travel guide to Gisborne.
Common Questions About Gisborne
We’re not messing around with this travel guide to Gisborne; here are the most common questions travellers have about visiting.
Is Gisborne Worth Visiting?
Yes, if you like getting off the beaten track, laid back beach destinations and wine. However, Gisborne is often skipped by travellers with limited time on the North Island due to these drawcards being available in other regions.
Where is Gisborne Located?
On the coast at the bottom of the East Cape of the North Island, New Zealand.
What is the Weather Usually Like in Gisborne?
Gisborne has a mild dry climate. The daily average temperature is 14.2°C/57.7°F, while the yearly average rainfall is 1,071mm/42.2″. Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
How Do You Get to Gisborne?
Gisborne is well connected to the rest of New Zealand by road, located on Pacific Coast Highway and 3h30mins from Tauranga and 3 hours from Napier. The closest international airport is Auckland Airport (6 hours drive) with plenty of car rental options available, as well as domestic flights to Gisborne Airport. Gisborne is also on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.
What is Gisborne Best Known For?
Gisborne is known for its wine region, being one of the first cities to see the sunrise, and being the location where the Maori and British first encountered.
Where Can I Watch the Sunrise in Gisborne?
Choose Gisborne’s eastern-facing beaches, such as Wainui Beach and Tatapouri Bay.
What to Do in Gisborne
The laidback surf city and wine region of Gisborne doesn’t demand too much of you, just offering amazing tastes to try across its wineries, brewery and cidery, as well as culture and history at its local museum. Those seeking a little adventure can always try surfing, heading to the city’s viewpoints, or taking one of the exciting day trips from Gisborne.
The Top Experiences in Gisborne
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Gisborne highlights:
- Enjoy the view from Kaiti Hill
- Learn about the local region and culture at the Tairawhiti Museum
- Indulge in the local wines by visiting the wineries listed in the 7 Best Breweries & Wineries in Gisborne
- Try out Gisborne’s natural waterslide – the Rere Rockslide
- Meet the stingrays at Dive Tatapouri
- Surf, swim or relax at Waikanae Beach…
… And there’s a lot more where that came from over in our 17 Best Things to Do in Gisborne.
Rainy Day Activities
Despite Gisborne having a mostly dry climate, we still wouldn’t like to leave you caught out in the rain. Some rainy day backups include:
- Do some beer tasting at the Sunshine Brewery
- See how cider is made at Harvest Cider
- Ride the Gisborne City Vintage Railway…
… Plus, all of the experiences we list in the 10 Things to Do in Gisborne on a Rainy Day.
Where to Stay in Gisborne
Other than the accommodations we recommend on the righthand side (or bottom, on mobile) of this complete travel guide to Gisborne, we have compiled entire lists of places to stay based on price, what’s best for families or a couples’ getaway, premium stays and more. As an added bonus, each list is compiled by real writers who have been to Gisborne; not robots!
Gisborne for Budget Travellers
The natural landscapes surrounding Gisborne, as well as the inner-city attractions that are extremely cheap to visit, make Gisborne a worthy stop for budget travellers. Just make sure you book your accommodation early, as you won’t find quite the abundance of cheap deals as you would in other New Zealand cities. Nevertheless, highlights like the Rere Rockslide and Waterfall, Eastwoodhill Arboretum, beaches, free and cheap cider, beer and wine tastings more than make up for it. Start planning your trip with The Guide to Gisborne on a Budget.
Things to Do in Gisborne on a Budget
- Walk the Town Beach Walkway and other Gisborne walks
- Soak in the views from Kaiti Hill
- Play 18-hole Gisborne-themed mini golf
- Watch a movie at the boutique Dome Cinema
- Visit the Tairawhiti Museum.
For more information on these activities and more, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Gisborne.
Budget Accommodation in Gisborne
Gisborne’s budget accommodation is limited to a couple of holiday parks in the area and a couple of backpacker hostels. Motels are a little more expensive compared to the rest of the country, but we list the best value in the 7 Best Budget Accommodations in Gisborne.
Gisborne for Luxury Travellers
For those seeking authentic and unique cultural experiences, Gisborne is your place. The region is rich in heritage, being the place where the first British and Maori encountered. What’s more, there’s something for wine-lovers in the surrounding vineyards, while those looking for upscale adventures will find them on the horse trekking adventures. Plan your perfect stay with The Luxury Guide to Gisborne.
Luxury Activities in Gisborne
- Experience Gisborne from a Maori waka cruise with Tairāwhiti Waka
- Fly or 4WD to the first place to see the sun, Mt Hikurangi
- Get a premium cellar door experience at the local wineries
- Immerse in the Maori culture with Tipuna Tours
- Ride through bush and river with Waikereru Horse Riding Adventures.
Learn more about each experience in the 8 Luxury Activities in Gisborne.
Luxury Accommodation in Gisborne
Gisborne not only has a couple of excellent international-style hotels, but it also has a boutique B&B and even glamping for travellers looking for something a little different. Check out our top recommendations in the 6 Best Luxury Accommodations in Gisborne.
Gisborne for Families
For families looking for a relaxing getaway where it’s not too hard to find things to do with the kids, Gisborne is ideal. The laidback city has plenty of family-friendly accommodations, which are an attraction in themselves with swimming pools and playgrounds often being a feature. When you’re not enjoying the kid-friendly Waikanae Beach with its surf lessons and safe swimming, enjoy a journey on the vintage railway or a road trip to the natural waterslide the Rere Rockslide. For more ideas, check out The Guide to Gisborne for Families.
Things to Do in Gisborne with Kids
- Meet and feed the stingrays at Dive Tatapouri
- Ride the Gisborne City Vintage Railway
- Race down the Rere Rockslide
- Explore the Eastwoodhill Arboretum
- Build sandcastles, swim and surf at Waikanae Beach.
For more information on each experience, check out the 10 Things to Do in Gisborne with Kids.
Family-Friendly Accommodation in Gisborne
Families are well catered for in Gisborne, with a fantastic beachfront holiday park full of fun facilities, countless motels and even family-friendly hotels with swimming pools. Take your pick from the 10 Best Family Accommodations in Gisborne.
Gisborne for Couples
With the relaxing ambience and romantic landscapes of beaches and vineyards, Gisborne doesn’t need to try too hard to create a superb off-the-beaten-track getaway for couples. From adventures like tandem rail biking to simply watching the famous east coast sunrise together, there’s much to do in Gisborne for couples! Check out our top activities and accommodation advice in The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Gisborne.
Romantic Activities in Gisborne
- Hit the coastal railway with Gisborne Railbike Adventures
- Learn something new together like surfing
- Do some stargazing on Gisborne Astro Tours
- Smell the flowers at the Botanical Garden
- Watch the first sunrise together from Wainui Beach.
For elaboration on each experience and more, take a look at the 10 Romantic Activities in Gisborne for Couples.
Romantic Accommodation in Gisborne
From glamping to quaint B&B stays to beachfront motels, there’s something in Gisborne to suit most couples’ styles, tastes and budgets. But Gisborne’s most romantic accommodations are limited so book quickly! Check out our recommendations in the 5 Best Romantic Accommodations in Gisborne.
Gisborne for Foodies
Gisborne is all about the wine, beer and cider! With a warm dry climate, many vineyards and fruit orchards have taken over the sheltered valleys surrounding the city. Visitors are encouraged to treat their tastebuds at the cellar doors, craft brewery and cidery of Gisborne, while the Gisborne Farmers’ Market is a great opportunity to try local produce and delectable artisan goods. Find out more about the best activities and stays for food-lovers in The Food Guide to Gisborne: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Food Tours and Experiences in Gisborne
- Check out the wineries around Gisborne
- Try craft beer at the Sunshine Brewery
- Taste cider and watch the cider-makers at work at the Harvest Cidery
- Mingle with the locals at the Gisborne Farmers’ Market
- Hit one of Gisborne’s wine or beer festivals.
For an explanation of each experience and more ideas, check out the 8 Best Foodie Experiences in Gisborne.
Where to Eat in Gisborne
- The Flagship Eatery (14 Childers Road)
- Globe (1 Vogel Street)
- The Works (41 The Esplanade)
- Crawford Road Kitchen (Esplanade Inner Harbour)
- Curbside Kitchen (9 Ballance Street, Whataupoko)
- Village Berries (126 Ormond Road, Whataupoko)
Foodie Accommodation in Gisborne
You’ll find limited hotels with restaurants, accommodations serving breakfast and a holiday park with its own cafe. Otherwise, foodies will have to make do with the self-catering facilities of their accommodation, which you’ll certainly find in the motels. Find out more in the 10 Best Accommodations in Gisborne for Foodies.
More About Gisborne
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Gisborne but by no means the end of our Gisborne travel tips! Check out the following guides for more advice:
- 10 Must-Do Stops Between Gisborne & Wairoa
- Eastland Road Trip Itinerary: Gisborne to Opotiki
- Opotiki to Gisborne via The Waioeka Gorge: 8 Epic Stops!
Finally, plan more of your North Island trip using the North Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary or North Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary. You’ll also find more advice for planning an epic NZ trip in The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.