Imagine a region bursting with natural vitality and warmth. We can. It’s called Tairāwhiti Gisborne. Come spend three days of indulgence with us.
We arrive after a short Air New Zealand flight early Friday morning and collect our rental car from the airport. From here it’s just 10 minutes into town to start our weekend with a great coffee and delicious Eggs Benedict at the Poverty Bay Club Cafe. Handy too because we can do some souvenir shopping while we’re there.
Truth be told, it’s the wine we’ve really come for, so after checking into the luxurious Portside Hotel, we’re picked up by Gisborne Tours for a tour of the cellar doors of Gisborne. Safer that way too!
There are numerous wineries to choose from including: Wrights, TW Wine, Millton, Spade Oak, Matawhero and Bushmere Estate. We have time for three and end up at The Vines Restaurant where we linger over lunch.
By late afternoon, we’re ready for a well-deserved rest so we’re dropped at our hotel, with its views over the harbour and Titirangi Reserve (Kaiti Hill). We’ll drive up that to visit a statue of Captain James Cook and take in the sweeping views across to Young Nick’s Head (Te Kuri a Pāoa).
But now it’s dinner time and we walk just five minutes to the award-winning USSCo restaurant for a pre-dinner cocktail and a sumptuous meal prepared by chef Thomas Boyce.
On the way back we stroll along the harbour’s edge and look at the gently flowing Turanganui River. It’s amazing to think that 700 years ago some of the first Māori explorers arrived here after crossing thousands of miles of the Pacific.
We’re woken early when the first rays of the sun filter into our room; so we head to Gisborne Farmers’ Market to start the day with fresh coffee and locally made pork buns and pastries. We stock up on fresh fruit, breads, cheeses and a classic Gisborne Chardonnay too because we’re heading out to the Eastwoodhill Arboretum, 20 minutes drive from town, for a half-day walk through the largest collection of Northern Hemisphere trees in the Southern Hemisphere. The Arboretum has so many places to picnic we’re spoilt for choice but we settle on Canaan at the garden’s summit.
All that walking means we’ve earned a long soak in the Morere Hot Springs, an hour's drive south towards the Mahia Peninsula. The pools are terribly indulgent and if we were more disciplined we’d carry on to the Mahia coastline, half-an-hour down the road, to walk along the gorgeous beach.
With a bit more time we could drive a bit further to spot a view of Rocket Lab, the world’s first privately owned satellite launch facility. This remote part of New Zealand has some of the clearest airspace in the world.
Dinner is calling so we’re back to Gisborne to frock up for a sumptuous experience at the Marina Restaurant, which serves French-style cuisine in an historic ballroom on the river bank.
This gorgeous building was moved here in 1974 but previously was known as Lysnar House and had a ballroom built for a daughter’s 21st birthday. The loft where the string quartet played still exists as does the chaperone’s room at the very top of the building.
That legendary sunrise is hard to resist so we begin the day with a stretch on Waikanae Beach followed by breakfast at the funky inner city Flagship Eatery.
Next is a slow drive up the coast, past the surfers at Wainui and Makorori beaches to reach Cook’s Cove Walkway at Tolaga Bay. This dramatic, two-hour walk hugs the coast where Cook began his circumnavigation of New Zealand. The signs along the way describe those historic events of 1769 and the birth of Aotearoa-New Zealand.
It’s getting time to head home so we eat the fruit that we’d bought and dangle our legs over the Tolaga Bay Wharf like kids again. In days gone by this wharf was the only way farmers could send their produce out of the region.
By early afternoon we’re back into the car and heading reluctantly to the airport. Tairāwhiti Gisborne, we