East Cape Attractions
The East Cape, the most easterly point in New Zealand, can be reached only on a side road from Te Araroa. On the cape is a lighthouse (140m high) from which there is a breathtaking panorama.
Round the cape are numerous wrecks.From Opotiki, on the Bay of Plenty, a road runs northeast along the coast to Hicks Bay and then turns south, bypassing the East Cape, and follows the east (Pacific) coast to Gisborne, on Poverty Bay. The distance between the two places on the coast road is 340km. The scenic inland road from Opotiki to Gisborne, running through the Waioeka Gorge and the Waipaoa Valley (Highway 2), is only 150km. Both routes can be combined for a round trip. The country is at its most beautiful around Christmas, in the southern summer, when the pohutukawa trees are covered in crimson blossom.Due to the remoteness of the East Cape from the main centers on the North Island, and the barriers to communication formed by the wild Raukumara Range and the impenetrable primeval forests of the Urewera Range, this area long remained isolated. European settlement in the area proceeded very slowly. In spite of a massive drift to the towns the proportion of Maoris in the population is still exceptionally high, and around a quarter of the land belongs to them. Much of the land is leased to white farmers. In the early days many European farmers allowed their land to run wild when their lease expired, and in the hilly interior there was severe damage from erosion after the forests were cleared.
The road from Gisborne to Opotiki by way of the East Cape runs through varied scenery of great beauty that makes the longer journey (twice the length of the direct route on Highway 2) well worthwhile. But the shorter route too has great scenery, running through the Waioeka Gorge, winding river valleys and an almost unpopulated region of forest-covered hills. Halfway along this route, at Matawai, the old coach road via Motu (only in good weather; hard going) can be followed. An attractive trail, the Otoko Walkway, runs along the Waihuka River between Te Karaka and Rakauroa, following an abandoned railroad line through the dense forest.
56km northeast of Opotiki is the seaside resort of Omaio Beach, which has an excellent tourist facilities.
Te Kaha, New Zealand
70km northeast of Opotiki, in a beautiful little bay, is Te Kaha. This was once the scene of many inter-tribal feuds, and a fortified Maori village stood here. From the 1830s to the 1930s many whalers came from the Bay of Islands to the East Cape to hunt the passing whales. At Tukaki there is a richly decorated meeting house erected in 1950. Earlier Maori artifacts from Te Kaha are now in the War Memorial Museum in Auckland.
Almost 100km northeast of Opotiki is Waihau Bay, with a small township and a guest house established in 1914. From here there are fine views of the coast towards Cape Runaway.
This cape marks the eastern extremity of the Bay of Plenty. Captain Cook gave it its modern name while sailing from Poverty Bay to the Bay of Plenty: a single cannon shot fired into the air dispersed the Maori war canoes that were approaching his ship.
120km northeast of Opotiki is Whangaparaoa (Bay of Whales), once a favored whalers' base.
150km northeast of Opotiki and 190km north of Gisborne, Hicks Bay is named after one of Cook's officers. It has popular beaches, particularly the one in Horseshoe Bay. Other features are a meeting house at Tuwhakairiora (1872) and a glow-worm cave near the local motel.
Te Araroa, New Zealand
At Te Araroa is one of the tallest and oldest pohutukawa trees in New Zealand. In 1820 there were savage raids in this area by Ngapuhi tribesmen from Northland armed with guns, in the course of which several thousand members of the Ngati Porou tribe are said to have been killed or enslaved.Warning: the beach here is dangerous for swimmers because of the heavy surf.
Tikitiki, New Zealand
A few kilometers south of Te Araroa, beyond the Raukumara Range, is the little town of Tikitiki, with one of the finest Maori churches, St Mary's.
St Mary's Church
St Mary's Church, one of the finest Moari churches, was built in 1924 as a memorial to the Maori soldiers who fell in the first world war.
Ruatoria, New Zealand
A short distance south of Tikitiki is Ruatoria (pop. c 800), the chief place of the Ngati Porou, the principal Maori tribe on the east coast. This was the birthplace in 1874 of the Maori politician Apirana Ngata. Features include the Mangahanea Marae estate, with a meeting house (1896), The Bungalow (residence of Apirana Ngata) and the Porourangi meeting house (1888; rebuilt 1934).Note: all meeting houses in this area are privately owned and can be entered only with special permission.
West of Ruatoria is Mount Hikurangi (1754m), the highest peak in the Raukumara Range. A long-drawn-out dispute over the ownership of this mountain was settled only in 1991, when it was assigned to the Maoris.
Waipiro Bay, New Zealand
On the coast below Mount Hikurangi is Waipiro Bay, which at the beginning of the 20th C was one of the largest settlements on the east coast. Its remote location, however, has been the cause of its decline.
Te Puia, New Zealand
Te Puia is a little town famed for its medicinal hot springs. From nearby Mount Molly there are magnificent views.
Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand
In Tokomaru Bay the ruins of a frozen-meat plant and port installations are witness to better times. There is a meeting house (1934) with fine carving.
After his disappointment in Poverty Bay Captain Cook landed on the beautiful sandy beach of Anaura Bay, where the natives were friendly. The strong surf, however, prevented him from taking in supplies of water. He was told that he could get water in Tolaga Bay, a quieter bay to the south.There are fine views from the Anaura Bay Walkway (4km long) at the north end of the bay.
With its beautiful beach, Tolaga Bay attracts many bathers and anglers. A trail runs to Cook's Cove (private; open Oct-Jul), where Cook drew water from a spring that has since dried up.
40km north of Gisborne is the very beautiful Waihau Beach.
Whangara, New Zealand
The little Maori settlement of Whangara lies on the coast 30km north of Gisborne. On the gable of the carved meeting house is a figure of a man riding on a whale; according to a tribal legend the tribe's ancestor arrived here on a whale's back.
Raukumara Forest Park
This hilly and densely wooded nature reserve covers an area of 115,000ha between the East Cape and the Bay of Plenty. It has few facilities for visitors. The highest peaks are Hikurangi (1754m) and Raukumara (1413m). The Motu River flows through the park. The best way to reach it is on the old road to Motu, 35km east of Opotiki. Information is available from the Forest Service offices in Gisborne, Opotiki and Ruatoria.
East Cape Pictures View All