I’ve traveled to all parts of New Zealand, here’s why Tairāwhiti Gisborne is my favorite

Over the past two years since the pandemic began, travel journalist Brook Sabin has had the good fortune to travel to all parts of New Zealand. When asked to choose his favorite, there was only one answer: Tairāwhiti. Why? Because Gisborne has something for everyone, and it’s their choices of what to do there.

Best on a Budget: Tatapouri Bay

Falling asleep to the sound of the waves is one of the best feelings in the world, but it normally comes at a steep price. However, at Tatapouri Bay – less than 20 minutes from central Gisborne – you’ll find a collection of luxury glamping tents for $175 a night.

You’re only meters from the ocean, or if you prefer something warmer, you also have access to a beachfront spa.

Tatapouri Bay offers an affordable way to sleep by the sea.

BROOK SABIN / Stuff

Tatapouri Bay offers an affordable way to sleep by the sea.

READ MORE:
* Matawhero: Inside the North Island’s new luxury wine getaway
* A side of Tairāwhiti Gisborne you’ve never seen
* Undiscovered Aotearoa: Tairāwhiti Gisborne is New Zealand’s most underrated foodie region

You will pass through a series of ancient tunnels on the bike-rail adventure.

BROOK SABIN / Stuff

You will pass through a series of ancient tunnels on the bike-rail adventure.

Ideal for the outdoors: the rail bike

The area is home to one of the most unique biking adventures in the country. You will pass through pristine bushland, go through long tunnels, cross bridges and finally reach a spectacular coastline. And best of all – you’ll do everything attached to real train tracks.

Gisborne Rail Bike Adventure organizes the journey using uniquely designed frames: two push bikes are fused together with a steel frame that keeps them on the line. All you have to do is pedal. But take it from me; it’s worth paying a little extra for an e-bike so you have more time to relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery.

The best of the three rides is the Beach Loop, which is 32 kilometers long and takes half a day.

Gisborne is home to one of the most unique cinemas in the country.

BROOK SABIN / Stuff

Gisborne is home to one of the most unique cinemas in the country.

Ideal for families: Dome Cinema

Tucked away in Gisborne’s CBD, you’ll find one of the area’s best hidden gems: the Dome Cinema.

Your eyes will feast before the movie even begins; you’ll enter a historic building to find a technicolor bar with an elaborate outdoor space filled with fairy lights.

You then go through a secret door to find a series of giant beanbags under a spectacular dome. At intermission (just like in the good old days), pizza and ice cream are delivered to your chair before the lights go out and the movie resumes.

The Gisborne City Vintage Railway is fun for all ages.

BROOK SABIN / Stuff

The Gisborne City Vintage Railway is fun for all ages.

Best for Families: Gisborne City Vintage Railway

The Gisborne City Vintage Railway offers more than just a train ride. The steam train, built in Dunedin over 120 years ago, actually crosses the main runway at Gisborne Airport – the only place in the southern hemisphere where this happens.

The train will wait patiently at the side of the runway for all aircraft to clear, before being cleared to cross. The train then heads to Muriwai for a 30-minute scenic stop, before making the return journey. Kids will love this adventure.

The Rere Rockslide is not for the faint hearted.

BROOK SABIN

The Rere Rockslide is not for the faint hearted.

Best Free: Rere Rockslide

There’s an easy winner here – the area is home to one of the largest natural slides in the southern hemisphere, and it’s seriously fun.

The Rere Rockslide is just over a 40-minute drive outside of Gisborne, and here you’ll find a smooth 60-metre slide with a thin layer of water gently flowing over it.

Grab a bodyboard or inner tube, hold on tight, and have the best time of your life. If you prefer to stay dry, the nearby Rere Falls are spectacular for sightseeing.

Zen cabins are new and have already proven themselves.

BROOK SABIN / Stuff

Zen cabins are new and have already proven themselves.

Best Unique Getaway: Zen Cabins

Tatapouri Bay, home to the previously mentioned glamping tents, also offers a series of new beachfront luxury pods, known as Zen Cabins. Designed for romance, they feature an ultra-comfortable bed facing a huge window overlooking the sea. As Gisborne is among the first in the world to see the new dawn, you can witness an extraordinary sunrise without leave the duvet.

The Caramilk Donut from the Gisborne Farmer's Market.

BROOK SABIN / Stuff

The Caramilk Donut from the Gisborne Farmer’s Market.

Best Food: Gisborne Farmers Market

Eat your way around the region as you sample some of Tairāwhiti’s best food at the Gisborne Farmer’s Market, held every Saturday morning.

Along with the usual produce, the markets are also home to dumplings, pastries, tortillas, and donuts, which are arguably the best in the country. One of their most popular is the Caramilk Custard, with a fluffy Rarotongan-style pastry topped with Caramilk ganache. If you prefer savory, try the breakfast donut filled with creamy mushrooms, cheese, hash brown, bacon and a gooey fried egg.

Manutuke Eco Retreat is one of the best glamping getaways in the area.

BROOK SABIN / Stuff

Manutuke Eco Retreat is one of the best glamping getaways in the area.

Best off-grid: Manutuke Eco Retreat

Just 15 minutes from Gisborne, you will feel like you are in another world at Manutuke Eco Retreat. This glamping retreat, with a private jetty on a huge lake, gives you a place to relax under the stars. There are two stand up paddle boards and kayaks to explore the lake and surrounding wetlands.

If you’re feeling energetic there are ten kilometers of trails to explore – but I recommend relaxing with a good book by the lake and enjoying the peace.

Matawhero offers luxury cabins in the middle of the vineyards.

BROOK SABIN / Stuff

Matawhero offers luxury cabins in the middle of the vineyards.

Best Adults Only: Matawhero

One of Gisborne’s newest retreats is a luxury wine getaway among the vineyards. Matawhero was the area’s first winery and now has a series of swanky cabins right next to the cellar door. This means you can walk across for a drink, before heading home and enjoying another on your terrace before a long night’s sleep the next morning.

The drive to the East Cape Lighthouse is spectacular.

BROOK SABIN / Stuff

The drive to the East Cape Lighthouse is spectacular.

Best for Adventure: East Cape

Want a foreign experience without leaving our shores? Take the SH35 around East Cape and see wild pigs crossing the road, children riding to school and tiny villages living happily in a bygone era.

You’ll also find empty beaches, rugged beauty and plenty of good old-fashioned hospitality.

Getting There : Gisborne is a 6.5 hour drive from Auckland or four hours from Rotorua. Air New Zealand flies from Auckland and Wellington.

Stay there:

Glamping at Tatapouri Bay from $175, see: tatapouri.co.nz

Zen cabins from $275 per night, see: tatapouri.co.nz.

Matawhero Wine Shacks from $350 per night including breakfast provisions, see: matawhero.co.nz.

Manutuke Eco Retreat from $295. See: canopycamping.co.nz

Play it:

For the last Cinema Dome timetables, see: domecinema.co.nz

Vélorail Beach Loop from $120. See: railbikes.nz

Gisborne City Vintage Railway is $15 per child, $30 per adult or $80 for a family. To see:

gcvr.org.nz

Stuff Travel Deals: For the latest Gisborne deals, see travel.stuff.co.nz/gisbornedeals

Stay safe: Gisborne is currently experiencing flooding and travel is not advised. However, once it is safe to do so, the region will need your support to bounce back. New Zealand remains under Covid-19 restrictions. Follow the instructions on covid19.govt.nz.

Carbon footprint: Flying generates carbon emissions. To offset your carbon emissions, go to airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-customer-carbon-offset

This author’s journey was supported by Trust Tairawhiti.

About Michael Brafford

Check Also

Wine prices are on the rise, so finding good value is important

Prices are rising and wine is not immune to the same economic pressures that drive …