With a population of around 35,000 and located on the north island, Gisborne exudes history at every turn. Maori for “Great standing place of Kiwa”, Kiwa was a leading figure aboard the Maori ancestral canoe, Takitimu, which ran aground in Gisborne around 1450 AD. After landing, Kiwa became a coastal guardian, eventually marrying Parawhenuamea, the keeper of the streams. The union point of three rivers and the first place to see the sun, the city is filled with light and laugher and gracefully squeezes surfer’s beaches with the district’s colonial past. Captain Cook made his first landfall here, John Harris set up his first trading station in the then village and today, Gisborn is the major centre of Maori cultural life.
Suffice to say then that the city is a watery wonderland. With its picture perfect beaches, what savvy traveller does not want to add being among the first people in the world to say they have watched the sky change colour as the sun bursts from out of the sea. A place of nature, spectacular beach cliff views are all just part and parcel of everyday life here, and easy walks from the centre of town to the Titirangi Reserve will award you with yet more unbelievable 180˚ vistas from Poverty Bay to Gisborne City; stretch your eyes with the panorama, while stretching your legs on one of the many enjoyable walks.
A perfect place to stroll, amble and wander, like much of New Zealand Gisborne keeps a healthy respect for history and nature and enjoys a very laid back feel.
Te Urewara National Park
This is the land of the great outdoors and what could be more sensational than the awe-inspiring Te Urewara National Park? Covering an immense 212,673 hectares/821 miles2 of spectacular flora and fauna, there is something for everyone in this rugged, remote landscape. A playground created by Mother Nature for her children, the centrepiece of the national park would have to be the placid Lake Waikaremoana — a 21 mile2/54 wide and 872 feet/266 metre natural lake of spectacular beauty, formed over 2,000 years ago by a huge landslide. Surrounded by mountains and regarded by Kiwis as the North Island’s most attractive lake, Waikaremoana is home to a plethora of protected wildlife from the iconic Kiwi to bats, skinks and geckos and botanists will be thrilled to know that all 35-protected native animal species in New Zealand can be found in the park. While a walk around the circumference of the lake would take days, many shorter excursions are offered, all offering the stunningly beautiful views that are almost commonplace in the “Land of the Long White Cloud”.
No description of the region would be complete without mentioning Chardonnay, and Gisborne enjoys a premium role in the country’s wine production. Self-proclaimed to be the “capital of Chardonnay” (over 55% of the 2,150 hectares are given over to producing the variety), Gisborne’s rich, fertile soil and clement year round Pacific maritime temperatures mean their Chardonnay has become something of classic among oenologists. Creamy, bright and full of fruity flavour, the region produces delicious vintages year after year (with 2007 being superlative). Comprehensive tours with boutique winery stops along the way are enjoyable and informative and even if you are no wine buff, the delight of seeing row-upon-row of well organised and well-tended vines is a pleasure to behold. Few southern hemisphere regions can compete with Gisborne as a producer and today, this Kiwi wine gives the area kudos to rival France — just enjoy the proof that is in the glass.