31 people found this article useful

East Cape – Guide for Backpackers


Go East And start your day before everyone else in the world!

Summertime, on the road, and need a new place to discover in New Zealand? The East Cape is a great option in New Zealand’s North Island. Full of bucket-list activities, such as seeing the 1st sunrise or 1st New Year in the world! Or sliding down a natural water slide! The East Cape is also a significant place in New Zealand history, as it was the 1st land Captain James Cook encountered when he discovered New Zealand. We bet he was drawn by the many superb beaches on the East Coast to spot a surf or do some diving.

Things you cant miss in the East Cape

  • Visit Gisborne: the first city in the world to see the sunrise!
  • Slide down the Rere Rockslide.
  • Walk along New Zealand’s longest pier.
  • Watch the 1st sunrise of the world at the East Cape Lighthouse.
  • Visit the small town of Te Araroa.
  • Do a tramping track in Te Urewera.
Contiki Tours


The locals will tell you how Gisborne is the surf capital of New Zealand, much to the protest from Raglan. There are great beaches to learn how to surf in the area, then those on a more advanced level have a choice of more challenging surf breaks.

Perhaps Gisborne’s bigger claim to fame it was Captain Cook’s 1st encounter with New Zealand and the Maoris. It wasn’t a successful encounter, which ended up with Captain Cook naming the site Poverty Bay and much to his dismay, his crew shot the Maori when trying to make contact. Not cool. Nevertheless, there are a couple of statues to commemorate Captain Cook’s visit, as well as a statue of Young Nick who 1st sighted New Zealand.

Wine tasting the “Chardonnay Capital” is also a popular activity in Gisborne. There are 2000ha of vineyards in the area, many dedicated to the chardonnay cause!

And finally, the coolest place to welcome the New Year has to be Gisborne. It is summer so it is the perfect time to have an outdoor music festival for New Year, the Rhythm and Vines festival. Plus, it is the 1st city in the world to see the New Year! That is surely bucket list worthy?

Check out some more awesome festivals: 6 Summer Festivals in New Zealand.


Take on the Rere RockSlide!

We love New Zealand for its nature, especially when it has created an awesome water slide! Grab a boogie board or a sturdy inflatable lylo and slide down the 60m of rock. There are a few lumps and bumps along the way, which is seriously fun but is a good reason not to just slide on your stomach.

Nearby is Rere Falls: a nice photo op and a place to take a shower.


Tolaga bay

Take a stroll out to sea on New Zealand’s longest pier at 660m. The pier also follows picturesque white cliffs. Those adventurous types like to jump off the end of the pier! And those fitness freak types like to swim all the way back to shore.


East cape Lighthouse

The most easterly lighthouse in New Zealand, it is not uncommon to find a bunch of people by the lighthouse at stupid-o’clock- in-the-morning. The 750 steps to the lighthouse might kill the legs, but seeing the 1st sunrise in the world is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


Te araroa

On the way back from the East Cape Lighthouse, make sure to stop in at Te Araroa.

The oldest pohutukawa tree at 600 years old stands on the roadside. This tree is particularly significant because it is the New Zealand Christmas tree, which blooms red flowers around Christmas time. Te Araroa is where the 1st kumara was planted – the New Zealand sweet potato, so clearly an extremely significant time in NZ history. Also, make a stop at the East Cape Manuka Company’s factory for free honey tastings!


Te Urewera

Inland, the East Cape contains some of the Te Urewera. As with any forested land there are a series of tramping tracks including the Great Walk, Lake Waikaremoana. The national park is the largest native forest area in the North Island.

If you have more time in the East Cape…

  • Check out Waka Toa, Gisborne, for a Maori performance, stories and humour.
  • Expand on your cultural knowledge at the Kahukura Gallery or the Tairawhiti Museum.
  • Spend some time on the beach on the Mahia Peninsula for surfing, swimming, diving and soaking up the sun.
  • Visit the gateway to the East Cape: Opitiki.
  • Feed some stingrays with Dive Tatapouri.
HiFX - Money Transfer
Was this article useful? Useful Useless

Where to stay in The East Cape?

Base Hostels

16 Awesome Hikes in The Coromandel

Coromandel hikes you can’t miss! Want to explore New Zealand’s most epic [...]

Work in NZ

What does a working holiday visa look like?

We receive this question almost on a daily basis. It’s as if [...]

Prepare Your Trip

How to get a working holiday visa?

A guide to get this famous working holiday visa. The working holiday [...]

Popular searches: Budget, Free, Jobs, Travel Tips, Rotorua
Nomads Hostels
Hot on Backpacker Guide
NZ Guide

Auckland Region – Guide for Backpackers

Big city life! Not only does Auckland stretch out into the waters […]

South Island Destinations

10 Underrated Spots in Canterbury

Alps to Ocean beauty! Stretched between snowcapped mountains and the Pacific Ocean, […]

South Island Destinations

10 Token Tourist Photos You Have to Take in the South Island

Photos that all the tourists take of the SOuth Island. Do you […]

FB Group
Join the group!
Join the group!

Ask questions to our writers, post notices, share with travellers, show pictures, meet other backpackers, ...

Join our Facebook group