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Opotiki to Gisborne via The Waioeka Gorge: 8 Epic Stops!

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Stops you can’t miss in the Waioeka Gorge!

Eastland is not just about “coastie” life, you know! One of the longest and most stunning gorges in the North Island lies in the Eastland region between Opotiki and Gisborne. The Waioeka Gorge winds alongside clear sparkling rivers through native bush and high country farmland. With that, there are plenty of places to stop along the way should you take on this awesome road trip through the Waioeka Gorge, also known as “The Waioeka Journey”.

There’s a great mix of history and breathtaking scenery along the Waioeka Gorge. No tour guide is needed, as well signposted interpretation panels in safe rest areas along the road tell you of the gorge’s unique ecosystems, fascinating Maori history, and more interesting facts. Whether you are looking for quick pit stops by the riverside or more adventurous hikes in this wonderful scenery, there are plenty of epic stops between Opotiki to Gisborne on Waioeka Gorge.

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1. Tauranga Bridge

Let the Waioeka Journey begin! The first stop should be at the historic Tauranga Bridge. It’s one of only two harp-strung suspension bridges  left in New Zealand. If you just want to check out the bridge, it’s an easy one as the bridge is only five minutes down the track adjacent to the car park. Embrace the views of native bush and river scenery then you have the option to cross the river to the Tauranga Loop Track (2 hours loop). There are a couple of stream crossings to do along the way. We don’t recommend doing this hike after heavy rain. For more information, see 15 Opotiki Walks You Can’t Miss!

Location: About 26km down State Highway 2 from Opotiki, 119km from Gisborne.
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2. Manganuku Bridge

You’re probably thinking there seems to be a theme occurring here, but New Zealanders love their historic bridges! The Manganuku Stream Bridge, built in 1928, is a rare survivor of an old wood truss bridge. Whether that interests you or not, you’ll still enjoy another opportunity to take in the river scenery. Plus, just over the bridge on the left is a cheap camping ground should you want to immerse yourself in this setting for longer. Starting from the right of the Manganuku Stream Bridge, there is also the opportunity to do the Little Manganuku Track (2h30min one way) which provides some awesome scenery on this pretty demanding hiking track. For more information, check out 15 Opotiki Walks You Can’t Miss!

Location: 17km from Opotiki/97km from Gisborne.
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3. Riverside Rest Stops

As mentioned in the intro, the Waioeka Gorge has an abundance of well-signed rest stops giving you plenty of time to stop and check out the interpretation panels telling the history and geology of the area. Don’t miss the Monument Parking Area where there is a short access to a swimming hole with crystal clear waters and usually some native birds flying around.

Location: All along the Waioeka Gorge – signposted.
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4. Matawai

As you wind your way up the Traffords Hills, you come into the high country farming section of the gorge. Turning right toward Rere provides and alternative route to Gisborne with heaps of fun-filled features along the way: Rere Falls, Rere Rockslide and the Eastwood Hill Arboretum. (Perhaps worth taking on the way back?) Otherwise, you will reach Matawai on the Waioeka Road. This is a small settlement where you can stock up on any supplies you may need for the Motu Road…

Location: 72km from Opotiki/ 72km from Gisborne
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5. The motu Road

If you have the time, we recommend this side trip down the Motu Road. 18km or about 20 minutes down the Motu Road you will find the Motu Falls. The falls also marks the start of the Whinray Scenic Reserve Track (2h30mins one way). Continuing down the Old Motu Coach Road 4×4 trail is a stunning ride by bike as part of the The 3 Eastland Motu Trails.

Location: Side trip is 18km from Matawai.
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6. Otoko

Back on State Highway 2 towards Gisborne, you now travel through the majestic hilly countryside. As you enter Otoko, there is the opportunity to stop and take the Heritage Trail Walkway (2-3 hours return) which follows part of an old railway. A short detour also takes you to a beautiful waterfall. Be aware that the walkway is closed during the lambing season – 1 August to 23 October.

Location: 91km from Opotiki/53km from Gisborne
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7. Tarndale Slip

Not your usual picture-perfect New Zealand landscape, the Tarndale Slip is a huge land slip in a forestry area. The landscape is so bizarre that it has become a bit of a “place to see” over the years, but it’s quite a mission to get there. At the turn off for Whatatutu, continue to Whatatutu then turn left on the Mangatu Road until you get to a fork in the road where you turn left up the gravel Tarndale Road. Stick to the main forestry road as far as you can go then walk onward following a light trail. You’ll know when you see the slip…

Location: Side trip – 40km from Te Karaka on State Highway 2
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8. Gisborne

Hurray, you’ve reach Gisborne! There’s so much to do here that we’ll just direct you to some more information…

For another awesome road trip from Gisborne, check out Eastland Road Trip Itinerary: Gisborne to Opotiki which follows the Pacific Coast Highway back to Opotiki.
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