Explore things to do in Gisborne

Explore Gisborne and Eastland

Welcome to Gisborne – the sunny heart of the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand

Visitors to Gisborne can enjoy the relaxed and easy-going ambience of the city or explore the many and varied attractions, including renowned surfing breaks, perfect swimming beaches, some of the best fly-fishing rivers in New Zealand and miles of untouched coastline. Also known as the ‘Chardonnay Capital’ of New Zealand, Gisborne is home to countless award-winning New Zealand wineries.

With a population of around 35,000, Gisborne is the main centre of the Eastland Region. The warm summers and mild winters bathe this beautiful seaside destination in plentiful sunshine.

Gisborne has a special place in New Zealand history, being the region where the first Polynesian migration canoes landed. With over 700 years of Maori history and settlement, Gisborne is one of the New Zealand regions particularly rich in historical places of interest as well as archaeological sites of significance.

Gisborne’s Kaiti beach is where Captain James Cook made his first landfall in New Zealand on 9 October 1769 and therefore where Maori and European first encountered each other. Overlooking Cook’s landing site is Kaiti Hill – also referred to as Titirangi Reserve – which provides expansive views over the city and wider Poverty Bay. Many archaeological sites have been identified on Titirangi, including burial grounds, terraces, and middens. It’s a short drive or a moderate hike up the hill; at the top, visitors will enjoy the curious history of the bronze sculpture which is not of Captain Cook. 

While Kaiti Hill is a fantastic place to watch the sunrise with sweeping views of the ocean, river and city, The Gisborne Wine Centre, just 10 minutes’ walk from the Portside Hotel, and adjacent to a small boat marina, is a very pleasant spot to enjoy the afternoon sun accompanied by local wines and excellent small antipasto plates.

Offering two tasting flights per week, which showcase the best of the wines available that season, the enthusiastic experts at the Wine Centre know their wines and which wineries are open for visits and at weekends. An hour or two here is a great way to get to know the local wines and wine styles before embarking on a wine tour of Gisborne and stocking up your wine cellar.

Things to do Indoors in Gisborne: arts and culture

While the great outdoors and many sunshine hours offer a great deal for visitors to the Eastland region to enjoy, there are plenty of ways to while away a few hours in Gisborne.

The Tairawhiti Museum and art gallery is a great starting point to discover some of the history of this region and, located just 15 minutes’ walk from Portside Hotel, it is known as one of the very best, most innovative regional museums in New Zealand. It may not be the largest museum, but it is a treasure trove of top-notch modern and interactive displays and absorbing local history including specialist private art collections of Lalique glass and Ming dynasty vases. The museum also houses the 28th Maori Battalion history house – a particularly significant part of modern Maori history.

Just a ten-minute drive from Gisborne’s Portside Hotel is a haven for those who love pre-loved technology and vintage artefacts such as public phone boxes, early hoovers, washing machines, sewing machines, office technology and vintage computers from the 80s including Apple IIGS, 5.25, 8" diskette drives, Commodores 64s and so on. The East Coast Museum of Technology is an eclectic collection of artefacts from days gone by and, while this hidden gem of Gisborne isn’t a museum of the traditional sort, it is a fascinating place to visit – especially for computer geeks.

Outdoor activities in Gisborne

Eastland’s natural beauty is showcased with coastal scenery fringed by majestic Norfolk pines, marine reserves for untouched snorkeling, rivers rich in fish, waterfalls, sandy beaches, and some of the most fertile soil in the land providing perfect conditions for gold-class wineries, while also being a surf mecca.

Surfing in Gisborne

Blessed with some of the most consistent surf spots in New Zealand, and with the country’s best competitive surfers hailing from the area, Gisborne is often referred to as the surf capital of New Zealand.

Gisborne’s prevailing wind direction is NW and provides clean, offshore waves at most spots in town and up the coast (there are over 35 surf breaks within 100km of Gisborne city). If you are not yet a surfer, there are plenty of surf schools eager to get you riding the waves, and if you are a keen surfer already, you’ll find plenty of like-minded company out in the bays. Check the surf forecast for the Gisborne region here.

Surf with Heritage Boutique Portside Hotel Gisborne

Photo Credit: Kelly Adams & Tourism Eastland

Snorkel with stingrays, slide down natural waterslides, dance in the vineyards

Festivals such as Rhythm and Vines bring more visitors to the Gisborne area in summer, and although the beaches may get busier, there are still plenty of outdoor spaces to explore. Don’t miss the Rere Falls and Rockslide (rockslide is best enjoyed in the height of summer and with a boogie board and sense of adventure), the East Cape Lighthouse (under 3 hours’ drive from Portside) and definitely take the opportunity to snorkel with and hand-feed stingrays.  

There are plenty of wonderful cycle trails in Gisborne and the surrounding area to explore, including the wonderful Rere Falls Trail – part of the Great New Zealand Cycleway.

Serviced daily by bus and air connections, Gisborne also provides the perfect base from which to explore some of New Zealand's great treasures, including Mt Hikurangi, The Pacific Coast Highway, Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Lake Waikarimoana, and Mahia Peninsula.

Dive Tatapouri Reef Ecology Tour with Heritage Boutique Portside Hotel Gisborne

Photo Credit: Tourism Eastland & Dive Tatapouri Reef Ecology Tour