TURQUOISE NEW ZEALAND WATERS: THE EAST COAST & GISBORNE - MUST SEE SIGHTS
I've loosely defined the East Coast as that north eastern tip of New Zealand, from Optoki, up over and back down to Gisborne. It is a gloriously isolated and wildly beautiful part of New Zealand. There are a few small settlements and marae (Maori meeting houses), but mostly it is windy road up and around the coast with very little in sight other than beautiful blue coastal waters and New Zealand bush and shrubs. Heading down towards Gisborne, the land does open up a little more, giving way to rugged farmland and orchards as you're heading into Gisborne. Gisborne itself is a small city of 36,000-people with vineyards and orchards surrounding. Its wonderful in summer, with easy access to beaches, and a lovely place for exploring vineyards. There is a great farmers market on Saturday mornings (courtesy of the good growing conditions in the area) and a well-run food and wine festival in October - which was better in earlier years, when you would go on a tour of the local wineries (live music in the sun at each venue), but is now usually based at just one vineyard. Still very worth while though. There's also a big New Years music festival at the same venue each year - Rhythm & Vines.
We did a trip up the Coast in January 2016, camping at Waihau Bay (up past Te Kaha) with another family. It was a quintessential kiwi holiday by the beach: tents pitched; old school caravans camped alongside; camp chairs and chilly bins full of beer and food (stocked up at the supermarket in Opotiki); a rustic BBQ plate to cook on and campfire for melting marshmallows on sticks after dark. Nothing at all glamorous but a fantastic way to enjoy New Zealand sun and beach, relaxing with family and friends. New Zealand sun can be pretty harsh - large hats and lots of sunblock are a must!
We've had friends living in Gisborne for the last few years and have made a trip over there most summers since. Just outside of Gisborne is Wainui, a beautiful beach a short drive from the city centre. It has the classic kiwi baches (holiday houses) just back from the beach and a large expanse of yellow sands which locals often ride horses along. The kids have enjoyed playing there but its a good surfers spot too. The Gisborne farmers market is also a favourite when we visit. As well as all of the fantastic fruit, veg and herbs, there are also some great food and coffee vendors, local artisan products (cheese, wine, preserves etc.) and live music.