A short 50 minute flight whisked us from Auckland to Gisborne on the east coast of North Island. Never getting enough altitude to lose the views on our 50 seater propeller aircraft, the views were incredible and showed both the mountainous and coastal areas in all their glory.
Being the well organised JWalkers that we are, most of our accommodation has been booked a good few months ahead. Gisborne being no exception. So sometimes we have to refresh our memory about check in times, facilities, host’s name (Miriam in this case), etc a day or two before arrival. When we did this for Gisborne, we were delighted to be reminded that our search had brought up a listing that had the use of a salt water swimming pool. Of course it would be rude not to use it so it didn’t take us long to decide that the sun would have warmed the water enough to have a dip. It was so refreshing and relaxing that it became a daily dip after each sight seeing excursion.
Then, of course, there was the beach. It was around a 20-25 minute walk from the house. The end nearest the town faced the port which seemed to have every tree in New Zealand on the wharf waiting to be transported/exported but in the other direction it was a long stretch of golden sand. Decisions, decisions, pool or beach? Maybe we will just do both each day!
What are Gisborne’s claims to fame?
- We spotted over 30 streets here named after British Prime Ministers, ranging from the 1700s to around the 1950s. No one seems to know the answer as to why this trend continued and then suddenly stopped.
- Originally called Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa “Great standing place of Kiwa” (Kiwa being a Maori guardian of the ocean) Gisborne is locally referred to as Gizzy.
- Gisborne is the first city to see the sunrise each day.
- Every New Zealander seems to have heard of the comic strip Footrot Flats. The author lived in Gisborne and we only came across him because of a statue of Wal Footrot and “Dog” in the park.
- The Turanganui River in Gisborne is the shortest river in New Zealand. Only 1200 metres.
- Captain Cook called the bay Poverty Bay. This was because there was a skirmish with local tribes resulting in the death of 5 or 6 native Maori so Cook left without provisions.
- Captain Cook made his first landing in New Zealand here. A cabin boy called Nicholas Young first spotted land at a point that is now called Young Nick’s Head.
Top 3 Gisborne JWalking Excursions
No 1 – The Kaiti Hill Plus Two Excursion. Let me start with the Plus Two. These are walking through the Botanical Gardens and Harbour on the way to the Hill.
Kaiti Hill as a stand alone is equally good although we felt like we were going to end up on the log yard on our way to the memorial that supposedly marks the spot where the intrepid Captain Cook came ashore on Kiwi soil for the first time.
After finding our first objective we headed onto the tracks on Kaiti Hill to get to a lookout. We enjoyed great views as we headed further and further up the track and eventually came across the infamous statue of Captain Cook himself in Cook Plaza. It is infamous because it is a bronze cast imported by Captain Cook Breweries in Auckland and made from a mold of a random Italian naval officer. There is a much less ridiculed one down on the beach walkway.
Right at the top of the Hill is the the world’s most eastern observatory, The James Cook Observatory no less. It was a hot day and quite a steep climb in places but for those of you who have wheels you can also drive but the views are better on foot.
No 2 – Sunshine Brewery and Tap Room. Due to the fantastic climate, Gisborne is surrounded by wineries and there is even a cidery but we decided to head for the Sunshine Brewery. The story goes that it was opened by a couple of surf dudes who hung up their surf boards in 1989 to start a small brewery which has now grown to a much larger concern offering many more sunshine brews. One surf board shaped tasting board later the results were in. Jo favoured Young Nick (not one of the staff a light pale) and Jonno preferred Vienna – made from Germans hops so no surprises there!
No 3 – Tairawhiti Museum. A gem of a museum. Lots of local history about the roots of the city plus other more temporary galleries. There was even a cottage used by some of the earliest bay settlers that, with a fair bit of restoration, has survived and gives a really good perspective of home life for an early settler. It was occupied from around 1875 until the 1960s. The best display for us though was the Star of Canada. We thought that the museum had an unusual shape but it wasn’t until we passed by the collection of antique surf boards that we realised that the whole of a ship’s bridge had been incorporated in the museum. The Star of Canada, a full laden cargo steamer, was blown onto the rocks off Gisborne in 1912. The ship could not be saved so was broken up for salvage. Mr Good, a local jeweller, bought the wheel-house and had it towed through the town to an empty plot of land next to his home. It was converted for his daughter to live in. How strange it must have looked to have the bridge/wheel house of a ship as your home. In the early 80s it was left to the citizens of Gisborne, providing a suitable site could be found. A public appeal resulted in it being added to the museum and is now a permanent part of Gisborne’s martime history.
Wining and Dining Gisborne Style
Our lovely host, or maybe I should say hostess, Miriam shared a couple of gastronomic delights with us on her wonderful sunny deck. We never cease to be amazed by the hospitality and kindness of all of our hosts. So on this occasion it is a thank you to Miriam for making Gisborne so memorable.
We did venture out for a couple of meals and the odd drink, our favourite of which was Peppers Bar and Restaurant. It was right on the beach front on top of the Surf Lifesaving Club – a sort of Kiwi baywatch. Interestingly Peppers is currently for sale – not a bad place to work/own!
So unless we put in a swift offer for Peppers, we will be catching a bus to head further south down the coast to Napier but just time for one more walk on the beach? Or shall I just get a quick dip in the pool? Decisions, decisions!
24/11 – 29/11/2017