Getting from New Plymouth to Gisborne is a fair trek, but there are heaps of fab things to do, see, eat and drink along the way. And if it’s a scorcher then you’re going to want to get out of the car and submerge yourself so we found some great spots to run, jump, dunk and splash in. Crossing New Zealand at it’s widest part has many options for the discerning roadtripper. From The ‘Naki you can go North via Whakatane, the Southerly route takes you through Palmerston North, or you can set your teeth and head straight across the middle of the country. We’ve covered a few of these options to Gizzy and back and you can cherry pick which adventure you want to take getting there and which road you want to come home on. So load up the car with your mates, some fiendish beats and a tank full of Saudi’s finest and off we go.
Taranaki - Taupo SH30 and SH32 - Whakatane - Gisborne and back via SH1 and Lake Taupo
No roadie can get underway unless your crew have the ingested the necessary coffee hit. And whilst NZ is home to the finest of baristas and cafes, there are some long stretches on these roads across the country where coffee is rare and you can succumb to caffeine withdrawal easily. So first things first and if your road trip starts in New Plymouth get yourselves to the Public Catering Company. Situated in the White Hart - across the road from The Gallery - Public Catering Company is about as good as it gets. Stop yourself drooling and stock up on some mouth-watering sarnies, a heart-racing coffee (or two) and we imagine you’ll struggle to walk past their pastries and donuts.
Once you’ve decided what to eat (and what to pack for munching on your drive) leap into the car and head out northwards - destination Waitomo and a spot of black water rafting… When you reach Waitomo you have two options to give yourself a buzz. Don your helmet and launch yourself into the ethereal but yell inducing Black Abyss, where you descend into the seemingly endless depths of Ruakuri Cave, before taking the zipline through crazy glowworm-lit halls and then climbing underground waterfalls.
If you’re more of a water junkie, grab a helmet and join the original black water rafting tour - into Ruakuri Cave. Beneath a canopy of twinkling glowworms you’ll float along on your rubber tubes before plunging into the cascading, frothing tumult of the underground waterfalls lit by the starry blanket of the glowworm covered ceiling.
After all that underground adventure, you’re sure to need a coldie and something to eat so our next stop is Tauranga. Head up on SH3 and then at Cambridge duck onto SH1 and the road through the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest to Tauranga and Croucher's Basecamp - a cheeky craft beer pub. Owned by the chaps who brew Croucher Brewing beers, Croucher's Basecamp offers a range of seasonal beers - perfect for a summer roadie - as well as cooking up a mean pizza and a range of burgers and other foodie options to help you stock up on some energy before you launch yourself on the East Cape.
Now, we all know that beer and beaches are a great combo - but one we need to excersize a degree of restraint with (responsible trippers that we are) - so after a beer wrap it up and make your way north for a swim at the remote and very beautiful white sand Newdicks Beach. Raw and untouched, this rugged beach is close to Makatu, on the southerly side of Okurei Point. It’s pretty secluded so it’s entirely possible that it’ll just be you and your crew splashing about in the waves. But like all good things it takes a little bit of extra effort to get there. Drive through Makatu continuing up the cliff to the end of Town Point Road where you’ll encounter a privately owned gravel road which will take you to the beach. You need to pay a small fee ($3 per car) to drive down the road, or you can walk down to the beach for free. There’s a stream at one end of the beach or you can head out into the waves to swim, body surf, or boogie board if you’ve brought one. It’s pretty spectacular as bush clad cliffs rise up from the sand but please bear in mind there’s no surf patrol so keep an eye out for each other as the surf is strong!
Gisborne is a great wee town and there’s so much to do here with beaches and sun-kissed chardonnay vineyards characterizing New Zealand's easternmost city. The city's Saturday morning farmers market is crammed with East Coast produce to sustain you on your road travels. Stock up on local cheeses, organic wine and plump citrus fruit at the market, before seeking out tasty discoveries at the Sunshine Brewery.
But our favourite thing to do in Gisborne is to get in the water - and there’s nothing better when hanging out in Gizzy than a spot of surfing. You don't need to look all bashful because you’ve never ridden the glass on a board before, because Walk on Water Surf are just the people you need to hook up with to give you the skills to catch some crystal clear waves. They will rent you all the gear, teach you the tricks of the trade and if you’re lucky you may even get to ride with Benny the labrador.
Gisborne is hugely important to local Maori and is also one of the first places in New Zealand encountered by Europeans so take yourself off on a walk up the steep steps to the scenic lookouts on Kaiti Hill, known as ‘Titirangi’ in Maori. This is a superb place to gain a physical and historical perspective of Gisborne and Poverty Bay.
Easily accessed from the harbour, the 15-20 minute climb takes you to several observation platforms with sweeping views over the city, beaches, bay, fertile flats, and on a clear day, you can see all the way to Mahia Peninsula and Portland Island to the south.
It’s also the perfect location to view the dramatic headlands that were British explorer Captain James Cook’s first glimpse of Aotearoa-New Zealand nearly 250 years ago. And here’s a little trivia for you, it wasn’t in fact Captain Cook who first sighted land but Nicholas Young, a cabin boy on the HMS Endeavour. He spotted the white cliffs at the southern end of the bay on October 7, 1769 and they were subsequently named Young Nick’s Head (Te Kuri a Pāoa) after him.
For those roadtrippers a little more familiar with ‘boarding, (and even for those who don't want to surf at all) drive down the coast from Gisborne and head out on a little detour on the Nuhaka Opoutama Road to Mahia Beach.
Mahia is beautiful. Truely beautiful. Its glorious white sand beach with clear fresh surf pounding on its shores are perfect for racing into, either with a board or not! Kick back, take a swim, catch some waves and then chill out on the beach for a while or two.
Once you’ve had your fill of East Cape shores, it’s time to head to Taupo and to throw yourself off a bridge. Situated next to the Waikato River, Taupo Bungy is New Zealand’s highest “water touch” bungy jump - 47 metres over the Waikato River. And then splash! Straight into the crystal clear waters you goooooooooo! You can go on your own, tandem up, you can keep your hair all nice and dry or submerge yourself into the drink. However you choose it’ll have you shrieking all the way down and whooping all the way back up again! Hell! Yeah!
All revved up with your new lease of life - that’s what happens when you have a simulated near death experience - best to head out to the lake and grab a coldie and a spot of lunch so you can relive your bungy experience with your crew. Secure a view-friendly table at The Lakehouse and with luck from the weather gods you'll be able to see the peaks of Mt Tongariro across the lake to the south. Order a brew from the Taupo-based Lakeman Brewing, (try their Hairy Hop IPA) and grab a pizza or order one of their many burgers. This is sure to set your equilibrium back on track and get you roadworthy for the trip back to The ‘Naki.
Oooooh and you’re all nice and happy now you’ve had some food and a beer (only one for the driver mind!) and it’s time to hit the road headed for home. It’s about 3 and a half hours home to New Plymouth so crank up the sounds, grab some lollies and water from the next service station and head out in a northerly direction on SH32 homeward bound.