TAURANGA – WHAKATANE – GISBORNE
Travel distance is approximately 498kms (311 miles).
Allow at least 6.5 hours drive time (not including stops).
Today involves a lot of drive time, so please ensure you take plenty of driver rests and if at any stage the driver starts to feel tired or groggy, they must stop. Feel free to overnight at any destination along the route as we want you to have a safe and enjoyable journey.
Preferably after an early breakfast you will have packed up and Tauranga will just be a spot in your rear vision mirror as you enjoy a beaut day of scenic self-drive touring. At Matata you can choose to take the main highway through the town of Edgecumbe, famous for its 1987 earthquake, or you can follow the scenic coastal route via Thornton and Paroa before ending your day in Gisborne.
The journey along the East Cape on the way to Gisborne is truly wonderful, and offers a beautiful insight into Maori culture. Keep an eye out for ornate Maori churches and historical marae’s.
Some notable stops along the route to Gisborne include:
KIWI 360 – TE PUKE
Welcome to the Kiwifruit Capital of the World! Just a short drive from Tauranga on route to Whakatane, Te Puke is home to Kiwi 360, which is a unique visitor attraction that celebrates the incredible Kiwifruit. Enjoy a tour through lush orchards aboard a KiwiKart before relaxing in the Kiwi360 café with a freshly roasted coffee, Kiwifruit juice or deli-style food. The Kiwi360 Shop is where you can purchase exquisite skin care products, stylish home wares and other Kiwiana products. Open every day except Christmas Day.
Only approximately 1.5 hours from Tauranga, Whakatane is part of the Pacific Coast Highway and ‘half-way’ point on this scenic highway. Great cafes, excellent shopping and restaurants, plus plenty of sandy beaches and a superb climate are the biggest attractions for those that want to live or play in this area of the North Island! With a population that trebles during Summer, there is plenty of tourism attractions on offer, including dolphin watching, deep-sea fishing, trout fishing, walking, tramping and tours to White Island.
If you have time in Whakatane then we highly recommend a White Island tour. As one of the world’s few accessible live volcanoes is a ‘must see’ natural attraction. Tours by boat or scenic flights are available. White Island is also one of world’s best scuba diving destinations.
WHINRAY SCENIC RESERVE
Turn off at Matawai and discover this outstanding area of native forest boasting prolific bird life and a fabulous 5km-walking track that starts with a breath-taking 42 metre suspension bridge crossing over the Motu River, just below the Motu Falls.
TE ARAROA VILLAGE
Steeped in rich Maori history, the township also boasts to having the largest and oldest Pohutukawa tree in New Zealand. This is a great spot for a ‘driver reviver’, enjoy a delicious meal in the local hotel or stretch your legs along the walkway to the East Cape lighthouse.
One of the finest Maori churches is located in this township and was built in 1924. The church is decorated in a manner to display the meeting of two cultures, and magically combines a European structure with extensive Maori carvings and interior decorations.
TOLAGA BAY WHARF
Another ‘driver reviver’ spot! Enjoy the half hour walk to the end of New Zealand’s longest wharf… a staggering 660 metres in length. A great place to catch fish, the wharf was opened in 1929 and is an integral part of Eastland’s history.
Famous for being the first city in the world to see the sun each day, this sunny East Coast town is also one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, which is why the area is one of New Zealand’s largest grape growing regions with a staggering amount of vineyards planted in Chardonnay.
Highly recommended Gisborne tourist attractions include…
Wine Trail Tour
A good selection of tour operators offer specialised winery tours. Most tours include wine tastings and lunch at a specific winery.
This award winning museum and art gallery has an ever-changing selection of exhibits and displays along with some popular regulars, including the popular Kahurangi (sacred treasures) exhibition which is based on objects selected from the museum’s Maori Collection, plus Wyllie Cottage & Gardens.
Morere Hot Springs
Public and private thermal pools in a beautiful bush setting plus bush walks. A great place to experience beautiful mineral pools in a unique, spectacular setting.
Maungaroa Station Horse Treks
Enjoy magnificent native bush, crystal clear rivers and awesome waterfalls as your trek in the foothills of the Raukumara Ranges on a safe, experienced guided horse. Treks for all riding abilities available.
Wainui Surf School
Learn to surf! Group or private lessons available with experienced surfer and surf instructor on a beautiful Gisborne beach break. Lessons include surf board, boogie board and wet suit hire. Surf tours also available.
WA165 Steam Train Trip
Built in 1897 in the Dunedin railway workshops, the Steam Locomotive WA165 has been resorted and is the only surviving WA Class Locomotive in New Zealand. Running from the Gisborne Train Station out to Muriwai and back, this is one of the most famous and scenic rail rides in the country.
Gisborne has a vibrant and fun nightlight plus a huge range of restaurants and cafes to suit most budgets and tastes, including a restaurant with a DC3 aeroplane in the roof! Choose from cafes, dine Italian, enjoy dinner in a harbourside winery or some good Kiwi tucker.
Gisborne also has a wonderful range of accommodation options for your overnight stay.
New Zealand Itineraries: North Island Suggested Itineraries
Our modern self-drive travel Itineraries have routes specifically for the North Island as well as the South Island, ranging from 5 to 11 days, plus there are some travel routes that take in both the North and South Island’s. Our range of travel itineraries include information regarding travel distances and time to ensure that you can make the best of your time in New Zealand, no longer how short your visit!
- 5 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Rotorua, Rotorua – Taupo, Taupo – Waitomo Caves and Waitomo Caves – Auckland
- 6 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Coromandel, Coromandel – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Rotorua and Rotorua – Auckland
- 6 Day Itinerary (route 2): Auckland – Dargaville, Dargaville – Kaitaia, Kaitaia – Paihia, Paihia – Whangarei and Whangarei – Auckland
- 7 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Rotorua, Rotorua – Taupo, Taupo – Napier and Napier – Wellington
- 8 Day Itinerary: Wellington, Wellington – Masterton, Masterton – Wellington, Wellington – Nelson, Nelson – Blenheim and Blenheim – Christchurch
- 9 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Coromandel, Coromandel – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Gisborne, Gisborne – Napier, Napier – Taupo, Taupo – Rotorua, Rotorua – Waitomo Caves and Waitomo Caves – Auckland
- 9 Day Itinerary (route 2): Auckland – Whangarei, Whangarei – Paihia, Paihia – Hokianga, Hokianga – Auckland, Auckland – Rotorua, Rotorua – Taupo, Taupo – Waitomo Caves and Waitomo Caves – Auckland
- 11 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Rotorua, Rotorua – Gisborne, Gisborne – Napier, Napier Taupo Napier, Napier – Wellington, Wellington – New Plymouth, New Plymouth – Waitomo and Waitomo Caves – Auckland