Flights to Gisborne: First to see the sun
Gisborne is the planet's most easterly city and first to see the sun rise each morning. The capital of Eastland – and some would say of chardonnay – has a balmy sub-tropical climate that's perfect not only for touring, but also for wine-growing (and drinking). Wander the city's palm-lined esplanade or catch a wave on the gorgeous surf beaches of Waikanae and Wainui.
Eat and drink
Flights to Gisborne land you in premier wine country. In October, booze it up with 5,000 fellow revellers at the annual Gisborne Wine & Food Festival. Sample the region’s famous, full-bodied chardonnays. Snack on sushi, seafood and deli delights. Boogie on down to top Kiwi jazz, blues and covers bands. Cook up a storm at a celebrity-chef master class, or just relax in a leafy vineyard.
Try hand-feeding wild stingrays and test your nerve as shark bait. Meet the gaze of hungry mako sharks as they cruise past your submerged cage. Or play it safe and snorkel the coastal reefs and bays instead. Your Gisborne holiday can also mean horse trekking past pristine rivers and thundering waterfalls in the remote Raukumara Ranges. Take a rifle – guided hunts for wild red deer, pigs and goats are popular here.
Back to nature
Lake Waikaremoana, the largest in sprawling Te Urewera National Park, was formed by a giant landslide more than 2,000 years ago. Today, visitors get hooked on the hunt for rainbow trout. Follow the three-day trail around the lake, one of New Zealand's 'Great Walks'. Just try not to get lost – Te Urewara contains the largest unbroken expanse of native forest in the North Island. You might feel safer at Morere Hot Springs, strolling through nikau palm forest and exfoliating in the thermal pools.
Where? Pack your sunblock. Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, is one of the warmest, sunniest places in the country.
Population: At least half of Gisborne’s 45,000 residents are Maori. In this region you’ll hear Maori spoken, as well as English.
Key dates: Captain Cook first set foot on the East Cape in 1769, but European settlement didn’t begin until 1831. The town that took shape was named after Colonial Secretary William Gisborne, in 1870.
Did you know? Gisborne’s Millennium Wall, at Waikanae Beach, celebrates the first sunrise of the new millennium in 2000. The names of 35,325 locals are recorded on the wall.
Rural retreats don’t get much better than this. Shaggy Highland cattle roam past your window at Knapdale Eco Lodge. Beach lovers find absolute beachfront bliss at Absolute Wainui. Savvy families book the Portside Hotel with its waterside location and pool.
Take your appetite along to The Grill Room for the biggest steaks in town, a whopping 600 grams that will challenge the most dedicated carnivore. Unleash your inner Jane Austen over serious coffee and literary classics at the Bookshop Cafe.
Shopping in Gisborne
Gisborne Wine Centre's massive store is the place to stock your cellar and learn about regional wines to complement your foodie finds. Fresh figs or macadamia nuts, perhaps, from the weekly Farmers Market. For brain food, don’t miss Muirs Bookshop.
Maori song, dance and story-telling is spine-tingling anywhere. Try it on a hilltop at sunset. Or simply sink into a beanbag, order pizza and catch a movie in Gisborne’s unique domed cinema, once a gentlemen’s club.
After coming face-to-face with predators of the deep, you might need a stiff drink. Gisborne’s the place to get it, with more than 20 vineyards to choose from, offering chardonnay, riesling and other mainly white varieties.