The east coast of the North Island is all about sun, wine and remote coastal scenery. The East Cape (the ‘heel’ of the ‘upside-down boot’) is where you can witness the day’s first warming rays and a little further south, the coastal town of Gisborne prides itself on being the first place Captain Cook set foot in New Zealand in 1769.
Inland from Wairoa (south of Gisborne) and the enchanting Mahia Peninsula, are the dense forests of the Te Urewera National Park, a place of almost spiritual beauty and particularly famous for its ‘Great Walk’, which circumnavigates its most scenic jewel, Lake Waikaremoana. Back on the coast you enter the wine country of northern Hawke’s Bay and the pretty coastal town of Napier, almost completely flattened by an earthquake in 1931 and now reborn as an international showpiece for its art deco buildings.Further south, on the bleached cliffs that caress Hawke’s Bay, is the largest gannet colony in the country, at Cape Kidnappers. Continuing southwards is one of the most stunningly beautiful and remote parts of the North Island, the Wairarapa, where, from Castlepoint to the lighthouse at Cape Palliser – the southernmost tip of the island – the peace and isolation is unsurpassed anywhere in the North Island.