The East Cape of New Zealand’s North island has a lot going for it. Driftwood fringed beaches jut up against towering cliffs and deserted roads. Spectacular vistas lie around every corner. And it is perhaps the most Maori influenced part of all New Zealand – the closest one may come to seeing how New Zealand may have ended up had the Brits not landed a couple of centuries ago.
History is all over the place here. It was here that Captain Cook landed back in the 18th century, and it was also here that the first Maori canoes, or wakas, landed over eight hundred years ago.
Despite all of this, a woeful 1% of visitors to New Zealand make it out to the East Cape. On our trip, it wasn’t hard to see why. The roads, where they exist and haven’t been washed off the cliff faces, are winding and long. Distances take a while to achieve. But the rewards are entirely worth it.
From historical piers, to Maori maraes, to unbelievable vistas and black sanded beaches, to the landing points of Captain Cook and the scenery from New Zealand classics such as The Whale Rider, the East Cape really is a place that should be on more visitors itineraries. Rather than going on about this in words, here are a number of photos to help explain what I mean. Enjoy.
The shell studded black sand beach of Tolaga Bay
Horses roam freely in many parts, here by the beautifully picturesque Raukokore Church. Penguins nest on the shore here.
The shores of most of the beaches we visited were littered with driftwood, a result of the three weeks of torrential damaging rain that had just taken place.
The road to the East Cape lighthouse, the most easterly point of mainland New Zealand and the first place on earth to see the sunrise.
Maori culture is front and centre of East Cape life, and this Maori carving is an example of the art that is on display everywhere you look as you travel around.
The cliffs of Tolaga Bay at sunset. Not far from here is Cooks Cove, where Captain Cook made his second landing onto New Zealand soil.
The sand on these beaches is really quite remarkably dark. Here is a picture of a rock to help show that 😉
Finally, Tolaga Bay Wharf at sunset. At 660 metres long, this claims to be the longest wharf in the Southern Hemisphere.