The East Cape of New Zealand is a special place. Now, we know you might be thinking we are a bit biased given these breathtaking golden and rugged coastlines where we call home – but it’s true. Plain and simple. There are no two ways about it! Don’t believe us? Okay then, here is a nifty travel guide to the East Cape with some of our favourite places we think will convince you that this untouched region is one to add to your future travel plans!
When was the last time you were the first person to witness the sunrise of a new day? Never? Not many people can say they have! That’s one of the incredible characteristics (and bragging rights) of the East Cape – it is the first place in the world to see the sunrise! Pretty magical huh?
The East Cape Lighthouse clings to the edge of the rugged coastline 154 metres above sea level on the easternmost point of the North Island. Dating back to 1922 when it was relocated from the nearby East Island, the East Cape lighthouse offers views like no other place on earth. Though that might be a bold statement, a small track of 700 steps takes you to the place where you can take in a fiery crimson and gold sunrise over the sea before anyone else on the planet. Bring a picnic and some blankets, then hit the nearby beaches after!
2. East Cape Manuka Cafe
Photo by Eat New Zealand
The quaint cafe offers an insider's view about mānuka and is a perfect way to experience the vast variety of natural products made with mānuka. Our skincare's hero ingredient, used in every product of ManukaRx, is East Cape mānuka oil straight from the region. This unique ingredient is made locally on the East Cape, and it’s the East Cape’s unique traits that give it skincare superpowers. We harvest mānuka from the wild and from sustainably managed plantations to craft the world’s most powerful anti-bacterial essential oil, and you can experience it first hand here. Relax in the cafe, have a refreshing snack, or try out some wonderful mānuka products.
3. Pakihi Tracks
Copyright: Neil R Hutton
Following the serpentine Otara Rivera, the Pakihi Tracks are not to be missed for the outdoors lovers and adventurous spirits! Spanning 20km through lush Eastland forest, these trails are a breathtaking way to experience ancient New Zealand flora by foot or by bike. Walk or ride along pathways that hug the Otara River or over the river on whimsical suspension bridges as it carves its way through steep valleys of towering prehistoric ferns and dense native vegetation.
One of the main draws of these tracks is the exhilarating remote feeling as the signal bars drop away on your phone and your connectedness to nature goes up. Of course, because there is no cell service while on the tracks it is recommended to go with others. But trekking along the Pakihi Tracks and the bright blue Otara river is an experience not to be missed.
One of the most tapu (sacred in Māori) trees in New Zealand, Te Waha O Rerekohu is an ancient pōhutukawa tree that is thought to be the largest in all of New Zealand, with branches spanning 37 metres and the tree itself sitting at over 600 years old!
The pōhutukawa trees, sometimes known as the New Zealand Christmas tree for the vibrant red blooms, are already quite special in Māori legend. Yet, Te Waha O Rerekohu pōhutukawa and its sheer size will leave you in awe as you look over the sprawling network of roots and old gnarled branches rising into the sky, with tufts of crimson flowers like miniature fireworks bursting at the ends. Remember to be respectful of this culturally significant pōhutukawa tree when visiting.
5. Waihirere Falls
Photo from Mapio.net
A short hike through the bush will bring you to the weeping Waihirere Falls cascading down steep rock faces 26 metres to a shallow pool below. These beautiful falls descend from a central point, then split like a veil around the sides of the rock faces that is surrounded by steep and dense forest clinging to the sheer sides. Come for a relatively breezy hike suitable for most to enjoy the view and cool off in the summer with a dip at the foot of the falls. Waihirere Falls is close by Te Araroa and Hicks Bay and a perfect day escape when visiting the East Cape.