Top Things to do in Gisborne, New Zealand

Holly West

Holly West

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New Zealand is a vast country visited by millions every year to enjoy its beautiful landscapes, dramatic coastlines, delicious wine and the famous Kiwi hospitality. Many head to tourist hotspots such as Auckland or Queenstown etc. but venture a little off the beaten track and you will find the coastal town of Gisborne. If you are a lover of food, wine and surf beaches, this is the place you will want to put top of your list for a few days, or a few weeks, in the sun. Here are some of the top things to do during your visit to ‘Gizzy’. 

Walk and enjoy the view 

Gisborne has a beautiful coastline not to be missed, and the best way to take advantage of this is by taking the Riverbank and Town Beach Walkway. The 2.5km walk takes you through the city and along the coastline, paved mostly by a board walk. The walk is peppered with informational features about the history of the city. The beaches are all covered in beautiful white sand, and can go on for miles. Aside from walking the coast, Gisborne’s beaches are perfect for a day in the sun complete with sea dips and beers. 

Aside from the stunning coastline, Gisborne also features some amazing walks further inland. If you are looking to stretch your legs for a couple of hours, head to Te Kuri Farm Walkway, it is the perfect escape from the city. Weave your way through farmland, fields, and forrest to reach the gorgeous view point over the city. It is well worth the steep hills, but maybe take a snack or two for a mid-walk pick me up! For a walk a little less strenuous, (but no less hilly!), Titirangi Domain is a great place for an afternoon stroll. There are a number of trails to take which vary between 30 minutes and 2 hours, so it is suited to all abilities. For some epic views over Gisborne and the ocean, head right to the top of Kaiti Hill from the Domain (or if accessibility is an issue, you can drive to the lookout and enjoy it without the sweat!).  

Catch some waves 

If you are a keen surfer, Gisborne is the place to check out. The East Coast of New Zealand produces a consistent swell which attracts wave riders from across the globe. There are many breaks along the coast of which offer perfect conditions for true beginners, and those who live and breathe life on the water. With so much coastline to choose from, if one break isn’t working, another further along probably is, meaning if you stop by in Gisborne for a surfing holiday, you will seldom be disappointed.

Wainui Beach | Picture Credits: @junsworthh

Get to know your grapes

New Zealand is world renowned for their wine production, and Gisborne is no exception to this, being the third largest wine producing region in the country. Gisborne has an excellent wine trail leading to many boutique cellar doors such as Matawhero Wines, Bushmere Estate or Milton Vineyards. These sites are a short drive out of the city centre, so I would recommend finding one of the many tour operators to ferry you between cellar doors, or nominate a designated driver! Pick a nice sunny day and sit out in the gardens to enjoy the views. I would opt first for a wine tasting, to get to know the region and its diverse wines, and then pick your favourite to have a nice big glass and pair it with a delicious cheese platter. The region is best known for its Chardonnay and I highly recommend you indulge!

Milton Vineyards | Picture Credits: @miltonvineyard

Eat and drink your way around the city 

If you don’t fancy the hassle of sorting out transport to and from vineyards, naming yourself a designated driver, or you’re just not a fan of wine, Gisborne city centre food and drink scene has got you covered. 

Fancy a pint? Head to the über cool Sunshine Brewery for a quick one, or three. This boutique brewery is a favourite place for locals to catch up for a couple of drinks. Brewing their own top quality ales and lagers – promoting surf, sunshine, beers and good times. Fret not if you aren’t a beer lover, they have an excellent selection of local wines and soft drinks, and as an added bonus they also serve delicious homemade pizzas! And who doesn’t love a pint and a pizza. My personal favourite is the Lemon Drop Sour – a beautifully refreshing number, but arguments can be made for the Mexican Lager which hits you with a chilli sensation you didn’t know you needed. 

Tasting board at Sunshine Brewery | Picture Credits: @yourshtisbananas

If you are looking for something a little more refined, without the price tag, Gisborne Wine Centre set along the harbour is the perfect place to visit on a summer’s evening. You can get the vineyard experience by being taken through a wine tasting session, or sit out overlooking the harbour with a crisp glass of white and enjoy the views. They also offer a small, carefully curated menu of mains and sharing plates to enjoy with loved ones. It’s vineyard worthy wine and high quality food without the premium prices which makes it perfect for a treat night out without damaging your wallet too much.  

If you are looking for something with a bit of occasion, head to the Gisborne Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. Here you can get some of the freshest local produce right from source, soak up the incredible atmosphere and listen to live music. Think fresh fruit and veg, homemade honey and sauces, and local vineyards providing their finest wines. It is certainly a wholesome way to support small local businesses and start your weekend right.

Slip and Slide 

Take a 45 minute drive out of the city centre and you will find yourself at the famous Rere Rockslide. This slide is a 60m slab of natural rock covered in moss with water running down it which descends into a pool of water at the bottom. Tourists and locals flock here on a sunny day to slide down this natural water slide – which you can do seated, or pick up one of the many offcuts of plastic and old bodyboards for an even smoother ride. Just up from the slide you can also explore the waterfall, making it a great place for a half-day trip. The best part? Rere Rockslide is completely free, so you can save your pennies for a glass of Gisborne wine. 

Rere Rockslide | Picture Credits: @thevisionisclearnz

Watch the first sunrise in the world 

Kiwi’s are the first people in the world to see the new day. But what is unique about Gisborne being the most easterly on the North Island, is it is the first city in the world to see the sunrise each day. Get an early night and wake up to the gorgeous Gisborne sunrise knowing you are in amongst the first in the world to see it. Bonus points if you wake up early enough to trek up to Kaiti Hill or Te Kuri Farm to get unparalleled views of the city as it wakes up and seizes another day in paradise.

Makorori Beach | Picture Credits: @evie.comber

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to embrace the beauty of stunning Gisborne. Start your day right with a sunrise and surf, maybe climb some mountains and slide down a rock face in the afternoon, and definitely finish it all off with a glass of Gisborne wine with a view. 

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