New Zealand: The East Coast

The East coast for us included a lot of driving and more cities than countryside. All of which is apart of the experience of travelling around in a van for over a month.

Pacific coast highway (SH 35)

This highway is known to be one of the most iconic road trip highways in the whole of New Zealand and I can tell you why. This road is filled with twists and turns and filled to the brim with beautiful surroundings. The road itself, whilst under serious construction when we were on it, was still a lovely drive. You will notice that in most places you drive some form of roadwork is underway. We drove all the way to the top of the East coast and braved the gravel track to the most Eastern point of the New Zealand. We didn’t make it for sunrise, and to be honest in Jeanine we have to pace ourselves on the unsealed roads so we wouldn’t have made it in time for the 6am sunrise show. Instead we went mid morning and walked up the 800 steps (we checked it is 800 exactly). Then we followed the road south across the multitudes of mountain passes to reach bay after bay of crystal clear waters and beautiful pebbled beaches. These beaches are the perfect spot to be able to practise you skimming stone technique. Watch out for the driftwood and try not to stab yourself in the shin with a piece of driftwood while walking along said beaches.


Gisborne. Aka Gizzy. Gisborne is the first city to see the sunrise each calendar day in world. If that doesn’t get you there then what will! It also offers truly beautiful beaches and a large number of Chardonnay vineyards in the surrounding area, which should provide you all the entertainment you need. Other than the wine and the beaches Gisborne has little to offer. It is however, a convenient place to stop over on the way to other places along the East coast.

Hawkes Bay

Hawkes bay is a beautiful blue watered bay that is well and truly a must see. Driving along state highway no. 2 you follow the path around the bay to Napier from Gisborne. The road is a beautiful winding passage to the cities in the south, and on our way down we stopped for lunch at a lake that was truly unusual. Lake Tutura, a lake formed by a landslide, which no longer has any rivers that connect to it. This occurred as a result of a landslide that cut the river off from the larger body of water. The river then would normally find a way through the newly left earth, but in this case, it managed to find an easier route than via the main body of water. The river now avoids its original route altogether cutting off the lake. The perfect picturesque lunch spot, which also allowed us to learn something new. Win, win I say!


Napier came as advertised. A time capsule from the 1930s, from the architecture to the cafes and bars all in on the theme. It really was a delight to visit a strange place but I would only be able to stay for a day. The scenery was beautiful and luckily it was a gorgeous day as well so we were able to stroll around and take it all in before we headed into the museums to see the art décor galleries.

The trip wasn’t all fun and games however as we also learnt a lot about the earthquake that produced the time capsule in the first place. The quake flattered the town, which was completely rebuilt in the 1930s.  As a result the 1930s themed town was created.

One thought on “New Zealand: The East Coast

  1. Dear Claudia, Really enjoying theses accounts of your journey and realising how much we did not see. We only had two weeks and did both islands so you can imagine we had to get going. I would love to have seen Napier as the Art Deco period is so interesting to me. However you are now in Queenstown having had that long journey and I look forward to reading the next instalment. Love to you both xxx

Leave a Reply