First Light – Catch it at Gisborne

First light

It’s one of the first places in New Zealand to see the sunrise, so what better time to take a peek at gorgeous Gisborne than daybreak! For the best early morning views, pop on your walking shoes and come with us to the city’s waterfront.

First light

At its southern beginnings, the waterfront walk follows the beach, and heads north to meander along the banks of the Taruheru and Turanganui Rivers. Because this stunning shared pedestrian-cycle way has multiple entry points, you can make the walk as short or as long as you like (we ‘put in’ close to the very attractive waterfront motor camp). However you tackle it, you’re sure to meet the locals out on their early morning exercise regime be it on foot or bicycle. They take to the water, too, so keep an eye out for the waka ama crews paddling their boats down river and out to sea, dwarfed by the log-loading giants moored nearby.

As you mosey along, stop for a selfie beside the bronze statue of ‘Young Nick’, or to put it more literally, ‘Nicholas Young’, cabin boy aboard James Cook’s Endeavour. Follow Nic’s outstretched arm and pointed finger and you’ll see what he saw when he was the first on the ship to sight the New Zealand coast. Cook named the headland in the distance ‘Young Nick’s Head’, known to Māori as Te Kurī-a-Pāoa.


Keep heading towards the port and you’ll encounter the great captain himself, perched atop a marble plinth centred on a ship’s compass of inlaid stone. The monument recalls James Cook’s first steps on New Zealand soil on 7 October 1769. Although Cook originally wanted to call the region Endeavour Bay, the deaths of six Māori during skirmishes with Cook’s men, and the fact that there was little to be found in the way of provisions, meant the name was eventually gazetted as Poverty Bay.

As you continue toward the river, a magnificent site greets you on the corner of Customhouse Street and Gladstone Road. Te Tauihu Turanga Whakamana is a large modern sculpture designed to represent the prow of a waka. As it catches the early morning light, it bears witness to the early Māori explorers who reached our shores long before Cook.

e Tauihu Turanga Whakamana

If you really are up with larks, it’ll be too early to walk up river, and cross over on the road bridge to catch a coffee at the city’s newly fitted out marina – but don’t let that stop you taking a look around a facility that’s very recently had a million (plus) dollar facelift. A hub for eateries and cafes, it’s a hip-hangout, a haven for leisure craft, and offers a tailor-made berth for Waka hourua Tairawhiti, a craft that’s been dubbed ‘the floating classroom’. It serves the region as an education centre focusing on local history and ocean conservation.

If you’re wanting to fill in time before brekky, continue your walk up river or do as we did and make your way into the city centre to check out some of the historic buildings and the main street’s iconic clock tower.  By which time you’ve certainly earned a cafe stop!