This scenic drive around the eastern most point of New Zealand's North Island will keep you delighted and intrigued by the beauty of this wonderful island nation.
Leg 4: Gisborne to Napier
Total distance: 330km
Estimated driving time: 5 hours
Heading south on SH2, you’ll cover a relatively short distance – but find plenty to experience along the way. On this leg, expect to unwind as you visit hot springs, relax at wineries, hike down walking trails, enjoy spectacular rivers and lakes, and explore caves. There are tons of attractions in this part of New Zealand, so take your time as you travel along the coast. This is one part of New Zealand where having a campervan is really going to free your movement.
(Image courtesy of FotoNut NZ, Flickr)
This charming town has a reputation for being laid-back, full of quaint cafes and great surfing. After all your trekking in Leg 2, you might want to take this opportunity to relax here for a few days – there’s plenty to do while you unwind and soak up Gisborne’s easy-going atmosphere.
The town’s iconic Dome Cinema is the perfect place to watch a movie – stretched out in a beanbag with some pizza and drinks. Or, spend a couple hours browsing at Muirs Bookshop & Café, located in a beautiful old heritage building on Gisborne’s main drag. Just outside of Gisborne, the Wharekopae river features two worthwhile attractions: Rere Rockslide and Rere Falls. Go for a ride down the natural 60-metre stone slide through the crisp river, and head behind the cascading waterfall to take in the spectacular view.
(Image courtesy of russellstreet, Flickr)
The eastern part of the North Island is home to a variety of wineries – you can either stop in at a few along the road to Napier, or book yourself a wine tour to hit them all in one day without having to worry about driving yourself around. Before leaving Gisborne, you might also want to check out Wrights Vineyard & Winery to sample a boutique wine or two – or grab a bottle for later.
Tucked into 364 hectares of rainforest, this spot is the perfect place to stop and relax. No matter the weather, you can get off the road to explore the leafy jungle before dipping your feet in the ancient sea water that flows from underground – 250,000 litres of healing water each day. There are cold pools here too, so if you’re travelling in the summer, you might want to cool off there first before you venture into the hot water.
This picturesque lake is a bit inland, but with lush forest and clear, sparkling water that covers 54 square kilometres, it’s certainly worth the detour. Walking around the lake is possible, and is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand, but will take at least three days – and doesn’t loop around, so you have to plan your own transportation back to your RV. On the way, you can expect to see almost every forest bird native to New Zealand’s North Island, as well as the most expansive native forest on the island.
(Image courtesy of Kathrin & Stefan Marks, Flickr)
If a multiple-day hike isn’t for you, you can stop about 10km south of the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre and take a shorter two-hour stroll to the Onepoto Caves. You’ll find several historic caves to explore, of all different sizes and depths, that were created more than 2,000 years ago during the same ancient land movement that formed Lake Waikaremoana.