Jutting into the South Pacific northeast of Opotiki and Gisborne, the little-visited East Cape (also known as Eastland) is an unspoilt backwater that’s a reminder of how New Zealand once was. Between Opotiki and Gisborne, the Pacific Coast Highway (SH35) runs 330 scenic kilometres around the peninsula, hugging the rugged coastline much of the way and providing mesmerizing sea views on a fine day.

As soon as you enter the region you’ll notice a change of pace, epitomized by the occasional sight of a lone horseback rider clopping along the road. Maori make up a significant percentage of the population – over eighty percent of land tenure here is in Maori hands, and locals are welcoming, particularly once you take time to talk to them and adjust to the cape’s slower pace.

The coast is very much the focus here but there are also hiking opportunities, and just about everywhere you go there will be someone happy to take you horse trekking, either along the beach or into the bush. The towns, such as they are, don’t have much to recommend them and you’re better off planning to stay at scattered places in between, perhaps by a rocky cove or wild beach.

Inland, the inhospitable Waiapu Mountains run through the area, encompassing the northeastern Raukumara Range and the typical native flora of the Raukumara Forest Park. The isolated and rugged peaks of Hikurangi, Whanokao, Aroangi, Wharekia and Tatai provide a spectacular backdrop to the coastal scenery, but are only accessible through Maori land and permission must be sought.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Quiz: where should you go for an adventure in New Zealand?

Quiz: where should you go for an adventure in New Zealand?

With spectacular mountains, incredible lakes and sprawling national parks, New Zealand makes for the adventure of a lifetime. The locals call it “Godzone” (…

15 Dec 2017 • Aimee White help Quiz
Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every corner, with beaches, vineyards…

21 Nov 2017 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right