Needing to escape the onslaught of Christmas chaos enveloping Auckland City, we decided to take a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway around the East Cape.
We stayed in Whakatane and the following day began the 334 km coastal journey from Opotiki to Gisborne.
The route offers awesome beaches, rugged mountains, and is peppered with tiny sea-side settlements, which consist of a pub* and church, and in between there are villas that give new meaning to “the ultimate do-up”.
It could be the best pub crawl.
Perhaps the route’s most distinguishing feature is its general isolation from the rest of the country. There is very little cellphone coverage, barely any traffic, and cattle seem to obliviously ramble about on the road/side (despite Transit’s aggressive campaign for drivers to report wandering stock).
Heading up to the tip of the cape we made detour at Te Aroroa to investigate the world’s largest Pohutukawa tree, and then, the world’s eastern most lighthouse.
The lighthouse is now fully automated, and the lighthouse keeper was withdrawn in 1985. (Withdrawn lighthouse keepers seem to be a common feature with NZ lighthouses, but I suppose that’s to be expected.)
Heading down the other side, the route tends to keep inland, winding its way through sprawling sheep stations, and more run-down towns before concluding in Gisborne.
To get back to civilisation from Gisborne it’s a minimum five hour drive, with the more direct route to Opotiki via the Wairoa gorge being the most optimal.
All up, it’s a journey that’s well worth doing. It’s scenic, rugged, isolated, and with a lovely old world charm free of two-dollar shops, instant finance companies, McDonald’s and any other corporate franchises.
It’s quite possibly the best place to go for Christmas.
View all photos here.
*And then there was this pub at Tolaga Bay, which for just $150,000 could be the ultimate buy for when the recession hits.