New Zealand has a long coastline, stunning beaches, and many coastal roads. Some believe that every beach has the same water, sea and sands. Similarly, every mountain and landscape have the same rocks, vegetation, and soil. However, I disagree. I believe each place is different in itself. Associate to it the local history and folklore, the places become destinations worth visiting and admiring.
Lookout at Kaihere, on the way to Tauranga
One of the less explored parts of the north island of New Zealand is the East Cape region. Its major town is Gisborne, which in itself is one of the smallest towns in the country. There are other towns in the region but are small as well. In no way, it means that they are less beautiful. In fact, I find these provincial towns to be more beautiful than the bigger cities.
Visiting East Cape was on the bucket list for a long time. We decided to finally visit the region on Auckland anniversary weekend. As usual, I researched a little bit about accommodation and things to do in the area. The East Cape lighthouse came up on the top of many lists and blogs which I read before planning the trip. Although it would be the same lighthouse as one could see at Cape Reinga or Manukau Heads, I was still excited to visit this new place.
|Awesome scenery on the way to Tauranga|
We prepared well in advance, gathered all the supplies to keep us moving for a day, checked the weather, got elated that it would be the sunshine all the way and started. We left Auckland in the morning. Highly determined that we would visit every attraction (if possible) on the way, we moved ahead.
It was a nice place showcasing the Hauraki plains and Coromandel Ranges in the far distance. After taking a short break and clicking this picture, we drove ahead. The drive was lovely and scenic. We were on our way to Tauranga and crossed the scenic Kaimai ranges. Driving downhill we saw a road sign for McLaren Falls. We took the road to the falls and reached there after a short downhill drive from the main highway.
|Mount Maunganui Beach with The Mount in the backdrop|
We drove ahead and reached Tauranga. Driving towards Mount Maunganui Beach, we saw a lot of water sports activities and people enjoying the weekend. We stopped nearby the beach and had lunch there. Lots of people meant less parking space. Still, we managed to find one near the beach. We went to the beach for some time and saw there was some swimming-cycling race going on. Teenage children were participating in that major event on the beach.
|Beautiful clouds on the way to Whakatane|
Moving ahead, the next major town in the way was Whakatane. The road took us close to the Pacific Ocean. It did have a striking resemblance to the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne. Again we found a rest stop and pulled over to see the scenic beauty. This time, it was extent-less Pacific Ocean and the Whale Island (Moutohora Island) to be seen in the far distance. We took some pictures of the stunning scenery and moved ahead. Since it was noon, the sun rays had started to burn the skin.
|This was an impromptu stop at Kohioawa Beach as the marker says|
Next on our way was Ohope Beach. This is an even smaller town close to Whakatane. The beach here is a very long one and had a characteristic darker sand color. This is probably due to the volcanic activity in the whole region. We pulled over to go to the beach and could see White Island in the far distance in the ocean. White Island is an active volcano and there are helicopter tours available as well. From what I have seen in pictures and some first person accounts, it is a breathtaking place.
|The beautiful coastline before Whakatane town, Whale Island is seen in the distance|
We spent some time on the beach and then drove ahead. We saw a beautiful entry door to a place called Tauwhare Pa Scenic Reserve. We stopped there and went to the reserve to see. The 360 degree view of the Ohope beach and the surroundings was awesome. It was a nice place which we would have otherwise definitely missed.
|A zoomed in shot at Ohope Beach showing White Island in distance, smoke coming out of the volcano can be seen clearly|
The region being a Maori native one, there are a lot of Marae on the way. These buildings are very beautiful and are sacred meeting places for the wonderful Maori culture. It was a treat to see the beautiful buildings on the way. While driving we came across many little settlements and a lot of agricultural farms.
|Entrance to the Tauwhare Pa Scenic Reserve|
|Looking west from a lookout on the way to Hicks Bay|
|Winding roads on the descent to bridge in the far distance|
|A beautiful campground on the way to Hicks Bay|