After driving all across both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, I can honestly say that nothing has been more satisfying than driving in the Bay of Plenty & Gisborne region compared to most other parts of the country. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the lush green hills on the other, it’s an experience that needs to be cherished as you pass every single kilometre of it while driving along. Add some soul stirring “ unplugged” music to this drive, it will only make you wanting to do this over and over again, without stopping ever !! A wonderful combination of sight, sound and motion all along. Fortunately (or unfortunately) only a small portion of the population gets to experience these without too much running in their heads and thankfully I’m one of the lucky few being able to do so. Taking one for all those who cannot or aren’t in a position to do so.
The entire stretch of the drive actually starts from Whakatane in the BOP region and ends in Hastings in Hawke’s Bay, roughly about 600kms; it’s the part from Te Araroa to Gisborne that is more beautiful than the other part of the drive. I didn’t do the entire stretch but covered 80% of it and of course the ‘beautiful’ler part too. I landed in Gisborne and drove from there to Opotiki via the Waioeka Gorge. That in itself was a good 150kms or so and was fabulous in its own way. Driving through the valleys in the gorge filled with trees covered in green foliage, and a slightly over cast day and with hardly any vehicle at all, was very blissful to say the least. At one point half way through the gorge, I almost felt isolated due to lack of vehicles in either direction. I did manage to take a couple of stretch breaks and found a few vehicles pass by at those times though. One particular spot was really pretty, that I turned back after driving away for a few kilometres. It was at the Manganuku Camping Grounds; a very pretty spot where the highway passes over the Waioeka river. There was also the historic Manganuku Bridge almost derelict and not in use of course, which made for a great photo spot, which I totally made use of indeed.
Continuing from there I reached the town of Opotiki thinking I’d stay there for the evening, but a quick look up of the town didn’t leave me with too much to see or do. After an hour of strolling around the town centre I had the option of either going to Whakatane for the night or drive eastwards to Te Araroa, which was about half way for the next day’s drive. I decided on the latter and made my way towards that side. Sure turned out to be a good decision for two reasons, one – the drive along the Bay of Plenty coastline was pretty amazing and two – I was able to reach Te Araroa for the sunset at the bay. Probably one of the better evening sky colors I got to witness. On the flip side I didn’t realise that the town had only one store and 2 take aways all of which closed by 6pm !! Meaning I had to make do with my numbers and a banana for supper. At supper however I met a French couple of who were travelling around NZ for the last 9 months or so and they were here after travelling around South America for 2 years. The timing couldn’t have been better as I managed to get a good amount of info about their travels, hoping to put it into good use for my travels later.
The next morning was a very special one as I got to witness the world’s first sunrise at the East Cape Lighthouse. An event so mesmerising that it has it’s own blogpost (CLICK HERE).. Post the sunrise I continued my drive towards Gisborne and this is where the drive got more and more beautiful as I passed each mile. As I drove this part, I came across numerous hills and valleys; all of which were covered in bright green fauna due to Spring. Every time I took out the camera to film or shoot the beauty, it was almost redundant cuz the next turn had something even more prettier. After a while I just gave up. And just when you think the greenery is pretty enough, comes the stunning blue coastline of the Pacific Ocean on your left. A good couple of hundred kms of driving by the coast passing through a handful of Bays, some worthy of more than a pit stop to admire what you see. One such stopover was at Tolaga Bay; It is both a bay and small town on the East Coast located 45 kilometres north of Gisborne and 30 kilometres south of Tokomaru Bay. It houses New Zealand’s longest Pier, apparently very ideal for fishing; something I wouldn’t know as I don’t fish as such. The pier is about 650mts long and for a relaxed slow stroll to the end and back I took about 45mins, which was so totally worth it. At the end of the pier there were plenty of people with their fishing lines, beers and sausages. A classic kiwi combo of things you’d see on a good day. And a good day it certainly was. The sun was out in it’s full glory making it for a perfect day to be out & about with the family doing all the fishing possible.
Finally after another 50kms of driving by the coast and the valleys, along with a couple more stopovers I arrived into Gisborne just in time for a gorgeous sunset; feeling very grateful about what I had just seen and experienced through the day. Right from the sunrise, to the drive and to the sunset, nothing was planned and it shouldn’t have been either. Just enjoying the moments as they came along. Something that all of us need to do with life in general as well. More often than not we keep planning for the destination so much that we forget to enjoy the smaller things along the journey. Always trying to look for something that we don’t have while forgetting to appreciate and savour what we already have in the kitty !! Ah… Humans eh.. We just don’t change.. Anyway I’ll call it a day leaving y’all with those lurking thoughts.. Ciao !!
A part of the drive is captured in this video HERE. And as always below is the gallery 🙂