This charming seaside community was named in honor of the crew member aboard Captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour who first sighted land in the area in 1769. Not only boasting a long maritime history and a vibrant Maori heritage and culture, Gisborne is also known for its wine, often called the “Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand.” Be sure to visit Gisborne’s splendid array of boutique wineries. And for a taste of Gisborne’s history and art, the Tairawhiti Museum is an essential destination in this city of warm smiles and even warmer hearts.
- Airlie Beach
- Kingfisher Bay (Fraser Island)
- Norfolk Island
- Penneshaw (Kangaroo Island)
- Perth (Fremantle)
- Phillip Island
- Port Lincoln
- Thursday Island
- Whitsunday Island
Most Active or Strenuous
Minimal Activity Required
Take an introductory drive through Gisborne, an easy-going beach-blessed city that revolves around life’s pleasures such as surfing, dining and wine production.
After departing from the pier, you'll set off on a journey of discovery. Gisborne is home to approximately 44,000 people and is the birth place of a diverse variety of New Zealand notables, including pro surfer Maz Quinn, opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, several Olympic medalists, and Footrot Flats comic book creator Murray Ball.
The shores of Gisborne are legendary for their beauty and history. Your tour will take you past the spot where Captain Cook, the English explorer who discovered the area, first landed and met the native Maori people.
Then, travel up Titirangi (Kaiti) Hill for a photo opportunity, passing a stately Marae, a Maori meeting house, considered to be the largest in New Zealand. When you reach the top of the hill, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of Poverty Bay, Young Nicks Head, the first piece of land sighted by James Cook’s crew and named for the young lad who spied it—and your anchored ship.
Continue along the shoreline to admire two of the area’s premier beaches. Wainui and Okitu are known for their impressive waves, which draw top surfers to their sands. Keep your camera ready for a stop at the sand dunes of Lysnar Reserve.
In just a few miles, the scenery changes dramatically, and you’ll find yourself in Gisborne’s idyllic rural area. Thirty percent of all wines produced in New Zealand come from this region. Enjoy the view as you drive along roads bordered by sweet-smelling orchards, award-winning vineyards, and lush, fertile plains. You’ll also see fields dotted with adorable fluffy sheep happily grazing beside quaint farmhouses.
On your return to the city, you’ll travel down the main shopping street, the tree-lined Gladstone Road. Named after former British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, the boulevard houses boutiques, souvenir stores brimming with handcrafted gifts, surf shops and colorful outdoor cafes perfect for a bite to eat and people watching. You will have the option of disembarking to explore independently, making your own way back to port, or simply remaining on the motorcoach and returning to the ship.
Please note: This tour is panoramic in nature and there are no stops. The tour is available to wheelchair guests who are able to make their own way on and off the coach, have a collapsible wheelchair and an able-bodied companion to assist them. Weather appropriate clothing; sunglasses; and comfortable shoes are recommended.
Enjoy a leisurely bike ride through downtown Gisborne and along a relatively flat cycling trail, passing the city’s key monuments, historical sites and most distinctive architecture.
After departing from the pier on a bicycle, you will head toward the long stretch of beach that hugs Poverty Bay on the south side of Gisborne or “Gizzy,” as it is affectionately known. Along the way, you will pause as your guide elaborates on the city’s history with particular attention paid to the Maori settlers and the Europeans that followed.
In the mid-14th century, the migratory Maori first landed in this area, and English explorer Captain James Cook arrived later in 1769. There is a monument commemorating the initial meeting between Cook and the Maori overlooking Poverty Bay.
Depending on your route around Gisborne, you may pass the extraordinary clock tower of the 1930s post office, the Tairawhiti Museum that is devoted to Maori artifacts and 19th-century photography, and the Taruhero River that gently flows through the city. You might also notice a number of “First to See the Light” signs that refer to Gisborne being New Zealand’s easternmost city and the world’s first to greet the rising sun each new day.
The tour isn’t all cycling though, as you will stop for a time to enjoy morning tea at a lovely Art Deco café. After approximately two and one half hours, the tour will end back at the pier.
Please note: The cycling is on flat terrrain on cruiser, low step touring cycles and is suitable for all age groups. Total cycling covers approximately 6.5 miles over a period of approximately 2 1/2 hours. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests or those with mobility issues. Participants should be in good physical condition. Weather appropriate casual clothing; sun cap; sunglasses, sunscreen; and a bottle of water from the ship are recommended. Flat, closed-toe shoes are mandatory. The minimum age to participate is 10 years old.
Visit two family-owned wineries and sample their most characteristic wines, which may include selections beyond Gisborne’s famed Chardonnays and Gewürztraminers.
After departing from the pier, you will enjoy a short but picturesque drive into the rolling countryside on the outskirts of Gisborne. This area is fast becoming one of the largest wine-producing regions in New Zealand, thanks to its Mediterranean-style climate, fertile alluvial soil and low-altitude river plains. While Chardonnay is the most popular wine here, Gewürztraminer is becoming a favorite as well.
You will have the opportunity to sample several of the area’s most renowned wines while visiting two wineries. At Bushmere Estate, a small winery where the Egan family has been growing grapes for more than 40 years, you will enjoy a wine tasting accompanied by a light antipasto platter. The wines may include an elegant Chardonnay with hints of nectarine and grapefruit. Bushmere Estate’s excellent Gewürztraminer may also be a selection, and it typically features lychee flavors with a touch of honey and a lime and ginger finish.
You will also enjoy a tasting at Matawhero Wines. Established in 1968 by Bill Irwin, it defied convention and made wines of boutique standing and international acclaim and in doing so, changed the face of New Zealand winemaking forever. Since its first vintage in 1975, Matawhero has produced many excellent and often adventurous wines. Following in Bill’s pioneering footsteps, son Denis imparted his colourful style and won fame for his Gewürztraminer – everyone was drinking it, even the Queen of England. Today, revived by the Searle family, Matawhero is true to the founders’ determination, producing individualistic wines of world class standard.
Learn more about the family’s commitment to sustainable wine producing as you sample their varietals while nibbling on complimentary cheeses.
Following your visit at Matawhero, you will return to the pier.
Stroll on foot or drive through New Zealand’s extraordinary National Arboretum, a diverse collection of mature trees, some of which were planted nearly 100 years ago.
After departing from the pier, you will settle in for drive through the hills of Poverty Bay until reaching Eastwoodhill, the National Arboretum of New Zealand. Along the way, a guide from the Friends of the Eastwoodhill Arboretum Trust will explain the distinctive qualities of the flora that awaits you.
Upon arriving, you will select the manner of exploring that best suits you. The options are a 30-minute guided walking tour through the Homestead Garden, a guided tour in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, or you may set out on your own with a detailed map of the arboretum.
Eastwoodhill is distinguished for having the largest and most comprehensive collection of Northern Hemisphere trees south of the equator. The first plantings were put into the fertile ground here in 1918, and today the collection numbers in the thousands. Highlights include a scarlet oak that was one of the very first plantings, a towering redwood from California, and a mountain ash that is the arboretum’s tallest specimen.
The collection is especially significant considering that it could never be replicated due to stringent international regulations with regard to importing plants. Many the trees should be in bloom and their delightful scents will waft through the air. After approximately two hours in the arboretum, you will rejoin your coach and return to the pier.
Please note: While walking is required on this tour, it is primarily at the guests’ discretion and a moderate level of fitness is required for those who wish to walk independently. The tour is available to wheelchair guests who have a collapsible wheelchair, are able to make their own way on and off the coach and have an able-bodied companion to assist them. The 4X4 vehicles cannot accommodate wheelchair guests. Those with other mobility concerns are cautioned to carefully evaluate their personal level of stamina and ability. Weather appropriate clothing; sun cap; sunglasses; sunscreen; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. The 4X4 vehicles are open-air and do not operate in the rain. Furthermore, these vehicles only have capacity for 4 persons at a time and there may be a significant wait time for one.
Take a ride on a vintage steam train through a scenic landscape that includes coastal views and fertile fields. A Maori cultural performance and photo opportunities await at Muriwai before retracing your route back to Gisborne.
The Golden Age of rail travel is celebrated on one of the last steam trains in New Zealand—the sole surviving WA Class locomotive. After a short walk from the pier, you’ll be welcomed on board the train for the forty minute ride to Muriwai.
Take your seat in one of several lovingly restored heritage carriages and set off on a picturesque ride along the Poverty Bay Coastline, past the Captain Cook Statue, and fertile areas where local produce is grown. You will also have views across the bay to the ship and Young Nick’s Head.
Built in 1897 in the Dunedin railway workshops, WA 165 was brought to Gisborne in 1911. It faithfully worked the north line until 1942, when it was retired to a children’s playground. In 1986, this beautiful piece of equipment was rediscovered and fully restored by local railway enthusiasts. Today you’ll settle into upholstered seats and toast to your good fortune with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine or fruit juice as you sit back and enjoy the passing scenery which is further enhanced by informative commentary during your ride.
Your destination is Muriwai, a small settlement 15 miles south of Gisborne. Here, you’ll alight on a rural grass platform and enjoy several photo opportunities as well as a charming Maori cultural performance.
Maori is very much a living culture in this area, and while you wait for the train to be turned around for your return trip, you’ll be entertained by a lively performance, featuring the songs and dances of the local Maori people. This performance is locally produced and often includes school children who bring a special sweetness to the ceremony.
On your return journey, enjoy the company of your fellow travelers as you travel back to Gisbourne. Arriving in the city, the train will stop at the Grey Street Railway Station where there is a visitor information center. Guests may disembark and make their own way into the downtown area to explore on their own, or remain on the train and ride back to the pier.
Please note: There is limited required walking on this tour; however, guests must be able to negotiate 3 steep steps to enter and exit the train cars and the surfaces at Muriwai are natural and uneven. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests and may not be suitable for those with mobility concerns who are cautioned to carefully evaluate their personal level of stamina and ability. Weather appropriate clothing; sun cap; sunglasses; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Three of the train carriages are air-conditioned but the Heritage carriage is not. There are restrooms on the train.
Wade out to a rock shelf off Tatapouri and watch the abundant marine life such as stingrays, fish and octopuses swimming around the reef.
After departing from the pier, you will enjoy a scenic coastal drive past the surfing mecca of Wainui Beach and up the Pacific Coast Highway to Tatapouri. After an enlightening orientation and then donning wading gear, you will walk with your guide out to a rocky reef shelf. Marine life is abundant here, and chances are you will see Down Under’s most iconic sea creatures.
Your guide will bring food along to entice the stingrays and as a result, the water is usually teeming with short-tail rays, which look particularly graceful as they glide along the shallow reef. Eagle rays are also common and can easily be distinguished from stingrays by their long, whip-like tails. Both species feed on fish, so you can also expect to see yellowtail kingfish, which in turn feed on trevally.
These beautiful silvery and blue-green fish are highly sought by fishermen, as they are strong fighters. Trevally are also known as “blurters” for the odd grunt they make when caught. The Maori call the trevally by various other names including the arara.
Following the reef adventure at Tatapouri, you will pause for refreshments while hearing stories about the Maori, the first settlers of New Zealand. They migrated from Polynesia and were expert hunters and fishermen, often carving hooks from bone and even stone.
After this informative respite, you will drive back down the coast to the pier.
Please note: Guests must be able to walk out to the reef shelf through water. The reef itself is rocky and there will be over 30 minutes of standing on it so all guests must be capable of standing for that length of time. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests or those with walking difficulties. Comfortable, weather appropriate clothing that can get wet; sun cap; sunglasses; sunscreen; low-heeled footwear that you don’t’ mind getting wet; and an additional pair of shoes are recommended. Waders, with boots attached, are provided for all participants; however size 14 USD is the largest available. The minimum age to participate is 5 years old and the local operator may restrict participation to those over 75 years of age. Reef activity is weather and tide dependent.