The East Cape region is officially part of the Gisborne District. However, the East Cape is generally referred to as the entire geographical cape between the east of Opotiki and the north of Gisborne. This area of New Zealand has a strong Maori presence and influence, with 88 percent of the population being Maori and 45 percent speaking Maori (compared to 14 percent and 4 percent respectively for New Zealand). Historical, cultural and economic ties to ancestrial land are a main contributing factor to this unique demography. Unemployment, poverty and isolation are common on the East Cape. However, its inhabitants generally offer a warm welcome to travelers.
Travelers who are interested in the Maori way of life, or who love getting off the beaten track, should find this region fascinating. Travelers making their way through this region should be aware of cultural aspects such as Tapu (sacred) areas such as burial grounds and Rahui (temporary ban) on fishing.
Maori is spoken regularly by nearly half of the East Cape regions population. Check the Maori phrasebook for pronunciation tips and basic Maori words.
Take State Highway 2 from Auckland, Tauranga or Wellington. From Rotorua take State Highway 30 or State Highway 33 to the Bay of Plenty coast to meet State Highway 2. State Highway 2 meets State Highway 35 at Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty and at Makaraka about 6km from Gisborne in Poverty Bay.
Follow State Highway 35. It is the only significant road around the cape and connects most of the significant settlements and all the important side roads. To access the East Cape Lighthouse take East Coast Rd from Te Araroa.
Fuel can be hard to come by on State Highway 35 so fuel up in Opotiki or Gisborne and plan your trip to ensure you dont run empty. There are some general stores located on SH35 that provide basic fuel for a premium price. These stores have limited opening times, and may have run out of fuel all together.
Seafood (kai moana) is one of the highlights of this region. Fresh paua (abalone), crayfish, oysters, and a wide variety of fish and other shell species can be caught or collected from the coastline or traded with local fishermen (see Do section). You can usually find the fish and chip shop attached to the local holiday park.
If you are planning purchasing grocerys it is a good idea to get them from Whakatane, Opotiki or Gisborne before you begin your journey as the availability of goods in this region are limited.