The pace of life is markedly slower here – everyone seems to know everyone else and life is rurally wound-down. It’s not unusual to see horses tethered by the roadside as their owners go about their past times. The interior remains wild, with the Raukumara Range rising from the centre.
Lining the coastline is the Pacific Coast Highway (also called State Highway 35), 330km of twisting and turning road that took decades to cut in. The drive presents some spectacular views: beaches and tiny inlets that change aspect with the weather. There are rivers that surge through steep gorges, and in the summer the beaches are framed with pohutukawa blooms.
Maori culture is never more visible on the East Coast and te reo and tikanga (language and customs) are part of daily life as are dozens of marae and other meeting houses.
It’s warm! The East coast basks in a warm mainly dry climate. Summer temperatures nudge 25 degrees Celsius and rarely dip below 8 degrees Celsius in winter. Heavy downpours do sometimes wash out sections of the Pacific Coast Highway.
There is plenty of surfing and fishing as well as some must-visit culturally historic or beautiful spots to spend time in. Loisel’s Beach is great for family and diving. The historic 660 metre Tolaga Bay Wharf is the longest built in the Southern Hemisphere. Built in 1926-1929 it was recently the gathering spot for New Zealanders watching the rare and awe inspiring Transit of Venus.
New Zealand’s oldest pohutukawa tree grows at Te Araroa. Te Waha o Rerekohu is said to be 600 plus years old and is more than 20 metres high. The East Cape Lighthouse and St Mary’s Church at Tikitiki offer insights into a bygone era. Inland the sacred Mt Hikurangi can be climbed by well-prepared and intentioned trampers.
Villages such as Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay and Te Puia enjoy a leisurely pace. There are houses available to rent often with sea views.
New Zealand’s oldest pohutukawa tree grows at Te Araroa. Te Waha o Rerekohu is said to be 600 plus years old and is more than 20 metres high.