East Coast and the Volcanic Zone

We’ve compiled the best of the best in East Coast and the Volcanic Zone - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Craggy Range Winery

    Situated by a small lake with the towering Te Mata Peak beyond, this vineyard has a stellar backdrop. The wines include single-varietal chardonnay, merlot, and syrah; a predominantly merlot blend called Sophia; and a pinot noir dubbed Aroha. You can sample wines at the cellar door; leave time to linger over a meal at Terroir, a French-inspired restaurant overlooking the lake.

    253 Waimarama Rd., Havelock North, Hawke's Bay, 4294, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tastings NZ$10 (refundable with purchase of bottle)
  • 2. Esk Valley Estate Winery

    Winemaker Gordon Russell produces merlot, syrah, and blends with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec in various combinations, including a rare and expensive red simply called The Terraces. White varieties include chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, verdelho, chenin blanc, and pinot gris. Look for the Winemakers Reserve versions of chardonnay, syrah, and merlot-malbec blend to find out what he has done with the best grapes from given years. The vineyard's position, in a sheltered valley overlooking the Pacific, ensures it captures full sun; it's located 12 km (8 miles) north of Napier, just north of the town of Bay View before Highways 2 and 5 split.

    745 Main Rd., Bay View, Hawke's Bay, 4149, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$20 for a four-wine tasting., Closed Sun. and Mon.
  • 3. Hobbiton

    Even if you’re not an aficionado of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, a delve into this magic, pretend world of the Shire of Middle-earth (aka the Hobbiton movie set) is rather fascinating. Guides will escort you along the paths of the 12-acre set, stopping at little Hobbit houses set into the hillsides. Along the way, they share secrets about how the movies were made and explain incredible, intricate details of the set design. Like the thirsty Hobbits, you’ll enjoy finishing up at the Green Dragon Inn for an exclusively brewed beverage. The standard tour lasts two hours. Meal packages can be added, and transport can be arranged from nearby Matamata and Rotorua. Hobbiton is one of New Zealand's most visited attractions, and reservations are essential for all tours. To think this was once just another New Zealand sheep farm.

    501 Buckland Rd., Waikato, 3472, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From NZ$89
  • 4. Mission Estate Winery

    Surrounded by gardens, this classic winery—the country's oldest and set up by Catholic missionaries—stands in the Taradale hills overlooking Napier. Dating back to 1851, it deserves to be added to your "must-see" list. Award-winning wines, including the Mission Jewelstone range, can be bought or tasted at the cellar door. Learn more about the mission's history by joining one of the twice-daily tours, or order a meal in the on-site restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner daily (take a seat on the terrace for a terrific view of the vineyard and Napier). Also check out the website—the winery occasionally hosts concerts by big-name performers.

    198 Church Rd., Taradale, Hawke's Bay, 4112, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 5. Mitai Māori Village

    Rewind time by spending an evening at Mitai Māori Village, where you can listen to the harmonious chant of traditionally clad warriors as they paddle a waka (war canoe) along the Wai-o-whiro stream, then watch a top-notch cultural show, and enjoy a delicious hāngi feast. Getting the chance to see glowworms on a short, guided bush walk is a bonus.

    196 Fairy Springs Rd., Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, 3015, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$123, Check the website for information.
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  • 6. MTG Hawke's Bay

    This complex, also known as the Hawke's Bay Museum, is home to a museum, a theater, and an art gallery. The museum component's curatorial team is engaged, and the exhibitions ponder a range of local and international issues, so you might see a temporary display devoted to an exploration of memory alongside a cutting-edge digital presentation. There's also a significant collection of newspaper reports, photographs, and audiovisuals that re-create the suffering caused by the 1931 earthquake, plus a unique collection of artifacts—including vessels, decorative work, and statues—relating to the Ngāti Kahungunu Māori people of the East Coast.

    1 Tennyson St., Napier, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 7. National Aquarium of New Zealand

    Stand on a moving conveyor that takes you through the world of sharks, rays, and fish. Environmental and ecological displays showcase tropical fish, sea horses, tuatara, and other creatures. For an additional fee you can get up close and personal with penguins. There is also a kiwi enclosure where these birds can be seen in ideal viewing conditions.

    Marine Parade, Napier, Hawke's Bay, 4110, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$23
  • 8. Te Mata Estate

    This is one of New Zealand's oldest and best family-owned wineries. Coleraine, a rich but elegant cabernet–merlot blend named after the much-photographed home of the owner, John Buck, is considered the archetypal Hawke's Bay red. Bullnose syrah, Elston chardonnay, and Cape Crest sauvignon blanc show similar restraint and balance. If there's any Zara viognier open (it's made only in tiny quantities), try it—it's excellent.

    349 Te Mata Rd., Havelock North, Hawke's Bay, 4257, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tastings NZ$8
  • 9. Te Urewera National Park

    Remote Te Urewera National Park is rugged and mountainous. This park's outstanding feature is glorious Lake Waikaremoana ("sea of rippling waters"), a forest-girded lake with good swimming, boating, and fishing. The lake is encircled by a 50-km (31-mile) walking trail, which takes three or four days to complete; it's a popular trek, and the lakeside hiking huts are heavily used in the summer months. The Department of Conservation Visitor Centre at Aniwaniwa is stocked with maps and informative leaflets; staff will also give advice about other park walks, like the one to the Aniwaniwa Falls (30 minutes round-trip) or to Lake Waikareiti (five to six hours round-trip). All trails pass through spectacular countryside of high, misty ridges covered with silver and mountain beech. Waterfalls and streams abound, and on the lower levels the forest giants, rimu,rata,kamahi, totara, and tawa attract native birds like the New Zealand falcon, North Island brown kiwi, kaka, and kokako. A motor camp on the lakeshore, not far from the visitor center, has cabins, chalets, and motel units; in summer, a launch operates sightseeing and fishing trips from it. Note that there are areas of private Māori land within the park, so be sure to stay on marked paths.

    Te Urewera National Park, Gisborne, Gisborne, New Zealand
  • 10. Waimangu

    When Mt. Tarawera erupted in 1886, destroying Rotomahana's terraces, not all was lost. A volcanic valley emerged from the ashes, extending southwest from Lake Rotomahana. It's consequently one of the world's newest thermal-activity areas, encompassing the boiling water of the massive Inferno Crater, plus steaming cliffs, bubbling springs, and bush-fringed terraces. A path (one–two hours) runs through the valley down to the lake, where a shuttle bus can get you back to the entrance. You can also cap your trip by taking a cruise on the lake itself. Waimangu is 26 km (16 miles) southeast of Rotorua; to reach it, take Highway 5 south (Taupo direction) and look for the turn after 19 km (12 miles).

    587 Waimangu Rd., Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From NZ$50, The park staff also offer customised trips.
  • 11. Aratiatia Dam

    The Waikato River is dammed along its length; the first construction is the Aratiatia Dam, 10 km (6 miles) northeast of Taupo. The river below it is virtually dry most of the time, but three times a day (at 10, noon, and 2), and four times a day in summer (October–March, also at 4), the dam gates are opened and the gorge is dramatically transformed into a raging torrent. Watch the spectacle from the road bridge over the river or from one of two lookout points a 15-minute walk downriver through the bush. To access the dam from Taupo, turn right off Highway 5.

    Aratiatia Rd., Taupo, Waikato, New Zealand
  • 12. ASB Bank

    One of Napier's more notable buildings is at the corner of Hastings and Emerson streets. The Māori theme on the lintels is probably the country's finest example of kowhaiwhai (rafter) patterns decorating a European building. The traditional red, white, and black pattern is also continued inside around a coffered ceiling.

    100 Hastings St., Napier, Hawke's Bay, 4110, New Zealand
  • 13. Brookfields Vineyards

    One of this region's most attractive wineries features rose gardens and a tasting room that overlooks the vines. The chardonnay and pinot gris are usually outstanding, but the showpiece is the reserve cabernet sauvignon–merlot, a powerful red that ages well. Syrah grapes are proving spectacular as is the Brookfields Hillside syrah.

    376 Brookfields Rd., Napier, Hawke's Bay, 4112, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 14. Buried Village of Te Wairoa

    At the end of the 19th century, Te Wairoa (tay-why-ro-ah, "the buried village") was the starting point for expeditions to the pink-and-white terraces of Rotomahana, on the slopes of Mt. Tarawera. As mineral-rich geyser water cascaded down the mountainside, it formed a series of baths, which became progressively cooler as they neared the lake. In the latter half of the 19th century, these fabulous terraces were the country's major attraction, but they were destroyed when Mt. Tarawera erupted in 1886, burying the village of Te Wairoa under a sea of mud and hot ash. The village has since been excavated, and of special interest is the whare (fah-ray, "hut") of the tohunga (priest) Tuhoto Ariki, who predicted the destruction. An interesting museum contains artifacts, photographs, and models re-creating the day of the disaster, and a number of small dwellings remain basically undisturbed beneath mud and ash. A path circles the excavated village, then continues on as a delightful trail to the waterfall, the lower section of which is steep and slippery in places. Te Wairoa is 14 km (9 miles) southeast of Rotorua.

    1180 Tarawera Rd., Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, 3076, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$30
  • 15. Cape Kidnappers

    This outstanding spot is believed to be the only mainland gannet sanctuary in existence. It was named by Captain James Cook after local Māori tried to kidnap the servant of his Tahitian interpreter, Tupaia. Gannets—large white seabirds with black-tipped flight feathers, a golden crown, and a wingspan that can reach 6 feet—generally nest only on remote islands. But between October and April, thousands of them build their nests here, hatch their young, and prepare them for their long migratory flight. Watching them dive for their dinner is particularly impressive: when the birds find a shoal of fish, they fold their wings and plunge straight into the sea at tremendous speed. You can walk to the sanctuary along the beach from Clifton, but check with the i-Site first—from time to time rock fall makes the walk dangerous, and you can't go at high tide. Clifton is about 24 km (15 miles) south of Napier. The 8-km (5-mile) walk must begin no earlier than three hours after the high-tide mark, and the return journey must begin no later than four hours before the next high tide. Tidal information is available at area i-SITE Visitor Information Centres. A rest hut with refreshments is near the colony.

    468 Clifton Rd., Hawke's Bay, 4172, New Zealand
  • 16. Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve

    This place has deep historical significance and contestation for New Zealanders. A statue of Captain James Cook, who first landed here on October 9, 1769, stands on Kaiti Beach, across the river southeast of the city center. It is both a site of protest and commemoration. The beach itself attracts interesting birdlife at low tide.

    Esplanade on south end of Turanganui River, Gisborne, Gisborne, New Zealand
  • 17. Craters of the Moon

    The construction of the local geothermal project had an impressive—and unforeseen—effect. Boiling mud pools, steaming vents, and large craters appeared in an area now known as Craters of the Moon. A marked walkway snakes for 3 km (2 miles) through the belching, sulfurous landscape, past boiling pits and hissing crevices. The craters are up Karapiti Road, across from the Huka Falls turnoffs on Highway 1, 3 km (2 miles) north of Taupo.

    171 Karapiti Rd., Taupo, Waikato, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$8
  • 18. Eastwoodhill Arboretum


    Inspired by the gardens seen on a trip to England in 1910, William Douglas Cook returned home and began planting 160 acres. His brainchild became a stunning collection of more than 600 genera of trees from around the world. In spring and summer, daffodils mass yellow; magnolias bloom in clouds of pink and white; and cherries, crab apples, wisteria, and azalea add to the spectacle. The main trails in the park can be walked in about 45 minutes. Maps and self-guided tour booklets are available. Drive west from Gisborne center on State Highway 2 toward Napier, cross the bridge, and turn at the rotary onto the Ngatapa–Rere Road. Follow it 35 km (22 miles) to the arboretum.

    2392 Wharekopae Rd., Gisborne, Gisborne, 4072, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$15
  • 19. Elephant Hill Estate & Winery

    Blending contemporary architecture with the traditional aspect of wine making, this stunning estate overlooks jagged rows of vines with expansive views from the terrace taking in the ocean and Cape Kidnappers. Sip a glass of wine in the sunken lounge, or enjoy a meal in the ultramodern dining room—it's an unforgettable experience. You can also stay in the winery's boutique accommodation.

    86 Clifton Rd., Hawke's Bay, 4172, New Zealand
  • 20. Gisborne–Opotiki Loop

    Soak in the beauty of Eastland by driving the Provincial Highway 35 loop between Gisborne and Opotiki—it's one of the country's ultimate roads-less-traveled. The 330-km (205-mile) trip takes about five hours without stops. En route, rolling green hills drop into wide crescent beaches or rock-strewn coves, and small towns appear, only to fade into the surrounding landscape. Some scenic highlights are Anaura Bay, with rocky headlands, a long beach favored by surfers, and nearby islands; it is between Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay, two former shipping towns. Tolaga Bay has an incredibly long wharf stretching over a white-sand beach into the sea, and Cooks Cove Walkway is a pleasant amble through the countryside past a rock arch. Farther up the coast in Tikitiki, you'll find both a gas station and an Anglican church full of carved Māori panels and beams. East of the small town of Te Araroa, which has the oldest pohutukawa (po-hoo-too-ka-wa) tree in the country, the coast is about as remote as you could imagine. At the tip of the cape, 21 km (13 miles) from Te Araroa, the East Cape Lighthouse promises fantastic views after a long, steep climb from the beach. Back toward Opotiki, Whanarua (fahn-ah-roo-ah) Bay is one of the most gorgeous on the East Cape, with isolated beaches ideal for a picnic and a swim. Farther on, there is an intricately carved Māori marae (meetinghouse) called Tukaki in Te Kaha. If you choose to spend a night along the loop, there are motels at various points on the cape and some superbly sited motor camps and backpacker lodges, though you'll need to be well stocked with foodstuffs before you set off. Gisborne's i-SITE Centre can provide information about lodging.

    New Zealand

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