Day 5 – Rounding the bend around the East Cape

My Air BnB hosts gave me a lovely breakfast, then I set off on my day’s journey – around the scenic and remote East Cape. I had been warned that these roads would be like none I had ever encountered, and man, was that true. There were times that I was literally on the edge of a cliff driving, wondering whose bright idea this trip was – especially when I met logging trucks that seemed too big for the road – or camper vans driven by less than skilled drivers – however, as is always the case, the destination was indeed worth the journey.

I left Gisborne, and then headed out to Tolaga Bay Wharf, which is the home of the longest pier in New Zealand. The 600 meter pier is completely accessible to the public, and I enjoyed my scenic view walking down the pier. It is not barriered at the end – so you really are standing on the edge above the ocean. The pier also has a fascinating story about how they saved it.

After Tolaga Bay, I headed to Anaura Bay – and I encountered my first closed road, due to a slip.

I parked the car, then walked around to get a glimpse of the beautiful, secluded bay, before turning back around to continue my adventure.

My next stop was a little pull off the road to enjoy the rolling Pacific at Tokomaru Bay.

I then ventured to Waipiro and had a little picnic in Ruatoria, both of which were very sleepy towns.

Leaving Ruatoria, I had my first of several livestock encounters for the day, as a flock of sheep escaped – and decided that they wanted to hang out in the street. I had visions of trying to explain why I had a sheep imprints on my rental car as I tried to make it through the mob.

Once safely on my way, I headed the distance to the TikiTiki Church. It is actually St. Mary’s Anglican Church, and is the best example of the meeting of the Maori and European Cultures, in a beautiful space. It is one of the most unique places of worship I have ever been in.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I ventured down the road a bit to see another church (outside only), and encountered one of the many unique New Zealand road signs.

My next stop was the East Cape – home of the East Cape lighthouse, and the furthest east point on the North Island. Due to rains, the road was more treacherous than usual, and was quite slow going. I passed through cow fields – where cows literally were grazing on the beach, and I finally reached my destination – the walkway to the lighthouse, where they certainly want you to know the access isn’t easy.

As I started the journey, I realized that I was going to be racing the sun – but I didn’t come all this way to just spy the lighthouse from the bottom, so I continued my journey – folks coming down warned me that some of the steps were slippery – and man were they right – also, someone had a sense of humor, and engraved odd numbers on the steps to trick you, so a couple of ladies and I had a laugh about that!

What was interesting is that some of the “steps” you actually had to climb – well if you are short like me, that is – because the steps were higher than my knee!

But, I kept keeping on the journey – enjoying the views, and minding the setting sun.

Once I was at the top, I was rewarded with some stunning views – it was worth every step, slip and climb.

I stayed up there as long as I could, but realized that back in the bush it was going to be awful dark, so I headed back down, and it was quite treacherous going down, as I hadn’t thought to grab my head lamp from the car, and was navigating using the light on my phone, but I made it down, and to my car before I lost all light.

I then journeyed back out the East Cape road, very slowly after dark – and continued my livestock encounters.

Those cows that had been on the beach? All decided to be on the road – and they were stubborn. . .but eventually they cleared the road as did the seals, random pests (possums and rabbits) and birds, and I made it to my lodging for the night without hitting anything. The “resort” I was booked in was the closest lodging to the sea I have ever seen – and continuing the slippery wood theme of today, the stairs to check-in were steep – and I have a nice skinned knee to prove it, but when you see my view in the morning, I think you will agree it is worth a little skinned knee and a bruise or two (and the quirky owner – who wanted to charge me for a blanket – thankfully I had a sleeping bag in the car!).


North Island Road Trip Day 1 – Wellington – Dannevirke

Friday morning I started with a farewell morning tea with the staff at Fulbright New Zealand, then went to pick up my rental car for my adventure. After navigating through some fun Wellington traffic (people were arriving in town for the Lions/All Blacks Rugby match tomorrow), I found a parking spot RELATIVELY close to my flat, and made several trips to get all my stuff loaded in the car, then I set off on my trip.

Leg one was a short journey – but I had planned a side trip to Castlepoint, which did add some time to the trip.

Here is the map of the journey:

Once out of Wellington, I wound my way through the Rimutakas, stopping for a few scenic points.


I had debated about whether or not I really had time to make it to Castlepoint before dark, but decided to go on, and I am SO very thankful I did – it was worth every minute.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I left Castlepoint as the sun was setting, and made the rest of my journey in the dark to my stop for the night, Dannevirke. Today was a short post for a long day – but it is definitely the beginning of a fantastic adventure – my last hurrah in New Zealand before heading back to the US.


Matiu / Somes Island

Taking advantage of a sunny day, I finally made it out to Matui/Somes Island – which is the island that sits in the middle of Wellington Harbor. It was one of my Wellington must dos, and I had not made it out, and with my time winding down, knew this might be the last nice day for it, so I paused my writing flow, packed a picnic and set out to catch the ferry to the island.

You can learn more about the island here:

The island has a fascinating history, as it has served as a quarantine station, military outpost, interment camp and now wildlife refuge. The island gives the opportunity to discover nature by traveling along various tracks, and I ended up walking on each track on the island and extending my stay there because it was such a lovely day, and I was enjoying my tramp so much.

When you arrive on the island your first stop is the quarantine station, where you check your bag and shoes for bio-security risks. Once cleared, you are able to start exploring.

As I walked, I was immediatly greeting with stunning views of the harbor, Eastborne and Petone.

My first stop was the cemetery monument.

Between 1918 and 1920, Somes Island was used as a human quarantine station during the influenza pandemic, and many died on the island.

I trekked along from the Monument along Cable Bay to the lookout over Shag Rock. Birds, flowers, skinks and Tuataras were plentiful. I felt like I had the island to myself, as everyone else had headed to the visitors center first.

From the overlook I headed to the lighthouse, stopping to check out the Weta Hotel.

Those are some gargantuan insects!

Then I enjoyed the lighthouse, before beginning my trek to the Southern Lookout – I am pretty certain I took a million pictures – it was so pretty!

Here at the southern lookout, I realized that I was not going to have time to see everything I wanted unless I booked the later ferry back, so I called the company to secure my seat on the later boat, giving me more time to enjoy this peaceful oasis.

My next stop was the old WW2 gun emplacements, so I went up the “steep track”. Along the way I got the opportunity to observe the amazing fantail, which may be one of my favorite NZ birds.

Then, at the gate, I made an interesting observation about the weathering of the gate.

I wonder how many times those pieces of wood have been slammed together?

At the top, I explored the gun casings, and just genuinely enjoyed the views, pulling out my lunch for a stop at the picnic table.

I headed back down to the visitor area, where I explored the animal quarantine station, which felt an awful lot like animal prison – which, I guess, it was, in a way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After that it was down to the visitor center, where I learned about the other uses of the island, particularly its use as an internment camp during WW2 and the attempted escapes.

Next, I wandered back to the wharf, and with time to spare, checked out the old degaussing station, and listened to the stories of Meg Pilcher, (a fascinating lady!)then to the North Wharf before leaving the island and heading home.

I am so glad I had this beautiful weather to enjoy this amazing sanctuary!