New Zealand, Road Trips

East Coast Road trip – Kiwi style

UPDATE: Time has got away from me this week.  The result is I didn’t complete my post about our roadtrip to the East Coast last month. In the interim here is a tweaked older post about the first segment of our trip.

Leaving from the Western Bay of Plenty heading east to Gisborne, we needed to pass through a few small towns, bush walks and the Waioeka Gorge.


One bush walk we did stop to enjoy was just out of Whakatane and near Awakeri called White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve, it was once a thriving Kahikatea [white pine] dominated forest and swamp that covered the area between Awakeri and Taneatua.  The woods have shrunk due to historical demand for white pine boxes to export butter, and in recent times more fertile land was demanded.  This 4.5-hectare forest is the last standing group of Kahikatea in the Bay of Plenty area.  Which made it a worthwhile stop for a bushwalk to stretch our legs.  Luckily no wind or rain was around to hinder us, a sunny day and a walk and immersing ourselves in a small pocket of forest, really is good for the soul!

Another place, Taneatua required another pitstop.  Why?, would be the question on most people’s lips who live around the Bay of Plenty.  Well, it was where we noticed a striking piece of street art capturing a stunning image of a Maori woman and her moko, this was beautifully achieved by a well-known street artist, Owen Dippie, yes, you guessed it I wanted to take a photo of it.

Owen Dippie street art

Heading back to the car down the main road in Taneatua, an old stray dog decided to cross the road, with the community cop cruising by and stopping so the said dog could continue to stroll across the street at his own leisure.  Everything seems to be going at a slow pace, no hurry to get anywhere.  It’s the sort of place where it is never too early to crack open a bottle when there is no job to distract.  Grouped around laughing like they had no care in the world, whether it’s out in the open or behind closed doors.  Seems some things don’t change in some New Zealand’s small rural towns.


Down the road and around a few more bends, we stop to stretch our legs once again.  This time, we saw evidence of more productivity in the form of an older woman who was tending to her large vegetable patch we guessed she may be planting more summer crops.  Which made me think how much the small towns in New Zealand have changed over the years and many have been stagnant with barely any growth for years due to the lack of employment opportunities which of course had most young people migrating to the more significant centres.

Now there is and has been a slow movement over the last few years to return to a quieter and less expensive area, usually within commute distance of a more substantial town or city.  With many creative and entrepreneur type people bringing energy and creativity to rural villages, which is so much fun to experience.  Evidence of this can be seen in the diverse cafe culture and art galleries scattered around the countryside, which certainly makes a road trip more enjoyable.


Before heading through the famous gorge, it is a tradition to stop in Opotiki for a coffee and something to eat as the arrival there seems to coincide with lunch.  Before we reach the cafe in question, we stroll past these buildings on the corner, with not much notice given to it on previous visits.

Until the day it seemed to be screaming out, notice me, so I did.


A little bit further down the road, we found the Two Fish Cafe, a few years ago on our last trip through here.  They served good coffee and an extremely packed full of goodness spinach and feta muffin, it has been a while since we have indulged in cafe food. The cafe in Opotiki has changed hands; hopefully, they will have had time to tweak a few operational routines and food options before our next visit.  Though the coffee was extremely good and we came away with a bag of fresh coffee beans.  Now that we are dairy-free it was a long black and not a flat white.  Much more satisfying when faced with a good brew.


As a child, I never appreciated how majestic the Waioeka Gorge was, I just viewed it as a long boring ride that divided us who lived in Whakatane from the family in Gisborne.  This trip, we wanted to be able to appreciate it, which meant that we frequently stopped to admire the luscious bush.


To stop and listen to the sound of the river and the birdlife.  We were fortunate that morning, as the traffic was at a low ebb, which meant just a couple of vehicles swished past us as we walked along the road for me to take some photos.  Then back into the car and as it wended itself through the gorge, I remembered why the gorge was such an ordeal when we were kids.


Photo credit: Archives New Zealand ref: AAQT 6539 A1478

Our recent trip the temperature was a scorcher, relief came when we had a pit stop to indulge in a paddle as you do on a hot day.

The Waioeka Gorge paddling time

Midland beach, Gisborne

Welcome to Gisborne and Midway Beach.

East Coast Road Trip - Kiwi Style.jpg

Websites that may be useful in planning your own roadtrip through the Waioeka Gorge:

Historical Tauranga Bridge

Motu Trails




64 thoughts on “East Coast Road trip – Kiwi style”

  1. I must get the map out and check out this trip of yours Suzanne.. it’s so good to stop, wander have lunch and take time … We always seem in a hurry ! No idea why really, perhaps trying to fit in more than is possible, we did our fair share though of walks … hard to resist ! I love that fancy Smoothie and Tea bar building 🙂 We visited NZ about 15 yrs ago and loved it . We camped stayed in backpackers hostels/ inns /and hotels it really was one of the best of times . You brought back some good memories .. thank you !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Poppy, pleased you had a moment of reminiscing. For us, we have to stop and have a break. It’s important to keep alert and not forgetting sore backs. It’s an age related thing🙂


  2. So many quintessentially Kiwi images in this one. That mural is next level good. I did a similar road trip a number of years ago with my daughter – I reckon it would be 10 years ago now. It was September and we were heading to Wellington to see my bestie and go to WOW. Sarah would have only been 10 I suppose. We flew into Auckland, made our way across to Whakatane and then took our time meandering down. I remember how special Sares thought it was because we were doing it “just us girls” without fixed plans and without Dad. Special times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The gorge is a lovely respite from our busy city life.

      I am a big fan of getting away from it all via a bush walk. Unfortunately, I have found the heat in January too hot for tramping. Need to get back into it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love that trip. We’ve done it a few times over the last couple of years as Gaylene lives at Matawai. The gorge has a fearsome reputation doesn’t it, but you just have to take your time and enjoy the view.
    Did you know Owen Dippie is a Kawerau boy? His dad had the BP station there until just a few years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Matawai brings a few memories back. Always reminds me of shearing sheds, not sure if it’s still a base for that industry in the area. Yes, I did know that Owen Dippie came from Kawerau, very talented artist. Didn’t know his Dad owned the BP station. The gorge area is such a treat with the bush and stream on a hot day.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Such stunning scenery and many other notable pictures – I love the street art Maori lady for example. You instantly take me back to my own childhood when ‘are we nearly there yet’ was the desperate cry of a car-sick girl who just didn’t like the journey and yet now, I love driving, being driven, drinking in the journey. How we change (and how we don’t)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great photography and both the visual effects and journalistic view was great. I have to pull you up on one thing though Suz, it is Midway Beach not Midlands Beach.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The sheep!

    It used to take us over 24 hours to drive from our home in the UK, over to Wales, then get the ferry to Ireland and drive across to the West. I remember when we started to see sheep on the road we’d know we were nearly home! BUT I have never seen that many woolies wandering on a road! That must have taken hooours for you to follow them!

    Liked by 1 person

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