East Cape, New Zealand: A Weekend Driving Trip

Every few years, I like to make the trip around the East Cape of New Zealand. This to me is like cracking open a bottle of New Zealand culture and taking a shot! Quick, in your face, and it hits home real quick. But you need to be careful! Too much, too often and you’ll find yourself craving for your wee patch along this spectacular coastline to call home.

I’ve been lucky enough to have amazing weather every time I have toured East Cape. This makes for absolutely stunning views and photographs. You can take the sort of photos that look as though someone has spent time in Photoshop. I can assure you, mine are all untouched!

The East Cape Route from the South

Waihau Bay, East Cape

Last time I visited East Cape, I took the Opotiki-Gisborne route. So, this time, driving up from the south, I would instead arrive in Tolaga Bay on Friday night at around 8 pm.

I took this photo above Waihau Bay (Loisels Beach) just on sunset as I drove to Tolaga Bay. The gentle sea breeze really gives it the Friday evening feeling, and you just know relaxation is only just around the corner.

The Tolaga Bay Motor Camp, my first night’s accommodation, is in a great location. It’s right next to a famous wharf, the largest concrete one in the southern hemisphere! I arrived late at night and left quite early in the morning, but did manage to snap this photo from the Uawa river bridge just after sunrise. Beautiful!

Uawa River, East Cape

Tokomaru Bay, East Cape

KFC East Cape...

The weekend was now well and truly in full swing and things were going well. The roads here are best travelled without rushing, so I was taking it easy.

Along the way, I came across this fast-food ‘giant’ in Tokomaru Bay. The local sense of humour is part of the culture that you’ll just soak up all along this drive. It was still early in the morning, so didn’t have the appetite to check out the kai (food). Maybe next time!

I usually try to stop in at the smallest cafe or bakery that I can find in these small towns. You might not get the best flat white or a perfectly made pie, but you can gain so much in getting a bunch of new experiences.

I don’t know why, but it’s these experiences/memories that seem to stick longer with me than the aftertaste of any coffee I missed out on!

Kaiaua Beach, East Cape

Kaiaua Beach, East Cape

Moving on after eating my chicken roll, I would soon arrive at Kaiaua Beach, which was a little off the beaten track. It is certainly a cool wee spot where it seemed for the two hours I spent there, I had the entire beach to myself.

This is quite a popular freedom camping spot, which you need to get your licence for. You’ll be glad you did!

CamperMate screenshot, East Cape

The only downside to the trip was the road works that were taking place around the north end of the road. My CamperMate app had warned me that they were there, but sometimes there’s no alternative route. I certainly wasn’t about to detour through Te Urewera!

With this trip being all about soaking up the culture though, it allowed me to have a quick chat with the Stop/Go sign holder.

I always find it funny to drive past the road works and seeing 20 guys sitting down watching the cars drive past. The work is done at a leisurely pace around here! And I like it.

It’s this relaxed way of life that I miss. I find myself driving past feeling a little envious of the life these guys must live in the part of New Zealand.

If you ever have the chance to visit East Cape, grab it with both hands. I only visited a few beaches this time, and there’s a lot more to see. Still, it’s great to have something to go back for.

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