• Hicks Bay 2

    Discover the best of Highway 35 in 3 days


3 Days


Lottin Point

Hikurangi Experience

Air Ruatoria 

Paua Pies from Café 35

Tipuna Tours

Railbikes, wineries and more!

Melting ice creams, meat pies, jandals and shorts - there are just some things that are quintessentially Kiwi, like the great summer roadie! We think there's no better way to experience a true summer road trip than by loading up the car, caravan or campervan and exploring the famous State Highway 35.

Whether you're starting in Ōpōtiki in the north, or Gisborne in the south, driving along this iconic winding coastal road is a summer must-do. Take it slow and enjoy the scenery and all the special places to stop along the way. Looking for some inspiration? Check out our 3-day itinerary for tips and ideas on how to make the most of your East Coast trip. 


Cruising east from Ōpōtiki, you'll meander along SH35 past stunning East Coast beaches and towns with views out across the Pacific Ocean. The road is windy and sheltered by Pohutukawa which are a sight to behold if you're driving through while they're in flower - with bursts of bright red and green filling the sky as you travel south.


Motu River Jet

If you're looking for something to do to break up the drive, stop in at Motu River Jet, just as you hit the cape just before Omaio. For 1.5 hours you'll experience some awesome jet boating up the Motu River with plenty of thrills to get the heart racing! The knowledgeable team will also share the local history and explain some of the unique ecology in the area as you take in the majestic sights along the way. 


The Nuthouse Cafe

Tucked away in Whanarua Bay is a small plantation of macadamia trees making the most of the subtropical sun. If you're driving through in the summer months, be sure to stop in at Pacific Coast Macadamias and The Nuthouse Cafe to grab some nutty treats (they also sell ice cream and coffee something for all the whānau!). Open from Boxing Day - Easter from 10-4pm. 


Raukokore Church

This century-old Anglican church is one of the most photographed places on the East Cape. Raukokore Church stands on a promontory next to the Pacific Ocean in Papatea Bay. AA named it one of the region's 101 must-do sites - you'll see why when you get there! 



There are plenty of camp sites along the coast where you can park up and pitch your tent for a night or two, many of them don't take bookings in advance, so be sure to have a back up plan (check out our tips for camping in Tairāwhiti)! One of the most beautiful campgrounds is Maraehako which is tucked away in a secluded bay and is a firm favourite among seasoned East Coast travellers. 

Not keen on camping? We get it - camping isn't for everyone! There are some other great accommodation options at this end of the cape, including Waihau Bay Lodge, which has a great range of accommodation options and food onsite, Lottin Point Motel looking out over the stunning Lottin Point, Te Kaha Beach Hotel, or Hicks Bay Motel set on a 14 acre bluff, 250m above sea level.


Your kiwi road trip continues as you travel south along State Highway 35 and there's still plenty to see! Stop off to admire Aotearoa New Zealand's oldest and largest pōhutukawa tree - Te Waha o Rerekohu - at Kawakawa Bay in Te Araroa. Looking for a great coffee & snack? Check out Twilight Coffee & Food - a fabulous food cart open everyday ( closed when raining) from 8.30am - 11am. 


Maunga Hikurangi

Maunga Hikurangi is the sacred mountain of the Ngati Porou people, and the first place in the world to see the sunrise. Visitors are transported uphill by 4WD where they will be told stories and legends, and of course witness a famous East Coast sunrise. Visitors will also get to taste some of the local produce and are invited to leave their footprint by planting a native seedling as part of a native tree re-generation programme.


Air Ruatoria

Fancy seeing Hikurangi from the air? Or enjoying a stunning scenic flight down the East Coast? Join Mahanga from Air Ruatoria who will take you on a flight you'll remember forever. Enjoy vast mountain views & stunning coastlines as you enjoy Tairāwhiti from the air. 


Te Puia Springs Store 

When passing through Te Puia Springs you have to pop into the local store!  The Te Puia store has great coffee,  hot cabinet food, a range of pies including the New Zealand famous  parengo & bacon pie, grocery supplies  petrol & diesel. Kai for Coasties takeaways will be open over Summer also. Keep up to date here for the latest. 

Stop at Café 35 for a Paua Pie

It doesn't get more kiwi than stopping off at Cafe 35 for a Paua pie! People from all over the country line up to taste one of these delectable pies - you won't regret it! Paua not your thing? There's plenty of other flavours to try like pork belly, mutton curry and the classic mince and cheese. Keep up to date with the latest menu here. 


Te Puka Tavern

For over 100 years the Te Puka Tavern in Tokomaru Bay has been a place to stop and rest for travellers. Situated 90km north from Gisborne, the tavern is bursting with rural pub charm - it's a great place recharge, grab a bite to eat, and meet some of the friendly locals! There is also some accommodation with views out over the Pacific Ocean - not a bad place to rest your head!



For those in a tent or campervan - we highly recommend Anaura Bay Family Motor Camp which is situated right on the beachfront - what a way to wake up in the morning! If you're looking for something else, there is Anaura Bay Homestay & Cottage with views out over the ocean and various accommodation types to suit most travellers. 

Aside from Te Puka Tavern in Tokomaru Bay, there are a couple of other accommodation options, including Stranded in Paradise - a pet-friendly ecolodge with cabins and loft rooms available. The Old Post Office is a holiday home with a difference; it's a Historic Places Trust listed building which has been converted into a fully self-contained holiday home only 50m from the beach! 


Whether you're waking up in Tokomaru Bay or Anaura Bay - you'll be treated to another beautiful East Coast sunrise before you hit the road on the final leg of your 3-day Highway 35 adventure! 


Tolaga Bay

As you travel down the cape you'll go through the picturesque Tolaga Bay where you won't want to miss checking out the famous historic wharf which has been named as one of the top 100 historic sites in Aotearoa New Zealand, it's worth walking to the end and back if you have time. Another stunning walk is the Cook's Cove Walkway; it takes about 2-hours return but you'll be treated to amazing views and it's a great chance to learn about the history of the region - look out for the information panels along the walk. 


Tipuna Tours

If you're interested in a guided cultural experience, make a booking with Tipuna Tours. They have a range of options including cultural, historical and bespoke tours depending on what you're after. Whether you want to explore by foot or by 4x4, Tipuna Tours can be tailored to your preferences. 


Once you're back on the road, it's only another 30 minutes and you're in Gisborne where there is so much to explore. Whether you want to explore more of the surrounding experiences, or if you're keen to discover downtown Gisborne - the world is your oyster! 

Some must-do Gisborne experiences:

  • Dive Tatapouri - a one-of-a-kind marine ecology experience
  • Sunshine Brewery - a great place to sample the local brews and grab a bite to eat
  • Dome Bar and Cinema - a boutique cinema bringing old world charm to Gisborne
  • Learn to surf with one of the many surf instructors
  • Gisborne Railbikes - be a train conductor for the day and explore the region along unused historic train tracks
  • Cycle Gisborne - explore the area by bike on a guided or self-guided tour
  • Matawhero Winery and TW Wines - discover the tastes of Tairāwhiti at our local wineries

Want to take this map with you on your roadie? Bookmark this link now to have it ready at your fingertips at any time.

Like what you see? You might also be interested in...