For 330km from Opotiki to Gisborne, bikers are privided with a seemingly endless variety of bays and beautiful beaches, accompanied by thrilling corner carving. As refuelling opportunities are limited (and expensive) it is probably best to tank up before leaving either Opotiki or Gisborne. To make a complete loop of the East Cape, most bikers need little excuse to tackle the scenic delights of the Waioeka Gorge (SH2) route back to Opotiki (143km). The Matawai Hotel is a favoured watering hole midway through the journey, and provides reasonable accommodation if needed.
As the region has a low population spread over a wide area, the roads struggle to maintain a standard befitting a major tourist route. Numerous washouts and slips between Gisborne and Te Araroa, with some gnarly gravel repairs, may test your skills.
Much of the East Coast is like a step back to the 1950's, so latte lovers will struggle for sustenance. There is a definite lack of good coffee and wholesome food, with the bias distinctly towards anything deep fried. An exception is the gorgeous manuka and macadamia ice cream from the macadamia nut farm at Whanarua Bay.
Timeless and mystical; it was these East Cape shores that attracted the earliest Maori and Pakeha arrivals in New Zealand. Two canoes, the Tainui and the Arawa, arrived from "Hawaiki" to beach at Whangaparoa Bay (the Bay of Whales) thus starting some of the earliest Maori settlement in New Zealand. Further east, Captain Cook and his crew made their first landing at Kaiti Beach near Gisborne in 1769.
The mystical linkage of sailors and whales provided the inspiration for Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whalerider that has since been made into an Academy Award winning movie.
The pohutukawa-clad coastline between Opotiki and Whangaparoa provides some of the prettiest beaches in New Zealand when the trees are in flower.
Gisborne, a prosperous thriving town flourishing in the inappropriately named "Poverty Bay", is noted for its sun, beaches and surf. The museum at 18 Stout St, is well worth checking out. It provides a useful insight into the region's often bloody history and the role played by Te Kooti, who led a brilliant campaign of resistance in the Maori land wars. The natural pa site, Titirangi Scenic Reserve (Kaiti Hill), offers great views of the bay and marks the spot where the Horouta canoe arrived 600 years ago as well as commemorating James Cook's first landing.