Gisborne (Photo:S Curtis/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Gisborne

Gisborne is New Zealand's most easterly city and lays claim to being the first city in the world to see the sunrise every day. (Thousands of people flocked there to greet the new Millennium in 2000.) The most easterly point, East Cape Lighthouse, is another 170km further north. The city of 36,000 people is the largest in the Eastland region of New Zealand. While several cruise lines have been including Gisborne on their itineraries in recent years, the Eastland region is still largely unvisited by international travellers.

Sitting on Poverty Bay, at the confluence of three rivers (the Turanganui, the Waimata and the Taruheru) and within an easy drive of a string of beaches, both north and south, Gisborne is a water-lovers' paradise. The area was first settled by Maori around 700 years ago. The first European to arrive was Captain James Cook aboard the Endeavour who landed near the mouth of the Turanganui River in October 1769 -- just six months before he landed in Botany Bay (Australia). Cook named it Poverty Bay due to the area's perceived lack of fresh herbs, which he hoped to collect to starve off scurvy amongst the crew. It was actually one of Cook's crew, a 12-year-old cabin boy called Nicholas Young, who first sighted New Zealand and after whom the amazing landform, Young Nick's Head, at the southern end of Poverty Bay, is named. History fans can seek out the two statues of Captain Cook and determine which one is the 'fake', along with the statue of young Nick. Today's passengers will marvel at stunning white cliffs at the entrance to Poverty Bay and the rolling hills that can be seen from the beaches north of the city. Some 33km north is the village of Whangara well known for its impressive marae (Maori meeting place) and the location for the book and film, Whale Rider.

Gisborne is wine country -- the third largest producer of wine grapes in the country, after Marlborough and Napier and -- and New Zealand's Chardonnay capital. Around 16 wineries produce excellent chardonnay, viognier, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris and reds such as Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah and Grenache. Several such as Poverty Bay Winery, Kirkpatrick Estate and Wrights Vineyard & Winery have cellar doors open for tastings in the warmer months from October to April. The first stop is the Gisborne Wine Centre at the Inner Harbour cruise ship wharf, which showcases all the wine of the region. Beer lovers are catered for with a micro-brewery close to the port.

About Gisborne


Wineries, beaches and lovely river walks  


Tendering can be a slow process when the wind is up and the bay is choppy 

Bottom Line

Book ahead to make the most of your visit to this rarely visited gem

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Where You're Docked

Ships anchor in Poverty Bay and tenders pull in at the Inner Harbour at Eastland Port, which is 500m from the heart of town.

Good to Know

Jumping off the old railway bridge (also called the train tracks bridge) is a ritual in Gisborne. Kids and young-at-heart adults line up to jump into the river below for fun and the amusement of visitors. The bridge is a short walk from Eastland Port.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). Visit for current rates. Credit cards are widely accepted, although some taxis may not take them. ATMs are the best way to get local currency and there are several of these in town, at the banks (such as the ANZ Bank, Westpac and Bank of New Zealand) and other retail outlets such as petrol stations.


English is the official language. Many of the names of attractions are Maori and signs and instructions may be printed in both languages. The Gisborne and Eastland region of New Zealand has a strong Maori population.


New Zealand greenstone (or nephrite jade) makes a good, lightweight keepsake or gift. Greenstone jewellery is made onsite by carvers at The Stone Studio, not far from Midway Beach. The studio has a stall at the cruise ship market that is set up in the middle of town (Gladstone Street) when ships call. Passengers should be able to pick up other souvenirs there as well. (The Stone Studio NZ; 237 Stanley Road; 06 867 3900; open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm; Saturday 10am to noon; closed Sundays. Other times by appointment.) The staff are happy to pick up interested passengers from the port and drive them to the studio.

Best Cocktail

As the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand, producing one-third of the country's output, it would be a crime not to taste this white wine varietal. Pop into a bar or winery for a taste, or the Gisborne Wine Centre at the port.