Ever wondered where in the world is the first place to see the sun rise? Well wonder no longer! North of Gisborne, New Zealand, around the coast to Opotiki and inland to Te Urewera National Park, The East Cape has the honour of witnessing the world’s first sunrise each and every day.
In contrast, Cape Mulinu’u on the small South Pacific island of Samoa is the final place to see the sun before it sets each day. Both New Zealand and Samoa are the two countries located the closest to each side of the international date line and therefore get the honour of being the first and last places to see the sun rise and set each day. This also means that the East Cape is the first place to welcome in the New Year every year with Cape Mulinu’u the last to wave good bye to the previous year.
The history of East Cape
Tuuranga-nui, near Gisborne, is where Captain Cook first set foot in New Zealand. Cook named the bay ‘Young Nick’s Head’, after the ship’s boy who first spotted land. The impact of Cook’s visit was strong, and the area later became one site of the New Zealand land wars in the 1860s, a major and violent conflict between the native Maori and the Pakeha settlers.
It is still predominantly Maori occupied and Te Reo – Maori language – is still spoken fluently by a large portion of the population. The East Cape is a stronghold of Maori tradition and offers a unique opportunity to experience the culture of Tangata Whenua, the ‘people of the land’.
Known for its misty mountain lakes, Te Urewera National Park is the traditional home of the ‘children of the mist’, the Ngai Tuhoe tribe. It is the third largest national park and the largest untouched native forest inNew Zealand and there are many beautiful walks within the region, as well as campsites and huts for staying overnight.
Horse trekking is another way to experience the mystical magic of Te Urewera and the East Cape, and hunting and fishing tours can also be arranged. These can be booked online.
The best places to see the world’s first sunrise
Around the bays, the untouched beaches and relaxed lifestyle are renowned. Hicks Bay is the eastern tip of the cape, and there you will see the worlds first sunrise. The East Cape Lighthouse provides a wonderful setting for watching the dawn breaking, and there is comfortable accommodation nearby at the Hicks Bay Motel Lodge.
Camping, diving, swimming and surfing opportunities are available right around the coastline and the multitude of small, hideaway bays and inlets are perfect for exploring. Affordable accommodation is readily available and there is a general atmosphere of warm hospitality.
This isn’t a place to be clock-watching or hurrying; be prepared to step into another dimension and allow the East Cape experience to wash over you. The East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island is a great place to explore – why not check out some of our itineraries from either Auckland or Wellington and get some great ideas for your next road trip:
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