Summer comes early in Gisborne

Downtown, Gisborne

Downtown, Gisborne

Gisborne. Where the surf rolls in and the surfies are always out, where the sun shines and the beaches are sandy. And where, the summer I was five, I stubbed my toe in a headlong rush across the road to get to the water. It was a beauty – lots of blood and flapping skin. My Mum was good at a lot of things but not with blood – especially when it was one of her children bleeding. Fortunately, Dad pulled out the first-aide kit and declared himself “Doctor Doug”. It worked. I stopped crying. And my toe didn’t hurt quite so much. But no amount of magical parental powers and Rawleigh’s salve could fix the disappointment of having to stay out of the water for the rest of the day.

Ever since, my ideal beach accommodation is right on the beach – no road to cross. And this weekend we had just that.

Getting to Gisborne is a bit of a hike.

The route from Napier to Gisborne

The route from Napier to Gisborne

Google will tell you it’s 214 km from Napier and takes 238 minutes without traffic. But what Google reveals to only the careful researcher is that the road is notorious. It’s narrow, it’s winding, and it’s vertiginous. In fact if you suffer from vertigo there are many places where you may wish to avert your eyes or close them – as long as you’re not doing the driving, that is. At the weekends the traffic is generally light. During weekdays there are many, many trucks to contend with. And on the narrow roads that can turn an invigorating drive into what I can only describe as a test of patience. There are very few opportunities for overtaking.

There’s no cellphone coverage along this road. Zippo, zero, nil, none – with one exception – these days I can pick up one frustrating bar at Taumatataua trig, just south of Wairoa. But, frankly, with views like this who can be bothered with a screen?

View from Taumatataua Trig

View over Hawke Bay from Taumatataua Trig

Remote though Gisborne is, don’t be put off. It might only have a population of 35,000, but it’s a city with swagger. The first to see the light – it’s the most easterly point on the North Island. And it’s full of history. During the Maori migration across the Pacific, this is where canoe landed. And it’s where Captain Cook first sighted New Zealand – more in another post, soon.

And Gisborne has that rare commodity –  a safe, sandy beach right in town. This was the view from our accommodation.

Sunset from our balcony

Sunset from our balcony

We’ve stayed there before. There are flashier, swankier places. But only The Whispering Sands  motel opens directly on to the beach.

When we weren’t gazing at the beach we were on it. And, as importantly, the motel is the location of one of my best reading moments. It was a Sunday morning, late autumn. Dark clouds banked up on the horizon, the sea colour changed to a grey-green. A southerly storm was on its way. I was reading Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. At the moment I realised the true nature of Mr Neville the winds struck the motel, shaking and rattling at the glass sliding door. No wandering along the beach that day. But what reading bliss it was!

This weekend there were people in or on the water from dawn till dusk. There was surf school, life saving school, jet ski school – fortunately, from the noise point of view, that was at the other end of the beach. We watched a cargo ship brought in by a tug, the dredge at work (the harbour is at a river mouth that’s prone to silting),  kayakers, and kids playing in the waves.

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There’s only so long it’s possible to watch all that before contemplating a swim. The beach is safe, the waves were gentle and the sun was warm. I was tempted. Yes, I really, really was. But one dip of my toe reminded me this is the South Pacific.

Life saving practice

Surf life-saving practice


Despite what those boys pulling the boat out of the water claimed, the water was icy cold. Next time … maybe.




Instead, there were plenty of opportunities to do my Photography 101 homework, to experiment with light and sometimes get it right, and to relax.

31 replies »

  1. Well Jill if you were here in Queensland (with the vegemite-eaters!) you would be jumping right in the water. It’s been over 30C here for days now!

    I read Hotel Du Lac and it’s one of my favourite books. I loved the melancholy mood of the story and what a perfect book for a holiday read!

    Thanks for the info on Gisborne. I didn’t know any of this! Your cloud photos are lovely. One suggestion – why not post your photos bigger so we can see them better? Just a suggestion. Great post, Jill. Cheers. 😄


    • Yes, 30C day after day would have me in the water, no doubt about that!
      Thanks for the suggestion about the photo size, Maria. I’ve been experimenting with that. I’d been concerned about loading times – but I think I might have resolved the issue by reducing the file size which hasn’t impacted on the quality of the image, at least not for the screen. Cheers to you, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love those sun behind the clouds photos the colours just glow. Gisborne is one of my favourite places. That road is scary but the views and photo ops are spectacular, especially love it during Pohutukawa time


  3. what a beautiful place! oh really nice. and I love your ‘clouds 2″photo the most and that “ready” one with the surfers lined up wight heir boards in sync. but all shots were great and I do not blame you for not swimming – because as much as I love the salt water and its benefits – cold water is just not enjoyable to me…
    cheers 🙂


    • To be honest, Y, when it comes to swimming, the warmer the better for me. That day, there were a lot of young people in the water for hours. There were very few over the age of about 35 in the water and they were had wetsuits. It was lovely walking along the beach, though. And it was fun trying to catch the action with my camera.


  4. Yes, I’d rather wander with the camera than swim. I’m told the North Sea is relatively warm at the minute but have no desire to test. 🙂 Love the view from the hill where you can get a signal and those lovely trees at dusk. Quietly jealous! 🙂


  5. I liked this post a lot. I love the pictures of the clouds with the sun behind them and the reflections on the beach. I don’t blame you for avoiding the icy dunk. Also, I think having to stay out of the water is one of the worst rules of first aid. I know it’s the right thing, but why wasn’t there some kind of force field they could put around the wound? Thanks for bringing us along, this is a beautiful place for sure.


  6. Love the pictures and the feeling of disconnection with civilisation 🙂 but I would need a good 30 degrees to get me in the water. Asia spoiled me;)


  7. Well, winter came early in this other part of the world. Several feet of snow north of here and while we only got a dusting, it was in the 20s all day. Another cold night ahead. And it’s barely the middle of November. Ah, well. We got our wood delivered last week and Cliff’s been lighting fires at night. Could be worse. We could have four feet, for example!!


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