Mahia & Moko the Dolphin


A day-trip to Mahia saw us looking for waves at the local surf spots. Unfortunately, conditions weren’t good but we did get to do a bit of sightseeing and take a few photos.

Surf spot in Mahia

“The Spit”


The Spit is one of Mahia’s classic breaks that produces left and right breaks from a massive reef spit that protrudes out into the ocean.


Boat Harbour is another break that we went to check and this one sits over a really shallow reef. The waves were small today but we did get to see the anchor of the S.S. Tasmania.

S.S. Tasmania plaque in MahiaS.S. Tasmania anchor

After checking a few more surf spots to see if anything was worthwhile, we went for a very windy walk along Mahia beach, before our drive back to Gisborne.


At one end of the beach we spotted a cauldron in a garden and went to investigate. The cauldron must be from back in the days when whaling was still a business and the cauldron must have been used to melt the whale fat.


We then saw a memorial on the grass next to the cauldron, this was for Moko the Dolphin.


Now, Moko the dolphin is another famous New Zealand dolphin (just like Opo the Dolphin, who’s memorial we saw in Opononi in 2014) and this is Moko’s story:

“A bottlenose dolphin arrived off the Mokotahi Headland at Mahia Beach on 9th April 2007. He was named Moko after the Mokotahi Headland that he swam below.

It was established from an early stage that he was a rare solo dolphin.

Over a period of two and a half years, Moko found fame for his trusting, playful nature and delightful sense of humour as he entertained locals and thousands of visitors alike from every corner of the globe.

On 2nd September 2009, Moko strayed from Mahia to Gisborne, a distance of around 80 kilometres.

After a few months, Moko followed a fishing boat from Gisborne around East Cape arriving in Whakatane late January 2010. Five months later, he teamed up with the same fishing boat and followed it to Tauranga.

This lovable dolphin’s life came to a tragic end when he was found washed up on Matakana Island, Tauranga Harbour on 7th July 2010. The cause of his death will never be known.

After a funeral service in Whakatane, Moko was laid to rest on Matakana Island.

Moko made the Time Magazine’s Top Ten list for the world’s most heroic animals in 2011. He has been recognised for preventing a Pygmy Sperm Whale and her calf from beaching themselves at Mahia on 10th March 2008 and led them to the open ocean.”

The above information about Moko was taken from the memorial plaque at Mahia Beach.

Mahia Beach

Maria Beach from the lookout point

Mahia from viewing point


The entrance to the harbour / bay

Entrance to the bay

The coastal road

The coastal road

Awesome view from a viewing spot on the way back to Gisborne

The view from a lookout halfway between Mahia & Gisborne


Cook’s Cove


The drive to where Cooks Cove walkway parking lot from Makorori Beach Bach took about half an hour (distance of 41.9 kms).  The walkway is named after English sailor and explorer, Captain James Cook. He visited the area in 1769 as part of his circumnavigation of New Zealand.


The walking track starts at a parking lot in a small paddock just before you get to Tolaga Bay Wharf and then it climbs through light bush and across open grassland, along a farm track to the first viewing point just below the cliff tops, looking out over Tolaga Bay.

The view of Tolaga Bay along Cook's Cove Walkway

Tolaga Bay

Grassy farmland

About 25 minutes after leaving the car park, you’ll reach a decked lookout point (120 metres above sea level) that gives a view out over the sea and the first glimpse of Cooks Cove. The cove consists of a sheltered inlet with the weather-beaten Mitre Rocks standing to the left of the entrance and Pourewa Island rising up on the right. There is also an isolated surf break down near hole-in-the-wall but it is quite a walk to get there.

img_8531The surf break

The view of Cooks Cove (inlet in the middle)

The view of Cooks Cove (inlet in the middle)


The view of Tolaga Bay Wharf from the top of the cliff

The information board at the viewing point reads: “The Endeavour arrives in Cooks Cove, October 1769. After making the first European landfall at Turanganui-a-Kiwa (Poverty Bay), James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour visited Anaura Bay then anchored at Uawa and went ashore at a cove known as Opoutama (Cooks Cove) north of Turanganui-a-Kiwa.

The crew were warmly received by the tangata whenua. They traded with local kiwi Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti who taught them a range of practices such as the use of manuka branches as brooms.

Cook’s crew explored the area, collected wood, “sellery” and scurvy grass, samples of new plants and freshwater. Cook observed and recorded the complexity of the culture and diversity of the landscape.

After six days the Endeavour weighed anchor and left Cooks Cove to circumnavigate New Zealand.”

Walking to Cooks Cove

The stepped and sloped track winds down the hill through bush before passing a small pond and entering the coastal flats of the cove. The walk is quite steep in places and you do need to be wearing good, comfortable walking shoes. Once you are down in the grassy flats, there is a marker pointing the way to the hole-in-the-wall (Te Kotere-o-te-Whenua) and Cooks Cove. Right next to the marker is a large picture frame that borders the hole-in-the-wall perfectly and makes a wonderful photo opportunity.


A plaque at the base of this frame reads: “Joseph Banks, Botanist, Endeavour 1769: “In pursuing a valley bounded on each side by steep hills we saw also an extraordinary natural curiosity… a most noble arch or Cavern through the face of the rock leading directly to the sea. It was certainly the most magnificent surprise I have ever met with, so much is pure nature superior to art in these cases.”


Tolaga Wharf jutting out into the sea

If you look closely, you can see Tolaga Bay Wharf jutting out into the sea

The surf break at Hole-in-the-Wall

After exploring the hole-in-the-wall, we walked across the flats to look at Cooks Cove and read the information boards that are posted there, before beginning the steep climb back up the ridge.

Info board at Cooks CoveBack of info board at Cooks CoveCooks Cove

The viewing point is on top of the cliff ... a long climb up!

The lookout point is on top of the ridge, where the point is … a long climb back up!

Additional information: The track is closed each year for the lambing season from 1 August until the start of Labour Weekend (late October). The walkway may not be used to gain fishing access to Pourewa Island or to fishing grounds (fishing equipment and firearms are prohibited). No camping, lighting of fires or are allowed on the walkway. Mountain biking is not permitted. No dogs allowed. There is no drinkable water on the walk; you need to bring your own. (from

Hole-in-the-Wall along Cook’s Cove walkway, photo taken from the base of the Tatarahake Cliffs

Whangara & The Whale Rider

map-whangaraWhangara is a small community located between Gisborne and Tolaga Bay. We stopped here on our way back from Tolaga Bay to see if we could get down the to beach and have a look at the surf break, but there is only one road in and out of the community and it’s Private Access Only, with a permit being required to reach the beach.



Whangara features prominently in the early history of the Ngāti Porou iwi and the community gained international notoriety as the location and setting for the New Zealand film “The Whale Rider” (based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera). There is even a Whale Rider figure on top of the local marae.


The Whale Rider on top of the marae

“In a small New Zealand coastal village, Maori claim descent from Paikea, the Whale Rider. In every generation for over 1,000 years, a male heir born to the Chief succeeds to the title. The time is now. The Chief’s eldest son, Porourangi, fathers twins – a boy and a girl. But the boy and his mother die in childbirth. The surviving girl is named Pai. Grief-stricken, her father leaves her to be raised by her grandparents. Koro, (the Chief) refuses to acknowledge Pai as the inheritor of the tradition and claims she is of no use to him. But her grandmother, Flowers, sees more than a broken line, she sees a child in desperate need of love. And Koro learns to love the child. When Pai’s father, Porourangi, now a feted international artist, returns home after twelve years, Koro hopes everything is resolved and Porourangi will accept destiny and become his successor. But Porourangi has no intention of becoming Chief. He has moved away from his people both physically and emotionally. After a bitter argument with Koro he leaves, suggesting to Pai that she come with him. She starts the journey but quickly returns, claiming her grandfather needs her. Koro is blinded by prejudice and even Flowers cannot convince him that Pai is the natural heir. The old Chief is convinced that the tribe’s misfortunes began at Pai’s birth and calls for his people to bring their 12 year old boys to him for training. He is certain that through a gruelling process of teaching the ancient chants, tribal lore and warrior techniques, the future leader of their tribe will be revealed to him. Meanwhile, deep within the ocean, a massive herd of whales is responding, drawn towards Pai and their twin destinies. When the whales become stranded on the beach, Koro is sure this signals an apocalyptic end to his tribe. Until one person prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the people. The Whale Rider.” (from

I saw the movie “The Whale Rider” many years ago but I’m yet to get my hands on a copy of the book, which I’m still keen to read as movies are often different to the actual books they’re based on.

Tolaga Bay



The long wharf

The longest wharf in the Southern Hemisphere

It takes about half an hour to walk to the end of the historic wharf at Tolaga Bay and back again. Built in 1929 and measuring in at 660 metres, this is the longest wharf in the Southern Hemisphere and it was commercially functional until 1968. To read more about the history of Tolaga Bay Wharf, click on this link:

Tolaga Bay Wharf

On our second visit to Tolaga Bay, a few days later, we saw a traditional waka sheltering from the strong Southerly wind that was blowing. The waka had tried to get to Gisborne but the wind was too strong, so they sheltered in Tolaga Bay and waited for the wind to die down before continuing on their journey.

A waka sheltering from the Southerly

After chatting to one of the crew, we discovered that the waka was making its way from the Tāmaki Herenga Waka Festival in Auckland to the Te Herenga Waka Festival in Napier and that this particular waka had been built in  2009.

We grabbed a quick coffee from the Curbside Cafe, a mobile truck that serves coffee and a limited hot food menu from the parking lot at Tolaga Bay, before heading further down the road to see the beach at the base of the Tatarahake Cliffs.

The cliffs at Tolaga BayTatarahake CliffsThe beach at Tolaga Bay, taken from the end of the wharfimg_8422

The Tatarahake Cliffs are at the northern end of Tolaga Bay and, if you feel up to a steep walk (which we didn’t do), there is a lookout at the top of the cliffs.

War memorialBeach at the base of Tatarahake Cliffs

Rere Falls & Rere Rockslide

map-rere-fallsAs we had just been to see Eastwoodhills Arboretum, we decided to continue another 12kms further up the road to see Rere Falls and the famous Rere Rockslide.

Rere Falls

Rere Falls

Rere Falls is classed as one of the most charming waterfalls in New Zealand, being only 5 metres high and 20 meters wide, surrounded by farmland and located along the Wharekopae River.  There is plenty of parking at the falls, with a large grassy area under the trees that provides plenty of shade to park under or picnic under.

img_8498Next to the waterfall and natural swimming pool at the base of the falls, is a small, grassy area with one picnic table and limited shade. If you plan on picnicking right next to the falls, take a blanket with you to sit on and possibly a large umbrella for shade.

Rere Falls

When we arrived at Rere Falls, we thought that the rockslide was nearby, as we hadn’t seen the sign posted at the gate saying that the rockslide could be found 2kms further up the road. So after looking at the rather disappointing falls (its been a really dry summer for Gisborne and I’m sure the falls must be spectacular during the rainy, wet winter season), we continued along the road, past the site where the waterfall is to reach the rockslide.


The constantly running water of the Wharekopae River has smoothed over the rocks of this 60 metre-long natural water slide and boogie boards, inflatable mattresses and inner tubes can be used to slide down on. If you’re unsure about taking the plunge and racing down it, sit back and watch the locals for a while, to see where the best section to slide down is.


Rere Rockslide


Eastwoodhill Arboretum

We did quite a bit of exploring while staying in Gisborne and drove to Eastwoodhill Arboretum, which is about 35kms NorthWest of Gisborne. On the way there, we drove passed many fields of corn, tomatoes and squash, as well as groves of citrus trees and a few beehives.

map-eastwoodhillSomething that stuck out like a sore thumb, was the road to Ngatapa; it’s a long, straight road and isn’t something you see very often while travelling in NZ. Most New Zealand roads are narrow and curved or tightly twisting and I just had to take a photos of this road that seemed to disappear into the horizon! A song’s lyrics immediately popped into my head: “We’re on a road to nowhere, Come on inside, Takin’ that ride to nowhere, We’ll take that ride…” (Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads)

A rare sight ... a long, straight NZ road

Eastwoodhill Arboretum is the national arboretum of New Zealand, it covers about 131 hectares and was founded in 1910 by William Douglas Cook. Upon arrival at Eastwoodhill, we headed to the information centre to pay our entrance fee and get a brochure with a map of the walking trails. There are toilets near the information centre, as well as a shaded seating area and a kiddies playground at the back with a covered slide, trampoline and swings.


The information in the brochure has a history of Eastwoodhill: “Douglas Cook (1884-1967), founder of Eastwoodhill and Pukeiti, Douglas Cook started farming Eastwoodhill in 1910. Injured in Europe during World War I, he recuperated in Britain and was inspired by the beautiful gardens and parks he saw there. On his return to New Zealand it was his ambition to model a park on those he found in Britain. By the time of his death in 1967, he had spent approximately 55,000 pounds on sourcing and planting some 5,000 different types of trees and shrubs from nurseries in New Zealand, Japan, America and Europe.”

There are various colour-coded trails to walk along, some of which are marked as wheelchair (mobility scooter) friendly. As it was a hot, sunny, 32 degrees when we arrived at 11am, were advised to avoid certain trails as they were very exposed and would be uncomfortably hot, so we chose to stick to the yellow path, avoiding the extended walk sections, and loop around on some of the purple path on the way back. This gave us a nice, long walk and we got to see most of the arboretum, even if some of it was from on top of a hill.





The CathedralThe Cathedral

img_8479Mountain Ashimg_8481Mountain Ash


Fibonacci Spiral


We headed off to Gisborne for a week at the beginning of February 2017.  We left bright and early at 5am.  The long drive from Auckland to Gisborne took us around 7 hours, with a stop for breakfast along the way and a few rest stops.


We arrived at Makorori Station Beach Bach where we’d be staying for the week, only to discover that mobile phone signal was very patchy!  2degrees coverage was really bad and we could only pick up signal down on the beach or if we drove into the town of Gisborne.

The bach is situated on a working farm and it took a little while for me to get used to the sounds of sheepdogs, sheep, cattle and horses at night but it is really peaceful, especially if you ignore the sounds of the large timber trucks rumbling down the hill and along the main road past the bach during the day.

View from Makorori Beach Bach

View from Makorori Beach Bach

The road from Makorori to Tolaga Bay

The main road and steep hill that that logging trucks rumble down

The bach looks out over a paddock, across the main road and out over the beach to the sea. Its about a two minute walk to the water’s edge and the beach is safe for swimming and learning to surf.

Makorori Beach Farm & Bach

Makorori Farm & the beach bach

Makorori Beach

Makorori Beach with Makorori Headland at the end

Driving back up the road and over Makorori Headland (toward Gisborne), the first Wainui Beach parking lot that you come across is called “Whales” and it was here that we saw a sign for a whale grave and went to investigate. There wasn’t much to see, other than an information signboard posted next to the road and we guessed that the whale grave had to be somewhere under the sand dunes nearby.

Wainui Beach "Whales"

Wainui “Whales” Beach

Upon further investigation (thanks to Google), we discovered that 59 sperm whales had swum into the shallows and died, on a stormy Autumn day on the 18th March 1970. It was impossible to save the whales and they were buried in a mass grave in the Wainui sand dunes. A hole 500 feet long, 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep had to be dug and the bodies of the whales were pushed and pulled into the grave by two bulldozers, it took four days and nights to bury all the whales.

Today, nearly 47 years later, the fence is gone and there is no visible sign of any mass whale grave, other than the signboard on the side of the road and normal looking sand dunes.

To read the full, horrific story about these poor whales and how they died, click on this link


Further up the road is Wainui Beach “The Pines” and Okitu Dairy, where the locals provide friendly, helpful service.  The coffee from the dairy is okay but the hot chips are really very moreish!  Right opposite the dairy is Lysnar Reserve, complete with a kiddies playground, picnic tables, toilets, paths down onto the beach and “The Pines” surf spot. It’s the perfect spot to get coffee, cool drinks and fish ‘n chips or ice cream from the dairy and then simply cross over the road for a chilled out picnic on the beach.

Poverty Bay

Gisborne Beach

The town of Gisborne is about a 10 minute drive from Makorori Beach and groceries and necessary supplies can be bought from Pak ‘n Save or Countdown supermarkets and there is plenty to see and do within the town of Gisborne.  Along the main road that runs the length of the CBD is a small cinema complex called the Odeon Theatre, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes dotted along this road, as well as along the waterfront and lots of shops to browse through.

Captain James Cook

Statue of Captain James Cook near Gisborne Beach

Info at the base of Captain Cook's statue

Info at the base of Captain James Cook’s statue

Nicholas Young "Young Nick"

Nicholas Young “Young Nick” catching the first glimpse of New Zealand

We went to The Rivers restaurant for dinner one night. It’s a family-friendly Irish Pub that is situated on the river’s edge and boasts Gisborne’s only Beer Master.  The menu is reasonably priced with generous portions of food. Seating consists of a mix of padded booths along one side, wooden tables & chairs scattered around the other side and centre of the restaurant and bar stools with higher tables closer to the bar. The food was really good and I was surprised that they even asked how I wanted my minute steak cooked. I had no idea that it was possible for a restaurant to cook a minute steak in the same way as a thick-cut steak. I asked for medium-rare and it arrived perfectly cooked and still beautifully pink and tender inside!

The dry hills of Gisborne

Staying at the bach on Makorori Farm, we were surprised at how brown and dry the grass in the Gisborne area was. We were used to seeing most of NZ as being green and lush all year round and only after chatting to the farmer, did we discover that this was the driest summer that Gisborne had seen in 47 years!  A combination of the dry grass, brown rolling hills, the sounds of the crickets and the sunny, hot 33 degree weather reminded us so much of the Natal Midlands in South Africa!  These poor cows and sheep haven’t had much green grass to eat, it’s all dry and straw-like.

Two days after we arrived in Gisborne it began raining.  It started with a heavy downpour late on Tuesday evening and then settled into a nice, solid rain that fell for two full days.  I’m sure the farmers appreciated the much needed rain.


It took a little while to get used to the grassy farmlands that seem to blend seamlessly into small suburbs right before you reach the town of Gisborne. It was only a 10 minute drive from Makorori to the centre of Gisborne and compared to the large, sprawling city of Auckland that just seems to go on forever, with crazy traffic that never seems to end, Gisborne made a nice, relaxed change. Even when there was the odd queue of traffic in the CBD, it still moved pretty swiftly.

I’ll be doing separate blog posts for all the places we visit in and around Gisborne.