East Cape - Introduction
Why the East Cape?
There are certainly aspects of outstanding beauty on this road; magnificent, empty beaches and small hamlets. The sealed road is relatively isolated and generally quiet and some cycle tourists claim this tour as one of their high points cycling around New Zealand. The scenery and quietude are profoundly appealing and the area is rich in Maori history, culture and early whaling. While there is a good deal of wonderful coastline, almost half of the journey will be through farmland and pretty bush valleys with occasional challenging hills.
There are a good number of hostels and motor camps and while free-camping is possible it pays to check first before you put up your tent. Much of East Cape is owned by local Maori and indiscriminate camping may transgress local tapu (sacred land) and offend the local iwi (sub-tribe).
Be aware there are no banking facilities (or bank machines) and no bike shops and little in the way of substantial facilities until you reach Gisborne. Local and camp shops sell basic goods but don't expect a wide range of fresh vegetables. There is the odd takeaway shop and a scattering of coffee bars. By far the best spots are those you discover by accident. New Zealand is notable for small, beautiful isolated beaches at the end of no-exit roads off the more main highways. There is something rather lovely about camping on an empty beach and watching the sun set and worth a detour of 10-20 ks occasionally along unsealed stretches of road. Ask locally as these are too numerous to mention individually.