Kōrero: East Coast places

Whārangi 5. Whāngārā to Kaiti

Ngā whakaahua

Waihau Bay

Settlement 42 km from Gisborne, known also as Loisels Beach, which has grown since 1990 from a single homestead into a small community due to subdivision of the property into small lifestyle blocks.

The bay is 6 km from the main road and is popular in summer for its ‘freedom camping’ area administered by the Gisborne District Council. The old coach route followed the beach to its northern end before climbing up over the hills and down to Tolaga Bay.


Locality 30 km from Gisborne via State Highway 35. Nestled between rolling hills and the Pacific Ocean, Whāngārā-mai-i-Tawhiti (Whāngārā from afar) is the home of the ancestor Paikea and several others responsible for many of the modern-day hapū groupings spread throughout the East Coast. The hapū which resides at Whāngārā is Ngāti Konohi.

Local tradition recounts that Paikea arrived in Aotearoa from Hawaiki on the back of a whale. Whāngārā gained global fame in 2004 when the film Whale rider, adapted from the book of the same name by Witi Ihimaera, which drew on the Paikea story, gained international attention. Its lead actor, Keisha Castle-Hughes, was nominated for an Oscar. According to tradition, the whale turned into stone, and is now the island of Whāngārā, immediately offshore.

Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve

Te Tapuwae o Rongokako (the footprint of Rongokako) reserve is 2 km south of Whāngārā. The 2,450-hectare reserve was established in 1999, the product of a partnership between the Department of Conservation and Ngāti Konohi. It takes in the coastal waters between Whāngārā and Pouawa, and includes a variety of habitats characteristic of the coastal waters between East Cape and Māhia.


Locality 15 km north of Gisborne on State Highway 35 at the point at which it leaves the coastline and heads overland to Tolaga Bay. A bridge over the Pouawa River marks the location but in the days of horse-drawn coaches there was a hotel and school.

On 26 March 1947 a tsunami caused a surge about 8 metres above normal sea level, sweeping the 36-year-old wooden bridge half a mile upstream.

Dunelands at Pouawa are specially protected but can be visited.


Locality 13 km from Gisborne on State Highway 35, at the base of Tatapouri Point. It has a holiday park, and features crayfish and deep-sea fishing. A hotel was damaged in the 1947 tsunami and destroyed by fire in 1996. At Makorori beach, just before Tatapouri, beach houses cluster under the point’s south-facing escarpment.


Wainui, 6 km from Gisborne, has one of New Zealand’s great surfing beaches. Facing out into the South Pacific Ocean, the beach sees more substantial waves than Poverty Bay. Nearby Tuaheni Point marks the entrance into the bay. With Okitu, Wainui forms a 3-kilometre-long beach settlement.


Suburban area of Gisborne on the eastern side of the Tūranganui River, immediately across from the central business district. In the neighbourhoods of Outer Kaiti, Kaiti and Tamarau just under three-quarters of the population identified themselves as Māori in 2013, compared with around half in the city as a whole.

A famous rock 

Te Toka-a-Taiau was the southern marker of Ngāti Porou territory. It was blasted in 1877 to make way for harbour development. In 2011 moves were afoot to represent the rock as part of the Tairāwhiti Navigation Project – a venture supported by the Gisborne District Council. 

Kaiti Hill (130 m), also known as Tītīrangi Reserve, an ancestral site of the Ngāti Oneone hapū, overlooks the city. Superb panoramic views are obtained by driving or walking to its summit.

A staircase and pathway wind down from Cook’s monument, which is about halfway up the hill, to the historic landing site where Captain James Cook first set foot on New Zealand soil on 8 October 1769. It was at the rock named Te Toka-a-Taiau that Cook first greeted Māori.

Te Poho-o-Rāwiri marae, also at the base of Kaiti Hill, boasts one of the largest meeting houses in the country. Over the years the marae has played host to numerous prestigious visitors including royalty. Opened in 1930, this is the third meeting house by that name and the third site.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Monty Soutar, 'East Coast places - Whāngārā to Kaiti', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/east-coast-places/page-5 (accessed 24 August 2019)

Story by Monty Soutar, published 25 Aug 2011, updated 30 Mar 2015