The First City Of The Sun

The final day of our two day passage was not quite as exquisite as the first but still a good day. We did experience a few hours of beating into the wind which is never comfortable or fun but knowing what it could have been like we were happy with it.

I was on watch as we reached the southern end of Poverty Bay. It was 0400 and out to the starboard side I could see what I thought was land. “That’s not right” I said to myself. “Land is supposed to be on the port side!” I checked the instruments again and everything looked right.

It was a bit foggy out and I saw a white light far off in the distance which was putting me even more on edge. At times like these you have to really trust your instruments. And, while I do, it still left me feeling a bit uneasy. I couldn’t wait for Dan to come up and take over but he still has another thirty minutes to sleep and I knew the instruments were true. It turns out what I was seeing was a low ridge of clouds on the water but at night when it’s foggy it looks just like land. When Dan awoke and took over I was more than relieved….time for me to take a little nap before we get to port.

The First City Of The Sun

We arrived in Gisborne in the early morning as the sun was rising. As we crossed Poverty Bay headed for the Turanganui River and Inner Harbour Marina we saw four huge ships sitting at anchor waiting to go into port to be loaded with timber. The harbor in Gisborne is so small that the channel in the river doesn’t even show up as water on the charts unless you zoom all the way in on them. It’s hard to imagine these 600+ foot ships being able to get in and out of the port.

On the way in we were greeted by a dozen or so big, beautiful dolphin. They were swimming and jumping and doing what dolphin do. It’s always such a wonderful way to enter a port. Just makes you feel so welcome.

Pulling into the port we passed two huge ships tied at the wharf. They were just a few hundred feet away and towered over us like aquatic skyscrapers. The channel is tight so I was on the bow watching for shallow water. It would have been nearly impossible to see in the murky green, swirling water but I was there ever faithfully on duty. To our left was a breakwater that separates the channel from the Turanganui River. It sort of looks like an off ramp on a freeway.

Before I know it we’re tied to the dock and enjoying our post passage libations. It always feels good to get into port after a couple of days at sea. The Inner Harbour Marina is a nice, small marina with just 61 slips. Most of the boats here are powerboats, charter boats and fishing boats. Seems this is more of a working marina than a place for cruisers. But, it looks very nice with sold docks and quality power stations etc…

A good wash down to get rid of the salt and it is time for us to get our own wash down so we can take a little post passage nap. The marina doesn’t have shower facilities but the Tatapouri Fishing Club which is right here offers temporary memberships for just $15 NZD. They have a huge restaurant, bar and nice shower facilities. After paying our fee and getting a brief introduction to the facilities from Yohanna, we shower and then head to the boat to hunker down for a bit.

Not long after we get comfortable I hear a knock on the side of Dazzler. It’s Sonny, the Harbour Master. Turns out he’s from the States and was alerted to our arrival by Daniel, the Dockmaster. Sonny and I have a great chat and he offers to assist us with anything we need while we’re here in Gisborne. This is truly a first. Never had a personal welcome from the Harbour Master before. Nice!

The town of Gisborne is known as the “The First City Of The Sun”. Why? Well, this is the eastern most city in the world and is the first city to see the sunrise each day. Its Māori name is “Tairawhiti” which means….the light shines on the water. It’s a small town of just over 37,000 people. Gisborne or Gizzy as some call her is also the site where Captain James Cook first landed in New Zealand in 1768.

A Gisborne Sunrise….First the world will see today!

Driving Up The Coast

Gizzy is well known for her vineyards and especially for her Chardonnays, Pinot Gris and Merlots. And, as we found out by taking a drive up the cost, this area has some of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen in all of New Zealand. They are unspoiled beaches with few people on them and the waters are incredibly clear. They are absolutely breathtaking!

We visited one beach named Wainui Beach and found that this is a surfer’s paradise. While it wasn’t a particularly great day for surfing on the day we visited it is pretty obvious why surfers flock to the area with its clear water, shallow beaches and ocean swells. Just a couple of miles offshore the water is over 2000 feet deep. When ocean swells go from 2000 feet up to 20 feet over a short distance they will definitely produce some great wave action.

Our drive up the coast was simply stunning! From surf beaches to mountains, the views were beyond beautiful. We drove up to Tolaga Bay which is a place we may anchor at on our way north. This large bay has a 660 meter long wharf that extends from the southern beach far into the deeper waters of the bay. The wharf was originally built in 1929 at a cost of £60,000. This is equivalent to around $5 million in today’s money. 

Tolaga Wharf
Tolaga Wharf

It has rail tracks that were used to deliver meat, wood and livestock to waiting ships. In turn they would bring petrol, kegs of beer and other general merchandise back to shore. Interestingly enough this wharf was built to further the shipping industry in the area, however most of the goods transported were those that would expedite the building of roads in the area ultimately making the wharf unnecessary. Today it’s used merely for pedestrians to take a walk out onto the bay and enjoy the fabulous scenery.

The Gisborne area is definitely a wonderful and remote area. We’ve found our time here to be quite enjoyable. The people are AMAZING and so friendly! Just this evening we were walking back from the Fishing Club after showering and having a couple of beers and this man was walking down the dock.

He asked if we are yachties. We told him we are and then he asked if we’d like some fish. Well, duh! Steve runs a fishing boat here and they had just come back in from a particularly successful run. We followed him back to their boat and he handed us a huge chunk of Bluenose as a gift. We’d never even seen this man before and here he was giving us this beautiful chunk of fish!

piece of Bluenose

We didn’t know what a Bluenose was until we looked it up. Turns out this is an incredible tasting white fish with a firm texture. We ate some tonight and have plenty left for another meal tomorrow. It was brilliant to say the least.

Bluenose are found on the steep slopes in deep water. Apparently ours was caught at about 400 feet. This was such a kind gift from a complete stranger. We never cease to be amazed by the friendliness of the Kiwi people.

Bluenose…. This photo from Fishspecies.NZ

We’re especially grateful to have met up with Daniel and Sonny who have made us feel so welcome. Their amazing kindness and generosity have made us feel so special in their little piece of the world. Thanks Daniel and Sonny!

There are some great little restaurants around including four that sit on the water here at the marina. The Lone Star is an excellent steakhouse with a great filet. Another, called Rivers, is just a short walk away. It’s an Irish pub and serves the best Guinness Pie we’ve had in all of New Zealand. And, while it’s not really our thing, there are several vineyards in the area that offer wine tastings and meals too.

We only planned to stay here a few days but as always the weather is dictating we wait a bit longer. That’s okay though. We’re enjoying this wonderful little town and don’t mind hanging around.

Until next time,


Author: Dan & Jilly

2 thoughts on “The First City Of The Sun

  1. Jillian! Great entry.
    Pics are stunning….is it really that stunning there
    Well at least now Capn Dan doesn’t need to rig a rod for a nice chunk of whitefish!
    Cheers Mates!

    1. Thank you! It’s is really as stunning as the pics show. We loved the town and the people. Today when we left the Dock Master and Harbour Master came down to say goodbye. Hand skates and hugs and well wishes exchanged. And, they even walked up to the wharf to wave as we went by. Would definitely like to go back there again before we leave NZ!

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