Stretching from Opotiki in the north to Wairoa in the south, Eastland encompasses an idyllic swath of heartland New Zealand. The East Cape alone is one of the world's most laidback places where rural farmland and pockets of native bush give way to sweeping vistas across the South Pacific Ocean. If anywhere in New Zealand runs on "island time" then this is it. At the heart of Eastland lies the charming town of Gisborne. Popular for its incredible surf beaches and artisan culture, Gisborne has an abundance of restaurants and cafés to explore. The local trails are constantly evolving, but it is the Motu Trail – a Great Ride of the New Zealand Cycle Trail – Nga Haerenga, that is the jewel in Eastland's cycling crown.
The Motu Trail begins in the coastal township of Opotiki on the northern side of East Cape. The first section of the trail is called the Dunes Trail – an 11km Grade 2 beachfront trail that is designed for all levels of riders. Take a day to meander the coastline and enjoy a lunch at the beach, or arrange a shuttle drop-off to and get stuck into the next section. The Motu Road Trail is a gravel track that leads you through a part of New Zealand that few ever visit. You'll feel remote and privileged at the same time. Start at Matawai and the 67km journey will be mostly downhill. If you're seeking out adventure then you need to get to the top of the Pakihi Track. This Grade 4 ride follows the Pakihi River as it meanders through stunning New Zealand bush. The trail is an easy grade, but steep drop-offs and an occasionally narrow track demand caution. Take your time and you'll fall in love ...
Got a few days up your sleeve? Then make sure you take State Highway 35 around the Pacific Coast Highway to truly absorb the pace of life of East Cape. There are lots of small towns, rugged beaches and interesting characters as the highway snakes its way to Gisborne.
No trip to Gisborne is complete without a surf at the world-famous Wainui Beach or a stroll along one of the beautiful sweeping bays.
The Millmore Mountain Bike Park is a network of 10km of trails in a pine forest on the outskirts of Gisborne. Most of the trails are around a Grade 3 – a perfect place to explore for a few hours.
Turn the adventure dial up to full and you'll find the Rere Falls Trail – a backcountry adventure that links into the Motu Trail at Matawai. The Rere Falls Trail was described as a real "heartland ride" by New Zealand guide book authors the Kennett brothers.
From its sparkling beaches to its sleepy charm, Eastland is certainly a destination not to be missed.