The East Cape is located on the North Island of New Zealand. I hit the road from Gisborne to Opotiki on the SH35 (327 km), but you can travel in either direction.
The East Cape isn’t as populated as other areas. A place of unsealed roads, caution signs for children riding horses, trees so beautiful they seem unreal, and a rolling coastline littered with stunning beaches. The East Cape is a place where people live of the land and ocean, and are hands down just as beautiful as the landscape.
Petrol and diesel stops are few and far between on the SH35, not to mention higher prices compared to more populated areas. I filled up in Gisborne and topped up once mid-week.
If you have a self-contained vehicle, there is plenty of freedom camping. If you are not self-contained, you run the risk of racking up a $200 fine. There are also paid camp grounds all along the highway. For a few extra dollars you can have access to a kitchen, a shower, and support a local business.
There are a few small stores, like FourSquare, where you can grab a emergency items or stock up, but don’t rely on them for your main supplies. Bring everything you think you will need with you.
As for hikes and sites, you don’t have to drive far before coming across a new place to stop. I tried to embrace the mentality of, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be back, so do everything.” Slow progress, but much fun.
Here are some photos with details in the descriptions to give you an idea of what you can do. A few I would definitely make time for: Tolaga Bay, Cook’s Cove, and the East Cape Lighthouse.