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A view of the landscape of Port Gisborne in New Zealand

Gisborne, New Zealand

The small town of Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, claims several firsts: As the easternmost town in the country, it’s the first to see the sun rise, and it was the first place in New Zealand spotted by the British explorer Captain James Cook, in 1769. (Polynesian sailors had arrived centuries earlier.) The Gisborne region, also known as Tairawhiti, has one of the largest populations of Māori people in the country, and it offers many opportunities for visitors to learn about the indigenous culture of these descendants of the Polynesian settlers and see their art. While most New Zealand residents speak at least some phrases in the Māori language—travelers are often greeted with “Kia ora,” a welcome that means “Have life and be well\"—here it is the primary language for many residents. The Tairawhiti Museum provides an excellent introduction to the culture of the Māori and that of other communities living in and near Gisborne. Beyond the town itself, the area’s long stretches of sand and protected breaks draw surfers, swimmers and sunrise watchers. This part of the country is also famous for its wines, in particular chardonnays, whose grapes thrive in the mild climate and limestone-rich soil.