Inspiring ideas for New Zealand vacation planning - East Cape, North Island.

Jane & Steve from our New Zealand team visited the Mahia Peninsula, and they were in for a surprise! In this incredibly remote peninsula, with it's beautiful beaches and peaceful holiday towns, they came across some 21st century space technology that reminded them of Cape Canaveral or Vandenberg AFB.

From Gisborne to Napier via the Mahia Peninsula.


The Mahia Peninsula, bottom right.

Today's drive will take Jane & Steve from Gisborne to Napier, a total drive of 3-hours, excluding their visit to the Mahia Peninsula. As expected, they found the peninsula to be a wonderful mix of sandy beaches – some exposed to the ocean swells, others beautifully sheltered.


The South Pacific Ocean, from the Mahia Peninsula coast.


A sheltered cove on the Mahia Peninsula.


The coastal road, Mahia Peninsula.


Holiday homes on the remote Mahia Peninsula.

Then, the unexpected! 

At their morning coffee stop they got chatting with a local who asked if they knew about the space rocket launch pad? 

Yes, they had, but they'd completely forgotten it was right here, at the southern tip of of the Mahia Peninsula.


Launch site on the Mahia Peninsula.

The site is operated by the New Zealand - American space exploration company Rocket Lab and this is what the NY Times had to say in November 2018, following the companies first satellite launch - 

"Rocket Lab’s Modest Launch Is Giant Leap for Small Rocket Business

The company’s Electron rocket carried a batch of small commercial satellites from a launchpad in New Zealand, a harbinger of a major transformation to the space business.

A small rocket from a little-known company lifted off Sunday from the east coast of New Zealand, carrying a clutch of tiny satellites. 

That modest event — the first commercial launch by a U.S.-New Zealand company known as Rocket Lab — could mark the beginning of a new era in the space business, where countless small rockets pop off from spaceports around the world. This miniaturization of rockets and spacecraft places outer space within reach of a broader swath of the economy.

The rocket, called the Electron, is a mere sliver compared to the giant rockets that Elon Musk, of SpaceX, and Jeffrey P. Bezos, of Blue Origin envisage using to send people into the solar system. It is just 56 feet tall and can carry only 500 pounds into space.

Behind Rocket Lab, a host of start-up companies are also jockeying to provide transportation to space for a growing number of small satellites. The payloads include constellations of telecommunications satellites that would provide the world with ubiquitous internet access."


Up close.

Jane's coffee shop contact advised "the best location to watch a launch is at the beach at the end of Blucks Pit Road. There's no road signage, so give yourself plenty of time to get there. Parking facilities are limited and no toilets are available." 

Not quite the Kennedy Space Center in Florida or Vandenberg AFB but probably just as much fun! 

You can watch Rocket Lab launches online HERE.


Getting ready for blast-off, Mahia Peninsula.






As Jane explains, "Here we are in one of the most remote regions of New Zealand's North Island, a place that reminded us of how New Zealand would have been thirty or more years ago, and suddenly we're a stones throw away from a 21st century space program!"

Having absorbed this unlikely juxtaposition of nature and technology, they continued on their journey, their next stop, the beautiful Rere Falls on the Wharekopae River.


The Rere Falls.


Steve at the Rere Falls.

Then, just a mile further on, they visited the Rere Rockslide, an adrenaline rush experience that will appeal to those who like the wet and wild. Armed with a short board or tire tube, you can rocket 200-feet down a wet, slippery slope to splash into the pool below. 

Our adventurers were a little evasive when we asked if they had given it a try :) 


Ready for blast off.




The natural hot springs, Morere.

With their day coming to a close, and a 45-minute drive to Gisborne ahead of them, they decided to take a break at the natural hot springs at Morere.

If you're interested in including East Cape and The Mahia Peninsula in your New Zealand itinerary, contact Jane - [email protected] - she's come away from her visit with some very nice accommodation options, including B&B's, as well as some very special restaurant and café recommendations.


Jane & Steve, discovering the best New Zealand adventures for our US customers.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Jun 27, 2022