Eastland which juts out of the North Island into the Pacific Ocean is roughly the area between Opotiki and Gisborne. It is a unique area of New Zealand for two reasons. Firstly, the land is mostly populated by Maori and it still remains off the beaten tourist track. The 330km drive along SH3 is an enjoyable tour of a rugged coastline along a road that winds round various coves, bays and forest. The route is punctuated by tiny villages frequently equipped with a single gas pump, postoffice and dairy. You'll find yourself within the most eastern regions of New Zealand and it's worth rising early on a fine day so as to be the first in the world to watch the sun rise. The whole region has a back of the beyond feel to it. Apart from the general peacefullness, the gentle lowing of the cows and the bleating of sheep, you'll most likely pass a lone bareback horserider along the way. The atmosphere is such that you're likely to absorb the slow, even pace of life and ultimately feel a little reluctant to leave. The region is important to Maori who have a long history and strong presence in the area. The coast is backed by the Hikurangi, Whanokao, Aroangi, Wharekia and Tatai but access is only possible with the consent of the Maori (ask DOC in Gisborne or Opotiki).
Maori settlement here is said to have started with the arrival of three canoes; the Mataatua, Takitimu and Horouta.Eastland also saw the arrival of the first Europeans in New Zealand. When Captain Cook arrived in 1769 he first set foot on New Zealand land at Kaiti Beach near Gisborne.