There is something magical about waking in a city where the sun rises first: a head start on the day that adds a pep in your step. Deep maybe, but the East Coast Vibes crew know the magic that Gisborne pulls, and for the past five years they have been creating their beachside celebration in New Zealand’s most easterly city, bringing together roots, reggae, hip-hop, and soul with a stellar lineup of Pacific, international and old school artists.
East Coast Vibes is held at stunning Midway Beach, where sun, sand, and surf provide the backdrop to this up-close-and-personal event (there are only 4,000 tickets on sale). The festival jibes the happy beach vibes of the Gisborne community, with the cultured outlook of the headlining artists, providing attendees with the occasion to catch up with your whanau (family), feast on kai (food) and say harae mae (welcome) to a new year.
Tickets for East Coast Vibes go on sale in October for their January fiesta, with early bird tickets proving a steal. If you have the cash, throw down for VIP as you not only get express entry, secure parking, elevated stage views, marquee, luxury toilets, bar, plus goodie bag with drink voucher, but it’s also a chance to hang where the artists do.
Gates open at 12:30pm, with artists filling the one stage through to midnight. If that is an early night for you, your ticket also gets you a discount to the official after party at Shipwreck Bar with a free shuttle bus. Both are R18 events so don’t forget your ID. There is no BYO as the festival is fully licensed, though prices are reasonable - under $8.
East Coast Vibes uses the AWOP cashless system, where you’ll load your dollars to a wristband for all payments. Add a little extra for the market stalls where vendors will tempt you with their food, clothing, or artisanal trinkets. You’ll also find snack food at the bar. If you prefer to bring a picnic, fill a chilly bin from home, and make sure you seek out some shade to ward off the unforgiving NZ sun. But remember to leave any glass items at home.
Prep ahead as there are no passouts permitted. It’s often a scorcher so pack sunscreen and a hat, along with an empty bottle for the water refill stations. Misting tents are set up to cool you down too. For the festie fashion vibes, think boho dresses, sun-bleached shorts and over-sized sunnies in ensembles that encourage free-spirited dance moves.
Originally created for Gisborne locals, the reputation for a chilled day out in this idyllic location has begun to draw visitors from across New Zealand and beyond. The city offers a range of accommodation options, from backpackers, holiday parks, and hotels, but our pick is to find a holiday home on Bookabach or Airbnb to experience Gisborne like a local. If you’re a drive from the venue, there is limited parking so consider taking a cab or the bus so everyone can enjoy a bevvy or two.
The long sandy beaches, consistent surf breaks, and water sports culture make Gisborne a regular stop on the NZ road trip circuit and it’s worth adding at least a couple of extra days to your East Coast Vibes roadie. You’ll discover a strong Maori influence in Gisborne, particularly with visual art displays and a walk up sacred Mt Hikurangi to see the giant carvings. However, you will need approval from the Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou tribe first. If you prefer a more leisurely side trip, the thriving wine and cider industry provides popular food and beverage destinations around the region.