First Light Marathon

28 Jan 2023

First Light Marathon 2023: 5-day package

Explore Tairāwhiti Gisborne and its stunning surroundings.
26-30 Jan
5 days
1 390 NZD

Registration closed

The First Light Marathon takes place in Tairāwhiti Gisborne, Aotearoa New Zealand, which is known for being the first city in the world to see the sun each day. Its spectacular coastline and the steep green hills provide a magical backdrop to this unique race. Runners will herald in the sunrise as they crest the many hills and race along the white sand beach.

Furthermore, Tairāwhiti Gisborne is known as the "Chardonnay Capital" of Aotearoa New Zealand - home to countless wineries, excellent food, and world-class beaches, there is plenty to enjoy after the race is run. 



The itinerary is detailed below. This is what you'll be doing during your stay!

26 January 2023Arrival in Tairāwhiti Gisborne

All participants will arrive in Tairāwhiti Gisborne either by a domestic flight or by bus. There are several options for domestic flights and buses. Tairāwhiti Gisborne is about a 6/7 hour drive or a 1 hour flight from Auckland. Alternatively, guests might consider renting a car if you plan on doing a bigger tour around the island. If participants choose to fly to the local Tairāwhiti Gisborne airport, transport to the hotel is included. 

Around 18:00, all runners will gather for a short shakeout run guided by an Albatros tour guide. The run will be a maximum of 5km at a relaxed pace, perfect for starting to get familiar with the beautiful surroundings. After the run, we'll gather for complimentary beer, where you can get to know your fellow marathon participants and raise a glass to the beginning of our Aotearoa New Zealand adventure.  

Later in the evening, we offer an optional excursion, "Gisborne Astro Tours," where you will get to admire the celestial wonders of the Southern Hemisphere. An accomplished astronomer will be your guide to the starry constellations above.  

Meals: None 

27 January 2023Traditional Pōwhiri

Early this morning, we offer another optional excursion, "Stingray Encounter," in Tatapouri. During this excursion, you will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with stingrays and other reef dwellers on a reef ecology tour. We'll be back to the hotels in time for the rest of the day's activities. 

All participants will get together in the late morning for a traditional Māori welcome ceremony, known as a pōwhiri. A pōwhiri is a special ritual of encounter and the perfect way for us to experience Māori traditions. It usually takes place at the Māori meeting grounds, called a marae. The ceremony involves singing, dancing and speeches. 

After the ceremony, we will enjoy a late lunch at the marae.

Race bags will be handed out during lunch, and the rest of the afternoon is yours to soak in the cultural attractions of the city, hit the beaches, or stretch your muscles on a hike. 

Meals: Continental Breakfast brought to your room * and lunch

* At Emerald Hotel a full breakfast at the hotel restaurant is included 

28 January 2023Race Day

Today's the big day! 

After an early breakfast at the hotel, you will make your way to the start line, just a short walk away.  As the first light of day crests the horizon, you'll set off with music and excitement thrumming through your body. 

Both the marathon and half-marathon begin at 05:30. Both races will end at 13:30.

In the evening you can meet other runners at Sunshine Brewery, a boutique brewery from the East Coast, and share your winnings and impressions of today’s run while tasting local top quality beer. The first beer is on us. 


Meals: Continental Breakfast brought to your room & a light lunch at the finish line

29 January 2023Optional Excursions & Celebration Dinner

Today, you will have the day free to explore Gisborne at your own pace, or you might opt to join one of our exciting excursions.

There will be several optional excursions today. The first option is the morning "Stingray Encounter" excursion in Tatapouri. During this excursion, you will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with stingrays and other reef dwellers. If you choose to do this, then you may also join a "Learn to Surf Class" in the afternoon, where you will learn all the basics needed to crush the waves. 

The second optional excursion is a tour to Maunga Hikurangi, a sacred mountain of the Ngāti Porou people. It is the first point on the mainland to see the sunrise each day. A Ngāti Porou guide will teach us about the Māori traditions and share the stories of this sacred place, and its nine whakairo (carvings). If you choose this excursion, you will not be able to combine it with any other excursions as it will take the full day.

The third option is a walking tour of Tolaga Bay and Cooks Cove. Cooks Cove is named after Captain James Cook, who stopped here in 1769 during his circumnavigation of New Zealand. This excursion will also take the full day, and thus cannot be combined with other options. 

Finally, two "Learn to Surf" classes will be offered - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Whether you're a complete beginner or you just need to refresh your skills, our skilled instructors will have you riding the waves in no time. 

In the evening all participants will be driven out to the celebration dinner at a local vineyard. Together, we'll toast our accomplishments and enjoy a delicious meal while the sun sets over the vineyard. 

Meals: Continental Breakfast brought to your room * and Celebration Dinner 

* At Emerald Hotel a full breakfast at the hotel restaurant is included 

30 January 2023Farewell Gisborne or Hello Extension

Sadly, it is time to say goodbye to Tairāwhiti Gisborne. After check-out, you'll bid farewell to Aotearoa New Zealand - transfer to the domestic airport is included. Alternatively, if you're not quite ready to say goodbye, join us for an exciting 6-day extension!

Meals: Continental Breakfast brought to your room *

* At Emerald Hotel a full breakfast at the hotel restaurant is included 


Learn to Surf

29 Jan | 3 hours | 100 NZD

Tairāwhiti Gisborne offers excellent surfing conditions year-round. There is a variety of stunning beaches within a short driving distance from the city, and our skilled surfing instructors are eager to get you standing up on a board. Surfers can enjoy a choice of different surf breaks, from safe sand bottom beach breaks to reef and point breaks - which beach we will surf will be weather dependent. 

There will be two surfing lessons offered - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We'll begin by driving out to the beach, where we'll meet our instructors and get suited up. Then, we'll be treated to a two-hour surf lesson where you can test your mettle out on the water. The lesson will be limited to 24 participants per session with 3 surf coaches, so everyone will be able to get some personalized attention. 

  • About the Tour

    Duration: 3 hours (one tour offered in the morning, one in the afternoon) 


    - Transportation 
    - 2 hour surf lesson
    - Wetsuit and surfboard 


Stingray Encounter

27 Jan | 2.5 hours | 115 NZD

Of all the ways to experience the magical marine environment around Tairāwhiti Gisborne, feeding the stingrays on a reef ecology tour is one of the most memorable. We'll begin with a coach bus out to the bay, where participants will suit up in waders to keep you dry and protected. 

We'll be wading across the reef at low tide, allowing us to observe and interact with Stingrays, Eagle Rays, Kingfish, and various other reef dwellers. The marine life on the reef is not enclosed, so all the animls are free to come and go. The guides will provide information on reef's inhabitants, known as the Tamariki (Children) of Tangaroa, the Maori god of the sea. We'll learn about the different species. the local legends of Tairāwhiti Gisborne, and even gain some insight into some of the methods once used by the Maori to manage their natural resources. 

Upon conclusion of the tour, participants will be driven back to their hotels. 

  • About the Tour

    Duration: 2.5 hours 


    - Transport to/from Tatapouri Bay 
    - Guided reef ecology tour 
    - Waders


Gisborne Astro Tours

26 Jan | 2 hours | 90 NZD

The Southern Cross, Centaurus, and Carina are just a few of the constellations awaiting you in the Southern Hemisphere. On this tour, we'll drive out by coach to a quiet, rural location just outside of Tairāwhiti Gisborne. There, we'll meet our astronomical guide and be given a short health/safety briefing, and then an introduction to the astronomy talk. 

Next, we'll go outside to identify constellations and gaze through telescopes. There will be 6-7 telescopes set up, and participants can circulate around to see the various targets, all while our informed astronomer answers any questions we might have. The Gisborne Astro Tours are the first and only astro tour on the east coast of Aotearoa New Zealand, and stargazers come from afar to revel in the glorious dark skies of the Land of the Long White Cloud. Let the tranquil environment and knowledgeable guide be your gateway to the stars. 

  • About the Tour

    Duration: 2 hours


    - Transportation to/from Patutahi 
    - Guided astro tour including an inspiring, easy to understand astronomy presentation 
    - View rare celestial targets only seen from Aotearoa New Zealand's latitude 


Maunga Hikurangi

29 Jan | 8 hours | 350 NZD

The tour to Maunga Hikurangi begins with a 2-hour drive north of Gisborne City to Ruatoria, where we'll transfer to a 4WD veheicle for the journey to and from Maunga Hikurangi.

Standing at 1754m high, Maunga Hikurangi is the highest non-volcanic mountain on the North Island. Māori legend tells that the demigod Maui fished up the North Island out of the sea, and Maunga Hikurangi was the first point to emerge from the sea. It is recognized as the first point on Aotearoa New Zealand to be touched by the morning sun, and the mountain is scared to the local Ngāti Porou people. 

Rougly two-thirds of the way up the mountain, there are 9 larger-than-life carvings that represent Maui and his whānau (extended family). The pillars – called pou – depict the stories and legends of Maui as the founding ancestor of the Ngati Porou people, which the local guide will help bring to life before your eyes. The tour lasts approximately four hours, and includes lunch on the mountain, as well as a native seedling to plant as part of an eco-project, and participation in a karakia, a traditional Māori blessing. 

After the tour on the mountain, we'll return to Ruatoria, where participants will be transferred back to their hotels. 

  • About the Tour

    Duration: 8 hours 


    - Transportation to/from Ruatoria 
    - 4WD adventure to/from Maunga Hikurangi 
    - In-depth cultural tour with an expert Ngāti Porou guide 
    - Native seedling to plant as part of an eco-project
    - Participation in a karakia (traditional Māori blessing) 
    - Lunch atop Maunga Hikurangi 


Tolaga Bay

29 Jan | 5 hours | 70 NZD

This excursion will begin with a 1-hour drive north of Tairāwhiti Gisborne to Tolaga Bay, a bay and small town that, at 660m, boasts the longest concrete wharf in the country. Along the bay is a path that leads to Cooks Cove, where Captain James Cook stopped in 1769 as part of his circumnavigation of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Information planels along the walkway tell the story of Cook and his crew's visit to Cooks Cove (Opoutama), the history of local iwi Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, and the excavation of an archeological site at Opoutama, first occupied by Māori. You'll also be able to explore a hole in the wall, called Te Kotere o te Whenua, or, if you fancy a swim, safely take a dip in the cove. 

The pathway is an out-and-back walk that totals 5.8km, and, with stops, takes around 2.5 hours. Although the path is generally rated as easy, there is some hill climbing that requires a moderate level of fitness. Good, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. 

  • About the Tour

    Duration: 5 hours 


    - Transportation to/from Tologa Bay 



Lakes and Legends

30-4 Feb | 6 days | 2 790 NZD
  • Day 1 - 30 Jan: Tairāwhiti Gisborne to Rotorua

    On the first day of our extension, we'll travel north through the scenic Waioeka Gorge before reaching Opotiki, and the lovely beach town of Ohope. From Whakatane, we'll travel along the Matata Straights before turning inland to arrive at Rotorua. 

    Before Rotorua, there is an optional rafting excursion. Participants can experience the thrills and spills of the mighty Kaituna River and take on the world-famous Tutea Falls. Standing at 7 meters tall, the falls are the highest commercially rafted waterfall. Together with your expert guide, your team will enjoy an action-packed 50-minute ride through 14 rapids as the river winds its way through a jungle canyon. No prior experience is necessary, as participants will receieve full and comprehensive training beforehand. All you need is a reasonable level of fitness, a sense of fun and adventure, swimwear and a towel.

    For guests who do not choose to participate in the rafting, the coach will continue into Rotorua so you can check into the hotel. Due to its unique thermal and volcanic landscape and rich Māori culture, Rotorua is one of Aotearoa New Zealand's most popular destinations. The town forms part of the geologically active "Pacific Ring of Fire," and the bubbling thermal activity just below Earth's crust is evident throughout the city, from natural hot springs to bubbling mud pools. 

    In the evening, guests will experience the warmth of the Māori people with a night of ceremonial rituals and storytelling. We will enter a replica pre-European Maori village, where we will see the hangi pit opened and then enter the ancestral Meeting House to enjoy a powerful cultural performance featuring tribal songs, myths, legends, and dance, including the vigorous haka. We will also enjoy a hangi buffet dinner, cooked in the traditional way in an earth oven. 

    After dinner, we'll bid our hosts farewell and return to our accommodation for tonight and the next night, the Distinction Hotel Rotorua.

    Meals: Breakfast* and dinner 

    *Breakfast this day is only included at select hotels (see: inclusions in the 5-day Package) 

  • Day 2 - 31 Jan: Rototura

    This morning, after breakfast, guests are free to choose what they would like to do. We will be offering an optional excursion: zip-lining. 

    Zip-lining: On this exciting adventure, we'll explore native forest on a 1,2km network of Rotorua ziplines, swing bridges, and treetop platforms. In total, there are 6 ziplines that total more than 650 meters. The highlight is the jaw-dropping, 220-meter Tui Son zipline that departs from 22 meters up a 1000 year-old tree. There are also two treetop swing bridges - the longest suspended a full 50 meters! The treetop platforms are located at varying platforms to allow participants to pause and absorb the magic of the environment. Since 2012, the zip-lining operators have been working to restore the native forest in which they operate. With the help of every customer, the forest is flourishing in a mutually beneficial relationship. Come and forget about the real world for a few hours! 

    If guests would not like to join the optional excursion, there will be a coach provided to take guests for a visit to Lake Tikitapu. Famous for its striking colour, the lake is known as "Blue Lake" by the locals. There is an easy 1,5 hour walk the lake that offers good views of both Lake Tikitapu and the nearby Green Lake, Rotokakahi. Alternatively, guests may simply relax on their own in Rototura.

    The whole group will meet in the afternoon for a special Polynesian Spa experience. We'll drive by coach out to Lake Spa, a deluxe hot mineral bathing and relaxation area that overlooks Lake Rotorua. Enjoy tranquil bathing and lake views in the four alkaline rock pools, each with different temperatures (from 36 ̊C to 42 ̊C). Sink into the serene environment as the sounds of waterfalls and reflections of the glistening water in the grotto relax you completely.

    Later in the evening, we'll travel out to Redwoods Nightlights, a 700-meter long eco-tourism walking experience in the heart of Rotorua's Redwood Forest. The tour consists of a series of 28 suspension bridges and 27 majestic Redwood trees that are more than 118 years old. The walk also features 30 exquisite lanterns floating between 9-20 meters above the forest floor, designed by world-renowned designer and sustainability champion David Trubridge. Upon completion of the tour, we'll tranfer back to the Distinction Hotel. 

    Meals: Breakfast

  • Day 3 - 1 Feb: Rotorua to Taupo

    This morning, after breakfast, we'll begin with a guided walk through Waimangu Volcanic Valley. The walk will take around 2 hours as we embark on an ecology-focused exploration of the craters in this beautiful valley. Heading downhill, we'll pass through some of the youngest eco-systems in the world as we view a wide variety of geothermal activity, native plants, and bird-life. See Echo Crater and Frying Pan Lake, the world's largest hot water spring, as well as the mysterious and dramatic Inferno Crater and its beautiful blue hot lake. When we reach Lake Rotomahana, we'll join a 45-minute boat trip to see the Steaming Cliffs, fumaroles, lake edge geysers, unusual thermal plants, and the site of the Pink and White Terraces that were destroyed in the Mt. Tarawera eruption. 

    After the boat ride, we'll be shuttled back to the car park, where we'll reboard the coach and travel south through Kaingaroa Forest plantation and the Wairakei Steam fields. Enjoy a stop at the Huka Falls, where the clear waters of the Waikato River gush through a narrow canyon. We'll continue around the shores of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake, to our accommodation for the next two nights, Lakeland Resort Taupo, where we'll settle in and try to get some good sleep in preparation for the coming day's challenge: the Tongariro Crossing.

    Meals: Breakfast 

  • Day 4 - 2 Feb: The Tongariro Crossing

    This morning, we'll take a short drive to the beginning of our trek. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is 19.4km of pure, rugged Aotearoa New Zealand beauty. The trek is considered the best one-day walk in the coutnry, and is consistently ranked in the Top 10 one-day walks in the world. The Tongariro National Park is a dual World Heritage site - rich in both cultural identity as well as breathtaking natural scenery. 

    Our trail leads up to the saddle between Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro, and then diverts over Mount Tongariro. Fans of Lord of the Rings might recognize Mount Ngauruhoe as Mount Doom itself! At the top of the pass, in the presence of two active volcanoes, we'll experience some of the National Park's special gifts. A cold mountain spring, an active crater, emerald lakes, and hot springs combine to make this is challenging and deeply rewarding experience. 

    Total walking time is around 7 hours, including stops. No alpine experience is required, and we will be accompanied by a guide. 

    Meals: Breakfast and packed lunch 

  • Day 5 - 3 Feb: Taupo to Auckland

    This morning, we'll take it easy as we travel north to Waitomo. In Waitomo, we'll stop for a Footwhistle Glowworm Tour. A short, 3,5 km scenic shuttle will take us to the cave, while an experienced guide reveals the rich history of the area. Then, we'll take a short walk through the native forest and past waterfalls to the cave entrance. From there, walk down into the cave through a natural chasm. 

    The scene in the cave is set for an intimiate cave experience, with solar-powered lights kept low so that we can appreciate the magnificent glowworm displays at their best. Around a corner lies the bones of one of the country's lost treasures, the ancient Moa - a long-extinct bird. The soothing sound of the Footwhistle cave's stream trickles in the darkness below. 

    After the tour, we'll stop for an included lunch at a local cafe before travelling north yet again, through rolling countryside into Hamilton City, Aotearoa New Zealand's largest inland city. Then continue north, following the Waikato River, over Bombay Hills and into Auckland City. Auckland is built atop 50 extinct volcanoes - while most of them appear either as small, green hilltop or are completely removed, the three largest - Mount Albert, Mount Eden, and One Tree Hill - stand proudly over the landscape. 

    Upon arrival in Auckland, you'll have time for a tour of the city. Drive through the cozy suburbs of Parnell, with old, well-restored houses, small restaurants, and galleries. Visit Bastion Point for panoramic views of the city and the sparkling Hauraki Gulf. Perhaps you'd like to stretch out the soreness from the trek at the Auckland Domain, the city's oldest park that is one of the largest in the city. 

    We'll spend the night at Grand Millenium Hotel Auckland City. 

    Meals: Breakfast and lunch 

  • Day 6 - 4 Feb: Farewell Aotearoa New Zealand

    Sadly, it is time to say haere rā to Aotearoa New Zealand. Taxis to the airport are available from the hotel (departure transfer not provided).

    Meals: Breakfast

  • Price Information

    All prices are per person in New Zealand Dollars. 

    Shared double room:  NZD 2790  
    Single room supplement:  NZD +670

    Optional excursions:
    River Rafting: NZD 145
    Zip-Lining: NZD 165

  • Inclusions
    • Meals as stated in the itinerary 
    • Transportation as stated in the itinerary 
    • Polynesian Spa experience 
    • Redwoods Nightlights tour 
    • 5 nights accommodation 
    • Guide across the Tongariro Crossing 
    • Footwhistle Glowworm Tour 
  • Exclusions
    • Optional excursions
    • Personal expenses or gratuities 
    • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary 
    • Beverages
    • Health/travel insurance 
    • Anything else not mentioned under "Inclusions"
  • Tongariro Crossing Terms & Conditions
    • The weather in NZ is extremely changeable and thus difficult to forecast accurately. The operator has the right to cancel an adventure should they consider the weather to cause too high of a risk. 
    • At the operator's base on the morning of the trip, the team will gauge the safety of the route. The operator will deem the weather to be unsafe if there is consistently 10mm or more of rain, combined with wind gusts of 70km/hr or higher, forecasted for the 6-hour period starting at the commencement of the tour. 
    • If the operator believes that the advertised route should not be attempted for safety reasons, they will either suggest an aoternate route where the clients will get to see simliar terrain as they would on the tour booked without the same exposure to the weather. 

Price information

Have a look at package prices below.


All prices are per person in New Zealand Dollars. 

Hotel Room type Shared double/twin Single room supplement
Captain Cook Motor Lodge  Economy Room * NZD 1390 NZD 390
Captain Cook Motor Lodge  Superior Studio * NZD 1490 NZD 410
Pacific Harbour Inn  Studio  NZD 1490 NZD 430
Pacific Harbour Inn 1 bedroom unit NZD 1590 NZD 510
Portside Hotel Studio * NZD 1640 NZD 480
Portside Hotel 1 bedroom Suite NZD 1740 NZD 540
Emerald Hotel Standard Suite NZD 1690 NZD 470
Emerald Hotel Executive Suite NZD 1760 NZD 520

* Captain Cook and the Studios at Portside have queen beds ONLY. Not suitable for sharing with travellers you don’t know really well


  • 4 nights accommodation in Tairāwhiti Gisborne 
  • Arrival and departure transfer between the Tairāwhiti Gisborne airport and hotels
  • Pōwhiri (Māori welcome)
  • Māori Hāngī lunch
  • Continental breakfast brought to your room on race day (At Emrald Hotel a full breakfast is included at the hotel restaurant on Day 2, 4 & 5)
  • Celebration dinner at The Vines Winery
  • Guided shakeout run with a beer 


  • Transportation to/from Tairāwhiti Gisborne 
  • Race entry
  • Optional excursions/extension 
  • Travel and health insurance 
  • Meals not stated in the itinerary 
  • Beverages
  • Personal expenses
  • Anything not mentioned under 'Inclusions'

Race Entry

Marathon: NZD 175
Half-Marathon: NZD 100 

Race entry includes: 

  • Exclusive First Light Marathon T-shirt
  • Medal
  • Experienced medical personnel from Peak Safety
  • Timing and results
  • Finish line refreshments
  • Manned water and supply stations along the route 

Booking and Payment

The booking of a trip is binding for both customer and travel agency once the deposit (25% of the total trip price) has been paid at the time of booking on the website. The remaining amount, 75% of the total trip price, will be charged to the customer’s payment card as provided by the customer, 75 days before trip departure. Bookings made later than 75 days prior will require full payment immediately.

The email sent to the customer upon booking a trip acts as the booking confirmation. It is therefore of vital importance that the customer provides a valid email address.

Refer to our Terms & Conditions for further information.

Important Info

Questions about New Zealand?

For information on visas, currency, electricity, and more, please check our Destination Guide page.

For information on weather and clothing, please check the our Climate & Weather page. 

If you're curious about the destinations that we'll be visiting or other background information on Aotearoa New Zealand, you can read all about it on our Travel Destination page. 

Registration closed