Puhi Kai Iti/Cook Landing site - view from entrance
Image: Jamie Quirk | DOC


Captain Cook landed in Aotearoa and changed the course of history for Māori forever. Visit the site where the first European set foot on New Zealand soil.

Te Ikaroa sculpture
Image: Jamie Quirk | DOC

Puhi Kai Iti/Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve commemorates the first landing place of James Cook in New Zealand in 1769. The site is believed to be within a short distance of the actual landing site, and not far from Te Toka a Taiau where the first significant meeting between Māori and Europeans took place.

The landing site has changed a great deal since that time. It is now situated beside Rakaiatane Road, on an area of reclaimed land close to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The old shoreline is marked with dark tiles.

First arrivals

The site was the first landing place of the Horouta and Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru waka (canoes) which carried Māori to the district. It was also where Cook first set foot on New Zealand soil.

Cook's first voyage to New Zealand

Cook set sail from Plymouth, England in August 1768 on the Endeavour. After sailing to Tahiti to record the transit of Venus across the sun, he started on his next mission – to continue south looking for a large landmass or continent.

On 6 October 1769, Nicholas Young, who was sitting on the masthead, sighted land. It is now thought likely that the land he first saw was the peak of Mount Arowhana, rather than the southern headland of Tūranginui-a-Iwi/Poverty Bay, which Cook named Young Nick’s Head.

Cook's first landing

On 8 October 1769, Cook and his party made their historic landing in New Zealand. Local Māori were mystified by what they saw. They thought the Endeavour was an enormous bird with wings of great size and beauty – the longboats were smaller birds – while Cook and his men were atua (gods).

Cook was eager to make friendly contact with the Māori people. However, a series of unfortunate encounters, both on the day of the landing and the next day, resulted in the deaths of several Māori.

The following day Cook took his leave and the Endeavour headed south. Initially, Cook had planned to call the bay he landed in, Endeavour Bay, but instead, he named it Poverty Bay “because it afforded us no one thing we wanted”.

DOC's work

When DOC was given responsibility for Puhi Kai Iti/Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve in 1990, the site was barely more than a paddock. Since that time DOC has completed many projects to ensure that the site's historical significance is honoured:

  • Development of the Banks Garden which includes representatives of many types of plants that Joseph Banks (the Endeavour's botanist) collected in the East Coast.
  • Interpretation relating to the centenary of the unveiling of the Cook Memorial.

Getting there

Puhi Kai Iti/Cook Landing National Historic Reserve | See larger (JPEG, 290K)

Puhi Kai Iti/Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve is located about 1.4 km down Kaiti Beach Road (off Wainui Road) in central Gisborne.

You can follow Cook's journey around the East Cape by visiting:

  • Anaura Bay – an hour north of Gisborne. A Historic Places Trust plaque beside Hawai Stream marks Cook's second landing site in New Zealand.
  • Cook's Cove Walkway - 2km south of Tolaga Bay. Cook stayed here for several days to repair the Endeavour and replenish his supplies before heading north to Mercury Bay. There is a walkway between Cook's Cove and Tolaga Bay, and about 3 hours should be allocated to take in the fantastic scenery (return trip).

You can also follow the Tupapa Heritage Trail using the Tupapa app. The trail visits locations across the waterfront through the eyes of the first people to live there.

Further reading

Beaglehole JC. (1968) The Voyage of the Endeavour, 1768 - 1771 (Cambridge University Press).
Gisborne District Council. (1994) Turanganui a Kiwa: Landfall (Logan Print, Gisborne).
Mackay JG. (1949) Historic Poverty Bay, Gisborne. 
Kerekere-Smiler K. (1996) Historical Address of the Arrival in 1769 of the Endeavour to Turanganui-a-Kiwa.
Salmond A. (1991) Two Worlds (Penguin).
Salmond A. (2003) The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook's Encounters in the South Seas (Penguin).

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