The region surrounding Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island is not only the first part of New Zealand to see the sun rise, it's also where many explorers initially made landfall: Captain Cook arrived in 1769, preceded by the Polynesians, who had come centuries earlier via canoe. Some descendants of those Polynesians still live here—nearly half of Gisborne's population is Māori (compared to 15 percent for the country as a whole). There are a number of beautifully carved and painted meetinghouses in the area (like the one seen here), while the Tairawhiti Museum provides a deeper introduction to Māori culture. Its collection covers the long history of Gisborne, with artifacts, photographs and everyday objects from the past presented alongside contemporary art exhibitions. The focus is not solely on the Māori, however. Museum admission includes the 1886 Wyllie Cottage, renovated with close attention to every detail down to period paint colors so that visitors can get a true feel for life in Victorian New Zealand, and the Te Moana Maritime Museum, where they can board the Star of Canada, a restored 1909 cargo steamer.