When HMS Endeavour appeared in Poverty Bay in October 1769, the course of New Zealand history changed forever.
Located on Kaiti Beach Road in Gisborne, the Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve marks the place where James Cook first set foot on New Zealand soil. The area has since been reclaimed, but the old shore line is visible as a noticeable dip in the ground in front of the obelisk.
Lieutenant James Cook was offered the command of HMS Endeavour by the British Admiralty in 1768, to undertake a voyage of discovery in the South Pacific. After leaving Tahiti he followed sealed orders to find a 'Continent or land of great extent'. At the time, common belief held that a great southern land must exist to balance the land masses in the northern hemisphere.
In early October 1769, Cook and his crew reached a southern land that was new to them. For the Europeans, the initial discovery of the east coast of New Zealand was cause for celebration. For the Māori people it was a time of astonishment and fear.
Nicholas Young, the surgeon's boy, was first to see land. The Poverty Bay headland Te Kurī a Pāoa was named Young Nick's Head by Cook in memory of the event, although this is unlikely to have been the first piece of land sighted.
The site of Cook's first New Zealand landfall is also believed to be the landing place of the Horouta and Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru waka (canoes), which carried Māori settlers to the district around 1350AD.