Arboretum, Rockslides, Waterfalls and Wine: Just Another Day in Gisborne

We have another super packed day in Gisborne so let’s get straight into it! Boom!

After a quick breakfast in our accommodation, YHA Gisborne, we leave the city and head up Wharekopae Road. This is a road well worth road tripping on. Not only are we going to be checking out New Zealand’s national arboretum, but we are going to be making use of the natural wonders of the “Rere Rockslides”. Plus, we’ll be visiting a waterfall along the way.

Discovering the Eastwoodhill Arboretum

About 23km down Wharekopae Road, we find the entrance into Eastwoodhill Arboretum. 131 hectares of native and exotic tree plantings occupy this land making it the largest collection of Northern Hemisphere trees planted in the Southern Hemisphere. Now how about that as a claim to fame!

Although we we have a curator tour around the arboretum starting at 10am, we arrive a little earlier. (We are always way too keen). We notice that the Discovery Centre is open – yes, one of those places for children to learn – but to be honest, we have a lot of fun using their microscope! Once we have looked at insects under the microscope, we move onto looking at how dirty our hands and nose are.

The curator tour

Thankfully, our curator tour guide, Dan, arrives to relieve us of things getting too nonsensical at the microscope. Outside the Discovery Centre is an open-top Jeep with an open-top trailer ready to take us on an arboretum adventure. We are joined in the Jeep by about 13 others on a tour with Gisborne Tours.

Here come the Eastwoodhill Arboretum curator tour crew! Here come the Eastwoodhill Arboretum curator tour crew!
This fantail is so close it is almost jumping on us This fantail is so close it is almost jumping on us
A sassy wood pigeon helping itself to some water A sassy wood pigeon helping itself to some water
Robin going in for a involuntary side spin on the Rere Rockslide Robin going in for a involuntary side spin on the Rere Rockslide

An unusual mix of the exotic and the native

Speakers are set up alongside the Jeep and trailer so everyone can hear Dan on the mic. He starts off by telling us the history of the arboretum where plantings first occurred in 1910 by the landowner, Douglas Cook. Dan then goes on to tell us about the small team behind maintaining the arboretum, before we start to reach some noteworthy plantings. Trees with unusual bark from China, from Mexico, and more stand out. There are even trees that we recognise from our home countries, like oak and chestnut trees, mixed with the likes of nikau palms – a native tree species. There really is such a weird and wild mix of trees, it’s very unlikely that we’ll ever see a forest like this again!

We learn about trees from Florida which have roots growing above the surface of swamp lands to breathe, as well as seeing the first of the autumn colours. If we were here a month later, this place would look like a wonderland of browns, reds and yellows.

Fantail and wood pigeon encounters

Where there are trees in New Zealand, it often means there are birds and Eastwoodhill is no exception. As we drive along on the arboretum tour, we see heaps of fantails moving erratically from branch to branch, their fan tails allowing them to take a u-turn a lot more frequently and sharply than your average bird. Once the tour has finished, one fantail in particular is following us around literally leaving mere inches between us. As much as we would like to say it is because we are the bird whisperers, really, the fantail is just looking for the insects we have up-turned in the soil… Hanging outside the visitor centre, we are also closely joined by a wood pigeon, New Zealand’s large native pigeon with green feathers rather than grey.

Touring around the beautiful Eastwoodhill Arboretum

Next stop, Rere Rockslides

Although we find we could literally spend a whole day or two at Eastwoodhill with all its walking tracks and even backpacker accommodation, we have a date with the Rere Rockslides that just can’t wait! When we tell this to the tour guide of Gisborne Tours, he kindly lends us a body board to go down the natural waterslide with – it saves us from destroying our camping air-bed at least. Now we are fully equipped, we head an extra few kilometres down Wharekopae Road to the Rere Rockslides.

The Happiest place in New Zealand

Could the Rere Rockslides be the happiest place in New Zealand? Although there are about four different groups of families and travellers here, everyone is keen to slide down this 60-metres natural waterslide together, walking back up the flat rocky slope with huge smiles on their face. Soon enough, we are in the same state too.

An adrenaline-pumping waterslide!

Stripped down to our togs (swimwear in Kiwi language), we are a little apprehensive that the river water is going to be freezing, but we are still determined to give the waterslide a try. With a long line of Kiwi kids, backpackers from Germany, and us, we shout: “3… 2… 1… GO!” The more you launch yourself from the top of the rockslide the faster you go. A few indents in the rockslide make for a bit of a bumpy ride but the really shocker comes when you hit the still pool of water at the bottom of the rockslide. Go too slow, and you’ll end up in a splashy heap. Go too fast, and you’ll shoot right across the pool! With the madness that just occurred, we don’t even feel how cold the water is.

The super stunning Rere Falls The super stunning Rere Falls
Bobby gives us the lowdown on Gisborne wines Bobby gives us the lowdown on Gisborne wines
There's nothing like wine-tasting with a view There's nothing like wine-tasting with a view

A quick visit to the majestic rere Falls

It’s hard to know when to stop sliding down nature’s playground, but with a wine tasting to get to late this afternoon, we decide to morph into more civilised adults in preparation. We hand the body board back to Gisborne Tours and make our way back to Gisborne. One the way, we quickly stop at the beautiful Rere Falls, a wide and freakishly even long-drop waterfall that is impossible to take a bad photo off. Now, we really need to get back to Gisborne.

Wine tasting at the Gisborne Wine Centre

We park up at the Esplanade at the Gisborne Wine Centre. We walk into this swish-looking bar with floor-to-ceiling windows to give punters a view of the harbour. We are joined by Bobby, who is going to be doing a wine tasting with us. Unlike wine tastings in specific wineries and vineyards, a wine tasting in the Gisborne Wine Centre is a lot more relaxed. We are just talking to a guy who knows a thing or two about wines, and you know what, we actually learn a lot! Instead of just learning about one wine-maker, we are learning about the wine produced in Gisborne as a whole. Not only that, but we learn a bit more about our own palette for wine-tasting – that’s the benefit of having a small group wine-tasting compared to joining a large winery tour.

A journey of self-discovery

Out of the nine different wines we try, we actually get a better understanding of what our own tastes are when it comes to buying wine in the future. You know how it is, as a young backpacker, you’re wine-buying choices have always been about getting the cheapest thing that will get you the drunk faster. But,you know, a gap year is all about discovering yourself and growing the hell up, so we really did learn something about ourselves today… And because it’s to do with wine, we feel a bit more sophisticated. Score!

On the subject of discovery, join us tomorrow where we will be heading on a city cycle tour, learning about the history of the British’s first encounter with New Zealand, as well as the Maori history of Gisborne!

Laura and Robin

Now, that is one epic waterslide!
Now, that is one epic waterslide! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Have you read the yesterday’s post about surfing with Frank, checking out the Tairawhiti Museum, and tasting craft beer in Gisborne? How about these articles:

Until tomorrow’s blog post, check us out on the HerePin app to meet other travellers in your area. We also post travel tips for New Zealand on Facebook, as well as our adventure on Instagram. Join the Facebook Group to find people to travel with, ask us questions, and buy/sell.

See you tomorrow!

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