Discover Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Gisborne

Eastwoodhill Arboretum is the National Arboretum of New Zealand.

It's no wonder that Eastwoodhill Arboretum is the national arboretum of New Zealand.

The arboretum is in a stunning location, around 30km from Gisborne. It has 131 hectares of exotic and native trees, shrubs and climbers. The restful, rolling expanse includes over 3500 northern hemisphere tree species, making it the southern hemisphere’s largest collection.

There are around 85 Pinus species alone. In autumn, the arboretum is ablaze with colour.

Eastwoodhill has a 100-year-plan developed a few years back by top US landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz. The vision revolves around the concept of Eastwoodhill being an arboreal ark — substantiated by the fact that New Zealand is to a degree buffered from tree diseases and other environmental challenges that face today’s world.

One of the arboretum’s established features is the old cathedral, planted in the 1930s. While in size it’s really more of a church than a cathedral, it’s still impressive, rows of tightly packed Eucalyptus regnans and Lawson cypress soaring up to a far sky.

But Eastwoodhill also makes an impression with the smaller things: a tree full of brightly coloured bird boxes; directional arrows cut from rounds of timber; a stone dragon; a wooden lion; a pear tree laden with fruit; paths twisting beyond view; planting that is neat in some areas, haphazard in others.

Character comes from a mix of order and random, linear and haphazard. Eastwoodhill might be an arboreal ark of global significance, but it has a sense of freedom. A dash of quirkiness.

Eastwoodhill sits on Wharekopae Road, which is part of what’s now termed the Rere Falls Trail, part of The New Zealand Cycle Trail. The trail is an on-road cycle route stretching from Gisborne to Matawai, from where riders can connect with the Motu Trails Great Ride to Opotiki. As such Rere Falls Trail forms part of a coast-to-coast crossing of the Eastland interior.

If you’re less energetic, you can drive all of the Rere Falls Trail, so long as you’re comfortable with roads that are in part unsealed and mostly winding.

The road from Gisborne to Eastwoodhill is all sealed, well formed and clearly signed. A dozen kilometres inland from Eastwoodhill you’ll find Rere Falls, and 2.5km beyond that, Rere Rockslide.

A wonderful destination in a superb part of the country.

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