1-2 km
Up to 60 min
No cycling on this trail
No dogs on this trail
Information for this trail was last updated January 2024

The tall kahikatea-puriri forest of Gray’s Bush Scenic Reserve is one of Gisborne’s most popular short-walk destinations. A spacious car park provides for many visitors, and within the reserve is a small, level forest track  and a specific wheelchair track. The reserve is one of the few forested areas remaining on the Gisborne plains, a precious and unique remnant of tall kahikatea (podocarp) forest. The reserve has been fenced to exclude stock for sixty years and now has a dense understorey of regenerating native trees. The possum population is kept to low numbers by the Department of Conservation and local Forest and Bird Branch volunteers maintain the pest traps.

Accessible to all and suitable for all ages and fitness levels, it's perfect for those interested in birdlife and/or vegetation.


Trail fly-through

History of the trail

Charles Gray bought this land as part of his farm, Waiohika, in 1877. In 1926, eight years after Gray’s death, the trustees of his estate offered the bush area to the Crown as a reserve. The reserve was managed by various domain boards until 1979 when it was vested in the Department of Lands and Survey and reclassified as a scenic reserve. It is currently managed by DOC.

Waiohika was also part of the original Whataupoko block and at one stage comprised 3000 acres. The name means the place where Maori chief Hika drew his water. The property was sold to Charles Gray and sections were sold off.  After his death in 1918, Gray’s widow Emily gave a free hand to architect J Louis Hay to design a house suitable for her, two adult children as well as maids, a cook and a gardener. Waiohika, the name of the house, is notable for its size and Louis Hay’s Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design.  

Built in 1926, Waiohika is a two-storeyed house comprising 550 square metres (5900 sq ft). The Grays retained ownership until 1948. Several owners later, Waiohika was sold in 1981 to Dean and Lesley Witters. The farm and vineyard has been home to the nationally successful Rhythm & Vines since 2003.

This small but significant remnant of tall kahikatea (podocarp) and puriri forest is almost all that remains of the tall forest that once covered much of the Gisborne plains, until cleared and drained for farming and agriculture. 

Broadleaved trees such as pukatea, mahoe and tawa, with occasional kohekohe and rare matai, make this a valuable and diverse forest remnant. Most of the taller kahikatea in Gray's Bush are between 400 and 500 years old. The forest is well-preserved with some individual trees reaching heights of up to 40 metres. 

The reserve also provides a nesting, resting and feeding habitat for native and introduced bird species, including bellbird, fantail, goldfinch, harrier hawk, kingfisher, magpie, pheasant, pipit, redpoll, silver eye, skylark, sparrow, thrush, tui, grey warbler, shining cuckoo and blackbird.

Kereru (native wood pigeon) and the rare North Island kaka are seasonal visitors too.

Tips & Logistics

  • Close to Gisborne city (10 km).
  • Easy, flat ground – no hills or steps.
  • Access for wheelchairs and buggies.
  • Spacious car park.
  • Walks from 15 min to 1 hr at a leisurely pace.
  • Informative, engaging interpretation signs within the reserve.
  • A Toyota Kiwi Guardians adventure site

View the DoC brochure