Rere Falls Trail
Be Set Free
- New Zealand Cycle Trail 'Heartland Ride' linking to Motu Trails
- Grade: intermediate/3
- Gisborne-Matawai is 100km
- Roads are open to traffic but mostly quiet, with 27km of gravel road
- Time to ride: from five hours to three days
- Start options: Gisborne, Matawhero, Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Te Wera road, Matawai, Motu
- Guided and self-guided tours available
- Mobile coverage is patchy, you are advised to take basic tools and safety gear
- There are no shops between Ngatapa and Matawai.
The Rere Falls Trail takes you between Gisborne and Matawai, where you can link Motu Trails. This is an impressive ride through heartland New Zealand, featuring Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Rere Falls, Rere Rockslide, and Gisborne vineyards.
This ride is mapped on the Great Rides App.
Rere Falls Trail is all on-road. You can ride a mountain bike, gravel bike, or touring bike with robust tyres. Many sections, such as between Gisborne and Eastwoodhill, you can ride on a road bike.
You can ride in either direction. The following describes a ride starting from Gisborne and finishing at Matawai.
In Gisborne, a great place to stay is Portside Hotel, they're a Motu Trails official partner and in the heart of the town.
You ride across the Tairawhiti plains, home to quality vineyards and wineries. About 35km from Gisborne, Eastwoodhill Arboretum is the National Arboretum of New Zealand and has a stunning display of exotic and native trees, across 135 hectares, with many kilometres of walking trail.
Eastwoodhill has accommodation and is a popular place to stay. They offer catering for groups on arrangement.
Riding on, you pass the spectacular Rere Falls (free entry), and 2km further, Rere Rockslide, where you can slide down a 60m-long natural slope (free of charge but you need something to slide on and are responsible for your own safety).
The road is sealed from Gisborne and beyond Eastwoodhill to Rere Rockslide. Six kilometres inland from the rockslide the gravel starts, and there's the longest hill of the journey, Wharekopae hill. (Riding from Matawai direction, it's a big descent.) The hill is over 4km long and tops out at about 500m altitude, with great views.
Wharekopae to Matawai is about 40km. You’re riding over rolling high country, mostly sheep farmland but also through pockets of forest. Both directions, there are several climbs of 1-2km long.
Great accommodation on this section is Te Wera Homestead, which is on Te Wera Station, about half way between Eastwoodhill and Matawai. Te Wera Homestead is by the junction with Rakaroa road.
Altogether there is 27km of gravel road on Rere Falls Trail. Seal resumes on Te Wera road, 7km from the intersection with State Highway 2.
From the intersection of Te Wera road/SH2 it is 7km to Matawai. Take care as this road can be busy and is narrow. Ride single file.
At Matawai, stay in a cabin, camp, or simply grab a coffee, at Matawai Camp and Store.
By linking Rere Falls Trail with the Motu Road Trail, you can create a stunning 180km (approx) 'Coast to Coast' ride, Gisborne-Opotiki. It is a brilliant crossing, with some sections very little changed in 100 years.
One option is to create a big loop by adding Whakarau Road, from near Motu down towards Gisborne. Whakarau road is gravel and very hilly.
Excellent guided and self-guided tours are available with Cycle Gisborne. These tours suit all fitness levels and range from just a few kilometres all the way to multi-day experiences.
Accommodation close to the trail
Motu Community House (on Motu Road Trail)
The roads mostly date back to about 1910-1930, before the current SH2 route existed. They accessed farming settlements.
Eastwoodhill Arboretum was born out of the inspiration of Douglas Cook, who first settled in the Ngatapa Valley in 1910. Following WWI, Cook acquired a large area of land by ballot. He set about planting the largely-bare land with trees and shrubs from New Zealand and England.
As the Cold War years brought the threat of widespread nuclear devastation, Cook looked to the preservation of species by planting more northern hemisphere trees. Today, with climate change, the threats have shifted, but the benefit is the same.
In 1965, Bill Williams purchased the property. A decade later, Williams established the land as a trust, effectively gifting Eastwoodhill to all New Zealanders. Today, Eastwoodhill Arboretum is recognized as one of the most significant arboretums in the world.