The Council purchased the gully and its dense stand of mature trees in 1967. The reserve is named after Austrian-born botanist and horticulturist F.W.C. Sturm, who established a plant nursery here in about 1865.
Sturm grew fruit trees, berries and vines and built stone retaining walls in the gully. Early Napier residents enjoyed the area as a picnic spot, and bathed at the sandy beach that was at the foot of the hill.
Walking tracks lead from entrances on Lighthouse and Hornsey roads to link up with the Bluff Hill Lookout.
In 1997, all the elm trees in the gully had to be removed to contain an outbreak of Dutch Elm Disease.
Early plans of Napier show this area as a signal and lighthouse reserve. The army occupied the hilltop during World War 11. In 1957 control of the reserve passed over to the Council and the concrete gun emplacements became the foundation for the Lookout.
Much of Hawke's Bay can be seen from this vantage point, from the Ruahine Range to the hills beyond Wairoa, and the sweep of the bay from Mahia Peninsula to Cape Kidnappers.
Captain James Cook sailed along this coast and on 15 October 1769 he recorded "Bluff Head" in his ship's log. The British navigator and explorer named many local geographical features including Hawke Bay, Cape Kidnappers and Portland Island.
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