South Island meanderings…February 2017 (Part 2) Motueka – Takaka – Collingwood – Farewell Spit -Collingwood

16 Feb – Drove back over the Takaka Hill today. We have not finished exploring the Golden Bay area but we have a couple of appointments back in Motueka and Nelson so we’re doing a ‘back-peddle’ and will come back again afterwards so we can do the area justice without having to rush.

In Motueka we had arranged to have a Club Self Containment Officer give our Motorhome an inspection to renew our Certified Self Contained status for another 4 years.  We actually had four people pouring over us – three were in-training as they were getting qualified so they can be operational for the forthcoming NZMCA Annual AGM/Rally in Nelson.  They all agreed that we passed with flying colours so now we just have to wait for the actual certificate and windscreen card to catch up with us in the mail.  If any curious Inspectors query our ‘expired’ card in the meantime we will have to refer them to the NZMCA Office to confirm we are all OK.

That done we drove back to the Moss Reserve on the Riwaka Resurgence Road for a couple of nights and then returned to Motueka Domain for two more.  It really is a small world when we joined a couple of ‘neighbours’ for happy hour and found ourselves re-united with a couple we’d met while visiting Castlepoint in July 2015.

We then had to go into Nelson for our next appointment so we just drove there and back on the same day.  We did do a walk down the main street and visited a couple of stores but didn’t linger too long…the place was crazy busy with motorhomes as they were arriving for the Club Rally in a few days.  We were actually back at Motueka by lunchtime.  For a change we parked up at the Motueka Wharf and were entertained by the various boats ‘to-ing and fro-ing’.

Well named fishing boat!

And next morning this visitor surprised us…looks like a passenger was picked up at the ramp area and then it chugged back past us again and took off along the estuary.


21 Feb – We were off back over the Takaka Hill for the third time.  We didn’t stop anywhere this time as we’d “been there, done that”.  On the other side we decided to drive up the Cobb Dam Road to check out a free camp along the Takaka riverside.  It was quite a nice area so we parked up for lunch which stretched out to an overnight stay.  River area would be good for a swim but not for us ‘chickens’ for three reasons…too cold, millions of voracious sandflies and swarming bees!

Takaka River

We would have liked to carry on up to the Cobb Dam, however, from reading other motorhomer’s accounts of the road we decided not to attempt it.  Side mirrors scraping the embankment on one side while overhanging a sheer drop-off on the other side did not sound like my kind of ‘adventure’ at all!!!.  Thankfully Neville agreed in the end (he must have seen the look of anticipated terror in my eyes)!

So it was onward to Takaka again for another stopover at the Tarakohe Wharf. We spent some of the day exploring another interesting rock formation area called The Labyrinth.  It was certainly like a maze with little pathways going every-which way and dead-ends just to confuse.

Unusual rock wall separating Reserve from house garden behind it.

The area is obviously enjoyed by family groups and all along the way people have left little toys, gnomes and figurines in the rock clefts – no doubt kids would have a lot of fun searching them out.


Wow! A giant gnome!

Sunset was quite awesome that night at the Tarakohe Wharf.

And the morning view was pretty special too.

23 Feb – time to head towards Collingwood so set off in the morning but exploring all the side roads to beach settlements along the way.

First stop was Waitapu – followed the road to its end at the Waitapu Wharf.  A few boats tied up and a building for processing paddle crabs (all quiet today so probably a seasonal thing).

Waitapu Wharf
Beach house?

Next place – Rangihaeata not touristy as the road abruptly ends at a rough path to the beach.  Nice houses though dotted along the road overlooking the sea with lovely views.

Patons Rock was a nicer area with a Public Domain at the beach and lots of parking.

Then Parapara at the end of a picturesque estuary – went for a short walk along the Esplanade to check out the beach.

Parapara Beach
Little fishies

Onward around the Estuary to Milnethorpe at the Estuary entrance. Can freedom camp there and it’s beside a plantation area with walking tracks all through it.

We walked across a small concrete causeway (that looks like it’s covered at high tide) to a sandy hill to get a better view of the Estuary.  Watched some little fish in the clear water.. hmmm big whitebait maybe?

We didn’t linger long as we wanted to carry on to Collingwood, but we vowed to visit again on our return journey and go for a walk in the Plantation area.

Estuary entrance

Not much in the way of free camping spots in Collingwood so we decided to carry on north to Pakawau where NZMCA members can stay overnight at the Old School House Cafe.   We’d heard good reports about the Cafe meals so tried them out that evening and we were not disappointed…the food was great!  Reasonable price and of a standard you’d see in a top-notch city restaurant.  And it wasn’t far to head for bed after a couple of ‘vinos’.

Next morning we happened to wake early so we wandered across the road to have a look at the sunrise.

After breakfast we headed out to carry on to Puponga and the Farm Park where the walks along Farewell Spit start.  We decided we wouldn’t do the Vehicle Tour right up to the end of the Spit as we did that some years ago and set off instead to walk across the farm at the base of the Spit to Fossil Point Beach.

Arriving at Fossil Bay Beach

We walked along the beach towards Fossil Point but couldn’t get all the way there as the tide was still too far in and the access blocked.  However, we did do some searching around the mudstone cliff edge along the beach and found a couple of really good fossils embedded on the rocks.

Unusual fossil of what ???
Shell Fossil
Black Rocks

We spent about an hour on the beach before heading back.  At the entrance to the track there was an outcrop of black rocks that seemed out-of-place with the rest of the surroundings.

Also found this tree as we walked back across the Farm Park – looks like someone with a chainsaw had a sense of humour.  We didn’t notice it walking from the other direction.

Back at the van we contemplated the other walks in the area and decided to head back to Puponga and across to the other coast at Wharariki Beach.

Stopped along the way to walk to see Cape Farewell – a 10 min walk from the carpark.  What an awesome viewpoint from the top of the cliffs.

Cape Farewell
Praying to the sun

A few seals on the rocks below and the waves swirling in with neat foam patterns.

Foam patterns


We walked a little further following a section of the Hilltop Walk to a viewing point overlooking Pillar Point (that we saw from Fossil Point Beach earlier).

Pillar Point and Fossil Point Beach

The Hilltop Walk continues on to a lighthouse at Pillar Point but we decided we didn’t have the time to go there today so we retraced our steps back to the van.

View along walkway
Looking over the cliff edge
These sheep were not going to budge from their shady spot

We drove on to the DOC camp area where the Wharariki Beach walkways start.  We opted to do a longer walk to the beach by following part of the Green Hills Walk which took us through the farm park and past two little lakes.

Dune Lake
Looking back over Dune Lake
Nikau Lake (almost overgrown)

At the end of the farm we walked through a nikau forest to arrive at the southern end of the beach.  Just offshore, at the northern end of the beach are the renowned Archway Islands.

First view of the Archway Islands
Arriving at the beach

We’d fluked the tide just right as there are massive pillars, rock caves and tunnels to explore and we wouldn’t have been able to walk along the beach either at high tide (and we’d have been really pipped-off if we’d had to return way we came!).

Pillars and caves
Huge rock bridge
Another arch forming
Sea cave
More caves (check our the size of the people at the entrance)

Continued along the beach to the Archway Islands which were even more impressive closer up.

Walking towards the Islands
First Arch
Second Arch

We spied a lot of people congregating on some rocks at the northern end of the beach so went to investigate and found they were crowding around a clear pool where around 20 baby seals were ‘performing’ to the delighted audience.

Seal pup pool
Where’s Mum
Dive, dive, dive!
Drying out

They were certainly not shy and at one stage I saw one of the pups climb out onto a rock to approach a girl sitting there to investigate and sniff her outstretched hand. Further back under the shaded rocks the mother seals were keeping out-of-the-way and catching some Zzzzz’s.  It was hard to get great photos as the babies were zipping around in the water so fast and the ones on the sand were busy chasing one another.

We sat on the rock for about 30 mins watching their antics before reluctantly heading off.

Again we were lucky that it was low tide otherwise these rocks and the pool would have been flooded and the seals elsewhere.  When we’d looked up the walks in the pamphlet we hadn’t seen the reference to the beach walk being accessible only if the tide was right.

The track back was a hot trudge up and across soft, shifting sand hills.  We were also lucky that the day was hot, sunny and windless….reading reviews of the walk later that night, many of them referred to vicious winds whipping along the coast here and people getting totally chilled and sandblasted!

Wharariki Stream pooling behind the dunes

Back at the carpark we decided it was too late in the day to do any more walks so headed back towards Puponga.  On the way we passed a signpost pointing towards “Old Man Rock” so stopped for a photo…at least it was obvious which rock they meant without having to use too much imagination.

Old Man Rock

Then headed out of the area and started searching for a place to park overnight.  We ended up in a layby we’d spotted as we drove north that morning.  It was basically a carpark on the shore and by nightfall we shared the space with 8 other vehicles who also figured it was a good place to stop.

25 Feb – thought we’d add some more dirt and dust on the motorhome by driving around the Whanganui Inlet to Anatori River at the end of the road.  Turned west just past Seaford along the Pakawau Bush Road and then southward on Dry Road (read that as ‘very dusty’ road).   We were expecting the road surface to be rough and corrugated but it must have been graded recently so it was actually a pretty smooth run most of the way.  It was an interesting drive with nice views across the water and crossing over several causeways where the road passes over arms of the Inlet.

Whanganui Inlet view
One of the many Causeways

As we got near to the small settlement of Mangarakau there was a line of tall cliff faces on the seaward side – they reminded us of the Blue Mountains in Australia.

Impressive cliffs

Arrived at Patarau River and more scenic views of imposing cliffs and the river.

Paterau River

Cliffs overlooking Paterau River

There’s a private camping ground there owned by the local farmer.  It’s obviously popular as it was very busy – we could have squeezed in but decided to carry on and stay there on our return trip instead.

We crossed over the river bridge and from this point onward the road passed through farmland with gates to open along the way and the surface became rougher.  We mainly had to watch out for potholes but overall it wasn’t too bad (we’ve been on worse for sure).

Across another little bridge we arrived at a parking area for the Lake Otuhie Walkway.  We decided to do it then, seeing as the weather was good.  We soon found that the track is not being maintained…overgrown and in places we had to climb around detours and cross over slips of shifting sand that were quite difficult to negotiate (I was sure I was going to end up in the stream below).

Walkway sets off along grass area on right
One of the sand slips (it doesn’t look so steep in the photo though)

We then came to a spot where the track meant us to paddle across the stream but to keep our shoes dry we opted for the detour across a farm bridge further on.  Well that was a mistake…the track was unclear and around 20 mins later, when we did spy the bridge, it was separated from us by a swamp or a scramble over a big hill.  The orange track markers had completely disappeared and when Neville checked our location on his phone GPS that confirmed we were way off course so…back we went to the ford and got our shoes and socks wet anyway.

But we had orange markers again which took us around the perimeter of a large field, following a stream towards a gully between two large cliff faces.

Crossing the field (vapour trails above)
Into the gully

Eventually we got to the start of the Conservation Land around the lake and saw a sign stating that the track was not maintained from that point!! Great…so instead of a sketchy track, we now had no track!  We scrambled through the undergrowth along the base of the cliff but the going was very slow as our feet kept toppling on hidden rocks and holes in the ground…oh well…we’ve come this far…where is the damned lake??

First view of the lake

We persevered until we got to the point where we could just see where the lake curled around the corner, then beat a relieved retreat.

Turning point

Some pretty views on the way back.  Climbed under a huge overhanging cliff overlooking the end of the lake.  The water must be quite shallow on this arm as the colour of the water was a brownish red.

Following the creek back which is the outflow from the lake

Overall the walk took us around 2½ hours…the signboard says it’s a 30 min walk one way…yeah right!  DOC needs to go in with an army of people with slashers before that would be achievable.  Can’t see that happening though so sadly the track is just going to deteriorate to the point that it will disappear altogether, especially when it reaches the lake edge.

Back at the van we had a very late lunch then continued along the road to Anatori.  There are two camping areas, we decided to stop along the riverbank overlooking the big ford across the river (the road is 4WD vehicles only from this point onward down the coast).  This camp was deserted but apparently it’s ‘grand central’ during whitebaiting season and you have to watch the weather as it is prone to flooding.

Anatori cliffs

Road on the other side of the ford
4WD fording Anatori River

Next morning we went for a walk back up the carpark and along a little road upstream.  The road then began crossing the river so we followed suit to see where it led.

Walking upstream

After 4 crossings we could see an old farm house that looked deserted so we went to have a look.  There were old gardens and trees still flowering, fences were intact and the house still looked habitable so we didn’t get too close.

Nearby, across the river we spotted a “Riparian Rites – No Access” sign. Whatever…it had been drizzling for a while so heading back to camp to dry out was a much better option than venturing any further anyway.

End of the track

Later in the afternoon it had cleared up again so went for another walk – we crossed the river beside the ford – water was knee-deep this time and flowing quite swiftly.

Other side of river

Walked up the road to a nice lookout over the inlet and beach. We could see the other camping area across the river – only one person camped there.  Raised above the river more, it would be a better place to be if the river was flooded.

Some nice ‘baches’ on other side of river
Other camping area
Lookout view of river outlet

Then strolled southwards along the beach.

Heading up the beach
Plenty of salt spray

Cool rock formations uncovered by the low tide.  The rocks were in long straight lines and as the waves came in they motored up the channels either side of you which was a bit disconcerting as you wondered if you were going to get a wetting.

The seaward edge was a mass of kelp that was surging with the waves like an army of angry triffids.  

Other rocks were worn into amazing shapes.   It was an interesting beach walk.

Back to the rivermouth – which was littered with mountains of driftwood and against the cliffside there were deeper pools that looked like they would be popular for swimming.  We went back to the ford area to cross back over to camp…no excess bare skin for us…the sandfies here would have eaten us alive!

Driftwood dump
River pools

27 Feb – moving on again…back along Cowin Road to Patarau River.  Stopped to view where Sandhills Creek (that Lake Otuhie drains into) meets the sea.

Sandhills Creek
Outlet to the sea

We arrived at the private camping area we’d passed on our way in.  All the campers have moved out so it was deserted again.  No difficulty in finding a level spot.

More salt spray

Looking around the camp in the afternoon we found a couple of historic markers relating to the area.

It was low tide again so we paddled across the Patarau River to look upstream at the small estuary and bridge area.

Patarau River bridge

Then back towards the sea to cross the river lower down and and returned to camp.

Downstream to the sea

We were hoping a car with 2 guys and a girl that had driven in earlier had packed up and left by then but no such luck.  They had parked within 2 metres of us (rest of the camp completely empty still) and proceeded to spread their belongings all over the place.   The boys went surfing and on their return the three of them sat around sharing a ‘joint’ and had obviously decided to stop the night despite the signs saying ‘self-contained’ only.

They were ‘European’ and had been treating us with nude bodies and peeing everywhere with abandon…but we had to laugh when the girl trotted off with a loo roll under her arm and crouched behind a nearby bush.  A man we’d seen across the river, rowed over in a small boat and came charging over to read them the ‘riot act’.

Turned out he was the farmer and owner of the property, he’d been observing their un-sanitary habits and basically booted them out.  The trio sure got a big surprise – they tried to deny it but he’d caught the girl ‘red handed’ so to speak!! So they packed up and headed off!  We had a nice quiet night all on our own-some after all.

Next day we headed out back along the Whanganui Inlet, back over the causeways and stopped to take a photo looking back a the old Mangarakau Wharf.

Causeway crossing

When we got to the end of Dry Road we turned left to drive around the northern end of the Inlet to go and see the Kaihoka Lakes.

View of Inlet along Kaihoka Lakes Road

We were glad it wasn’t a popular spot as there was only one place to park a truck of our size and luckily it was empty. The first lake was visible from the road and a short path took us to a picnic area where a raft was tied up at the shore

View over the first lake

The walkway then followed around the northern end of the first lake and through a pretty nikau forest to emerge at the shore of the second lake.

Second lake

The track ended a short way further along at a notice advising that the public access across private farmland ended at that point.  So we reluctantly turned around and enjoyed the views on the way back.

Cliffs towering above the lake

View over First Lake on return trip

The walk was an hours easy walking and we were glad we did the detour.  Some more nice views over the Whanganui inlet on the drive back.

Last view over Whanganui Inlet

While I was taking above photo I was getting buzzed by bees and on looking around, noticed a ball of bees on the ground beside me.  At a guess it was probably a new queen and her entourage (or maybe the plant was irresistible for some reason).

We drove back to rejoin the Collingwood Road and on to Pakawau for a late lunchstop overlooking Golden Bay.  Then on to Collingood for some supplies, fresh water and fuel.   We were pleasantly surprised that the diesel there was 12c cheaper than it was at Takaka.

Hunted around for a place to park up for the night but there was nothing in the town so we reverted to ‘plan-B’ and headed back to a large gravelled area a few k’s back along the road, beside the Aorere River.  We were not disturbed – so all was well.



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