South Island meanderings…February 2017 (Part 1) Murchison – Motueka – Takaka – Totaranui – Takaka

01 Feb – Drove into Motueka for a few days.  Spent two nights in a free parking area by the sea near a public Salt Water Pool and another night further along the road at the Public Wharf (next-door to Talleys seafood processing plant).  The area by the swimming pool was like grand central station with small sleeper vans and cars squeezing in like sardines. Supposed to be self-contained there but we had no doubt that some of the stickers were ‘bogus’ (only have to have access to a printer to replicate them).  We also came across a monument that looked a bit ‘forgotten’ in the shrubbery noting that the first European settlers to this area landed here in 1842.

Saltwater Pool – Motueka
Pool at high tide
Settlers Monument

Went for a walk along the shore, nice houses on one side and a large tidal area, sheltered by the Motueka Sandspit, on the other.  Views better though when the tide is in and the mudflats covered. The cycle path is part of the Tasman Great Taste Trail and this section from Motueka Wharf is 16km long ending at Kaiteriteri.   We only went as far as the rusting wreck of the Janie Seddon embedded in the mud flats near Motueka Quay.

Janie Seddon wreck

The Janie Seddon has local connection in that she was the first fishing boat purchased by the Talley’s fishing group.  However, she proved unsuited for deep sea fishing as she could only carry 5 days of coal to run the steam engines.  After 3 years of being laid up in Nelson, she was returned to Motueka Harbour where she was holed and sunk at her moorings in 1953. Then, after being stripped of all fittings, was left to rot at her current location.

Janie Seddon – old photo

Originally she was purchased by the NZ Government in 1902 as a Submarine Mining Vessel and has the distinction of being the last surviving NZ military ship to have served in both World Wars.  She operated out of Shelley Bay in Wellington Harbour for a total of 45 years, laying mines during WWI and serving as an Examination Vessel during WWII (patrolling the Harbour checking on incoming ships and also carried out gunnery target towing duties for the onshore Battery).   She was withdrawn from service in 1944 and sold to the Motueka Trawling Co Ltd in 1946.   A year later Talley’s utilised her again for their fishing operations which continued until 1950, when her usefulness ceased and she was abandoned in Nelson.

On leaving Motueka we headed for Kaiteriteri then uphill over a very narrow winding road to Marahau.  This is the end of the road and the start of the Abel Tasman Track.  Lots of water taxis lined up at the beach to take people on trips to points along the Track further up the coast.

Our purpose to head here was to go and look at Split Apple Rock so we retraced our steps and drove up a side road to the start of the 15 min walk down to the beach.  A nice walk through a nikau palm forest to emerge on a golden sands beach where people were spending the day sun-bathing, swimming and paddling kayaks around the bay.

Split Apple Beach

Split Apple Rock was a little way off-shore, not as big as I expected, but it’s an almost even split of what was once a roundish rock – quite impressive.

Split Apple Rock

We went for a walk to the end of the beach, at low tide you could probably clamber over the rocks to the next small bay.

Rocky end of beach
Seagull ‘two-step’
Last view of Beach before leaving

On the drive back we stopped on the road to look at the view back towards Marahau.  The tide was ebbing fast out of the Estuary.

View towards Marahau over Otuwhero Inlet

Arrived back at Kaiteriteri and it was a mad-house of vehicles all trying to find carparks.   Lucky for us someone pulled out of a spot just as we got alongside so had a lunchstop and went for a brief walk across the road to look at the ‘famous’ beach.   Heaps of people as expected….but far to busy with people for Neville, so after a couple of quick snapshots we moved on.

Kaiteriteri Beach
Safe river swimming area

Drove back to the main road and then along a side road to go and look at the Riwaka Resurgence which is where the river emerges after forming in the Takaka Hills, having travelling through limestone cracks and a series of tunnels and caves before seeing the daylight.   The water is crystal clear, very cold and takes 3-4 days to reach this point.

Riwaka Resurgence

We scuba dived here (around 35 years ago) following the river upstream through the underwater cave system and into two dry caverns full of stalactite formations.  We remember it as being an amazing experience.  The entrance area looked a lot different then, as today all the trees have grown up around and over the river.

Stairway to ‘the dark’
Crystal Pool

Along the walking track you pass the Crystal Pool which is a popular swimming spot.  We came across a few hardy young people braving the chilly water.

On the drive in we’d spotted a very nice spot to stay the night at the Moss Reserve Camping Area.  It wasn’t noted in any of our books or on-line info, so it was a good find.  A large grassy area alongside the Riwaka River with picnic tables and even a loo!  It was not too crowded either being a bit off the beaten track and not well advertised.

Next day saw us heading up and over the Takaka Hill.  First viewpoint to check out was Hawkes Lookout.  A 30min walk to the edge of a dropoff with impressive views down the Riwaka Valley towards the sea.   Viewing platform was almost opposite the Resurgence Picnic Area, a long way down though.

Resurgence carpark
Hawkes Crag Lookout
View over Riwaka Valley

Most fascinating here though was the water eroded rock formations.  In the first two photos the rocks were all in a line as though it was a ‘river’ of rocks leading to the cliff edge.

Water-worn rocks at Lookout

How the rocks are formed

Back on the highway we drove past the entrance to the Ngarua Caves and the side road to Harwoods Hole.  We visited Harwoods Hole many years ago and would have liked to go again but there was a notice up saying road is “not fit for campervans”.  Reports we found later, also said it was heavily potholed and narrow, so it was probably a good decision to ‘give it a miss’.

We pulled over in a carpark at the start of the Takaka Hill Track on the Harwood’s family property.  The track was a steep climb up a Bluff to overlook the Takaka Valley but we decided against it in the 26° heat, besides there was another Lookout a little further on down the hill at “Eureka Bend” that was easier to get to.

Takaka Valley

Down and down, around the numerous big U-bends and eventually reached the bottom of the hill.  Drove through Upper Takaka and started to look for a camp spot for the night. We found it at Lindsays Bridge (over the Takaka River).  It was a busy place overnight but as we’d got there early we had a good spot. A nice little park/arborterium alongside in which to give our legs a stretch.

Lindsays Bridge

06 Feb – onward to Takaka. Made a stop at the Paynes Ford Scenic Reserve along the way.  A nice walk following the river with some inviting looking swimming holes.

Takaka River
Swimming hole

Biggest attraction here though are the popular Rock Climbing Sites on the sheer cliffs following the river on one side.  We walked the track to the end then up a couple of the side paths to the cliffs to watch some on the ‘climbers’ in action.

Along the track several signs indicated the names of the various ‘climbs’ on the cliff faces – some of them were quite amusing.

On arrival at Takaka we stocked up at the Supermarket then went to visit Te Waikoropupu (Pupu) Springs, a little distance out of town.  When we were there last, the area was quite informal, but it’s now developed for the numbers of tourists visiting – a 1km sealed pathway around the streams and springs, fenced viewing platform and display signboards.

Pupu Springs

Main Spring Vent


Stopped at the viewing area for the main spring and reminisced the times we scuba dived there. Nowdays the waters are Tapu and you are not allowed to even reach down (where you can) to touch it.  

When we dived the pool, we were amazed that when we put out heads under the water the visibility was so clear you felt you could reach out and touch the other side.  It was even clearer than looking across from the surface.  The force of the water powering out of the main vent is so strong that you could not swim over it near the bottom and it would tumble you to the surface like a cork. That was fun!

View over Pool

Those were the days!  But we both agreed that it’s a good thing that people cannot dive here today…with the numbers of tourists that would want to do it you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the springs without people swimming around disturbing the view and the growths in the water would have long been destroyed by hundreds of ‘flippers’ hitting them.

Start of the river

Watching the boiling water is quite mesmerizing but we eventually completed the walk and drove off, along a dusty gravel road to the nearby historic Pupu Hydro Powerhouse and the start of a Walkway we were planning to do.  The carpark was OK to stay for a couple of nights so that suited us perfectly.

Inside view of Powerhouse
Pupu Hydro Scheme

Woke up to drizzle on the roof but thankfully, by the time we’d finished breakfast it had cleared and we set off around the Water Race Walk.  Started off at the Powerhouse – a viewing window gave a good look inside the control room and a poster showed how the hydro scheme worked.

The Walkway was listed as taking 1hr 50min and we decided to go in a clockwise direction following a roadway uphill to a Control Room beside Campbell Creek where a Weir diverts water flow into the concrete Water Race.

It was a steady huff and puff uphill and at the top a side path took us to a Lookout with a good view back over the valley. The motorhome looked a long way down, testament as to why our legs were complaining.

View from Lookout

The road then started downhill through a forested area and around the end of another valley to get to the Control Building.  Along the way a sign pointed to a section of the water race that was suspended on the side of the opposite hillside.  It looked quite awesome and was a feat of great engineering when it was built in 1929.

Water race walk across the valley
This section overhangs the cliff side
Morning mist

Mist was still lingering in the valley as we approached the end of the road at the Control Building.

Weir and intake for water race
Water Intake
Footbridge over Stream

The Race itself was a well kept concrete ‘trough’ and the flow of water varied in depth and speed.  Supposed to be ‘koura’ living in it but we never saw any.

Start of the water race
Walkway path

There were lots of spider webs of all shapes and sizes stretched across the channel.  They were like a continuous net in places, insects wouldn’t stand much of a chance here!

Spiders have been busy all along the race
Double webbed!

We then came across the aquaduct section of the water race (that we’d seen from across the valley).  The water was moving swiftly here and the walkway part quite narrow with a handrail.  As it was suspended on the hillside it was a scary drop when you looked over the edge.  There was a sign at the beginning advising parents to “keep their children safely beside them” – we had a bit of a laugh as there was no room to walk side by side!


This corner section near the end of the water race had a built-in Spillway.

We eventually arrived at the Screening Building where the water is ‘sifted’ and directed down the pipeline to the Powerhouse at the bottom of the hill.

End of water race and diversion downhill to Powerhouse
Pipeline to Hydro Powerhouse far below

From there, for us, it was a steep descent down a narrow, rough and slippery Track back to the end of the Walkway.

On our way down we met groups of people trudging up the hill…many out of breath and having to make frequent stops.

It appears most people do the Walkway in this direction, probably only going as far as the weir and returning the same way.  It may shorten the total walk time but we were glad we did the circuit the way we did – especially on seeing how others were really struggling on the steep uphill climb.

It took us 2hrs 10mins to complete the walk, the extra 20 mins would account for the photo stops along the way and the detour to the Lookout.  It was one of the better walks we have done – not too strenuous, awesome aquaduct, great scenery and interesting history.

The water race was built in 1902 to direct water to a gold sluicing area in the valley – the richest claim in the Golden Bay area.  In 1929 it was converted to power generation and provided the first public electricity supply to the Golden Bay area.  However, it ceased to be self-sufficent when the larger Cobb Power Station was completed in 1944.  It was still used as a back-up until 1980 when it was closed down and put up for tender.  A group of enthusiasts (The Pupu Hydro Society Inc) raised funds to ‘save local history’ and the turbine was repaired to operating order and the power was scheme re-opened in 1988.  The Society continued to fund raise and the water race system and walkway was also restored in 2003.

The scheme still generates power to the area today. Water drops 107m down the penstock pipeline and 18GW is generated on an annual basis. The power is sold and funds all maintenance of the powerhouse, the water race and walkway – the excess profits go back into local community projects.

Back at the motorhome we decided to stay another night – rain set in again about mid-afternoon so we were glad that we’d done the Walkway in the morning.

Dove back to Takaka next day and headed to the Anatoki Salmon Farm for a look.  You can fish their ‘stocked’ lake for free (gear supplied) – you only pay for the salmon you catch and filleting work.  We watched a couple of people pull in fish but it was still a bit of a challenge as it was quite a large lake.

We also walked down to the river to the eel feeding area.  You pay for a punnet of salmon offcuts to offer to the eels from the end of a stick. The braver eels wriggle out of the water onto rocks to take offerings.

During this, Neville leaned over and his sunglasses fell into the water and they slipped under a rock where the eels were. To the amusement of the watchers he got into the water in his bare feet and felt around with his hands trying to find them amongst the eels.  With the help of a stick he actually managed to retrieve them!

Found them!

There is also a camping area for motorhomes at the Salmon Farm but we decided to head for the Club Park near Pohara on the coast, beside the Tarakohe Wharf and Marina. Luckily the park wasn’t full when we got there so we found a pretty good spot right beside a large rock formation.

Tarakohe Harbour entrance

Impressive rock formations in the area

09 Feb – next morning after returning to Takaka township for fuel and supplies we drove back to Pohara and through the Rock Road Tunnel by the Marina and stopped to look at the Abel Tasman Memorial Tower on a hill overlooking Liger Bay.

Abel Tasman Memorial

Abel Tasman’s two ships, the Heemskirk and the Zeehhaen pulled into the Bay in Dec 1642. The local Maori paddled several canoes out to the ships but the Dutch sailors were unable to communicate with them.   A boat moving between the two ships was rammed by the Maori and four of the Dutch crew were killed so they sailed away and Tasman named the bay “Murderers Bay”.

The ships spent Christmas near Stephens Island, just outside the Marlborough Sounds and never found Cook Strait when they sailed up the west coast to the northern tip of NZ before leaving and sailing on to Fiji.

Continued along the road past Tata Beach and into Wainui Bay.  We found the carpark at the start of the Wainui Falls walkway and set off along the track following the Wainui River upstream.  There were some nice swimming holes along the way and as we crossed over a swingbridge spied two massive logs perched on top of a tall rock – it must have been a huge flood to wash them up there.

Near the main falls

The falls were quite impressive – lots of water and well worth the hour’s return walk to view them.

Back to the road and turned to drive to the Totaranui DOC Camp in the Abel Tasman National Park. Lots of big potholes along the gravel part of the road but we took it slowly and as the road was quite wide there was plenty of space to pass oncoming vehicles. Checked in at the Office on arrival for 3 nights (which stretched out to 5 nights in the end).

The camp is huge, with a perfect golden sandy beach lining the Bay.  We were given a park map and drove around the various areas looking for a place to suit us.  We ended up at the northern end where the Estuary and boat ramp was located.

Totaranui – boat launching area
South end of beach
Estuary at high tide

There were large groups of families camped up in tents with so much gear around them it looked like they’d bought half their house with them.  Also lots of motorhomes, small vans and sleeper cars.

Our Spark phones were ‘dead’ here but we were pleasantly surprised to find that our Netspeed Internet (Vodaphone towers) was all good.

During our stay here we did a few walks – twice having to wait till low tide to cross over the Estuary and taking our shoes off to paddle across the ‘river’ part that was still flowing.

The longest walk was northwards along the Abel Tasman Great Walk to Anapai Bay. Another small DOC camp there and we walked along the beach to look at some tall ‘sculpture’ like rocks at the northern end.

Anapai Bay
Seagull lookout

Guardian of the shore

Nikau walk

On the way back we detoured around a side track through a grove of nikau palms.



Boardwalk at the top of the Estuary

We were away about 3 hours altogether, the walk taking an hour each way and other hour was spent exploring.

On another perfect day we walked to the southern end of the beach, got our feet wet as we paddled most of the way.

Rocky south end of beach
Lone fisherman

Clambered a short way up the rocks at the end and saw a lone fisherman trying his luck further on.

Goat Bay is around the point from here – maybe you can get around to it at low tide. But it would be far easier to walk to it along another part of the Abel Tasman Great Walk…or…easier still…why not go in style on the Water Taxi.

Heading back to Kaiteriteri
Water taxi dropping off visitors

Being there for five days gave us time to get a few chores done and take a few photos of the different ‘moods’ of the scenery.

Wash day!
Estuary reflections at low tide
Tidal swirls at Estuary entrance
Evening sky
Evening calm & seagull flypast

Our last walk in the area was The Headland Walk which was acoss the Estuary again and a steep walk up the headland overlooking Totaranui Bay.  Awesome viewpoint at the top.

Totaranui Bay from Lookout

Camp view
View of Awaroa Bay & Lodges

The track looped back to the Abel Tasman Walk where we’d walked over to Anapai Bay.  Then down the hill, along the boardwalk again and another paddle across the Estuary to camp.

We did linger to have a look at the cave overhangs on the cliffs opposite – there was a couple married there today which caused a bit of a stir in the area that we were camped in (and a rowdy celebration that night).

Estuary water crossing back to camp
Exploring the rocks
View from sea cave

We left Totaranui on 14 Feb and headed back to Takaka and spent a couple of nights at the Club Park at the Tarakohe Wharf again.  Went for a walk out to the end of the harbour wall on the south side.  Good views of the tall rocky cliffs behind the area.  Wharf is also a depot for the local mussell boats to offload their large bags of mussels ready to be roaded to the processing plant (presumably Talleys in Motueka).

Tarakohe Wharf
Mussell Boat leaving port

Club Park

Before leaving we checked out the nearby Groves Reserve – a Walkway through an old grove of nikau palms and trees and around amazing large rock formations to a Lookout over the surrounding area.  It was quite spooky in places.


Lookout view
A tangle of roots
Narrow path through rock faces
Looks like a ‘monster’ climbing up

15 Feb – last day in Takaka for the moment..but we will be back (Part 2 to follow).


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