Things to do in the Pelorus Area
By: Christopher Cookson
Last Modified: 31-12-2020 11:24
Midway between Blenheim and Nelson, Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve is a picturesque and popular place to visit in its own right, but is the heart of the wider Pelorus region, a rugged and sparsely populated area of Marlborough with lots of things to do in the great outdoors. Like many people, I regularly stop off at Pelorus Bridge on the way to or from Nelson, but there’s plenty more to do in the surrounding area beyond a quick toilet and coffee break between Nelson and Blenheim.
Pelorus Bridge Activities
Whether you’re into camping, a short bush walk, swimming, or just want ice cream to keep the kids quiet on a road trip, Pelorus Bridge is a great place to get close to nature. If you’re planning on walking the length of New Zealand, Te Araroa Trail, passes through the reserve. Although you won’t find any barrels to ride the river like a dwarf, kayaking definitely is an option. A perennial favourite is a walk to the swing bridge over the Rai River, where more adventurous members of the party typically like to challenge more timid ones by rocking the bridge. It does pay to bring plenty of insect repellent though as you won’t be the only one who thinks it’s a great spot for a meal. Speaking of food, one of my favourite family challenges is finding beech trees with honey dew and getting everyone to stick out their tongues and lick off the sweet, sticky droplets. Personally, I don’t like swimming in the Pelorus River as it’s deep and cold, and I’m not a particularly strong swimmer, however for those with both cold tolerance and swimming abilities of penguins, the river can be great fun.
Camping and Tramping/Hiking in the Wakamarina Valley
The head of the Wakamarina Valley provides access to Mount Richmond Forest Park. There’s a car park and basic DOC campsite at Butchers Flat, and from there it’s an easy walk or mountain bike to Devils Creek Hut. If you’re feeling more energetic, from there you can climb Mount Royal, or follow the Wakamarina Track over into the Wairau. You’ll be surrounded by beautiful native bush, although near water there are plenty of hungry sandflies, so you’ll need repellent. The Butchers Flat campsite is really basic with just a large grassy area and a ‘long drop’ toilet, so you need to bring everything including drinking water and toilet paper, unless you’re prepared to boil water from the river. If you’re a light sleeper earplugs might be useful, as the local weka and possums can make quite a racket at night.
If you appreciate food more than outdoor adventures, especially if you enjoy seafood, historic Havelock is worth a visit due to its self proclaimed status as Greenshell mussel capital of the world. If you don’t like shellfish, Havelock’s cafes do sell plenty of other appetising fare. The local museum has information about the gold mining and logging history of the region, and there are several historic buildings around town, but being a small town, you won’t have to walk far. After a hard day’s fishing or walking, there’s a pub, if you feel the need for some cold liquid refreshment.
If you have any sort of boat, Havelock Marina provides launching facilities so that you can explore Pelorus Sound, although watch the tide, and the navigation markers, as it’s easy to run aground in the silty Kaituna estuary.
It’s only about a five minute drive from Havelock to Cullen Point where a loop track takes you through regenerating native bush with good views of Pelorus Sound and Havelock.
Walking the Nydia Track
Often overlooked for its more famous and longer sibling, the Queen Charlotte Track, Nydia Track is the ‘other’walking trail in the Marlborough Sounds. Most people walk the track over a couple of days with a night in Nydia Bay, but I remember some years ago acting as driver to Dad and a few other ‘good keen men’, who walked the entire track from Kaiuma Bay to Duncan Bay in a day. Personally, I’d rather take time to enjoy the luxuriant native forest, and enjoy a good night’s rest at DOC’s Nydia Lodge.
Things to do in Keneperu Sound
Having a boat is definitely an advantage if you want to explore Keneperu Sound, and allows for some great fishing opportunities for snapper and blue cod, although you need to make sure you don’t catch blue cod during the closed season or your fishing expedition could end up being very expensive. If you don’t have a boat, Keneperu Sound still has some great attractions, although you need to be prepared for a long drive, so ideally a night’s accommodation, either at one of the two resorts, Te Mahia and Portage, or rental holiday homes, or DOC campsites depending on your budget, will allow you to make the most of it. Several beaches are good for swimming, although they vary from stony to silty, so you probably want some sort of footwear you can wear in the water. From Keneperu Head, the road is unsealed, however the reward is the opportunity to climb Mount Stokes, the highest mountain in the Marlborough Sounds, with spectacular views, with the road getting you half way up by the start of the track, so you don’t have to climb the full 1203 metres from sea level. If you’re a happy camper in a tent, Keneperu Head is a good place to camp before climbing Mount Stokes, as it will allow you to reach the summit in the early morning without much driving so you can take advantage of spectacular early morning light.
Explore pristine Tennyson Inlet
Tennyson Inlet is one of the remotest and most rugged parts of the Marlborough Sounds, and was formerly known as World’s End, with a road only opening in the 1960s. As a result, most of the vegetation is pristine forest that has never been logged, so a visit almost takes you back to how the land must have been in pre-human times. The inlet is a great place for kayaking, fishing, and there are numerous walking tracks to explore, ranging from the relatively flat Archers Track, to the steep Opouri Bridle Track. If you have a boat, you can enjoy the ultimate seclusion with a stay in the Matai Bay hut surrounded by towering trees including matai that give the bay its name. There is a DOC campsite at Harvey Bay, and numerous holiday homes available for rent, mostly in Penzance Bay.