Tapuae-o-uenuku is Marlborough's highest peak at 2885m. Forming part of the Inland Kaikoura Range, Tapuae-o-uenuku is also the highest mountain in New Zealand outside the Southern Alps.
From the time the first humans saw Tapuae-O-Uenuku it made a great impression on them. Rising from near sea level in the east from the Clarence Valley, Tapuae-O-Uenuku towers over the entire surrounding landscape.
Legend has it that as the canoe Arai Te Uru travelled down the South Island in about 825 A.D. Two young chiefs asked to be let off with their families when they saw some of the lands. Maukatiri went ashore at the Awatere mouth and Tapuae-O-Uenuku at Clarence. It is after him that this shrine of the Rangitane people is named.
Nearly 1000 years later, when captain Cook sailed down the east coast he was similarly struck and named it Mount Odin after the Norwegian god. As the days past however and Tapuae-O-Uenuku still remained visible, Cook nicknamed it The Watcher owing the uncanny feeling that all his actions were being observed.
The mountain was first climbed in 1855 by William McRae after a failed attempt in 1849 by Aire. Many years later, Sir Edmund Hillary used it as training for his ascent of Mt. Everest. Today Tapuae-O-Uenuku remains popular with experienced climbers and received considerable attention in 2000 as it was one of the first places in the world to see the light of the new millennium.
Access to the mountain is via the Hodder River, from the Awatere Valley.
Tapuae-o-uenuku can be seen clearly from the Cook Strait ferry and many parts of Marlborough such as Whites Bay and Seddon on a fine day. Even in summer, the peak frequently retains a cap of snow and ice due to its altitude.