Murchison to Motueka

With our walk up part of the Heaphy Track completed. We decided that we would visit the famous arches at Oparara the following morning. Waking up to the sounds of helicopters buzzing the camp I set out to investigate to discover a deer that had been shot hanging below one of the choppers which were then dropped into the back of the hunters’ ute and he was away with his prize.

I know these aren’t great photos as it all happened so quickly and I was a little far away, but if you look closely, you can see the helicopter with the deer hanging from it.

4 km’s up the road from the camp is the turn off for the Oparara Arches. However, there is a big sign at the start of the road stating that it’s not suitable for campervans, or towing vehicles. So we decided not to risk it and decided to head towards where we were set to spend the next night freedom camping at Little Wanganui.

However, after driving down the road that follows the river to the beach, we arrived to find a muddy/sandy mess. I tried to turn the motorhome around and misjudged where the soft sand was so got the motorhome briefly stuck. Thankfully we had purchased some rubber mats that we put under the two front wheels and with a little assistance from a couple of campers who had excellent firm dry spots we got out of there, deciding then this was an omen and moved onto Murchison.

So sorry Dave and Nita we visited, but we didn’t stay thanks however for your recommendation, and we will try another day again.

The road to Westport takes you along the coast past the towns of Hector and Granity. It also takes you past where the rail line terminates at the Stockton Coal Depot. Here you can see the coal arriving in buckets along the aerial ropeway to be deposited at the depot and then loaded onto the trains.

A lady we had spoken to talked about a massive open cast mine still operating not far from here, and I guess it’s this coal that’s being loaded.

Back on the road and once past Westport it was into the Buller Gorge which was to provide our 4th crossing from one side of the Island to the other with the Haast, Arthurs and Lewis Passes all completed (see previous blogs for details). So although this is not called a pass, it still feels like it especially further on in the upper parts of the gorge.

Of course, no trip through the gorge would be complete without the obligatory photos of where the road is carved out of solid rock with one lane that crawls through the overhang right on a sweeping bend that has the river rushing past below you. With no traffic lights here like there are at other tight areas along the way you could imagine that you might have to wait a while during busy times on the road. Still, I guess that would allow you time to grab a couple of good photos.

With Autumn in full swing, the colours on the trees were just a million photo opportunities. Sarah having the camera on almost the whole way I was distracted by the constant clicking, not really, in fact, I kept saying to her did you get that shot. Far too many photos got taken to post here, but it will be some great memories when we get home.

Arriving into Murchison on a wet, overcast day it was the perfect place to break the journey with a stay at the NZMCA camp located about 100 metres from the main road surrounding the old Murchison Theatre. The whole camp has been gravelled so while this might make it difficult if you wanted to put up an awning, it’s an absolute bonus when choosing where to park on a wet day with no worries about getting bogged down somewhere.

As you can see, the camp was quite empty on our arrival but did fill up quite a bit after I had taken this photo.

Murchison is the second smallest village we have stayed in, and after spotting the Launderette, it was the perfect place to catch up with the washing. While it felt like I had taken a photo of every shop in town this wasn’t really the case having missed out at least the pub and the 4 Square store as we wandered around waiting for the washing to finish.

Later we wandered down past the shops and along the main street coming across the war memorial with the remnants of the ANZAC day parade that would have taken place two days prior. Obviously, in these small communities, the importance of this day still runs strong with the floral reefs bright despite the rain.


Strange how things work I would never have noticed this name had it not been sitting the way it was on top of the stick rather than a cross like all the others. Here was the memorial to Sgt. Samuel Forsyth VC. Since there have only been 70 holders of the VC. in New Zealand, I was keen to do a little research about the gallant efforts that resulted in the awarding of this medal.

Sgt. Forsyth was awarded the medal posthumously after helping take out three machine gun emplacements during an attack in Grevillers France in August 1918 if you would like to read more click here


There are a couple of shops in town with some real character including the Rust & Dust store right next to the camp. They are a great way to spend some time when it’s not really the sort of day you want to be outside.

That night I could hear the river bubbling away at the back of the camp so in the morning I  wanted to see how far away it actually is from the camp. Turns out its about 100 metres or more so that shows you either how quiet it was that night or what a good imagination I have.

To look at all the ratings, I have done click here


The drive from Murchison to Motueka takes you through the upper Buller Gorge at this time of year the riot of colour continued with vast swathes of yellow, red and orange leaves to capture the eye as we drove through.

Back in very early February, we drove the road from Motueka to Tapawera. Still, it was a very different road this time after the effects of cyclone Gita with huge washouts that had carved out huge chunks from the hillsides around us. Even now 2 months later, the amount of damage was stunningly evident. It would have been horrendous at the time. Sorry but no photos of this as the chief navigator said it was to wet to use the camera.

The NZMCA camp in Motueka opened just over 4 weeks ago, so the timing was perfect for us to use this as a base for a few days while we explored the area. Regretfully with the enormous amount of rain that had fallen over the previous couple of days the ground was absolutely waterlogged with deep ruts beginning to appear in the centre of the camp as people drove in and out.

Despite our reservations about impending rain we decided to unpack the bikes to head out for a ride along one of the many bike trails they have in this area. Not really knowing where we were headed down to the waterfront and rode west along the cycle trail that followed the coast. Without realising it, we had stumbled onto the Great Taste Trail that runs from Nelson all the way to Kaiteriteri.

Heading away from Motueka the trail heads towards Riwaka and it’s here that we took a couple of detours out towards the water up and down a couple of side streets. In one of these streets is the mansion that belongs to one of the Talley Family, this place was huge complete with its own full-size rugby field in the front garden. Although a woman we spoke to who lives down the road said, she had never seen a game played there. So maybe just someones folly.

With the trail leading through a couple of working orchards, it was really tempting to park the bike while nipping over to the trees and grabbing an apple or three, but honesty prevents these sorts of actions. The trees were, however laden, and I am sure they wouldn’t have missed a couple. Further up the road, we found a stall selling large bags of apples at $2 a bag, so we grabbed a bag the honest way.

Getting closer to Kaiteriteri, the trail headed back towards the water, and it was here that the effects of the cyclone began to become more apparent with part of the trail almost washed away. Then when we dropped down to sea level instead of a beautiful gravel surface that we had been riding on suddenly the track was covered in loose sand making riding impossible. At this point, when the raindrops also started to fall, we decided to return to the van.

The NZMCA has spent 4 years working towards opening this camp tied up in council and resource consent issues. The council will still not allow them to put down gravel, how crazy is this? However, as I said it’s in a great spot directly across the road from the local recreation centre which also has the local cinema where we watched a movie on a wet afternoon. It even within walking distance of the supermarket and other shops, a great spot.


The following day we headed into town to the supermarket, and I realised that carrying the groceries would be much easier if I had bags on the back of my bike. So I visited the bike shop handily placed next door to the supermarket to add a pannier to my bike. To make it easier to get the stuff back to the motorhome. An excellent investment and thanks to Coppins Cycles friendly quick service at a reasonable price.


We were so impressed with our efforts that the following day we decided that we would ride the trail in the other direction. Heading out of the gate at the back of the camp, we headed east following the trail as it leads along the lagoon behind the camp. From here it’s back to the main road then right onto one of the side streets leading away from the town. If you look really closely at the above photo, you can see the White Heron in the middle of the picture. It’s a bit of a shame I only had my phone to grab this shot as there are only about 150 of these in New Zealand.

Again it’s an enjoyable ride almost entirely flat, well at least at this point anyway as still, we followed the road alongside orchard after orchard. It was interesting to see that nearly all of these had signs up stating no vacancies so there must be plenty of labour floating round as there was undoubtedly heaps of fruit to be picked.

About 7 km’s into the ride the trail switches back towards the coast up a rather narrow country road which after a short while becomes a gravel road, not much more than a farm track really but that’s OK as it’s still reasonably easy riding but has started to wind uphill a little. Then a little further down the road as we crested the ridge, we came to the above sign suggesting that the track deteriorates from here and that you may wish to walk as it steep and rutted.

As you can see, it was exceptionally rutted, but that was on the main track which we didn’t have to ride as there was an excellent path on the side of the road. We were both thankful for our Ebikes however, as it was a rather steep climb to the top.

It might have been a bit of a climb to the top, but once there it was a great view down the hills back to Motueka and over to Nelson. Then it was time to start the ride back to the motorhome, going back down the steep hill we had just climbed. Oh, what fun! The brakes got quite the workout, but we both safely descended.

Obviously, we did a better job descending that these car wrecks just dumped in the middle of nowhere really rather strange. We also came across the above Taniwha guarding someones farm. That’s the great thing about the bikes is all the things we have found while exploring.

When we got back to the motorhome, we discovered Adrian and Sally and their dog Zac parked next to us. We had briefly met them during our first visit to Gore. When I gave Adrian the business card of Transport Repairs, who had helped out fixing my handbrake when they had clutch issues with theirs but hadn’t really got to know them then. However, being parked next to each other tends to give you the chance to make friends, and that’s what happened here.

Capping things off on the Thursday night when at about 8pm Sarah heard a noise outside the motorhome. She rushed out to see what was happening only to spring Adrian and Sally attaching balloons and a birthday banner to the front of the van. As they had learnt that it was Sarah’s birthday the following day. What a great surprise.

The NZMCA is a community, and this was clearly shown when one of the campers at Motueka got stuck in the soft ground and was unable to extract his 5th wheeler. At this point, almost everyone in the camp was behind it trying to help push it out. But in the end, one of the committee members came down with a 4wd and helped pull it out. A real team effort.

Our time in Motueka was one that we both really enjoyed much more than I think either of us expected. It would be easy to retire to a place like this, but if we did we wouldn’t be travelling, and at the moment that’s what we are both really enjoying. I just had to include the photo about the handheld device, loved it!

Sorry for the length of this blog but I really wanted to catch up, back to some semblance of real-time with me almost 12 days behind where we actually are which is currently back at Port Tarakohe at the NZMCA camp more about this on the next blog.
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One thought on “Murchison to Motueka

  1. Sarah – glad that you were in such a pleasant spot for your birthday, and found some friends to wish you well. The balloons were lovely – what a delightful touch.

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