Kahurangi Country

For our first wedding anniversary on 11 October, Andy and I booked an off-the-grid cabin near Motueka on the South Island for a two-night escape. Honeywell Hut looked like the perfect spot to relax and go on some adventures in the nearby Kahurangi National Park, so we took a Friday off work and hopped on an early flight to Nelson for the quick journey across the Cook Strait. After picking up our rental car, we were off.

Since we had plenty of time before check-in at the hut, we decided to stop off at Rabbit Island, just outside of Nelson. It has a beautiful beach and was very peaceful on a Friday morning.

Hardly anyone was out this time of day, besides some distant walkers and a couple people on horseback, and the sunlight on the water was beautiful.

This is the view looking toward Takaka Hill and Golden Bay beyond, which we wouldn’t be conquering this time around:

While I was taking my photos, Andy found a little shelter from the sun.

Having stretched our legs, it was time to continue on toward Motueka, the last big town we’d encounter before our hut and the place we intended to stock up on groceries and grab lunch. We also had more time to spare, so our first destination was the eaves of the Kahurangi National Park. It’s NZ’s second largest national park, and while we wouldn’t have time to explore much of it this time around, it’s always great to make a dent. There was also some Lord of the Rings filming there, of course!

Down a winding road where we quickly lost cell phone reception (the sign you’ve found a good spot), we pulled up to the carpark for the Riuwaka Resurgence. This is where the Riuwaka River emerges after tunneling through the marble of Takaka Hill. I just love how epic the name sounds, too.

The DOC website describes this spot as having a “fairyland quality” and it’s easy to see why. With the incredible blue-green water and gnarled, moss-covered trees, everything seems otherworldly.

I can see this place being very busy in summer, but we were lucky to only encounter a few other people since it was a weekday. There was one brave soul who was swimming, despite the weather being pretty chilly still, and the water even chillier.

A little further up the path, we got to the resurgence point.

Called Te Puna o Riuwaka, this spot is sacred to local Māori, who use the water for its cleansing and healing properties.

While we took in the beauty of this incredible place, we watched a swallow flit in and out of the mouth of cave to catch insects. Every so often, it would perch on the same rock to take a break and just watch us. Such a cutie!

What a beautiful place, truly unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. There weren’t many signs for it, so we wouldn’t have known it was there if I hadn’t been looking up places to explore in advance. If you’re ever in the Motueka area, definitely check out the Riuwaka Resurgence for a short and easy stroll into an enchanted forest.

Back in Motueka, we stopped at Townshend Brewery for lunch in their beautiful garden, then grabbed some riggers to take with us. After another stop to get donuts at The Smoking Barrel that our friend recommended, plus groceries (in order of importance – beer, donuts, groceries), it was time to head to Honeywell Hut.

It was another 45 minutes to Tapawera, into the middle of nowhere. We passed officially from the Tasman Region into the West Coast, and the final drive was 13 km down an unsealed road, with lambs bleating as they fled in front of our rental car. After meeting the owner at the farmhouse, she hopped on her four-wheeler with her dog and we followed her through a series of sheep pastures to the hut. It was perfect!

We watched the lambs gambol about from our windows, and then go on a mass exodus at one point with their mothers that must have aligned with their internal ovine clocks, a mystery to us bipeds.

It was like someone had just plonked this hut down in the middle of their pasture, and they still didn’t realize it was there. Every time we’d step out the door, they’d flee in terror. Despite that, we set out to explore the Baton River that was just a few paces from our cabin. Since this is a former gold mining area, and there are still some active claims, Andy had a look to see if anything shiny caught his eye (hopefully nothing ring-shaped).

The high peaks of Kahurangi National Park loomed in the distance, still snowcapped in the middle of spring.

There was a fire pit by the river, but we decided to stoke the potbelly stove inside instead for our first night. I did take advantage of the outdoor bath just behind the hut, though, and had a lovely soak, just as some rain settled in.

The next morning, the gloomy weather was still with us, but it seemed fitting for a little hut on the eaves of a big forest, and it wouldn’t put a stop to our adventuring.

Stay tuned for part two, another hike into the Kahurangi and some Honeywell Hut anniversary adventures. Then, off to Gisborne for a ladies long weekend away!

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