Where to camp, play, relax and explore in this Nelson Tasman gem.
Ruby Bay is a quaint coastal village that extends on from Mapua, a tiny town that is a five minute drive away. It is to the west of Nelson on State Highway 60 and on the coastline of Tasman Bay. The bay is uncommonly calm and bordered by mountains that bloom blue, bold and protective. With a spectacularly extensive beach, it is easy to while away the day collecting shells or fishing.
The Ruby Bay campsite is pretty special and one of my favourite camps. It has a homely feel with long-time residents homed in their house trucks or yurts. There are even vegetable patches sprouting about the place and an old school playground. It edges along an east-facing beach with spectacular sunrises.
Check out your CamperMate app for more accommodation options nearby.
Places to visit
There’s a vast array of day trips and things to explore from the cosy nook of Ruby Bay. You are easily spoilt for choice, but here’s a handful of my favourites.
Wee Wellbeing Center
This little jewel in the heart of Ruby Bay is pretty inconspicuous so you need to know what you’re looking for. It runs classes such as yoga, Qi Gong, dancing, sound healing and much, much more.
Mapua, with a collection of waterfront restaurants, galleries, boutique shops, a brewery and an ice-cream parlour, ensures you will be well catered for. Try your hand at fishing or follow the lead of the local children and jump off the wharf into the ocean. You can also take a ferry across to Rabbit Island or hire bikes from the wharf to ride on the Great Taste Trail.
Motueka is at the mouth of the Motueka River and is the second largest centre in the Tasman Region after Richmond, with a population of 7125. It has great op shops and some tasty cafes. Bloom is popular among the locals and has an arty, cosy atmosphere with deliciously nutritious food.
The Sunday market here is excellent; a treasure trove of treats that will keep you entranced for hours, so make sure you arrive early. It opens at 8am until 12pm and there is live music to keep the vibes lifted as you browse the eclectic array of goodies in the Decks Reserve Car Park. It is a fusion of a farmers, craft and secondhand markets with delicious artisan treats and the smell of freshly baked bread.
Motueka has a famous Bunya Bunya tree that many people stop to pay homage to and a lovely rose garden where an unusually large Ginkgo tree presides.
Kaiteriteri is a lovely beach town 13 kilometres from Motueka, and a handy gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. Here you will find plenty of opportunities to kayak and paddle board. This beach is beautiful with golden sands and calm, clear waters. There are two parts to it: little Kaiteriteri and big Kaiteriteri. I preferred little Kaiteriteri which has a collection of rocks at the south end which are great to climb. Between the two beaches is a beech forest and I found some of these trees sticky with honey dew with bees and birds feasting on it.
Split Apple Rock
Close to Kaiteriteri is an unusual beach attraction. Split Apple Rock is a naturally-occurring granite rock formation located just off the coast between Kaiteriteri and Marahau in Abel Tasman National Park. Estimated to be around 120 million years old, this neatly cleaved rock is situated 160 feet from shore. It is easily accessed by walking down a short track just outside the town of Kaiteriteri. Alternatively, see it from the sea with a kayak tour or water taxi.
In the Māori legend, the boulder was split by two feuding gods who were fighting to possess it. To resolve the issue, they used their huge godlike strength to break it in half. As such, the Māori name for the rock is Tokangawhā, which means “burst open rock.” A more scientific theory is that water seeped into a crevice in the rock and then froze during an ice age, expanding and thus splitting the stone.
The Riuwaka Resurgence is located in Kahurangi National Park; the Motueka area in the Nelson/Tasman region. It is a sacred site that holds special significance in Māori history and culture. It is known as Te Puna and is associated with the people of Te Atiawa and Ngati Rarua, who recognise it as wahi tapu, a sacred place. The magnificence of this place is palpable; it is not to be missed.
It is easy to find the Riuwaka Resurgence and is a short 11km drive from the Riwaka township or 16km from Motueka. From Riwaka, travel north-west on SH60 toward Takaka. Turn left just before the climb over the Takaka Hill. Here the road splits in two, with the signposted road to the Resurgence off to the left. Travel 7km along this gently winding road until you reach the park beside the start of the track.
The carpark is found alongside the river, which you then follow up a gentle incline. The track is an easy, short walk and only takes ten minutes one way however rocks on the riverbed can be slippery (and there’s no access for dogs).
Walking through a welcoming archway into the forest, the river bounces over rocks to your left. This is the north branch of the Riuwaka River which pours out of the cave-riddled marble of Takaka Hill in this glorious haven of the Kahurangi National Park.
The Resurgence is remarkable. Hidden in damp forest, its collection of cold, glowing pools and water weaving between moss-covered marble rocks have a fairyland quality that will capture your heart. Where the Riuwaka River emerges from the depths of the Takaka Hill there is a cave with deep, crystal clear water.
You can also picnic in the sun in the grassy gardens before the forest, where the river sings softly and the hills roll around you. Fishing is also an option. For a view down to the resurgence, you can drive up to Hawkes Lookout which is on Takaka Hill. There is a five-minute path up through bush and marble outcrops to a stunning viewpoint. Hawkes Lookout is on State Highway 60, 10km from Riwaka.
Want more to explore?
The Jesterhouse cafe, with its tasty foods, glorious gardens and friendly eels that you can feed, is a great place to be. It’s only open Friday 10am to 10pm. Run by Steve and Judy, find them on 320 Aporo Road, Tasman 7173.
Or why not go trout fishing in the Motueka river? The setting is every angler’s dream. The river is bordered by vegetation with exceptional water quality that boasts long riffles, deep pools and boisterous rapids. It’s known not only for its beauty but also for its challenging fishing experience. There are guided fishing tours and specialist lodges dotted along the banks, such as Stonefly Lodge. Here you’ll have everything you require for the ultimate fishing experience.