Ten great ideas for a day in Motueka, things to see & do
Motueka is a bustling regional centre for Nelson and a popular gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. A cafe culture, the holiday buzz and energy has developed into a comprehensive range of accommodation choices, boutique shops and an area showcasing artists and artisans. The town center is the home to the well known Motueka Sunday Market where pop up food stores, emerging creative talent have a vehicle to market their wares. From craft breweries in nearby Riwaka to a game of golf at Tasman Village golf course there is something for everyone.
- Start: Nelson region
- Finish: Nelson region
- Duration: One day or several if you get caught up in the Nelson magic spell
- Best time to visit: Spring to autumn. Year round however some accommodation providers and galleries could be closed
Nature fans will enjoy the Riwaka Resurgence where clear spring water bubbles from an underground network of caves at the foot of the Takaka Hills. On the edge of the Kahurangi National park, the clearly signposted easy walking trail takes to the springs filtered by karst landscape. There is a large open area with picnic tables and a toilet block at the start of the walking track. This is a great walk on a hot summer day as it is shaded and a beautiful place for an impromptu picnic.
Explore the cave system where spring water is filtered. The Ngarua Caves, which can be accessed from the top of Takaka Hill, are also spectacular and it’s well worth stopping there to enjoy the beautiful view across Tasman Bay before you head into the caves on a guided tour. The caves are only accessible by guided tours. While the tour is approximately half an hour it is a great introduction for kids as there are a variety of stalagmites and stalactites, also an excellent skeletal display of the extinct moa. For more information and booking details check out Ngarua Caves.
Art buffs joy at Motueka and surrounding district with well known potters Steve Fullmer’s quirky original interpretations of landscape, one of New Zealand’s premier potters Steve Fullmer | “I made the decision years ago that the most intimate objects we live with are the vessels we eat and drink from, and have slowly collected bowls, cups and a beloved tea pot made by Steve… which I use and enjoy every day. Thank you.” Eels lurk in his garden, a face ghosts across his window, and fish on legs stalk his front room. For intimate detail Sue Newitt – Pottery with her fine ceramic whiteware is a popular destination and Frost and Fire Gallery, nearby is a well known place to reflect on artistic interpretation. Reclaimed objects repurposed as art Twigg – Home is imaginative and conducts very popular wreath workshops, based in Port Motueka. Together with Riwaka’s JointWorks Studio vibrant fabric collections and occasional furniture objects there are plenty of shopping opportunities for art collectors.
For history and heritage trail enthusiasts Motueka Museum is an ideal spot to start the journey exploring Golden Bay’s past and present. The Museum is housed in a category II heritage brick building (1919) originally the district school now a museum. Here are photographs and memorabilia of the original wharf, the story of the Jane Seddon wreck and story of human occupation reaching back hundreds of years. The museum is open:
December to March
Monday to Friday 10am to 3pm
Sunday 10am to 2pm
April to November
Tuesday to Friday 10am to 3pm
Sunday 10am to 2pm
Shop Motueka main shopping street, from op-shops to functional hardware stores, boutiques and bakeries and emerging artists pop up stores. Find Motueka Recycle Depot. This is a jam-packed reuse shop on your way into town. It’s full of bargains, largely imported however there are local gems amidst the clutter. Fresh produce, the fruitbowl of Nelson is aptly marketed by Toad Hall at the southern entrance to the town is an outstanding organic store, cafe and now the location for a microbrewery Townshend is a must check out destination for visitors in need of food, snacks, freshly squeezed juice. Combined with the Sunday Markets your catering needs will be stocked to the brim with goodies. The Sunday Market is also a primary outlet for crafty and artistic types to display and sell their creations. You’ll find jade (greenstone or pounamu to locals) jewelry and all manner of other arts and crafts. Buskers and horticultural seasonal employees contribute to the sights and sounds of the Sunday Markets.
How about a swim in heritage SALTWATER BATHS, North Street (off Wharf Road). These pools are filled by the incoming tide. The pools have picnic tables, barbeques, toilets, playground, swimming and a beach. Work on the baths was completed in 1938 and the passing of years has seen little change. A simple manually-operated floodgate is lifted to drain the water and the area’s high tides are enough for it to fill it. It takes 40 minutes to empty and when big tides come up, they fill the pool. On a 10 day cycle in summer, the pool is cleaned, depending on the height of the tides. For river swimming holes the local council recommends popular river swimming spots are:
- Trewavas Street, Motueka
- Twin Bridges Reserve, Aniseed Valley Road, Aniseed Valley
- Busch Reserve, Aniseed Valley Road, Aniseed Valley
- White Gates Reserve, Aniseed Valley Road, Aniseed Valley
Jane Seddon, is a rusting, soft orange sheen in the sunset and a truly fabulous photo moment near the site of the original Motueka wharf. If the tide is right you can walk around the rusting hull, the tidal flats are silty and muddy, lots of fun for kids to explore and imagine the story of Jane Seddon.
Recreational fishing, cruising the coast Motueka Wharf is where it happens although only at high tide. At low tide the boats can’t get in or out. High tide is busy with commercial and pleasure boats getting out and about.
Motueka walks from Staples Road to the Saltwater baths, exploring Motueka Walkways with DOC Motueka area: Nelson/TasmanMotueka Sandspit, an internationally recognised site for local and migrant shorebirds. Take in Motueka’s waterfront attractions and join the locals.
Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park, 10 minute drive north of Motueka, is a mountain biker’s paradise. The Bike Park is a huge network of trails for riders of every level from the novice to the seasoned. A well known adrenaline mountain bike junkies Valhalla. The views from the top of the Park, out across Tasman Bay are well worth the pedal up the hill.
Travel Pack Information
- Cycling / Road trip extended weekend in Nelson
- Ten reasons to visit Mapua Wharf
- Nine things to do in Tasman Village
- Nelson travel guide
- Abel Tasman National Park guide
You will need either a bicycle or vehicle to get to some attractions however it is a town where walking between places is easy.
Motueka is on the major route to the Abel Tasman National Park, due to its place as a major food producer there is an excellent network of roads to the area. Consider taking the scenic inland route via the Moutere Valley from Nelson with its art and craft trail to linger.
The journey is worth it.