Murchison is usually seen as a stopping point on the way to somewhere else – to Nelson or the West Coast. Our new life is about exploring the hidden magic of New Zealand in our new caravan. We have not picked it up yet, so a cabin it is this weekend as we explore Murchison.
A River Runs Through it
The Buller River thunders along this valley, nearby the Matakitaki River contributes its water to the flow. It seems that everywhere roads wander up verdant valleys until the valleys close in and the native bush takes over.
We are at the Murchison Motorhome Park – 8km out of town, it has a restful energy with motorhomes and caravans dotted around it’s landscaped grounds. Karen the owner has put a lot of energy into a creating a place that people want to come back to, and it shows. As we have not yet picked up the caravan, we are staying in one of the two ‘cabins’. A lovely central kitchen/common area and ablutions sits at the heart of the Park. A fire is kept going in the common room (it heats the hotwater for showers) and music is piped into the ablutions.
Beware the sandflies! The common area has great sandfly protection – but don’t leave the door open!
Swimming holes – one boundary of the Park is the Buller River and there are several swimming spots – though parts of the fast flowing river are dangerous, so read the signs!
Cycling the Matiri Valley to Kahurangi National Park
Our first day’s adventure is a 40km ride up the Matiri Valley. With packed lunches and covered with insect repellent, we had off on our electric bikes on the sealed road. Very quickly we are cycling through beautiful beech forest, but this turns out to be short lived, as we are soon out onto lush farmland as the valley opens up. We come upon the first signs of the Matiri Hydro scheme and just past this the seal ends. We follow the shingle road (carefully J) through farmland to cross the Matiri River, eventually reaching a DOC parking area which is a staging place for trampers going into Kahurangi National Park. It is also a staging area for the building of the Matiri Hydro Scheme which is nearing completion. We cycle on past and eventually we are back into beautiful beech forest. Unfortunately we choose the right fork following the large pipes that will take water from Lake Matiri to make electricity.
It was a hot and exposed ride, so we gladly find some shelter under a bridge beside the river to enjoy our lunches, before cycling home. The shingle road going home was easier going – mostly because we had got better at managing the loose metal. Full out going home, we felt a sense of achievement and collapsed on our beds to recover.
We decide to pile in the car and head for Lake Rotoroa – one of the lakes in the Nelson Lakes National Park. Remember the insect repellant. Famous for trout fishing, what houses there are are set back from the lake which looks pristine, with native bush going right to the shoreline. There are water taxis there to drop you off on tramping tracks, or you can wander off on some of the shorter walks.
A treat on the way home was noticing a sign that said we could go back to Murchison via the Braeburn Track. With four stream crossings, we were glad to be driving our 4WD. This is a recommended cycling route – we only passed one car and all decided we would love to cycle it.
A must do next time: Cycle the Braeburn track – From Lake Rotoroa is best with a mostly downhill ride through beautiful bush – the clematis and bush lawyer were both in full flower, and the NZ Tree Fushia was also resplendent with flowers and new growth. More about Cycling the Braeburn track here
Food in Murchison
The Cow Shed Restaurant is licensed and does great Pizza – very friendly owners who sat down with us and shared a drink at the end of the evening. Clearly popular with visitors and locals.
Rivers Cafe is a legend: No visit to Murchison is complete without two things. One is a browse at the second hand/antique stores Dust and Rust and the other by Rivers Cafe – a visit to Rivers for coffee is a must. Rivers is not on the main road – turn into Fairfax for great food from the cabinet and from the menu.
Browse the second hand stores in Murchison for local treasures…