In the end it was the Bellbirds that called us – they were cavorting noisily in the pohutukawa trees out to the corner of the flat paddock which was the Buxton campground at Gore Bay. Easy choice for our first night in our new caravan. The second campground was nearer the swimming end of the beach, has slightly more facilities, and looked out more on the beach, but 50 teenagers were about to descend, so we gave that a miss.
First Trip in our New Caravan
We decided on a caravan rather than a camper because we liked the idea of setting up in one spot and then exploring the area by car and bike. New Zealand has so many great little spots that we often drive through. Covid and semi retirement was our chance to dig deep and stay local.
Cheviot is one place we usually just stop for coffee on the way through to somewhere else, not this time. Our destination is Gore Bay – an easy 8km drive (or cycle) from Cheviot 1.5 hours north of Christchurch.
A backdrop of native bush has encouraged the bird life to flourish and the gentle sound of waves breaking fills our day.
Hurunui River Mouth
This is a must visit – beautiful views of the coastline from the lookout, and over the Hurunui River as it snakes behind a shingle bank before heading out to see . There is a simple campground down a steep drive near the river, but for brave souls only. A sign points south to Motunau Beach (39kms) after crossing a swing bridge – we add it to our programme for tomorrow.
Manuka Bay Track
From the lookout at Hurunui River mouth there is a sign to the Manuka Bay Track. This winding coastal track takes you to… Manuka Bay – a beautiful wild and lonely beach. Walk both ways, or arrange someone to pick you up at the other end – 2 relaxed hours one way. A little rough in places, so walking sticks a helpful aid. I dropped three of our party off and then drove to Manuka Bay to pick them up.
A closed gate should not deter you – but the track down might – drive slowly, 4WD might help, but the reward at the bottom of the hill is an empty beach and the end (or the start) of the walk from Hurunui River Mouth track.
Point Gibson Lighthouse – at the end of the Manuka Bay Road before you head down through the gate, park the car and take the short walk across the paddock to the Point Gibson Lighthouse and another grand view north and south along the coast. A gorgeous old house sits on this paddock which must have been the lightkeepers cottage in times gone by.
We decide to do a drive down to explore Motunau Beach – 40kms from Gore Bay, where a river comes out onto a rocky shore. This is obviously a popular fishing spot – and not just for humans. There is noisy colony of white fronted terns, and I think some black billed gulls and they are going for it – diving for fish as the tide goes out. Offshore sits Motunau Island which is a recovering native habit where birds and lizards are starting to thrive again – no unauthorised landing allowed.
More about Gore Bay
1.5 hrs north of Christchurch – turn off at Cheviot – 8 kms to Gore Bay (longer in our caravan!) There is another route into Gore Bay, but not recommended in our caravan – especially for our first trip.
Buxton and Gore Bay campgrounds for booking and more info
- $30/night powered $28 unpowered – pay by cash or honesty box, or honesty internet
- Host: Kim who comes around each day late afternoon
- No wifi or mobile reception
- Hot showers, toilets, rough shelter with sink, hotwater, a jug, toaster and fridge.
- We need some blocks of wood to stop our supports sinking into the soft ground.
- Keep one metre away from the edge of your designated spot – apparently a fire regulation, which made sense.
- Nearest coffee – Number 8 in Cheviot – fantastic coffee, cabinet and breakfast/lunch menu. Easy 8 km cycle on quiet sealed road. Free wifi.
- Nearest mobile reception: Cathedral Cliffs
- Cheviot Coastal Classic: 30 kms round trip on quiet mostly sealed road. Best access via the Hurunui Mouth Road into Gore Bay (the other way a steep climb!) Passes Cathedral Cliffs.
- The Cheviot Hills Reserve is worth a cycle or walk stop – try the Ready Money Cycle trail. There is an off road cycle track to the reserve along Gore Bay Road.
- More Cycling and Walking tips