An iconic country town and
holiday destination in its own right.
Motueka is the closest small town to the Abel Tasman. With a population of around 9,000, Motueka is only a twenty-minute drive from the Abel Tasman National Park. Motueka, or simply Mot to locals, is an attractive country town with an abundance of green space, an unspoilt and relaxed waterfront area and, a great network of cycle and walking trails.
Over the past several years Motueka has attracted many migrants from both overseas and elsewhere in New Zealand. These recent migrants have been attracted to Motueka by the stunning local environment, terrific climate and easy access to the many recreational opportunities.
A pioneering culture of innovation, creativity and living in balance with the land, has attracted people seeking a healthier, alternative lifestyle. Motueka’s locals are an eclectic, cosmopolitan mix of free spirited individuals of all ages.
The summer months attract visitors from every corner of the globe who use Motueka as a base to visit nearby national parks and beaches, and particularly the Abel Tasman. At other times of the year, many seasonal horticulture workers come to the Motueka area to work on the local orchards.
Parks & Reserves
Motueka is a classic Kiwi town with the houses located primarily along the main road, with many acres of green space directly behind the one of two rows of houses. Much of this green space is horticultural land where grapes, hops, kiwifruit and apples are grown, but there are also a bunch of public parks and reserves.
The salt water baths, a decent sized public swimming pool, is located at Motueka Wharf. The Wharf itself can also be a good fishing spot. (Please don’t tell any of the locals fishing there where you got this information from!)
The Rec Centre is located at the southern end of the town, adjacent to which is a large open green space. Right across from there is the rather excellent Motueka Skate Park, and a large estuary area, all of which is available for public use.
Right the middle of town is Thorpe Street Park and Decks Reserve, both of which have excellent children’s playgrounds.
To the north and directly beside the town’s library is perhaps Motueka’s most historic and picturesque public park, Memorial Park. If you’re there at the right time you’ll see local kids doing athletics or a full game of cricket between local clubs. On a summer day, this is the perfect place to lie on the grass for a snooze under one of the huge old trees that surround the park.
Walk & Cycle Trails
The Tasman Great Taste Trail, which extends from Nelson to Kaiteriteri, runs right through Motueka. From the southern end of town the Great Taste Trail joins Motueka’s extensive network of shared cycle and pedestrian trails. These trails run from the Motueka Wharf area, past tidal estuaries and along the Motueka waterfront. You will find locals cycling, walking, running and exercising their dogs along these well-formed and well-maintained trails at all times of the day, although they never become crowded.
Out from Motueka Quay is a fantastic sandspit, where at low tide, you can wander or run for kilometers, usually without encountering another person.
A lovely 15 minute drive north of Motueka, is the Riwaka Resurgence, an awesome little walk that ends at the source of the Riuwaka River. This is the point where the water flows out from the Takaka Hills, after being filtered by the marble and other rock in the hills. This makes the water incredibly pure, crystal clear and so cold it’ll take your breath away when you swim there.
The Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park, an easy 10 minute drive north of Motueka, is a mountain biker’s Valhalla. The Bike Park is a vast network of trails for riders of every level from the novice to the seasoned, my-brakes-are-not-my-friends, downhill maniacs. The views from the top of the Park, out across Tasman Bay are well worth the grunt up the hill.
For a rural Kiwi town Motueka has a surprising variety of cafes and restaurants. The main road through town, High Street, is lined with cafes, takeaway food places and bakeries. Toad Hall at the southern entrance to the town is an outstanding place that is clearly engaged in the relentless process of continual improvement. With a great variety of fresh juices, smoothies and unfailingly good food, Toad Hall is something of an institution, and it just seems to get better every time you visit.
In the midst of High Street, you’ll find the locals dining or hanging out at places like Precinct Dining, the Smoking Barrel, Patisserie Royale and the Sprig and Fern.
For something with a more spice, Simply Indian is a well established curry place and Motueka somewhat surprisingly has two authentic Thai restaurants; Chokdee and Lanna Thai .Speaking of authentic, House of Li, in the middle of High Street, sells excellent Chinese street-style food that could well have been bought from the street stalls in Shanghai! Just along High School you’ll find Paper Nautilus serving good quality Japanese food.
At the wonderful village settlement just out of Motueka, Riwaka, you’ll find an awesome little mobile cafe, Ginger Dynamite. This is another local hangout with great coffee and pies that don’t win national awards by accident!
Every Sunday at Decks Reserve, directly behind High Street, there is great outdoor market full of stalls selling all manner of things, most of which are not available for purchase anywhere else.
Local farmers set up large stalls to sell their fresh produce directly to the public. Bread makers, local chesseries and other fantastic artisan food producers sell food either in raw form or ready to eat. Whitebait patties, a local delicacy, are usually available as are other local favourites like bratwurst and crepes.
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.
There is always a good range of buskers at the market providing entertainment, a highlight of which are a large ensemble of horticulture workers from Vanuatu who play a mix of guitars and homemade instruments.
Orchards and other horticultural land is all around, and even right in the middle of Motueka. To get some perspective of the scale and extent of this whole fruit bowl moniker, you really need to get an elevated view of the area. Coming down the southern side of the Marahau Hill provides one of these views as you see the endless rows of fruit trees, hops and vineyards stretching from Riwaka through and beyond Motueka.
Although the vast majority of Motueka’s produce is exported to other parts of New Zealand and overseas, you will still be able to purchase it locally very easily. Much of the time, this will be directly from the producer’s front gate from the stalls you will encounter throughout the area.
A really cool activity during the summer months is the Pick Your Own (PYO) berry concept. When the berries are in season, you visit the farm and pick as many strawberries, raspberries or boysenberries as you want. You pay for your berries after they are weighed and then enjoy them freshly picked by your own hand.
You will find real fruit ice creams available at various cafes and stalls around the area too, with the fruit for these ice cream or yoghurt-based cones from the Motueka area. A good place to get local fruit and produce, plus these real fruit ice creams is in Riwaka, is Thomas Bros.