We’d never been to Māhia Peninsula.
Of course it’s been in the news a bit over the last year or two as the site of RocketLab’s launching facility, so we decide it’s time to go, given that we’re in the area and heading south from Gisborne.
Māhia Peninsula is between Gisborne and Napier on the east coast of the North Island. It marks the upper point of Hawke Bay, the lower point being Cape Kidnappers. It’s a very popular destination for holiday-makers and day trippers from the cities of Napier and Hastings and elsewhere in the Hawke’s Bay.
But before we reach Māhia we make a stop.
Mōrere Hot Springs
This rain forest area is known for it’s ancient hot sea water springs piped into public and private hot pools in a beautiful setting.
It’s pretty mind-blowing really – 250,000 litres a day!
Even though it was a very hot day I was determined to have a soak in one of the Nikau Plunge Pools, but first I did the 10 minute Nikau Walk.
There are several different walks taking up to two hours but this one was sufficient for me. A fair number of steep steps up ahead meant John decided he wouldn’t join me on this route. He has Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease and can’t manage long walks and steep steps, so he went the other way and met me at the pools.
Before we parted ways we took a few shots. It’s so lush and tropical…
So many feather-duster-like Nikau trees…
And then, soaking in the pool, contemplating the fossilised salt water travelling over thousands of years to bubble up in Mōrere through a fracture in a faultline running across the Mangakawa Valley…
Another few kilometres south after leaving Mōrere, and we turn off to Māhia Peninsula at Nūhaka.
This stretch of road, the Nūhaka-Ōpoutama Road, is interesting. The road soon travels alongside the coast with wonderful views of the Peninsula to the right, and a railway line on the left.
This is part of the Palmerston North-Gisborne line. Construction began in 1872 but wasn’t completed until 1942 (there were huge viaducts to be built).
The Bay Express passenger train ran until it’s cancellation in 2001, when it became a freight-only line, and in 2012 the line from Napier to Gisborne was officially mothballed.
And then a change in Government in 2017 announced a Provisional Development Fund which led to a 2018 decision to reopen the section between Napier and Wairoa for forestry trains.
The section north of Wairoa is still mothballed.
This coastal section runs alongside the road, crosses the road twice, and then runs along beside Ōpoutama beach, before heading inland again toward Gisborne.
The railway bridge at Ōpoutama beach…
I like trains. My interest in them stems from my maternal grandfather, Leonard Cecil Pinny, who, in the 1920-30s hand made model steam engines to scale, and ran them on a railway line constructed in his garden in Eltham, Taranaki. He built them from scratch in his home workshop, from blue prints in an engineering magazine of the day, The Model Engineer.
As an engineering feat, they were remarkable.
My brother Kelvin still has the metal lathe our grandfather used to make them.
My sister Carole and I aboard one of Pa’s trains in the 1950s…
My grandfather, Len Pinny with two of the six engines he built…
This one below, is now permanently on display in Puke Ariki Museum in New Plymouth, Taranaki. It’s a model of the Great Northern Railway Class S engine, which ran between London and York in the 1870s, and was the fastest steam locomotive in the world in it’s day. That’s why it has those big wheels, to drive it…
Back to the present…
Ōpoutama is a small village with a beautiful beach that stretches right along to Māhia.
Freedom camping is allowed at the beach by the railway line. There is a mix of caravans and motorhomes here and it appears to be quite popular…
It’s a hot day and the beach looks very inviting.
I had phoned ahead and booked a site for us at the Māhia Beach Holiday Park so it was time to continue on.
As was expected it was quite busy, but we didn’t need a powered site and were happy to go park down the back with the tents.
This is a great little camp. Facilities are clean, the staff couldn’t be friendlier, and it’s position right across the road from the beach makes it an ideal holiday spot.
I think it’s a secret that’s already out though.
The sun goes down over Māhia Beach…
Mokotahi Hill you see in the above photos is a landmark headland. It was gifted to the Crown by the Ormond family. You can climb to the top for panoramic views of Māhia township, the isthmus, and spectacular coastline.
You may have heard of Moko the dolphin. His story begins here, hence his name. Click on his name if you want to know more, or you’ve forgotten.
Taylor’s Bay with Mokotahi Hill…
Looking the other way from Taylor’s Bay along the peninsula…
We wanted to check out Rocket Cafe on the Māhia East Coast Road as my friend Val from Gisborne had recommended it. She knows the owner, and I can tell you now, her cakes and squares are delicious. Hmmm…maybe we should have waited and had a cooked breakfast here this morning.
We learn a little about the history of the area from photographs and information on the cafe walls – how the old lighthouse from Portland Island (off the southern tip of the Peninsula) was dismantled and rebuilt in the town of Wairoa on the banks of the river after it was replaced with an automated one in 1984.
The old Portland Island lighthouse now in Wairoa…
The Māhia East Coast Road extends almost the full length of the Peninsula but is only sealed for a short distance.
The southern end of the Peninsula is a large sheep and cattle station, ‘Onenui,’ where Rocket Lab’s orbital launch operations are situated. Public access is not allowed there.
Coastal views along the Māhia East Coast Road…
The Whangawehi Stream outlet…
Auroa Point and Coronation Reserve…
Before we left Māhia on Sunday, we checked out the Seaside Markets which are held here every week…
During the summer months when the population swells to more than 3000, it’s an obvious gathering place, and fun, with a wide range of stalls from fresh produce to artwork and crafts.
And now it’s time to leave Māhia Peninsula and make our way south to Napier.