Follow the Clues, Find the Treasure. Canvastown, Marlborough.
Canvastown may appear to be an unassuming distraction half way between Blenheim & Nelson, but whizzing past without a second glance means you’ll be missing the chance to explore old trails of gold, scenic cycleways, extraordinary stories and one of the cutest little campsites in New Zealand.
The incredibly clear water of the Wakamarina River meanders from the Richmond Ranges to converge with the Pelorus River. In 1860 while washing clothes in the river, Mrs Catherine Pope accidentally discovered gold. Word soon spread and in 1864 the district's official gold exports were recorded to be just over 24,000 ounces amassing almost 100,000 pounds in revenue. Relics of the rush still remain and can be explored on foot or cycle. Trail maps are available from the info station opposite the Canvastown pub. Truly engaging local stories lead you on a historic trip along the river as you visit the remnants of old industrial sites and mining camps. The road is sealed, a bit narrow in places and there’s a few one lane bridges to cross, but its safe and a beautiful trail by all accounts. Interpretation boards are marked with bright orange flags so you can't miss them.
If you’ve ever headed down one of those roads that gets you thinking you’ve taken a wrong turn, making your way to Pinedale Motor Camp is a bit like that. Luckily, hidden clues along the roadside turn the journey into a treasure hunt. Quirky signage on the 8k drive from Canvastown alert the observant that they’re on the right track. When you arrive, the bounty is banging!
Nestled perfectly beside the Wakamarina River in the boondocks of Canvastown you’ll find it. A natural paradise where fat Kereru (Wood Pigeons) fall from the boughs of heavily fruited trees, drunk from their reckless gorge. Where colourful Kingfishers swoop from tree to tree as Tui & Bellbirds call in the dawn of a new day. If there’s a heaven on earth, this has to be it!
Pinedale Motor Camp is a snippet of the real New Zealand. Charmingly rustic the natural setting is peaceful, picturesque & welcoming. It’s a spot where people from all walks of life can relax, disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with Mother Nature. Before you get all panicky about the disconnect know that while writing this article I am sitting under a tree full of incredible native birds with a family of locusts singing happily in the bush. Warm with the sun on my back, the river melodically trickles by as families play. An elderly couple stop by to say hello while walking their dog (yep, you’re allowed your four-legged whanau here) and the aroma of coffee and bacon fills the air as campers make breakfast. Motorhomes, caravans and tents of all proportions are dotted around the spacious grounds in random order. Park up wherever you feel comfortable. Pinedale has no painted lines of conformity or sardine style camping, just a cruisy, informal idyll to enjoy.
The large amenities block is clean and perfectly functional. Showers are fed from a pure spring through a gas heating system with excellent pressure making your shower token a heavenly investment. There’s plenty of cooking and bench space in the kitchen. The lounge, complete with an extensive array of books, magazines, games, musical instruments and comfy couches is a homely spot to zone out. A commanding pot belly fire will soon warm you up if you’re visiting in the cooler months.
If you don’t have the luxury of a camper or caravan and tenting is not your thing you can stay in one of the cute cabins. They make awesome backpacker accommodation and are also perfect for a cosy weekend getaway or a large family gathering at any time of year. One comes complete with a shiny Weber BBQ and its own outdoor bath. Taking around 40 minutes to heat the bath, there’s plenty of time for your bottle of wine to breathe before soaking away the day under the sparkling night sky to the tune of a trickling river and the odd ‘hoot’ of a morepork.
The beautiful scenery doesn’t end when the sun goes down. Take your deck chair to the river track and let the glow worms entertain you. Just as daylight dances on the river, darkness brings the bush to life with a spectacular natural light show.
There’s no better way to rekindle a connection to our environment than river swimming and the water holes at Pinedale are perfect! The water temperature remains cool even in the summer months but when the sun is high in the valley and you need to cool off the Wakamarina welcomes you to her eddies. A stony shallow crossing makes getting to the opposite side relatively easy for those who want to explore more. A wander down the rocky riverside leads to spectacular scenery and a delightful waterfall. The camp has a selection of gold panning equipment so you may like to try your luck fossicking the riverbed for riches. Guided tours to some of the lesser known gems in the district are available by prior arrangement. Pinedale Motor Camp is just 15 mintues from Havelock so you have access to a small supermarket, galleries, bars & restaurants if you so desire.
Your hosts Pete & Beki are a pretty laid-back pair of people. Both are multi-talented in their own right having run several fast-paced city businesses. Beki is an accomplished chef and you can try one of her home made curry dishes during your stay. I was lucky enough to sample one of her Christmas mince pies during my visit and they were divine! If you venture into Havelock keep your eyes peeled for the rustic Taco Shack next to the Mussel Pot. This is a new venture for Pete & Beki that's already a huge hit with the locals and passers by. It's open from 12 p.m. to six or sevenish, Wednesday to Sunday.
Now firmly ensconced in ‘the good life’ Pete & Beki are welcoming, happy and engaging folk who willingly share their perfect piece of New Zealand with locals and travellers alike. So if getting off the beaten path to a stress-free spot that oozes natural beauty is on your ‘to do’ list, follow the clues and find the treasure!
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