Pelorus Bridge, Marlborough. © Jeff Hitchcock

Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve: enchanting rocky gorge


Not wanting to reduce this delightful little spot to its presence on the big screen, but the Pelorus Bridge, already quite a legend, was made even more famous when a bunch of hobbits floated down it tied to barrels.

Yes, it came to life under Sir Peter Jackson’s lens. But you certainly don’t need a camera crew and a gaffer, whatever that may be, to enjoy its charms.

Where the Rai meets the Pelorus River between Nelson and Blenheim is a unique location, intensely scenic, remarkably peaceful and rich in wildlife and history. Nearby Canvastown had a population of 3000 in the mid-1800s, the goldminers’ tents providing it with its name. They left town long ago, of course, but one of the last stands of original river-flat forest in the area remains, and it’s just exquisite.

The forest contains a canopied collection of beech and native rimu, kahikatea and tōtara and you can weave your way in amongst it, making use of several wide, easily negotiable tracks in the reserve.

If you want to stay a bit, the Kahikatea Flat Campground is a prime spot. Clearly, it’s level (!), is located adjacent to the river, and also gives easy access to several swimming holes. You can enjoy that rural upbringing you think you missed out on, or relive the one you had. Camping out then waking to the sound of native birds, exploring swimming holes, hidden tracks, massive native trees: primo. And, when the light is just right, you might just see a hobbit, tied to a barrel, floating around the riverbend.

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