Kahurangi National Park: Cobb Valley, Mt Arthur and the Nelson Tablelands

January 20, 2021
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Points of interest on and around the Nelson Tablelands, inland from Motueka

KAHURANGI National Park, which occupies a vast area west of Motueka, is the second largest national park in New Zealand after Fiordland. With over five hundred and seventy kilometres of tracks, including the famous seventy-eight-kilometre Heaphy Track which I write about in another post, Kahurangi is tramping heaven. With its coastal palm forests, marble mountains, rare birds like the rock wren and the spotted kiwi, and tussock high country, it’s an incredible place to be.

In Māori, Kahurangi means treasured possession, which is exactly what this park is. For hundreds of years the Māori used tracks through this region to find pounamu, greenstone in local English, which was used to make taonga or heirlooms passed down from one generation to the next.

The diverse terrain I covered included a series of unique geological features. Mt Arthur is made of hard, crystalline marble: below the ground are some of the deepest shafts and most intricate cave systems in the world. Cavers have currently joined two cave systems in the area and made a massive thirty-six kilometres long, twelve hundred-metre deep underground labyrinth. Nettlebed is now the deepest cave in the Southern Hemisphere of which the depth is known.

In contrast, the Tablelands, a high plateau, are made of limestone and quartz that were lifted and twisted over millennia to form mountains. There are lots of interesting places to visit there, including the historic Asbestos Cottage, the home of two recluses who used to make a living mining that mineral in the days when it was still widely used in industry, among other things.

The Cobb Valley is different again: its rivers were once glaciers smoothing and polishing the rock as they advanced to form a U-shaped valley, always the sign of anow-vanished glacier as opposed to the steep V that is carved by a river. The valley today still bears many signs of its former glaciers and is filled with volcanic rock, schist and sandstone.

See, further,

New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) guide to the Kahurangi National Park:

And three more of my blog posts:

If you liked the post above, check out my new book about the South Island! It's available for purchase from this website.


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