Kia Ora: Riwaka

In Riwaka kids can enjoy swimming, fishing and finding their own fun. Photo / Elisabeth Easther
In Riwaka kids can enjoy swimming, fishing and finding their own fun. Photo / Elisabeth Easther

Origin of name: Corruption of Riuwaka, riu for bilge of waka (or basin) where water might gather, and waka for canoe. The original name for the once swampy area was Turi Auraki, which means "tired knees", referring to the physical challenges experienced when exploring round these parts.

Population: About 900.

Town slogan: I love Riwaka - as seen on T-shirts and singlets all over town. To buy your own visit lostandbound.co.nz

Town feeling: A swag of new residents have recently moved here from big cities, many of them starting up small businesses, which means the town is now a bustling hive of enterprise.

Hop to it: The Riwaka district has a rich horticultural history, with tobacco, pears, kiwifruit, and apples all grown around here. Most of New Zealand's hops are produced here.

Busy town: The surprising number of small businesses operating out of Riwaka include a brewery, a winery and olive oil producers, coffee shops, a book binder, printer and graphic designer, a hairdresser and dog groomer, who also provides doggy daycare, not to mention the providers of lodgings from backpackers to five-star luxury eco-accommodation.

Infamous local: Tiger, a much-loved local identity, is the dog of all dogs, cruising around town like a four-legged welcome party.

Big business: Agriculture, horticulture and, of course, all those small businesses.

Source of pride: Riwaka has a warm atmosphere - it's ridiculously scenic and rarely crowded. Combined with the temperate climate, Riwaka is a little piece of paradise.

Town fiesta: Each year on January 2 you can visit the Potters' Fair at the Riwaka Memorial Reserve - started by the local potters to showcase their wares, each year it gets bigger and attracts huge numbers of visitors.

Here for a short time: Pop into The Hub where you'll find boutique brewers, Hop Federation, Ginger Dynamite, Go Go Food and Coffee and the Thomas brothers, who make some of the best fresh fruit icecreams in the universe, including one with cherries.

Kids love: Free-ranging, swimming, fishing and finding their own fun.

Best park: The Riwaka Memorial Reserve is home to tennis courts, the scout den, a croquet club, swings and the potters' club.

Sweet spot: You can't visit Riwaka without checking out Greentree and Wharf Rd, and the Riwaka Estuary where the Riwaka and Resurgence rivers run. Check out the swimming holes, old boats and boathouses, a lush green area, as well as spots for fishing and jumping off the wharf. So tranquil.

The town has a rich horticultural history. Photo / Elisabeth Easther
The town has a rich horticultural history. Photo / Elisabeth Easther

Best playground: The best playground, hands down, is at the school and, during the holidays and at weekends, you'll find half the town's kids there. In summer, the school pool is popular too, so make friends with a local with a key. Interestingly the local primary school, founded in 1848, is one of the 10 oldest schools in the country.

Best walk: The Riwaka Resurgence is a 10-15-minute walk through mature trees and, at the very end, you'll come to a big stream that bubbles out from the limestone providing a number of deep, clear swimming holes. Freezing all year round, your dip will be brief but bracing. Be warned though, you could be joined by a swarm of mosquitoes. The Great Taste Cycle Trail is also very pleasant for strolling along.

Best view: Pop up Takaka Hill for great views of the whole district. Or set a course for the pa site on the hill at Puketawhai, where you'll enjoy views across Tapu Bay and the rolling farmland.

Best swims: The swimming hole on Wharf Rd, or the wharf itself which is great for jumping off at high tide and walking your dog at low tide.

Nice arts: Riwaka is teeming with artists, sculptors, painters, and craftspeople. The Potters' Studio is open Mondays and Tuesdays and sometimes weekends too, while the town's younger artists have lessons at Little Picasso's. One artist, John Wolter from Wood Pigeon Studios, spends quite a bit of time in New York where his metal artworks and paintings are terrifically popular.

Top shop: Opposite the croquet club you'll find local woman Wendy selling the most amazing collection of vintage wares, from old bikes to gramophones. This is the capital of random cool stuff - get there on the right day and nab yourself a wicked bargain to treasure forever.

Honest: You'll be amazed at what you can buy round here from honesty boxes - from asparagus to whitebait, fruit and knick-knacks.

Cream of the coffee: At Ginger Dynamite, not only do you get great coffee you'll get a decent cup of conversation too. Their steak and Hop Federations brown ale pie recently placed seventh in the boutique cafe section of the NZ Pie Competition.

Great eats: You have to visit Thomas Brothers and try their real fruit icecreams. Or pop into Mrs Smiths on a Friday night for pizza.

Wet your whistle: The historic Riwaka Hotel is famous for hosting summer gigs. They do decent pub grub, plus they have free wi-fi.

Best mountain biking: The Kaiteriteri MTB Park is super-fun, as is The Great Taste Cycle Trail that runs through the village, heading from Motueka to Kaiteriteri.

Best adventures: Aside from the having the Abel Tasman National Park on the doorstep, you can go canyoning, kayaking, paddle boarding, horse riding white baiting, hunting and fishing.

Bargain: You can pick up a pretty amazing house here for around $300,000.

Wildlife: Round these parts you'll find pukeko, eels, cats and dogs, while further out in the bush the trees are home to tui, kereru and piwakawaka.

Locals say: Livin' the dream.

Checklist

WHERE IS IT

In the Tasman district of the South Island, 5km north of Motueka. Air New Zealand flies non-stop to Nelson from Auckland, with one-way fares starting from $49.

- NZ Herald

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