Caring community a one-stop shop for food, fiestas and outdoor fun, says Elisabeth Easther.

Where is it?

In the Moutere Valley, 7km from Motueka and 35km from Nelson. If plugging Riverside into your navigator, the precise address is 289 Main Rd, Lower Moutere.

Origin of name: When the land was being cleared by the New Zealand Company in the 1880s, a ditch was hand-dug to drain the swampy part of the valley. The ditch grew into a sizeable river and the burgeoning community, founded on the south side 70 years later, was named "Riverside".

Population: About 60.

Advertisement

Community slogan: Co-operative living for peace and sustainability.

The seed: Established by a small group of Christian pacifists during World War II, it's still going strong 70 years on, although the community is now secular and pluralist.

Old news: During World War II, when the men of Riverside were in jail for conscientious objection, two escaped from a prison north of Auckland whereupon they walked to Wellington to have a word with the Minster of War to express their reservations about the conflict. Needless to say they were returned to prison — but what a magnificent effort!

Famous locals: The founders of Riverside, including Hubert Holdaway, Barry Barrington and Chris and Jean Palmer, are all famous within the peace movement.

Brave hearts: Back in the day, A.C. Barrington and Merle Hyland used to travel around in an old Ford with the slogan, "no more war, join up for peace" emblazoned on it. Given the tone of public opinion at the time, this was very courageous.

Best website: riverside.org.nz.

Big business: Dairying, including local raw milk sales, the cafe, art, short-term accommodation and plant sales.

Riverside philosophy: Members tend to think deeply about how they use and consume. Anyone who wants to apply to live there can.

Advertisement

Source of pride: Riversiders feel they have some measure of control over their destiny and, while they won't get rich, they never want for anything. Living at Riverside is a profound lifestyle statement.

Town fiestas: The Riverside Freedom Festival held over three days at the end of January features dancing, music, entertainment and fun for the whole family with face painting and a fabulous big water slide that keeps the kids occupied for hours.

Here for a short time: If you don't have time to devote a week to the Abel Tasman National Park, walk in for three hours and out again and you can still get a good impression of the wondrousness. Make sure you visit beautiful Kaiteriteri Beach on the way.

Where to stay: The Riverside Sojourn — this charming self-contained studio is a great base for making the most of the Tasman Great Taste Cycle Trail. Plus there's a bunkroom if you're feeling frugal and want company. This is where the Wwoofers stay.

Wwoofers you say: Willing Workers On Organic Farms can stay at Riverside and pay for their keep by helping in the organic gardens or in the workshop.

Best place to take the kids: Aside from the great outdoors and the neat little playground, every Sunday from 1pm-3pm there are free pony rides.

The gardens: The area around the Riverside Cafe features a bonsai garden and a cactus enclosure. The cactus garden is a memorial to Garnet Drummond who started the garden in Motueka but, when he died, the plants were moved, prickle by prickle, to their current location. The two oldest cacti were born in 1958 and 1961 respectively and could well be some of New Zealand's oldest.

Best walks: Years ago, Jean Palmer planted a native forest, and today visitors are welcome to stroll through Jean's Forest, or around the community to see how things work. Pop down to Split Apple Rock, drive to Moonraker Way and from there you can trot down a charming little path.

Best view: Walk up Community Rd to the place known as the Stone Table, there you'll be rewarded with 360-degree views of Tasman Bay, the Kahurangi Ranges, the Richmond Ranges, Takaka Hill and Abel Tasman National Park.

Best swims: Rabbit Island, Kaiteriteri or Stephens Bay.

Circus school: Take circus classes with Damara in the community hall; with its stunning views across fields to the mountains. It's set up for most aspects of circus work, including aerial silks.

Nice arts: Che's Art Gallery is an extraordinary space. Descend into a magical world of fantastical lamps and illuminated panels of living metal.

Top shop: The Riverside Cafe sells seasonal home-made pickles and preserves, including roast feijoa chutney, plum and cinnamon jam, tomatillo salsa, home-baked biscotti and their own chilli chocolate powder.

Moo: The milk vending machine sells outrageously good, A2 unpasteurised milk, with additional outlets found in Nelson and Golden Bay.

Cream of the coffee: The cafe brews divine coffee using Fairtrade beans from Celsius.

Baked: At the cafe cake counter you can enjoy freshly baked sweet and savoury brioche, Dutch apple pie, cheesecakes and, sometimes, a rich Black Forest cake, as well as gluten and dairy-free options including an amazing olive oil, chocolate and hazelnut cake.

Best food: Most foods at Riverside Cafe are sourced locally, including various wild meats and organic veges from their own garden.

Wet your whistle: The cafe has a full licence with most of the wine and beer being made within a 10km radius of the counter.

Choose juice: They make juices from their own fruit. Try the apple and feijoa or pear juice.

Best cycling: The Great Taste Cycle Trail winds its way past Riverside, featuring over 175km of trails. You'll want at least four days to do it justice. And if you're feeling frisky, pedal to Kaiteriteri to take advantage of their outstanding mountain bike park.

Seal of approval: Do be sure to visit Wharariki Beach near Farewell Spit and watch the little seals play.

Wildlife: There's so much food running around, wild rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs and deer. The migratory bird action is staggering — go to the Motueka Sandspit to see bar-tailed godwits, and at Farewell Spit other migrating birds can be seen filling themselves up for their big journey to the Northern Hemisphere.

The verdict: Peace on Earth.

Thanks to the radiant people of Riverside.