Kaiteriteri - a national treasure

Thanks to local farmer Syd Rowling and generations after him, Kaiteriteri remains affordable and accessible to all.

Kaiteriteri is one of New Zealand’s most popular seaside playgrounds. It’s no wonder. Few spots boast such natural beauty and accessibility to a wide range of recreational activities as well as proximity to one of the country’s most sunny national parks.

Add to this a wealth of visitor facilities, and you’ve got a place that knows exactly what it’s there for – fun in the sun.

Its destiny could have been quite different. Back in 1841, the New Zealand Company eyed-up the bay for a colonial town, but settled upon Nelson instead. It remained under the radar for the following 75 or so years, until it coming to the attention of local farmer Syd Rowling.

The story goes that he could afford either a shiny new Model T Ford or the 136 acres spanning both Kaiteriteri and Honeymoon Bays. Of course cars never hold their value, anyway…

Syd toiled the soil for a good ten years, before ditching the apple orchards in favour of campground ownership.

He started out by leasing out land and tents for informal camping. Demand soon grew, prompting him to set aside 12 acres near the beach as a public domain and in 1936 the Kaiteriteri Domain Board was formed.

This sealed its fate, preserving for the enjoyment of the masses. Now known as the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve, almost 260 hectares of land is set aside for the public, with the campground still at its core.

Kaiteriteri is one of the three key gateways to Abel Tasman National Park, and for much of the year the bay buzzes with water taxis and fleet of kayakers paddling in and out.

However, there are hordes of holidaymakers who come just to hang out at this stunning beach. Rich golden sand makes it picture perfect, especially when populated with sun-kissed visitors – sun-bathing, swimming and zipping across the water on skis or a biscuit.

The creek outflow at the southern end with its friendly shallows provides lots of fun for the wee ones.

Syd could never have envisaged today’s facilities, which include a playground, mini-golf, café, boat ramp, takeaways and a well-stocked shop.

But these are just some of the ingredients that cook-up Kaiteri’s great holidays, and I’m sure he’d have been rightly proud.

The modern-day motor camp is a whopper, covering almost 12 acres directly over the road from the beach. At full capacity, 1800 people are spread throughout 437 sites and 17 cabins.

Sure, that’s pretty busy, but for those of us that revel in the neighbourly vibe of a well-packed campground – and that’s me, ever since I started caravanning here in the early 1980s – Kaiteriteri’s a classic of the kind.

These good times are the result of good management, for which Rob Guild and his team can take credit.

The term ‘continuous improvement’ springs to mind, because when we visited plans were underway to further improve the park’s layout and renovate the shop. Oh, and what was that digger doing with a fridge/freezer in its shovel? ‘Delivering it to S46’, replied the driver.

Innovative as ever, staff will store your fridge for next summer’s stay, hire one out to you if needed. What a great idea! Whatever will they think of next?

You’re well advised to book ahead during peak times, but the off season is a great time to visit, too. The crowds have gone and the summer bustle is replaced by peace and relative solitude.

There’s still heaps to do though: head into the Abel Tasman, on foot, by boat or kayak and you can feel like you’ve got the whole place to yourself. Paradise.

Those with two wheels should check out the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park, a fantastic new facility developed by keen local bikers, DOC and Recreation Reserve people.

Fifteen kilometres of inter-linking tracks – with more planned for the future – cater for all grades of riders.

Don’t fret if you can’t bring your bike as you can hire one nearby from Kimi Ora Lodge. The park’s a good place to stretch your legs, too, with magnificent views across the bay.

So, hats off to Syd and the generations after him who have held on to the dream. Kaiteriteri’s a national treasure that remains accessible and affordable for all.


Kaiteriteri Beach Motor Camp, Kaiteriteri