Coastal jewel worth the rough ride

Hori Bay is one of region's hidden gems

BONNIE STRAWBRIDGE
Last updated 13:00 13/02/2014
Tom Strawbridge

LOVING IT: Tom Strawbridge at Hori Bay.

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On our first visit to Hori Bay, a well-built young man in a black wetsuit emerged from the water behind the rocks. He proudly held up a decent-sized fish which glimmered in the sunlight.

It could have been a scene out of a James Bond movie.

We figured he was part of a small group who had obviously stayed overnight with their tents pitched blatantly up by the rocks and we began tut-tutting. That was until he skilfully gutted the fish, pan-fried it on his gas stove and brought some over for us to try.

"Hmm delicious," we said, wolfing it down with a side dish of guilt and immediately dismissing our disapproval of their habitat. There's nothing more primal then eating your catch straight out of the ocean.

Hori Bay is a wee gem that we discovered last summer and while it offers a number of activities, fishing is popular. Besides our meeting with "Daniel Craig", we watched a group of young people who had walked over the rocks at low tide to a large rock formation to fish.

They spent the afternoon out there and we were mesmerised by them, tying on their bait, tossing out their lines and lazing about in the sun until their platform was gradually swamped with the incoming tide. At that point, they simply packed up and swam back to shore, fishing gear strapped to their bodies. Real Huckleberry Finn stuff.

On our most recent visit, the Pene whanau from Nelson were fishing off the rocks. Carl Pene said there is mostly butterfish but they hadn't caught a thing that day. He has been going to Hori Bay for years and says if you are lucky you can sometimes dive for crayfish.

Another fisherman packing up had managed a few kina which he said feed off the kelp on the rocks.

DOC spokesperson Kath Inwood says kahawai, snapper and gurnard are there for the catch and possibly blue cod.

The Horoirangi Marine Reserve extends from the The Glen to Cable Bay so does not include Hori Bay. While the bay is small there's plenty of room for everyone to do their own thing.

The area is popular with kayakers and, if you hopped in a kayak at nearby Delaware Bay, you could hug the coastline and whip around to Hori Bay in no time. We watched a group of kayakers navigating the rocks and pulling in to shore. There's no way you can tow and launch a boat there but you can easily carry the kayaks or a dinghy down the 20-metre track.

I would describe the bay as unspoiled, a bit like a rugged West Coast beach but with the cliffs, rockface and outline of the beach adding much character. The beach itself is around 200 metres long with both sandy but mostly (fine) stoney areas.

Large caves can be explored at the west end but being tidal, timing is essential to explore these. As the tide comes in, the thunderous noise and crashing water are spectacular.

The entire family can enjoy clambering over the many rock formations and exploring the pools. Cliffs and a protective rockface provide a natural backdrop while a hill at the foot entrance to the bay provides a challenging but brief climb to a beautiful vantage point where you can take in gorgeous vistas of the Tasman Sea and nearby Delaware Bay.

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There is an informal 30-40 minute loop track just off this but it is not regularly maintained. Or you can just simply enjoy the tranquillity of the unspoiled spot, lazing, swimming, reading or simply watching.

On a woolly day as it was on our last visit, we sat snuggled up with our two dogs at the foot of the cliff face and watched the waves crashing over the rocks and spraying metres into the air. Prior to that we had found another sheltered spot and sat with our backs to the water and watched as the wind swept through the hillside with it's variation of manuka, flaxes and other beach fauna.

Ms Inwood says fires are not permitted and while informal camping is, (our apologies Daniel Craig) it is not encouraged due to the lack of facilities. There is no fresh tap water, (but you can get fresh water from a small creek that runs down to the beach) no toilet and no rubbish bins so, yes, leave only footprints. There is nothing on the signage regarding dogs but Ms Inwood did confirm dogs are permitted providing you have obtained a dog permit from the DOC visitor centre for Mount Richmond Forest Park . . . oops.

So now I have whet your appetite, how do you get to this local paradise? Believe it or not, it's just an hour from Nelson's CBD. Head north out of town over the Whangamoa. Once over those, another 10 kilometres gets you to the turn-off. Look out for it on the left. Give the kids a competition to see who can spot it first. A very clear sign on the DOC signpost displays the "road open" sign. The road is closed at different times of the year for logging or because of storm damage. A quick call to the DOC visitor centre can confirm the road status.

From the turnoff, you enter the unsealed forestry road (Mt Richmond Forest Park) and it's just 30 minutes to the bay.

The road initially runs parallel with the highway before turning and climbing inland. While four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended, we have managed our visits with no problems in a basic station wagon.

The road is a bit gnarly and you do need to negotiate a reasonable quota of potholes. The last 2km stretch down into the bay is steep and if anyone suffers travel sickness, this could be their undoing.

We met Nelson electrician Craig Leth on the beach. He likes the spot and had ridden his old BMW motorcycle over for a Sunday jaunt and left the family at home. "It's not too good for my wee girls," he said. "They would get carsick coming round some of those corners."

For bike enthusiasts wanting a challenge, an alternative could be to park your vehicle at the turnoff and cycle the 14km over the hill.

At the end of the road, it widens out to accommodate eight or 10 vehicles wedged up against the banks and from there, it's just a 20-metre walk down the track to the beach.

Look out for rabbits playing chicken as they dart across the road in front of you. Oh, and on our last visit, we came across a very large pig dog absolutely cantering along the road, no hunters or utes in sight, and hanging out of his mouth was a rat almost as huge as the dog! While on that note, Ms Inwood says hunting is allowed with a hunting permit which can be picked up from the DOC visitor centre or from some hunting supplies shops.

So the secret's out. There's another unique gem right on our doorstep.

Pack a picnic, pull out your togs, slap on the sunscreen, throw in a fishing line and a good book. I cannot guarantee a 007 experience but look forward to a pleasant day anyway. You won't be disappointed.

- Nelson

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