Cable Bay a tranquil cove with a unique slice of New Zealand history

The view from Cable Bay looking out to Tasman Bay.
Katrina Tikey

The view from Cable Bay looking out to Tasman Bay.

A mere 20km north of Nelson lies a little bay with an interesting past, Cable Bay, Rokokura.

This bay was first named 'Schroders Mistake' by European settlers in 1843. The title came about when a cutter (a single masted sailing vessel), owned by a Nelson merchant, Schroder, was taking a survey party to Marlborough and became stranded on a sand bar.

Several years later, in 1926, the bay became known as Cable Bay. The first international telegraph cable linking New Zealand with the worldwide telegraph network via Sydney came ashore in this sheltered inlet. The telegraph cable opened for business on the 21st February 1876 with 54 telegrams received and 93 sent. 

The rocky beach adds to Cable Bay's rugged appeal.
Katrina Tikey

The rocky beach adds to Cable Bay's rugged appeal.

Two ships (both steamers), the Hibernia and Edinburgh were used to lay the cable. The cable came ashore on the South Island because at the time business was notably greater than the North Island. When the South Island's gold rush dwindled and Māori wars in the North Island ended, business in the South Island decreased. During this period, the North Island grew larger in economic importance.

In 1914, the company offices and sleeping lodgings located at Cable Bay, burnt down. The business remained operating until 1917, before shifting to Titahi Bay near Wellington.

Although Cable Bay no longer hosts a telegraph cable it's a fabulous place to visit. One of the oldest cafes in the Nelson area, 'The Cable Bay Café' is located there. It was built in the 1920s by the Wiffin family and opened as tearooms. 

The view over Cable Bay with Pepin Island in the background.
Katrina Tikey

The view over Cable Bay with Pepin Island in the background.

The popular Cable Bay walk also starts from this bay. It's a two to three hour walk across hilly, private farmland. The track ends at The Glen (Glenduan) and offers fantastic views. 

Cable Bay with its shingle beach is a fabulous spot for swimming, diving and kayaking. If paddling, you can view sea caves, blowholes, bird colonies and perhaps the odd seal around Pepin Island. 

Pepin Island lies at the end of the bay's shingle causeway. It was named after an explorer, Jules d'Urville's wife Adèle Pépin. In 1996 a German businesswoman Dr Viola von Hohenzollern bought Pepin Island. When purchased, it was overgrazed, rundown and had an abundance of wild goats.

A farm manager made improvements to the island using pest control, planting native trees, and fencing. In December 2012 von Hohenzollern passed away and her daughter, inherited Pepin Island.

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Evidence suggests there was a pā on Pepin Island. It was positioned at the end of the causeway joining the island to the mainland. Māori used this bay for fishing and camping. The open sea, sheltered bay, tidal flats and streams provided bountiful supplies of fish. While the forest had a source of birds, fruits and berries. 

The pā (and the bay) are now known as Rotokura. In August 2014 the name of the bay officially became Rotokura/Cable Bay succeeding the Treaty of Waitangi Settlement between The Crown and Ngāti Tama ki Te Tau Ihui.

This tranquil cove, with a unique slice of New Zealand history is the perfect place to visit for a peaceful experience. Although close to Nelson, it feels as though you're miles away. There's a camping ground a couple of hundred metres away from the beach if staying overnight appeals. 

So why not jump in the car and take a trip? Visualise how it would have been when Māori stayed in the area. And imagine the era the Cable Station existed. 

Further Information

Dogs are welcome at Cable Bay/ Rotokura beach.

No dogs allowed on 'The Cable Bay' walkway.

The 'Cable Bay Café' is closed over winter months.

'The Cable Bay Holiday Park' has powered and non-powered sites, plus campground cabins available.

No camping is allowed at Cable Bay/ Rotokura beach.

Cable Bay has picnic seats at either end of the bay.

DOC toilets are situated at each end of the shingle causeway.

There are no rubbish bins. You'll need to take any rubbish away with you.

 

 - Stuff

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