New Zealand is home to many scenic roads, but none are quite like what you’ll experience on the way to Anatori. This drive takes you from Golden Bay, AKA the top of the South Island, over to the West Coast. It’s one way in and one way out (the road stops just past Anatori) so it’s not on the way to anywhere, but it’s something you should consider doing.
Driving to Anatori
From Collingwood (around 20 minutes from Takaka) you head inland on what soon becomes a winding gravel road. It should take between 90 minutes and two hours to reach Anatori, and then you have to drive all the way back (or stay in the freedom camp there — probably best in summer).
A detour to Kaihoka Lakes
Just after the road turns to gravel you’ll see a turnoff to Kaihoka Lakes. It takes around 15 minutes to drive there and it’s well worth it. There’s a short track lined with Nikau palms (a cool looking palm tree which is common in this area) which takes you between the two lakes. It only takes 20-30 minutes (return) and it’s a nice spot to visit. You should also consider driving a little past the lakes, where you’ll get a good view of them from above, and also see Whanganui Inlet and the bright green pastures of the farmland in-between. The road stops (well, it becomes a private road) about five minutes past Kaihoka Lakes.
Driving Around Whanganui Inlet
Once you’re back on the main road you’ll start driving around Whanganui Inlet, the largest inlet in New Zealand. The road curves around bays and over bridges and is narrow in parts — try and stay alert! The tide was out when we were there so, and I reckon it’d be a lot more impressive at high tide — it’s still pretty at any time though.
Driving through Jurassic Park (with farms)
Do you remember the limestone mountain scenery in movies like Jurassic Park and the latest King Kong film? The road to Anatori is kind of like that, only instead of exotic jungle surrounding the surreal peaks it’s farmland. Bright green farmland to be exact. It’s some of the most impressive “farm” scenery I’ve seen in New Zealand — they should have filmed Lord of the Rings here (bit out of the way though I guess).
Reaching the West Coast
After a while you’ll drive past a café (surely one of New Zealand’s most remote eating establishments) before finally reach the West Coast. There are more awesome views to be found on this part of the drive and before long you’ll encounter the Anatori River.
There had been heaps of rain in the week proceeding our visit and the Anatori River was too high to cross in our non 4wd car. We checked out the car park / camping spot on our side of the river and then headed back to Collingwood (via Wharariki Beach). If you continue you’ll get a good view of where we stopped from above and then you can drive another 20 km to the true end of the road (Turimawiwi). If you want to visit Karamea and Kohaihai you’ll have to backtrack all the way to Golden Bay and drive through the Lewis Pass etc. They should really connect these roads at some point!
With stops, it’ll probably take you 4-5 hours to drive from Collingwood to Anatori and back. You could take a lot longer though and I reckon Anatori would be a great place to freedom camp for a night or two. The road is gravel most of the way but is in pretty good shape. Be careful though and keep your speed down — there are plenty of blind corners where you could come unstuck.
If you’re driving back from Anatori and want to see one of the best beaches in Golden Bay, take the detour to Wharariki Beach. Its main features are the big rocky islands sitting just offshore (or onshore at low tide) and it’s particular popular at sunset. You can also visit Cape Farewell, the northern most point on the South Island, which is a couple of kilometres from Wharariki Beach.
Are you planning to drive to Anatori? Let me know in the comments below!
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