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Manuka Bay, North Canterbury

Manuka Bay, North Canterbury

Here’s a situation you’ll encounter a lot when travelling in New Zealand. You’re on your way to your destination when you see a sign pointing to a beach, a lake or some other cool sounding place you’d never heard of. You can’t follow every turnoff or you’d never get where you’re going, but it’s always nice when an impulsive detour turns out well. This happened to us recently — we were driving between Hurunui Mouth and Gore Bay when we saw a sign pointing to Manuka Bay. It was only a few kilometres and we weren’t in a hurry — it was an easy decision which almost immediately paid off.

Above Manuka Bay

Access to Manuka Bay is via a short gravel road which turns off the slightly longer gravel road between Hurunui Mouth and Gore Bay. You’ll soon come to a gate which you’ll have to open — it isn’t private land so don’t let it put you off. The road then continues down to the beach — you’ll want to stop by the side of the road to see Manuka Bay from above. The calm blue water and black sand combine to make a pretty awesome viewpoint (the best we saw in North Canterbury). As well as the great view there was a strong sense of being well off the beaten path. Most travellers drive through this region without stopping (or they may stop at Gore Bay).

The road to Manuka Bay, North Canterbury, New ZealandA viewpoint above Manuka Bay, North Canterbury, New Zealand

Manuka Bay

Viewpoints above beaches in New Zealand are often far more impressive than the beach itself. That wasn’t the case at Manuka Bay though. The beach was really nice — the sand was far better to walk on than the stony beaches we’d mostly encountered north of Christchurch. Manuka Bay is a bit of a hidden gem — there isn’t a lot to do there but it’s the looks that count (contrary to advice you may have heard about finding a romantic partner).

There is actually a walking track which runs between Port Robinson (via Manuka Bay) and the end of Hurunui Mouth Road. It was closed for repairs when we were there but a local we met said it’s a good walk.

Manuka Bay beach, North Canterbury, New ZealandManuka Bay, a black sand beach in North Canterbury, New Zealand

Getting to Manuka Bay

Turn off SH1 at Domett and then follow the road towards Gore Bay (keep driving on that first road to reach Hurunui Mouth, a good camping spot). It’d be difficult to miss the turnoff to Manuka Bay from this road. Gore Bay is also a good place to visit and I’ve heard Motunau Beach is also nice (although it’s a bit more of a detour). North Canterbury (roughly the area between Christchurch and Kaikoura) is definitely worth exploring. We didn’t see everything but we’ll return sometime soon.

READ MORE: Camping at Hurunui Mouth, North Canterbury

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.