Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, New Zealand

A day trip to Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, New Zealand

Last Updated: 26th July, 2023

Nestled in the lush countryside of the Marlborough region of the South Island is the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve. This hidden gem is centered around the incredible Pelorus River, which flows down from the Richmond Ranges and out into the stunning Pelorus Sound.

Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, New Zealand

This reserve is perfect for a day-trip into nature, with beautiful walking trails through the native podocarp forest, swimming and kayaking in the crystal-clear water of the Pelorus River, and hunting down one of the filming locations of the Lord of the Rings! Here is all you need to know before you go!

Where is Polorus Bridge Scenic Reserve?

Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve is nestled in the Marlborough Region of New Zealand’s South Island, where the Rai River meets the Pelorus River. It is located along the SH6, and is around 19km west of the coastal town of Havelock.

Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve Map

How to get to Pelorus River Scenic Reserve

By Car:

From Blenheim: The drive from the major city of Blenheim to Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve takes around 40 minutes. The route travels along State Highway 6, taking you through the scenic Marlborough countryside and through the stunning vineyards around Spring Creek. It’s worth planning your trip with a chance to spot at at one of the award-winning wineries along the way (make sure you’re not the sober driver!)

From Nelson: From Nelson, follow the State Highway 6 northbound for around 50 minutes (55km). This route is gorgeous, travelling along the coastline of Tasman Bay, before winding it’s way up into the mountains and through the stunning Rai Valley to Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve.

Driving, Pelorus Bridge Scenic reserve

By Public Transport:

InterCity run daily bus services along the route from the major cities of Nelson and Belnheim. This route travels along the SH6 through the countryside of the Marlborough region, and makes stops at the small town of Havelock and at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve. The bus from Nelson will take around 1 hour, while from Belnheim it will be around 40 minutes.

Things to do at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve

The reserve is renowned for its stunning landscapes, lush forests, and pristine rivers. One of the main highlights of the area is the Pelorus River, a crystal-clear waterway that meanders through the reserve, offering visitors opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and various water-based activities.

Check out the famous filming location!

The Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve gained international fame as a filming location for the famous “barrel scene” in Peter Jackson’s movie ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.’ This scene, featuring the company of dwarves and Bilbo Baggins escaping in barrels down a river, was a highlight of the film! This is a must-see spot for fans of the Lord of the Ring trilogy!

Best Viewpoint: The best viewpoint to appreciate the filming location of the “barrel scene” is from the Pelorus Bridge itself. From the bridge, you can observe the picturesque Pelorus River and the surrounding lush native bush, which provided the enchanting backdrop for this thrilling sequence in the movie.

Walks at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve

The reserve’s diverse flora and fauna make it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and hikers. The surrounding forests are rich with native New Zealand plants such as beech trees, rimu, and ferns, creating a beautiful green canopy overhead. Birdwatchers will also be delighted to spot various native bird species, including the charming fantail, bellbird, and tui. There are a number of walks through the forests of Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, ranging from short scenic walks to longer tramps through the bush.

1. Tawa Walk

  • Walking Time: 30-minute loop
  • Distance: 1 km

This short walk takes you a long a gentle loop through the shady forest, where you can listen to the birds and learn more about the native trees and ferns from the informative panels along the path. This path begins from the cafe car park entrance, and has side tracks where you can enjoy gorgeous views over the river.

Walking track in Pelorus Bridge Scenic reserve

2. Tōtara Walk

  • Walking Time: 30 minutes
  • Distance: 800 meters

This walk begins in the Kanuka Picnic Area, just across the road from the Cafe. This easy walking track loops through forest with a mix of podocarp, broadleaf and beech trees – and an ancient, huuuuge tōtara tree! There is a short side track that leads to Tōtara Flat, which is an awesome place for a picnic.

3. Circle Walk

  • Walking Time: 45-minute loop
  • Distance: 2.5 kms

The Circle Loop Track begins at the Pelorus cafe carpark, and crosses the bridge before meandering along the river. This is a well-maintained boardwalk path that is wheelchair accessible! It reaches the famous Pelorus Suspension bridge, crossing over the Rai River and making a loop through a pocket of forest. From the suspension bridge, the trail becomes uneven, criss-crossed with tree roots, so make sure to watch your step! Sections of the track follow the river, giving you awesome views over the junction between the Pelorus and Rai rivers.

4. Elvy Waterfalls Track

  • Walking Time: 2 hours return
  • Distance: 4.3 km return

This awesome tramping track follows along the banks of the Pelorus River, taking you past 2 picturesque waterfalls from streams that feed into the river. From the cafe, begin walking along the Tawa Path, and this walk will branch off at the end of the loop. Walking to the first waterfall includes a small stream crossing that can get high after wet weather, so take care! This is a beautiful afternoon walk, surrounded by lush native forest and glimpses of the river.

Waterfall on hiking track at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve

5. Trig K Track

  • Walking Time: 4 hours return
  • Distance: km return

If you are looking for a half-day walk with glorious views, then head up the mountainside to Trig K. This thigh-birning tramping track branches off Elvy Waterfalls Track, and zig-zags up the hill through mature native beech forest until you reach Trig K. The track then continues on back down to the river through podocarp forest, where you will meet up with the end of Elvy Waterfalls Track. Enjoy the flat walk back along the river banks, and (if you need to) pop in for a quick dip to cool off! 

Best swimming spots in Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve

During the hot summer months, it’s awesome to take your togs and pop into the water for a quick (and refreshing) dip! There are many swimming spots at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, where you can sunbath on the banks and splash in the crystal-clear rivers of the Pelorus River.

  1. Pelorus Bridge: The main bridge area itself often attracts swimmers, as it provides easy access to the river. You can find plenty of shallow areas near the bridge, making it a great spot for families and those who prefer a more relaxed swim.
  2. Pelorus Bridge Campsite: Just beside the Pelorus Bridge Camping Ground is a calm bit of river with a large stoney bank – perfect for a picnic and a swim on a hot summers day!
  3. Along the Elvy Waterfalls Track: This area is located further upstream from Pelorus Bridge and offers a more secluded swimming experience. It’s a tranquil spot where you can enjoy the river surrounded by native bush.

Kayaking on the Pelorus River

If you are looking for a more adrenaline-filled adventure in the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, then why not hop into a kayak! This is an exciting and memorable experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

kayaking down river

Pelorus Eco Adventures offer an awesome kayaking tour down the crystal-clear Pelorus River, where you have a chance to learn about the incredible history of the area, enjoy the pristine surrounding native forest, and – best of all – get a up close look at the famous filming locations used in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug! They will get you standing on the same rocks and passing the same waterfall as Bilbo and his friends, though luckily you won’t be chased by a bunch of orcs while you’re at it! They even take free photos during your 4 hour tour, so you can just sit back and enjoy your adventure!

If you are looking for more awesome things to do while in the Marlborough Region, you should check out my guide to the best things to do in Picton here! This post covers amazing hikes, cruises, and experiences you can do to fully immerse yourself in the magic of the Marlborough Sounds!

Accommodation in Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve

If you are looking at spending a night in or around this stunning scenic reserve, there are a few accommodation options for you!

1. Pelorus Bridge Campsite

This is the main accommodation option located within the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, and an awesome place to stay if you’re wanting to spend a few days in nature! This DOC run campsite is on the banks of the Te Hoiere/ Pelorus River, nestled amongst towering kahikatea, beech and rimu trees.

This campground contains both non-powered tent sites, as well as a small number of powered sites for those travelling in a motorhome! The campsite offers hot water showers, a well-maintained toilet blocks, and a communal kitchen with gas stoves – though make sure to bring you’re own cooking equipment!

camping at Pelorus Bridge Scenic reserve

If you are looking for more accommodation options in the region, check out my post on Where to Stay in the nearby town of Havelock, or in the bustling maritime town of Picton!

FAQs about Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve

Can you swim at Pelorus Bridge?

Where is Pelorus, New Zealand?

When was Pelorus Bridge built?

Where is the Pelorus River?

How deep is Pelorus Sound?

What is the history of Pelorus?

Thanks for reading my post on the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve! It’s an awesome place for a day trip, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stop her on the way from Picton to Nelson! If you are heading the same way and want to read about what to do once you get to Nelson, check out my post here!

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