Pelorus Bridge Guide: Walks, Swimming, Hobbits and Trig K Hike

Everything you need to know about visiting Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve

Pelorus Bridge lies halfway between Blenheim and Nelson and is an amazing spot for river swimming, picnics and short walks.  It is a great stop on your road trip between Blenhiem or Picton to Nelson.

The Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve is home to the beautiful Pelorus River.  It is a popular spot for locals to swim on a hot summer’s day and is one of the most picturesque picnic spots in the region.

If you are looking for some short walks with the kids, then there are plenty here in the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve.  On one side of the road, there is a waterfall walk, a short stroller and wheelchair accessible walk and a 3-4 hour tramping track up to the Trig Point.

One the other side of the road there are a myriad of short tracks that end up at the swimming holes and picnic spots.  It is a great place for a family day out, or a lunch stop on your New Zealand road trip.

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Photo below courtesy of Marlborough NZ

Pelorus Bridge Accommodation

The DOC Pelorus Bridge campsite is the only accommodation right at the riverside as the area is a scenic reserve.  If you are looking for other options nearby, Havelock is the closest real township.  

Havelock Motels

For simple family suites with kitchenettes that are very reasonably priced, you could try the Havelock Garden Motel or the Havelock Motels and Motor Lodge which also has a pool.

Pelorus Bridge Campground

There is a Department of Conservation Campground (Kahikatea Flat) right on site at Pelorus Bridge.  There are powered and non-powered campsites and this particular campground has a few extra facilities as it is a serviced campsite.

These include hot showers, a communal kitchen with gas stoves and the Pelorus Bridge cafe onsite.  It does get busy between December and February, so make sure you book in advance.


Pelorus River: The Hobbit Film location

The Pelorus River is world famous now that it is a film location for the Hobbit movie  The second film, the Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, was filmed at the Pelorus River.  Do you remember the scene where the dwarves float down the river in barrels?  This is the scene, the Forest River, that was filmed at the Pelorus River and Pelorus Bridge area.  If you want to explore the river and experience a little bit of film magic check out the Pelorus kayaking tours below


Pelorus River Kayaking

Kayaking at Pelorus River is a popular outdoor adventure activity suitable to almost the whole family.  Families with kids as young as 4 years old can jump into tandem kayaks (open kayaks, more like canoes) and have a family kayaking adventure.

The kayak tour lasts for 4 hours and runs on a section of the Pelorus River, just a bit further down from Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve.  The tours will allow you to access secret swimming spots and highlight the Hobbit film locations along the way.

Pelorus Bridge Walks: Best Walks for Strollers and Wheelchairs

Tawa Walk

The Tawa Walk is a beautiful walk through lush green forest and bush that is a very well maintained track.  It is pretty flat (no hills but a very slight incline/decline in some spots) and would also be a great safe spot for toddlers to toddle along.

There are a few information spots along the way to educate you about the native trees in the area.

Luscious green forest on the Tawa Walk Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, Marlborough Sounds NZ

Totara Walk and Circle Walk

Totara Walk and Circle Walk are both on the other side of the river (from the Pelorus Cafe and Carpark)  Another great thing is that these are both wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly.  The Totara walk is an 800m forest track, whereas the Circle Walk has great views of the river and the suspension bridge.  Not all of the circle walk is wheelchair accessible, but it does have the best views of the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve walks.


Pelorus Bridge Walks: Best Short Walks with Waterfalls


Elvy Waterfalls Track

The Elvy Waterfalls Track has two waterfalls on the trail.  The Department of Conservation states this is a 2 hour return short walk, but it took my four year and I just over 40 minutes each way.  So don’t think this is too long for your kids, it really isn’t too long, but with stops along the way, allow the full two hours.

The first waterfall we renamed to be a water dribble, however I imagine would be a little more flowing after a rain.

The second waterfall is a neat little spot.  You head down a little narrow rock track, across the stones of the river and the waterfall is tucked in the corner.  Not huge by any means but there’s a decent amount of water flowing and it would be a great spot to paddle and play in, in the summertime.  

The track terrain starts off easy as it is on the accessible Tawa Walk.  In essence, the trail is flat, but it does go up and down, although there are no major hills.  There are lots of stones and tree roots in some sections, but overall it really is quite an easy walk.

The track is a straight up and back trail that runs along the riverside.  There is a section where you can climb down and explore the Pelorus River too.  Always a hit when you have kids that like to throw stones.

Pelorus Bridge Walks: Best half day hike: Trig K Track

The Trig K Track is the longest walk in this area and winds its way up to the top of the hill.  At its peak there are some great views across the Pelorus Valley.  The climb is quite steep and you will hike up around 400m in altitude.

How long does it take to walk the Trig K Track, Pelorus Bridge?

The Trig K Track signpost says it will take about 4 hours return, but again, it will take you less than this.  We stopped for a 40 minute lunch break, explored both waterfalls and stopped at the river to throw stones for 15-20 minutes and that took us 3 hours, 50 minutes (with a 4 year old walking too)  So allow a full 4 hours with stops, but you shouldn’t be fully walking for four hours.

We walked up the steep zig zagging track up to the trig (about 1 hour 5 minutes), then headed down to waterfall 2 (about an hour) and then headed back to the Pelorus Bridge cafe and carpark along the waterfall track (about 40-45 mins)

What is the terrain like on the Trig K Track?

The Trig K Track is a tramping track, so boots are recommended.  We wore running shoes and this was fine, but the track wasn’t wet.  If it had been raining, I imagine the track could be very slippery.  There are a lot of rocks and tree roots and it is quite uneven.  If you are tramping this with kids, they will need to concentrate on their footing a lot of the way.

There are a lot of markers on the track so you definitely will not get lost.  The path is very clear, so even though some tramping tracks you have to be quite careful to navigate, you will not need to worry on this one.

Highlights of the Trig K Track
  • A view of the valley
  • Waterfall 2 and playing in the river

If you are looking for a good uphill climb in the area, then this is a good one for fitness.  One of my kids loves to climb “mountains” so this is why we tried this one.  To be perfectly honest, the bush track was nice, but quite boring.  It was an hour up and an hour down in a very similar forest and the view was nice, but not amazing.  I wouldn’t be itching to do it again, but nice to say we have done it.

I think the most interesting parts were definitely alongside the river to the waterfall, so if you aren’t sure which walk to do, then the Elvy Waterfalls track would be the more interesting of the Pelorus Bridge walks.

More fun things to do near Pelorus Bridge

(photo courtesy of Marlborough NZ)



Founder of Backyard Travel Family

Jen is a super organiser when it comes to travel. Having travelled extensively in Europe and Africa, has lived in London and the USA and holidayed in many parts of Asia, she is not a newbie to the travel space

Jen has three young children, 6 and under and travels around New Zealand with them.

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what you need to know


45 minutes from Blenheim and Nelson on State Highway 6

The reserve

- Lots of short walks from 10 minutes to 2 hours
- Te Araroa Trail runs through here
- Trik K hike 2 1/2 - 4 hours return

Suitable for kids?

There are lots of short walks suitable for kids, including babies in strollers. The Trig K Track is also suitable to kids who are used to climbing hills.


- Free Parking
- Toilets
- Access to the Pelorus River and Rai River for swimming
- Pelorus Bridge Cafe on site

What to bring

- Swimsuit and towel
- Picnic blanket and your own food or money for the cafe
- Insect Repellent for sand flies

Food options

Right onsite at the Pelorus Bridge Cafe or more cafes and a 4 square in Havelock township.

What the critics thought

We did the big hill today and also saw the waterfalls. They were quite little but I liked crossing the river to find the second one. It was like it was hidden and you had to find it. The best bit was that Mummy and I did it all by ourselves and the others were at home.
Backyard Travel Family / Your go to for practical advice for active families travelling around New Zealand
4 year old Firecracker
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