Abel Tasman is the name of the famous Dutch explorer who discovered New Zealand in 1642, the first European to do so – just west of here in Golden Bay.
The first Māori occupied this beautiful coast over 800 years ago before Tasman’s discovery. Sadly, the initial interaction between European and the Polynesian inhabitants was fatal. Four of Abel Tasman’s crew were killed and he set sail from these waters, never to return. In 1942, 300 years after Tasman’s arrival, Abel Tasman National Park was officially opened.
There are several known meanings for Marahau from the ‘garden with the right amount of wind’ to ‘fertile land’ or ‘Windy Garden’. The local Māori also knew this place as ‘the place of strong women’ and place of magic.
There is a history of Māori settlement dating back many centuries evidenced by Kumara (Sweet Potato) being grown abundantly in the Marahau Valley.
The geographical history of this area is also of great interest. The golden sands represent the weathering of Separation Point Granites – a band of soft golden rock which overlays some of the most interesting limestone and marble formations in the Southern Hemisphere. Many of these formations lie below the Takaka Hill to the west and comprise a massive network of underground caverns and limestone caves – many as yet unexplored.
Small tastes of these fascinating formations can be observed by visiting the Ngarua Caves at the top of Takaka Hill, and from there a short side trip to Canaan and a walk through the native beech forest to Harwood’s Hole – one of the deepest pot holes in the Southern Hemisphere. The underground source of the Riwaka River is located at the end of Riwaka Valley Road – a phenomenon also well worth a visit.