Sunday, 1 February 2015

Otatara Pa, Taradale

Otatara Pa is located on a hill on the outskirts of Taradale and even though I would have driven past it a thousand times while living in, and visiting the Bay, I have never stopped and visited the historic reserve. It’s a sharp climb to the top of the hill but because I wanted blue skies and a good view for my photos, I had no choice but to do the walk on a hot & sticky day. At least there was a bit of a cool wind blowing.

The carved waharoa(entrance) to Otatara Pa
Otatara Pa, covering over 40 hectares, is one of the largest and most ancient Maori pa sites in Hawkes Bay, and in fact New Zealand. It includes an upper pa- Hikurangi, and a lower one- Otatara. Visitors to the pa can see the remains of terraces, dwelling sites and food storage pits as they walk the two kilometre long circuit up and over the hills.

Otatara Pa Palisades
The pa covered the hills to the left and ahead of the sign, the track on the right is the return of the hour long circuit.

Wooden palisades and carved pou (posts that mark specific places & boundaries) help bring the pa site to life.

Leaving the palisades behind I climb higher as the view over the farmland & orchards below opens up, with the meandering Tutaekuri River making it's way towards the ocean. 

The track levels out for a short distance before a sharp left turn leads me past more carved pou & up another steep track.

There are many informative interpretation panels along the way.

Once over the brow of the first hill the Puketapu river valley comes into view along with the Redclyffe substation. 

While the pa site was heavily farmed and quarried before it was designated a historic site in 1973, many of it's features are still visible today. Management of the reserve was passed to DOC in 1987 and DOC has continued to add parts of the pa to the reserve as it's become available. Otatara Pa is a registered category 1 Historic Place. This status is given to places of  'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'.

The views from the top are spectacular and are one of the reasons this was one of the greatest pas in the district, it’s ownership was strongly contested at times. It was strategically located so the residents could see any approaching enemies. They could see right across to Napier, over to Cape Kidnappers, and out to the sea for any approaching waka (they must have had great eyesight!). Apparently it’s possible on a clear day to see Ruapehu in the centre of the North Island but I forgot to look!

Along the top of the ridge are a dozen or so distinct depressions in the ground; the food storage pits- kept at the highest point of the pa, away from marauding parties.

Looking out over Taradale in the foreground, Greenmeadows in the centre to Scinde Hill and Napier city at the back. Gloucester Street is clearly visible down the centre.

It's all down hill from here past the terraces where kumara (sweet potato), taro, & cabbage trees would have grown. The path is covered in sheep poo and I have to watch where I step in case I slip, the dry grass is long and slippery too. It would be quite easy(for clumsy me) to step off the side and end up tumbling down the bank for a distance.

Another view of Napier city-

Ahead of me I have a great view down the Tutaekuri River to the motoway bridge and another very familar area from my past. We spend many hours swimming, horse riding and then on our scramble bikes along the river bank and on the riverbed below the bridge. We'd access the river from Guppy Road which virtually stretched from our farm to the river in one long road.  Sadly, years later my young cousin lost his life on this bridge.  

Otatara Pa Reserve sits on the hill above the Eastern Institute of Technology- once know as the Community College and where I attended a few night classes.

'Excuse me but I need to have a word with you!"

And finally the carpark comes into view and it's just a short slippery slope to the bottom. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and was pleased I made the effort; I was well rewarded with the fabulous views.

Otatara Pa, Taradale- if you look at the satellite view on the map you can clearly see the terraces and the food storage pits at the top of the hill.

To view the map, use your mouse wheel to scroll in and out or the + - box at bottom right.


  1. It looks like a good place to visit - I've taken a note of it.

    1. Just don't leave it as long as I did before visiting! :)


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