Need to work off the Christmas turkey?

Ellen Fitzsimons —  26/12/2014

After joining DOC earlier this year I thought it was time I got some firsthand experience of the sites DOC manages. We needed to make up for all of the chocolate consumed over Easter, so decided on a trip to Otatara Pa Historic Reserve.

Carved waharoa entrance: Otatara Pa Historic Reserve. Photo: Ellen Fitzsimons.

Carved waharoa entrance

Situated in the Hawke’s Bay, just a few kilometres outside Taradale, Otatara Pa is one of the largest pa sites in the Hawke’s Bay.

Despite visiting the area regularly for more than 10 years, I had no idea this gem was there.

The views are outstanding. Photo: Ellen Fitzsimons.

Outstanding outlook

There is a big carpark off Spingfield Road, and lots of historic information at the entrance.

Mr Four made sure we were aware of the safety requirements before we set off. There are a few steep, but well signposted cliffs, so you do have to keep an eye on the more adventurous kids.

Steep cliffs. Photo: Ellen Fitzsimons.

Steep, but well signposted cliffs

Young boy pointing to the safety icons on the Otatara Pa Historic Reserve sign. Photo: Ellen Fitzsimons.

Mr Four gives a safety briefing

I had picked up a leaflet from the friendly staff at the Visitor Centre in Napier. It suggested you could walk the whole thing in a couple of hours or less.

Strolling up the hill. Photo Ellen Fitzsimons.

Strolling up the hill

There’s a lot of walking uphill, but the views at the top are worth the effort.

We had limited time, and were more strolling than walking, so walked up to the first viewpoint, and a bit further beyond, before turning round and returning to the carpark.

View from the first lookout. Photo: Ellen Fitzsimons.

View from the first lookout

The shadow of the pou. Photo: Ellen Fitzsimons.

Pou shadow

If you’re in the Hawke’s Bay over Christmas and have an hour or more to spare, put on your walking shoes, grab a water bottle and visit Otatara Pa for some stunning views.


Otatara Pa Historic Reserve encompasses one of the largest pa complexes in 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 and imagine the lively community that Otatara once was.

The views from this site are incredible. You can see Napier, across to Cape Kidnappers and out to the sea. It is possible on a clear day to see Ruapehu in the centre of the North Island. It’s no wonder that Otatara was the most prized pa in Hawke’s Bay.