to the South Island
Our time in NZ is growing shorter now and we are trying to pack as much as we can into our remaining days here. How time has flown by! Unfortunately, it does not seem like we will get to see all that we had hoped to, so that just means we will have to plan another trip. Every day has brought something new and we have not been disappointed yet – just sad that we didn’t have more time (5 weeks seemed like a long time when we were making our plans).
On Saturday we arrived in Wellington in the middle of an arts and music festival. Thousands of people, mostly teenagers, were wandering the waterfront between venues, as the atmosphere shook from powerful bass speakers. We spent a couple of days in the area, checking out the city and the surrounding area. Wellington has lots of great graffiti murals, which we enjoyed glimpsing on the sides of buildings and in alleys.
On Sunday we drove east to Martinborough, a well known wine region. We had a great lunch, did some wine tasting and then ended up finding a nice camp site in Kaitoke Regional Park, which they used as the setting for Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We did a great hike in the park and had fun seeing some of the spots where they filmed the movie.
We said goodbye to the north island and took a ferry to the south island on Monday (March 4) and arrived in Picton around 6pm. The entrance into Marlborough sound was beautiful; reminding us a bit of the San Juan islands. From Picton we pushed on through to Nelson in order to be closer to where we wanted to be. We got in around 8pm and decided to splurge a bit on a nice dinner at one of the great restaurants in Nelson. Then, for the first time since picking up our quirky little campervan (affectionately known as “Raisin” by us), we opted for a little luxury and decided to spend the night in a motel. It was nice to sleep in a regular bed.
We spent Tuesday exploring Nelson – a sweet town with excellent local beer and coffee – that Stina thinks she could live in. She even got to hang out with Luke Skywalker.
Unbeknownst to us, the Centre of NZ is in a park here, so we had to check it out. A short steep hike led us to the exact spot on top of a hill with commanding views of the region.
That evening Don met up with Richard from Flow Kayaks for a paddle and had the opportunity to test one of their surfskis. After the paddle we headed towards Abel Tasman National Park and made it as far as Motueka where there was a close to free ($5) campsite which helped to offset the cost of the motel. It really is amazing to see the different types of camping vehicles that are used here. There were definitely some homemade types at this site – one had a pet bird! We will try to take some photos of the variety and post later.
We stocked up on some good fresh veggies in Motueka and then headed to Kaiteriteri at the entrance to Abel Tasman which was only a short drive away. We found a camp site and as we were setting up camp and getting ready for lunch a woman with census forms came by. Since we hadn’t filled out forms, she asked us to do so. They had given forms to residents and campers the previous night, but we hadn’t been at a site with any census takers. She gladly gave us forms and we were able to take part in the NZ census! Later we took a hike to a nice beach in the park, at Coquille Bay, and then made a reservation for a rental kayak the following day.
On Thursday we had to report to the kayak shop at 8:30am for a lesson on kayaking (fun stuff) and finally got on the water around 10am. The water was an amazing greenish blue color and we were happy to be able to see the park from the perspective of the water and from a sea kayak, albeit a wider slower version than we are used to. It really felt good to be on the water and we spent the day exploring and also relaxing on some sunny beaches. We were able to see some NZ fur seals, but no dolphins much to Stina’s dismay. We got back in around 3pm and after a shower headed back to Nelson.
We heard that the South Island’s west coast is another must see, so after a final night in Nelson (this time in a campsite, with grilled burgers and a good beer from Nelson) we headed towards Westport after a slow start – Nelson was hard to leave! The drive to Westport largely follows the Buller River, which is absolutely gorgeous! The blue-green water has carved a stunning gorge. For the first time we spotted river paddlers, and stopped to take a pic.
We arrived in Westport in the early evening, checked out the town, and then found a free campsite. (The price of admission being a few mosquito bites.) We will spend the next few days exploring the west coast and the glaciers before heading over to Christchurch.