After a bit of a grim time on the West Coast, we were all relieved to arrive on the sunny north coast of the South Island to stay for a few days by the Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay. We were yearning for a bit of sunshine and to see some blue skies again, and the Abel Tasman area certainly delivered. We were staying in the tiny town of Marahau, which consisted of a few small houses, a camping ground and one pub. There was peace and quiet, good weather and some lovely places to walk.
The national park is right on the coast, and it’s home to one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. As soon as we got there we regretted not booking ourselves onto the full 3 day hike, as it was beautiful. There were lots of tiny deserted beaches and small bays only accessible on foot along the coastal path, so we went for a 5 hour day walk, stopping frequently to enjoy the beaches and paddle in the clear blue waters. We all had a lovely time on the walk, but there was just one downside. Matt was still taking one for the team and was being feasted on by sand flies. We walked back to the town and decided that a beer was in order, so we went to Hooked, the one little pub on the seafront. It turned out we had arrived just in time as it was the pub’s last open day before the winter break. We sat out as the sun set, wondering where autumn had gone.
The next day we drove to another little town called Takaka, which was a good spot to explore Golden Bay and the Farewell Spit, the most northern point of the island. That day, autumn had returned. The skies were grey and it was drizzly. We were a bit disheartened as we were heading up to Wharariki beach, often called the best beach in New Zealand (and by one of our Kiwi friends, the entire world!). I can definitely see where she’s coming from, Wharariki beach is like landing on another planet. The drizzly weather didn’t actually matter one bit. The black and yellow sand had been patterned by the tide and the wind, there were huge rocks and caves to explore, and best of all there were countless little seal pups playing in small pools. At first we approached them cautiously, not wanting to scare them and get too close, but once they got used to us they swam right up to our feet. They swam in circles, showing off and waving their flippers. One even came up and investigated Toby and nibbled his toes!
After spending a long time watching the seal pups playing, we climbed back up the sand dunes and walked back to the car. We then went to have a look at the Farewell Spit, a very long and thin peninsula at the very top of the island. Unfortunately this was slightly hindered by the weather as the views of the spit weren’t the clearest, and unfortunately poor Matt was still being attacked by sand flies. On the way back to our hostel we stopped off at the much recommended Mussel Inn, for some local ales (with local manuka honey), and some pumpkin pie to cheer Matt up.
The next day we left to drive to the seaside city of Nelson, our final stop on the South Island! We were there for two nights, and spent most of the time wandering around the city, and enjoying the sunshine that had decided to return to us. We went on a walk up a hill not far from the city (as Toby loves walking up hills), and at the top there was a plaque claiming this was the centre point of New Zealand. The view from the centre of New Zealand was great, you could see the whole of the city and out to sea in one direction, and luscious green hills in the other. We walked round a quaint little food market, and stopped for a break to enjoy another local beer (there’s a theme emerging here…).
It was then time for us to leave the beaches, mountains, forests and lakes of the South Island behind us and get the ferry back up to Wellington. We had such a brilliant time exploring some of the most beautiful parts of the country (and also the world), but we were really looking forward to returning to Hawkes Bay, our home away from home, and seeing our kiwi friends again. Soon we were to leave New Zealand altogether!