Shall I start by confessing that I arranged our entire South Island itinerary so that we could be in Nelson for the Saturday market? It’s true. I LOVE a good market, and my folks said this was one of the best they’ve been to, on several continents. How could I miss it?
So Friday morning found us driving the four hours from Kaikoura to Nelson, with a car picnic lunch en route. Nelson is one of the larger cities on the South Island, so we spent some time that afternoon laying in provisions for our final days. Also on deck: some schoolwork for Penelope and a special treat: the first twenty minutes or so of The Hobbit movie. Penelope loved it, especially the dwarf singing… but didn’t want to watch further to see any of the scary parts (and we agreed, given her past scary-movie-to-nightmare ratio). Dinner at home and some playground time rounded out the day.
Saturday morning I headed to the Nelson market for an hour or so of solo browsing before Jeremy and Penelope joined me. As predicted, the market was a delightful mélange of produce, crafts, art, clothes, jewelry, and food trucks. I found a gorgeous charcuterie board made of Rewarewa, also known as the New Zealand honeysuckle, with lovely branch handles.
Jeremy suggested he might prefer the cleaner lines of the one on the right, but I remained steadfast in my preference for the center one. And thus I have come one step closer to fulfilling my dream of turning our house into a hobbit hole, decorated with items Bilbo and Frodo might also admire.
And I also picked up these wonderful New Zealand ha’pennies, polished and transformed into earrings.
After lunch, we headed to the Nelson Provincial Museum, which contains both a permanent exhibition on the history of this city and region, and traveling exhibits. So we also enjoyed an exploration of the Permian period, complete with enormous animatronic pre-dinosaurs. It was quite something!
Next we strolled over to the Suter Art Gallery, a small but wonderful art museum. In the very back gallery room, they had a room filled with art from local New Zealand artists, all available for purchase. Such a wonderful idea—I’d love it if every museum had this practice! Jeremy and I saw something similar a few years ago when we were in Edinburgh. And on this trip, the piece we liked best was available, so purchase it we did. Of course now we have to schlep the painting around New Zealand for the next few weeks, but we’ll manage. If these are my complaints, it’s a good life. 😉
We had reservations for dinner at Nahm, a Thai restaurant right on the coast, to celebrate my birthday… as on my actual birthday we will be hiking in a restaurant-free area of Abel Tasman National Park. We’ve been tremendously lucky with all of our restaurant choices so far—and Nahm was no exception. Outstanding Thai food, eaten on a beautiful balcony right on the sheltered bay of Nelson’s seashore. As we waited for our food, we saw a terrific variety of boats sail by. And Jeremy snapped this pic of me. 🙂
After dinner, we took a scenic drive around Nelson and then decided to hike up to the Centre of New Zealand. While it’s apparently not the *actual* center of NZ, it’s still a relatively close approximation atop a hill with wonderful 360-degree views. Good enough!
Sunday we packed up once again and headed for Motueka, our last stop on the South Island. Though it’s a small town, Motueka is the gateway for the Abel Tasman National Park, so it has more stores, etc than it might otherwise. We’re here for three nights, and have been assigned a cabin directly across from the pool and playground. So on the first day we spent our afternoon at the pool, relaxing and also prepping for our time in Wellington later this week. Dinner at home, along with some laundry and schoolwork. And after dinner, a walk along the beach to see an old wrecked ship. Bonus knowledge acquired: wet sand can actually and quite suddenly be revealed to be black quicksand mud! Guess who learned that lesson the hard way? Picture of me sputtering expletives (and covered in mud up to my shoe-clad ankles) not included.
On Monday though, we were up early, and after a quick breakfast/birthday celebration for yours truly, drove to nearby Kaiteriteri Beach to board our water taxi. We had booked a double beach cruise with local company Nelson’s, and we sailed from Kaiteriteri Beach up to Medlands Bay, while the skipper filled us in on sights along the shoreline. My favorite was the aptly named Split Apple Rock.
We disembarked at Medlands Bay, then hiked over to Bark Bay, where we settled in for some beach time.
See how happy and relaxed we looked? Alas, this feeling was soon to fade as Jeremy and I began to remember that we are decidedly and definitively not beach people. Do you know what there is at the beach? SAND. SO MUCH SAND. And hot, hot sun. Also a feature of this particular beach: sand fleas. So after we realized that our sandy spot was infested, we packed up and did some hiking along the Abel Tasman track. Much better. Penelope disagreed, but was pacified when we reminded her that we’d be at another beach soon.
And about an hour later, we were picked up by our boat and ferried down to Anchorage Bay, where we spent another few hours split between hiking and beach time. You’ll be relieved to know that both Jeremy and I had the foresight to bring our Kindles. And that Penelope very much enjoyed playing with other, more beach-amenable families on the shoreline. 🙂 But the wildlife (wekas and swamphens and feral pigs, oh my) was terrific and the views were amazing. Definitely a beautiful place!
After a long day of adventures, we boarded the boat once more, bound for Kaiteriteri Beach, and then home to our campground in Motueka. Penelope spent the evening in the pool and on the playground, this time with a French girl her age. Which I feel should count as her schoolwork for the day. Well, that and about an hour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast movie, the French language version.
Tuesday we had a more relaxed morning at home, but we hit the road around eleven for the next set of Abel Tasman adventures. This time we were headed for a set of hikes over Tanaka Hill: the Grove and Wainui Falls, both recommended in NZ Frenzy, a guidebook of New Zealand hikes—(and by my folks, who said we shouldn’t miss these two short walks). While I could have given the drive a pass, due to its twists and turns (seeing a pattern here, dearest reader?), the hikes were indeed quite terrific.
The Grove feels like a small slice of Cambodia, with huge boulders and vines and trees growing in and around the rocks. It’s a lovely, mostly flat walk around the rocks, until you get to a giant bit of rock that’s been cut in two by time. Walking through, you arrive at a lovely overlook of all the meadows below… and then all the way out to sea. Quite a view!
We drove another twenty minutes of twists and turns, this time along the radiantly blue sea, and we arrived at the turnoff for the Wainui Falls Track. This hike is about an hour and half round trip, at least at our meandering pace, and a lovely hike indeed. Lots of palm trees, ferns, and birdsong. The trail follows the Wainui River, sometimes close by, sometimes far above, to the highest falls in the Golden Bay region.
We crossed several bridges, one a very high (and therefore somewhat unnerving) swing bridge with success, finally arriving at the Falls. At 20 metres high, the Wainui Falls were indeed impressive—and I particularly appreciated the lovely rainbow spray as they entered the deep pool below. Gorgeous.
Jeremy elected to drive home (I’d driven the outbound trip), saying he’d prefer me to read and not look at the road. Doesn’t he know it’s my anxiety that keeps us on the road?? Apparently not. But Penelope and I dutifully ensconced ourselves in our books and Jeremy got us safely back to Motueka.
Once home we started the process of reassembling all of our stuff. Wednesday morning we’ll drop off our rental car and take the ferry from Picton to Wellington. Since we’re staying in Wellington for six nights, we won’t need a car on the North Island right away. But that means that we need to smoosh everything back into our bags so the luggage can be checked on the ferry. An hour into packing, and I have my doubts. Perhaps we will be stopping en route to Picton to buy a duffel bag? Time will tell…