Abel Tasman National Park and North Coast

Published: October 20th 2008
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Saturday 11th October

We were at the building from where the water taxi was to leave at 0900 by 0830. After booking our tickets we had enough time to pack a lunch and our things in a backpack before being loaded onto the boat with 15 others and then driven by tractor to the launching ramp. As the tide was in we were actually launched from the ramp, later the water recedes about 2-300m out and it becomes a beach launch. The boat is an aluminium craft made the same as a rubber dinghy with pontoons as the sides. Makes for a very stable boat as the driver soon demonstrated as he opened up the 250hp Mercury and then proceeded to throw it into some very tight turns. It handled it very well and would make for a very stable blue-water fishing boat.

We detoured south around the point where we were shown the Split Apple Rock, a large round rock split in half which is the icon for tis town. Nearby there was also a bird sanctuary, mainly shags which were brought over from Australia at some time. The Pied Shag is one of only 3 sea birds
Apple RockApple RockApple Rock

We tried to drive to it later because the tide would have been out but we couldn't find it!
which nests in a tree and here the trees had many nests in them. From here we went up the coast for about 40 mins arriving at the Anchorage in Torrent Bay where we got off. We spent some time on this beach including the far corner where we found some interestingly shaped rocks on which people had carved their names, one dated 1937.

At about 1030 we set off along the track back towards Marahau, at first a very long steep climb which made us think we were in for a hard trek back. Luckily once we reached the ridge it flattened out and remained like that most of the 11 kms back. We did go down to the beach in a couple of places as well as a lookout where we had a break and a bite to eat. Some parts of the track were in drier areas than those we had been in over previous days and the vegetation varied. In various spots we saw traps set with eggs as bait to catch the stoats, possums and ferrets. These have really caused much damage in all of NZ but they are certainly making a large effort
Private beachPrivate beachPrivate beach

We found a gorgeous beach and had it all to ourselves.
to exterminate, or at least control them.

Beautiful views around each corner, the yellow sand and green sea really set off by the vegetation which stops right at the edge. The track followed the ridgeline rather than the coast and therefore after walking for some time you then came out on the coast again not very far along from the headland you had left. Three and a half hours later we were glad to see the beach where we started but it still took another 30 mins before 2 tired and footweary people returned to the campervan.

We finished off our lunch sandwiches at Kaiteriteri, only about 3 kms up the coast but to get there you had to travel about 10kms of steep winding road. This town is set on a large protected bay and is dominated by a vast caravan park which is apparently packed over the summer season.

A 20 min snooze preceded us traveling on down the coast until we found a pleasant place to spend the night next to Waimea River just before the town of Richmond.

Sunday 12th October

Richmond appeared to be another big country town so we took the bypass and continued to Nelson where we read they have a large art and craft market in the centre of town. This turned out to be a rather down-market swapmeet, much like our suburban ones, where we did purchase another book to read before setting off to Okiwi Bay where, Rags read in some-ones blog, oysters can be picked off the beach.

After about 30kms of twisting mountain road we were rewarded with the beautiful sight of the bay, a great place if you had a boat and one of the houses overlooking it. There were however no signs of easily accessible oysters, just traces where they were sometime in the past. Further away it may have been ok. There were no shops there either, so the dream of oysters soon died.

After an early lunch we tackled the road again now headed for Havelock, the self-proclaimed mussel centre of NZ. We spent some time walking around this town seeing several places where mussels were served. As we had lunched earlier we didn't have any, another promised treat we missed!

On we continued to Blenheim until just outside of it we came to the vineyard area Marlborough. The Domaine Georges Michel winery was our first stop, and on hearing that we were from WA the lady there proceeded to tell us about the wines there and we sampled their delicious sav blancs and pinot noirs. Their white wines are excellent even to our untrained palates. We bought one for Judy to savour for the next couple of days.

The Vines Village, just up the road gave Judy her chance to look at some art/craft shops, Rags wandering into a section where there was more wine tasting! He apologised to the lady there as she had been enjoying the sunshine. She was happy for the interruption as she was bored. On her suggestion, we (as Judy had joined in) tried all the wines and received the spiel on all of them.

By this time we had built up an appetite so we went to the adjoining cafe for mussels. Very disappointing, they were tough and fairly tasteless. We'll have to try them again somewhere else.

From here we headed north again to spend the night on the beach near Rarangi. We drove into a likely area behind their Bush Fire Brigade building amongst pine trees. Next thing the ground became soft, Rags tried to 'gun' the van round and we were well and truly bogged. Using a local's shovel didn't help, nor did his Hi-ace with a snatch strap do any good, the ground has nothing underneath it and the van is too heavy. Here we stayed for the night whether we wanted to or not!

Monday 13th October

At 0730 Rags walked to the nearby golf club and the greenkeeper there was happy to drive their tractor to where the van was and we were soon out. Rags forced $20 on the chap, 'buy a beer for yourself' , Judy meanwhile had gone for a jog, returning to find us out of the bog and everything ready to roll. After breakfast we set off and headed north again to the town of Picton, best known for being the port for the inter-island ferries.

We were quite impressed with this town, nestled amongst the mountains and on a large bay. We watched two of the ferries berth, they reminding us of the ferries which ply the Greek islands.

On enquiring at the 'i site' we were
Wines at Cloudy Bay WineryWines at Cloudy Bay WineryWines at Cloudy Bay Winery

This winery is owned by a WA company- Cape Mentelle.
directed to some public showers down at the marina, Judy wanting to wash her hair. The cost was $2 for 8 mins, and as Judy wanted to condition her hair as well, Rags had a shower whilst she waited. This would be fine normally, but we realised that we were in a 'Ladies' and when the booth next door was used we became very silent!

Afterwards we walked the main street, Judy checking all the clothing and souvenir shops, Rags at times being quite happy to stay outside in the sunshine watching the world go by.

Lunch was fish & chips at a cafe run by some elderly people in the Mariner Complex, a shopping centre which didn't appear to be successful, after which we left Picton, dumping our tanks at the station on the way out. We continued from here to Blenheim where a shoe shop caught Judy's eye and both of us left with some bargains.

We then set off to Cloudy Bay winery, this being one label we recognised in WA. We found out why, during an enjoyable tasting session, Cape Mentelle Winery in Margaret River owned this winery.

From here we continued south, stopping for the day at Marfells Beach, besides Lake Grassmere a lake used for salt extraction. We had a great site here well protected from the sea breeze by a stand of trees between us and the water.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Predator TrapPredator Trap
Predator Trap

They bait these traps with eggs to catch predators such as possums, ferrets and stoats. We've seen them all over the islands.

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