South Island Odyssey –
I have created below a complete “itinerary” for traveling the South Island as I know it. My wife and I (and our two cats, Chocolate and Sylvester) have traveled New Zealand 24/7-365 days a year now going on for five years in our 7 metre Hino converted bus/office gathering information for the travel magazine I write for and now for this website………….. I have over 10,000 photos some that I will place in upcoming additional info blogs as we go along.
Below I have outlined the use of our holiday parks but in the future I will also provide other information on B&B’s, hotels/motels for those traveling by car that we have checked out and approve for the traveler. Be aware all the holiday parks are great value to everyone as they all have sel-contained cabins and motel units and the ones I point out we have been to them to make sure their standards are of the highest…………..best traveling value for money in the country.
Will also provide all the information required to know about the various activities, roads and everything required to “know how to” travel New Zealand prior to coming here from the time you step off the plane until you leave…………….good cafes, wine experiences anything one may wish to enjoy…………………
But to start lets take a trip around the South Island first…………………..from entry via ferry from Wellington to departure at the Christchurch airport.
This is Part One from Picton, Marlborough Wine Country, to Nelson, to Golden Bay to the Nelson Lakes on the way to the West Coast.
Wellington Ferry to Picton
Boarding the ferry is very simple and straight forward. They are very professional so just go with the flow. Lots of comfortable seating. Crossing over on the ferry takes about 3 1/2 hours. Good idea to take a book along to read and perhaps a pillow to rest with. There is a movie onboard. About a third of the trip is getting out the Wellington Harbour, another third crossing Cook Strait where if the weather is bad you will notice it. If you have a tendency for sea sickness good idea to get some pills for the trip. Since you have time if the weather is really horrible wait for a better crossing time. The reason I like Bluebridge is the fact they will let you cancel and re-book with no penalty for one thing. (www.bluebridge.co.nz ).
The last third of the trip will be within the Marlborough Sounds one of the most beautiful places on earth. The ferry enters at the heads into Tory Channel and cruises into the Queen Charlotte Sound all the way to the small town of Picton. Hopefully you will have a pleasant crossing so you can enjoy the beauty of the trip.
I will assume you leave the holiday park by 10am and head for Wellington using the boarding time of 1:00pm. This will provide you with ample time to get to the terminal and check in plus if you are at the Bluebridge terminal you are right down town in Wellington. You have time to take a walk along the waterfront all the way to the museum of Te Papa if you like and return or just walk over two blocks to the centre of town to look around.
After reaching and leaving the ferry at Picton go to the first roundabout and turn left. If it is late afternoon (4:30pm) I suggest you can go have a look downtown in this very small place, perhaps have a cuppa at LeCafe on the waterfront. Right close in town also is the Picton Top Ten (www.pictontop10.co.nz ) and the Picton Motor Camp(www.pictoncampervanpark.co.nz ).
As you will notice there are a lot of Sounds related activities you can get involved in here so maybe you might want to stay another day? . Also you may wish to drive the 1/2 hour to the Marlborough Wine Country. If you do go to Blenheim and after getting into town on the left is the Information Centre on the left (plenty of room to park) where you can pick up a wine tour map. Go back to Rapaura Road turn left and enjoy. Return to Picton for the night.
Marlborough Sounds to Nelson
Now we leave the Picton area and take the scenic drive through the Marlborough Sounds. Go back to the roundabout by the Bluebridge terminal but this time go straight through and over the hill overlooking the harbour. Good spot to get a photograph. From here the Queen Charlotte Drive twists and winds along through the Sounds until you move inland just above Linkwater. There is a great look out at Collins Point you can actually drive up to. Continue along the road now until it drops down to connect with route 6 at Havelock the mussel capital of New Zealand. A drive down through the marina lets you find the Slip Inn cafe. back onto route 6 and about 15 kms along is a place you have to stop and see. After Canvastown you come to Pelorus Bridge. Just before there on the right is the Totara Flats picnic area you can pull into. It is one of the most picturesque spots to stop.
Also you an stop at Pelorous Bridge and walk over to the river to have a look under the one-way bridge. After th bridge the first dirt road on the right leads to the waterfalls.
You can park just across the road from there or go on past and walk back. Don’t try to drive down the dirt road.
After Pelorous Bridge you pass through Rai Valley and up and through the mountains of the Mt. Richmond Forest on your way to the Nelson region. From Picton to Nelson will be about a 2 1/2 hour drive but with all the stops quite a bit more. Don’t hurry....enjoy.
Tonight you can stay at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park (www.tahunabeach.co.nz ). There is a fabulous beach cafe close by. On the way to the park after driving through Nelson on the right at the roundabout off route 6 is the World of Wearable Art & Cars museum worth a stop.(www.wowcars.co.nz ).
Nelson to Golden Bay
from Nelson we are heading to a place most tourists don’t go to, (except trampers) and even less Kiwis, the Golden Bay region. One of our most loved spots. We spend Christmas period in this area for instance. From Nelson we leave route 6 turning northwest on route 60. It is 33kms to Motueka. On the way you might want to take a short detour to the harbour at Mapua for a look around at the galleries and cafes. Motueka is a good place to stock up and they even have a dump station in the New World parking lot at the back.
After Motueka and Riwaka take the circle route to Kaiteriteri and Marahau on the edge of the Able Tasman National Park. If you have any desire to so sea kayaking this is where it is king. Now back to Route 60 and over the marble mountain. make sure your water is topped up. This is a real mountain.Stop at the lookout before plunging down the other side into Golden Bay. From the base of the mountain to the town of Takaka is 22kms.
A fabulous little town that is the main centre of Golden Bay. I suggest you stay the night at the Pohara Beach Top Ten (www.holidayparks.co.nz/pohara ) right on Golden Bay with its beautiful beach out of Takaka a few kms. Spend at least two days here so you can visit the area and what it has to offer such as the Pupu Springs, Collingwood, Port Puponga and perhaps a ride out the Farewell Spit.
If you like to explore you will enjoy going from Seaford south to the Paturau River. I think you can go further but we never have. You can stay the night out there if you wish by the beach.
Golden Bay to Nelson Lakes -
So after several days in Golden Bay lets move on back out and head south. Over the mountain and to Motueka where we will go south on the Motueka Valley Highway meeting up with Route 6 at Kohatu but continuing south on the Motueka Valley Road
(it goes along a small distance with rout 6) to Golden Downs continuing south on the Kerr Hill Road all the way to Rout 63 and then St Anaud on Lake Rotoiti. (http://www.starnaud.co.nz/ ). and stay at the DOC camp on the lake. (no facilities).
The photos below are:
1. Bluebridge Ferry entering the Picton Harbour area
2. Then beach at Golden Bay
3. Sailing the Nelson Lakes area
4. The outer regions of the Marlborough Sounds
5. The Pelorus River Falls
6. The foreshore of downtown Picton
7. Marlborough Sounds out of Havelock
8. Takaka, the major town ion Golden Bay
9. A Marlborough Vineyard
10. A Marlborough Vineyard
All of these scenes can be visited by anyone driving in New Zealand.