Nelson Potpourri - Gardens, Wines, Coast, Wildlife

Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
Trip End Jan 23, 2010

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
Where I stayed
Golden Lodge

Flag of New Zealand  , Nelson,
Monday, December 28, 2009

It's hard to top our hike along the Abel Tasman (last blog), but we managed to find much more to enjoy about Nelson.

On a relaxing day of chores, we took a stroll a few blocks from our hostel to the Queen's Garden.  Networking paths wind here and there, lined by old trees of all sorts of varieties (each labeled).  A creek meanders through with quaint gazebos and bridges along the way.  Here--there's a rose garden, there--colorful wildflowers, some endemic, many domesticated, all cheerful and tended with pride.  Parks always seem to make the air seem more fresh and fragrant.

The next day we drove beyond the Marlborough Sound to the region of NZ most known for wine production.  The climate is most suited to Sauvignon Blanc, so this grape appears at every winery.  Although we're basically bold red drinkers, we went with open minds, but chose our wineries based on their efforts toward sustainability: one organic, one certified carbon-zero (or no net production of carbon dioxide emissions in the production of their wines).  The small town of Renwick, west of Blenheim and southwest of the port town of Picton is almost entirely dedicated to wine making.  We found a bike rental company that just happens to also be a B&B, called the Olde Mill House.  Had we found them sooner, we might have stayed a night or two there.  It looked like a nice place, with fragrant gardens of lavender and rosemary, and a nice hot tub to soak in after tasting the regions wines.  The friendly host rented a tandem for us, and we were off!

If you haven't ridden a tandem bike before, it's not so hard, as long as you can get on and off!  I'm sure there's a smooth way to do it, but we finally figured out that one of us needed to keep the bike balanced while the other climbed on.  Apparently, the bike works best with the largest person in front.  If there's a big size difference between the riders, this means the person in the back can't see in front, doesn't have control of the brakes, and doesn't have the ability to steer.  There's a bit of trust involved!  Anyway, we figured it all out enough to have a laughing good time, and managed not to crash and burn.

Time for a wine review:  if you're not interest in wine or olive oil, skip this paragraph....  Seresin was our first winery, a place following organic/biodynamic agricultural principles.  They make both wine and olive oil.  We tasted all their wines.  Mark especially liked Marama sauv blanc for its complex flavors and creamier, oak-butter finish, while I agreed with the wine maker's notes on their chardonnay: tastes of almond and gunsmoke (a typical flavor of the region related to the soil characters), and the long, buttery finish of characteristic of a malolactic fermentation process. Their pinots were rich with more tannins than we usually associate with pinots, one (Rachel's) had more vegetal characters in the nose and on the front, developing to flavors of plum and finishing with soft tannins.  The other pinot (Leah's) was also tasty, more spicy and mocha rich, with more lingering tannins on the finish.  Good bread chunks to munch on between wines tempted us to taste their olive oils.  There was a standard olive oil, rich and creamy, and also 3 citrus flavored oils, with the whole fruits pressed and combined with the olives.  Although the lime was tasty, we especially liked the lemon and orange.  The lemon would be lovely over a fresh salad with a splash of vinegar, and the orange, on recommendation, is well-suited to flavors like coriander, cumin, and cardamom.  We also visited Wairau winery.  They are carbon-zero certified for their 2nd year now.  Although my taste buds weren't as piqued here as at Seresin, I'd say my favorite was their Homeblock pinot, with flavors of light berries and good tannins.  This one won 92 points.  

To our surprise, Jason & Ruby began their 3-week summer holiday in Blenheim, where were were headed for dinner after our bicycling, wine tasting trip.  We met up with them, where Jason was negotiating to buy a play boat (that's a small maneuverable kayak, for those not familiar).  The four of us found a great Indian restaurant for a feast and chance to catch up, talk hospital shop and plan getting together further down the line in the mountains.  The two of them were off to spend a weekend rolling down the rivers near Murchison, so we returned to Nelson for a bit more exploration of the Tasman Bay.

We heard from other travelers that in our 3-day walk in Abel Tasman, we had missed the best part.  Really?  I guess that meant we had to find out.  The morning was grey and looking bleak, and we nearly canceled our plans, but pushed on and drove through the clouds over the steep & curvy pass toward Golden Bay, occasionally through rain showers, until we got to the north end of the national park.  We could see patches of blue appearing in the clouds as we began the walk, marveling at the curves of sand and water during low tide at Wainui Beach.  

By the time we walked over our first 200m tall ridge and down the next valley, then emerged from the dripping forest, sunshine glimmered on the sea at Wharwharangi Beach.  Like all the beaches of the Abel Tasman, this one was gorgeous.  We were SO tempted to swim, but had 20 or so km ahead of us on the trail, so instead we walked along the giant cedars at the beach's edge, and up the next slope toward Separation Point.

This next bit of side trail was perhaps the first place where 2 people could not walk side by side on a smooth path.  This was single-track trail, crossing over boulders at the end of the point to get down to a rocky overlook just above the water's edge.  The white cliffs and blue waters were spectacular below us.  Hiking to the bottom of the trail, we watched fur seals sun on the rocks and frolic in the water.  

Beyond Separation Point we continued on to Mutton Cove & Anapai Beach, split by a boulder outcrop.  We moved faster on the sand here, as the rains seemed to have affected the presence of biting sand flies.  We had heard about them, and although we weren't heavily nibbled, we didn't want to be!  In one spot, we quietly tiptoed past some resting marine mammals, and in another place, we found some wavy granite for a little climbing distraction.  Mark chimneyed his way up some windows carved by the sea, and Wynne bouldered around a formation that looks like waves in the rock.

This was a loop hike, so just before reaching Totaranui Bay, our rail took us up to the highest point of our trip, a 600m peak called Gibbs Hill.  The trail was steep and steady much of the way, a good chance to work our calves and hamstrings...practice for our biggest tramp to come, the Kepler Track down near the Sounds of the Southland.  From the top we could see back to bays we had visited a few days before.  The clouds weren't far above us, and the wind was cool at this height, so we descended quickly down the steep inland side, and found our way back to our vehicle with plenty of daylight left...not bad considering we started at noon and covered 23km (14+ miles), stopping for a bit of fun along the way.

The next day we began our drive southward, but we made one last stop for wine at Yealands Estate, another carbon-neutral venture, with impressive architecture, man-made wetlands to reintroduce birds to the area, and a worthy mission of sustainability.  They had a tasty estate sauv blanc, a very drinkable viognier, and our first choice, a smokey, complex and smooth tempranillo.  This is one I'd buy a case of at home.

One more quick note...if you ever make your way from the Marlborough Sounds to Nelson, and stop in Havelock, the Inlet Cafe serves great muffins & other pastries, egg dishes (I loved the light and fluffy "creamy eggs over toast"), "flat whites" & tea.  We stopped there 3 times over the course of our visit!

Next blog...driving down the east coast to Christchurch for the New Year.



Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


Aimee Rose on

Like you, we learned the reason the man is usually in the front on tandem bikes. It's not a sexist thing, it's a size thing! I drove the tandem once and almost killed us, or at least almost ran us into everything in front of us. It's terribly hard to control. Lot's of fun to tool around on though!

kahanastreet on

your tandem ride made me laugh out loud! MOM

jason on

nice pics, I love Able Tasman park

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: