After an early alarm, we got the van packed up and made our way to the Wellington Interislander Ferry for the 9am sailing across the Cook Strait and down to the South Island. We were looking forward to the views on the 3.5 hour journey as it is billed as one of the Great Journeys of New Zealand however the mist and rain stopped us from seeing very much on our crossing! So instead we bought a coffee and snuck into the business lounge and got comfy for the next few hours.
Once we had arrived we made our way south through the wind and rain to Nelson where, thankfully, the sun was shining. We had decided we would park up at Nelson Top 10 Holiday Park for the next 3 nights to allow us some time to explore the Abel Tasman National Park and give us (Craig) a few days off of driving. Having had a long day of travelling we wandered into the city centre to grab some food and enjoyed an early night knowing we wouldn't need to set an alarm for the morning.
Next morning, we set off to explore what Nelson had to offer. Passing by the Botanical Reserve where the first game of rugby in New Zealand was played in 1870, we made our way up to the top of the Botanical Hill to the Centre of New Zealand. It was a short, but steep walk, climbing 147m, but the views are the top were pretty phenomenal - we could definitely see why people talk about how stunning the South Island is!
Once we had made our way back down, we went to explore the Queens Gardens, opened in 1892 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria. We were extremely lucky to get to see them on such a beautiful sunny day. After taking in the gardens we were both in need of a bit of sustenance so headed to Stefano's for a late lunch.
Our afternoon consisted of a very exciting trip to the supermarket to stock the van back up, the Great British Bake Off and some chill out time, which was just what was needed ahead of our busy trip to the National Park planned for the following day.
With a 6am wake up call we grabbed our shuttle bus with Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles up to Kaiteriteri beach where we picked up the 9am water taxi (thankfully with a spare 5 minutes to grab ourselves a coffee!). The National Park cannot be accessed by road so water taxis run up and down the coast to allow people to be dropped off at the various beaches where they can either be collected later or, as we did, hike to another one. Our plan for the day was to take the water taxi up the length of the park from Kaiteriteri to Totaranui, then we would come back some of the way to Medlands Beach and hike to Anchorage to be picked back up again and head back to Kaiteriteri.
Encountering an accident on the way back from Kaiteriteri meant the hour long bus took 2 hours so we were thrilled when we finally got back to the campervan where we enjoyed a quick dinner and started to watch the extended edition of the Fellowship of the Ring (Craig's been desperate to since we visited Hobbiton!) before crashing out!
The next morning we awoke to absolutely horrendous rain and in the mad dash to the toilet block we were reminded why we don't think we'll ever really be campervan people! We got the campervan packed up and began moving Southward to St. Arnaud with the hope that, by the time we got there it might have dried up enough for us to head out hiking. Unfortunately we had no such luck and instead settled for a coffee and brownie by the fire at the Alpine Lodge,. We then optimistically made our way to Nelson Lake in the hope we might have been able to take in some of the view, however the mist and rain had other ideas so rather than spend much time we continued our journey to Cape Foulwinds near Westport.
We arrived in Westport just in time for the storm really to get going so we were absolutely delighted to be booked in to a very cosy Airbnb for the next 2 nights! We immediately got the heating on and cracked open one of the bottles of wine purchased in Hawkes Bay and enjoyed a very relaxed night before getting to sleep in a proper bed!
The next morning, after a particularly enjoyable long lie, a cup of tea in bed, we ventured out for a walk to the Cape Foulwinds Lighthouse and were extremely lucky to be greeted by the sun to highlight the views!
We enjoyed another very relaxed afternoon before heading to the Star Tavern for some proper New Zealand hospitality. We followed this with an early night to make the most of another night in a proper bed before we moved on!
Next stop Greymouth!