With our first taste of the South Island showing us spectacular scenery, we could tell we were in for even more stunning natural beauty as we travelled North West toward ‘Golden Bay’.
We made our way, passed many outstanding coastal viewpoints and quaint countryside towns, to the northernmost tip of the peninsular to see Farewell Spit – a 30km long sand spit that is home to a huge array of local wildlife. Unfortunately, no one is able to just walk on to the spit without being on an official tour (because it’s a place of huge ecological importance), so we took in the view from Cape Farewell – the huge granite cliffs overlooking the spit.
Getting to the Cape was quite entertaining as the road went directly through farmland, complete with farm animals, and Dale had to try out his hand at shepherding so that we could get through!
Unfortunately, the sea spray was obscuring most of the spit when we arrived, but we appreciated the view all the same.
Before we left, we also took a quick look at the nearby Wharariki Beach – a place that has a reputation for dramatic rock formations and arches.
When we arrived it was totally deserted and we had the entire beach to ourselves to explore hidden caves and take in the rugged beauty of this coast.
We even found a friend, although he was quite large, a little smelly and a bit scary.
As we made our way back down the coast toward Abel Tasman National Park – yet another place renowned for gorgeous beaches and stunning scenery – we stopped off at Te Waikoropupu Springs to look at “the world’s purest water”.
For comparison, the water that we snorkelled in when we were in Brazil had a visibility of 40 metres. Unfortunately snorkelling’s not allowed here because the spring is sacred to the Maori, but at 11 degrees maybe that’s for the best…
When we reached Marahau – the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park – that afternoon, we decided to make the most of the sunny weather and try our hands at paddle boarding.
A cross between kayaking and surfing, it took us both a while to get used to and both of us ended up in the water on more than one occasion!
We were totally shown up by our paddle boarding instructor’s dog, Kelly, who was a total natural. “Don’t worry” said our instructor, Daryl, “She’s been doing this a lot longer than you!”
The next day we were up early to catch a water taxi into the national park, where we would do one of the walking trails along the coast back towards Marahau. We were just expecting to be dropped off along the circuit stops, like you would on a bus, but the ride itself was quite entertaining. When we caught the taxi, we the boat was on the back of a trailer being pulled along the road by a tractor and, when we were lowered into the water, we were taken for a quick visit to Split Apple Rock and a spot where we could see fur seals basking in the sun before being taken to the first scheduled stop.
When we found our way to the start of the path, we bounced along happily, taking in the beautiful scenery of the sandy bays and forested granite cliffs all around us.
The walk was a very pretty one, complete with wonderful sweeping views of the coast and occasional waterfalls, which acted as picturesque places to stop and rest.
Apart from the beaches at the very beginning, we had thought that the path would lead us along the other beaches in the park, but unless you had time to go on a detour for a few hours (which we didn’t), there wasn’t a lot of beach access along the trail. Even more disappointingly, a lot of the time the trees and hedges along the path obscured the views we had come to see. Although when there was a break in the foliage the vista was spectacular.
Golden Bay and Abel Tasman National Park were certainly beautiful and we would have liked more time (particularly in Abel Tasman NP) to relax on the beaches and take in the atmosphere a little more, but the road was calling us and we were due for a visit to the rugged and wild West Coast…