Golden Bay to Picton and then Wellington

Yesterday we took the ferry from Picton to Wellington. But, two days earlier we spent a couple of days sightseeing the northern shore of the South Island – particularly the Golden Bay area. We drove first all the way past the Golden Bay to the famous, and beautiful, Wharariki Beach. UPDATE: A photo album has been uploaded which covers the sights described below:

View full-sized with descriptions

We went Wharariki Beach first because of weather and because it would be low tide. We were able to walk right up to the beautiful rocky islands which make this beach location such a popular attraction. There were a few seal pups in the area and we enjoyed watching them playing around in the surf. I got really close to 3 pups who were blocking a path up a rock I had climbed. So, I just took a few pictures and came back.

After cleaning out the copious amounts of sand from our beach walk, we drove to Farewell Spit. We first went to the western coast side which has even bigger rocky beaches, and you can walk right on the edge of a cliff. Then we drove a few kms to the northernmost point you can reach by car which is at the base of the longest natural sand spit in the world. Here we got a pretty nice view of this huge sand bar.

That evening we drove to Pohara and spent the night in a campground right on the beach. The next morning we drove into Abel Tasman park and visited a fantastic waterfall called Wainui Falls (off Wainui Bay). It was a nice hike to the falls, but the falls were worth it. A lot of water coming into a large deep pool with cascades falling below it. Quite spectacular!

We drove to see the purest water in a natural spring at Wakoropupu Springs (or Pupu springs for short – kind of a funny name for the purest water!). It was amazing to see how much water comes out of the ground in one spot. A large river comes out of nowhere (actually, its from a huge underground cavern system).

We then drove to see a place called “Split Apple”. This is on the eastern end of Abel Tasman Park. It was the curviest road yet getting there (at times down to 10 kph to make curves), and then we had to walk a bit down to the beach. As you might guess, the sight is a huge rock sitting out on its own little island just off the beach. The rock is almost perfectly round, but split in half. It really looks like a split apple. After taking pictures, we explored the nearby caves created by the seas crashing into the shore. You can even walk through tunnel caves here.

Finally, we returned back to the Nelson area. We decided to spend an extra day to do laundry again. While catching up on Internet, I read the blog of our friends on s/v Leu Cat (David and Mary Margaret). They had just come down to the South Island, and were supposedly in a town just adjacent to us! So, I dropped them an E-mail and we connected by phone and set up to do dinner together at their hotel. Had a great time catching up with Leu Cat for dinner, and talked until they closed down their kitchen at 10 PM. You can see a picture of us and read their side of the story on their blog.

The next day, we drove to Picton. It took longer than expected to get there as there are some very curvy and scenic views along the way. You have to cross several passes to get to through the hilly area and then drive along the coast of the sounds surrounding Picton. I’ve been on more curvy roads in New Zealand than any driving I’ve done in the US in the Rockies or the Appalachians. Even West Virginia! Amazing!

We barely had time to grab some lunch and get in line to check our car into the ferry. We had planned to visit with friends on s/v Inspiration Lady, but ran out of time.

The weather was fantastic for our ferry ride. The ride from Picton to the Cooks Straight goes through some of the pretties sounds I’ve seen (not counting the Doubtful Sound in the Fjordlands). Lots of pictures coming of this trip. The Cooks Straight looked so smooth and straight, I wondered about all the talk about how treacherous this area can be. But, once we got across towards the North Island, the winds got stronger and stronger. By the time we were approaching Wellington the winds were 25-30 knots at least. Thank goodness we were on the larger ferry and it just smoothly coasted across the building seas! By the way, we were really lucky and were the second car off the ferry (out of over 100). That was nice!

We had a fantastic two months visiting the South Island. We are really glad we went!

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