" New Zealand Holiday ... 5 . . . Abel Tasman "

Date & Time: Saturday 30th - Monday 1st November 2011.

Locations : Rotorua to Marahau resort.

Places visited : Wellington, Nelson, Marahau, Takaka, Collingwood, Farewell Spit and the Abel Tasman coastal reserve.

Accommodation : Ocean View Chalets overlooking the Abel Tasman coast.

With : Ann and myself.

Weather : Two good days followed by a not so good one !


" New Zealand Holiday ... 5 " at EveryTrail

[ Alter the settings to zoom or change the Map, use Everytrail to download the Gps route ]


After our time in and around the Rotorua area

it was time to move on to the next part of our New Zealand holiday.

Rotorua Airport about 10am.

We boarded a morning flight from Rotorua


on a rather overcast day


but were soon flying high above the clouds


and enjoying the sunshine and airline refreshments


en-route to Wellington.

A brief stop at Wellington airport while we changed planes.

Inside the terminal, the Icebreaker Merino store . . .
. . . and an encouragement to stay on and see the attractions of North Island

As some may know, Icebreaker is a preferred brand of clothing for us here in Cumbria, both for fellwalking and for lazing about the house, as it is so warm and comfortable.

Looks like we just missed the "Rugby World Cup Lucky Dip" I had heard about from the Icebreaker rep in work recently. Apparently you paid your money and stuck your hand in the Merino Sheep in order to draw a possible winning ticket. In true NZ style, the orifice was the veterinary one not the food one ! Perhaps it was a good job the promotion had ended before we got here !

Oh yes . . . the poster is for a helicopter flight to White Island . . . just been there . . . just done that . . . but no tee shirt in case you ask !

The second leg of our southward journey

was a shorter hop across the Cook Strait

to Nelson on the South Island.



On the way there we flew over

the picturesque islands and

peninsular around the Picton area,

on the northern end

of South Island.

The city of Nelson as we prepare to land.

A new hire car . . . but we seem to have kept the same colour . . . which should make it easier to find !

- - - o o o - - -

And so to South Island, the second and largest of New Zealand's three islands.

The area around Nelson and Richmond just down the coast was notable by the very intense agriculture, thriving in the pleasant climate of this part of the world. Here we passed many vineyards where the grape vines were just just starting to sprout new growth after their winter pruning. Remember we've arrived in their Spring even though it's just a day or so short of November.

The area also supports an important fruit growing industry as we could see from passing the many farms along the way.

As we drove around the coast we passed Ruby Bay . . .
. . . looking out into the wider Tasman Bay and the Cook Straits.

We were feeling a little peckish , as you do after missing out on lunch, when we saw the sign

for the "Jester House Country Cafe and tame eels" . . . You've just got to stop!

They make great food, afternoon tea and savoury muffins would do nicely . . . now what was that about tame eels ?

They weren't on the menu . . . but mincemeat to feed them was so we had a small pot

and made our way down to the stream that runs alongside the cafe . . . the rest was history.

Yes they were tame but they were totally wild and able to swim free up and down the waterway.

I think they were only there for the mincemeat . . . and they would have had my fingers too if I hadn't used the wooden spatula to feed them.


The chef gave us the recipe for the Muffins by the way.

We've not tried it yet but have a go yourself

and let us know how you got on.


1 grated Carrot 1 diced capsicum (pepper)

Sugar beet (or spinach) leaves & any other veg

1 cup Cheese + 100g Butter + 1 Onion + 1 cup Milk

2 heaped cups of (plain) flour + 4 tsp baking powder

1 egg, salt & pepper


I imagine you lightly fry the pepper and onion,

mix in the rest of the ingredients, place in a cake tin

and bake till it has risen and is slightly brown as in the picture !



A short while later we turned right at Matueka, taking the smaller coast road towards the Abel Tasman National Park.

This was Kaiteriteri Bay as we neared our destination for today.

A little sun would have made the sands really shine.

Our home for the next few nights . . . Ocean View Chalets at Marahau.

A log cabin set back on a small hillside overlooking the bay . . . rather nice.


Time to consider supper

and there was a very good recommendation locally . . .

The Fat Tui


This was the equivalent of an English Fish and Chip shop

but made of an ex-road-going trailer parked up in the village.

It had a menu which included salads, 'cow-pat' burgers,

battered scallops

and the best seafood mussel-burgers we've ever tasted.



Dinner for two at our Ocean View chalet.

- - - o o o - - -

Pre-holiday planning had found a company offering eco-tours out along Farewell Spit,

a sand spit reaching out to sea from the northern tip of South island.

Today we head north for an hour or so to the seaside town of Collingwood.

Looking back as we start the climb up and over the Takaka Hill road

which winds, twists and turns up to height of nearly 895 metres (2900 ft). A big climb for this main road to the north.

[ The square 'building' down in the valley is actually a net enclosure to protect the fruit trees inside from the local bird population ]

I took this photo to remind me of the name of the place where we had a great view.

The road sign relates to road works just around the sharp bend . . . please stop on request . . . flags not traffic lights up here.

We enjoyed a superb view into the interior of Kahurangi National Park, including a snow peaked mountain in the distance.

Here we are looking down the other side of the pass, into the Takaka Valley and on towards the north.

Blackthorn or 'May' trees in blossom in October !
Cabbage tree palms in with the more recognisable woodland trees.

This is the town of Takaka at the northern (seaward) end of the valley.

The Old Post Office is a listed building so they built a similar style of building next door to house an excellent local museum.

If you ever want a reason to justify small local museums, this one proves that local enthusiasm, knowledge of the district and access to historic archive material donated by all the local families, makes for a really lively and interesting place. There was an incredible amount of information and material relating to the visits of Mr Tasman and the early settlement of this region just 160 years or so ago in the 1850's.

The town is more modern in style but reflect the type of country township that we saw as we drove round New Zealand.

Collingwood . . . on the coast.

With the discovery of gold in the region, Collingwood was set to become the capital of South Island, but after fires which completely burnt out the main street several times in its history and the discovery of newer, bigger reserves of gold elsewhere, the town has settled back to being the local centre of the region and starting point for Farewell Spit tourists.

Having arrived early, and having the prospect of a six and a half hour journey ahead, we popped into the local cafe for a spot of lunch.

The mural on the side was painted by the locals to reflect the rich heritage of the town, captured as 'snapshots' of their history.

Our starting point soon afterwards was the Farewell Spit Eco-Tours office.

- - - o o o - - -

Our driver Steve and the 4x4 bus in which we travelled for the trip out along the bay.

It would be dark by the time we got back . . . but our late start time was determined by the tides, not by the desires of man.

Steve was an excellent guide and often stopped to point out sightings of interest.

Here there was an Egret foraging for food alongside a colony of Spoonbills, apparently a rare sight.

Port Puponga.

In its heyday this was a thriving coal port with a long jetty and a steam train that brought coal from a local mine to supply the ships.

Time and tides have returned the area to a delightfully quiet seaside village.

Time to put the four wheel drive to use as we head out along the beach.

In the foreground a heron, in the background the bay stretching back towards the Abel Tasman peninsular.

Ahead was the sand of Farewell Spit stretching some 30km, nearly 20 miles out into the sea.

Before we could start out on the main drive along the beach we first crossed over to the seaward side of the headland.

Cape Farewell is the northernmost point of the South Island.

The cliff top views here are spectacular.

Climbing up for a look around

I passed a mum and her two new lambs on the way.


Our large vehicle was looking decidedly small

when set against the scale of the sea cliffs of the Cape.

Down on the beach now and we see Cape Farewell once again, but this time from sea level.

The eco-tour bus drives out the 20 miles to the lighthouse using only the sands below high tide line

so as to protect the beach and the dune environment . . . hence the tidal restrictions.

Steve points out all the birds types that we saw along the way

These, believe it or not, are seagulls ! . . . . (possibly the red-legged variety).

New Zealand black oyster catchers. These type of birds we would see many more times on our trip.

They were almost always found as couples, separate from any other pair, each protecting their feeding territory.

Big skies . . . big beach.

Big Tree !

We stopped to stretch our legs.

The bus, by the way, is a converted ex-army Bedford truck with a modern coach-work body.

Moving on, we passed other temporary residents on the beach.

This was a mature Sea Lion or Fur Seal, recognisably different from European seals by the fact that they can walk on their front flippers.

This is an international bird, easily recognisable wherever it is seen . . . the gannet.

Miles and miles of sand.

We had a similar sand spit back on the Gower Coast where we used to live. That took two hours to walk.

This one took over two hours to drive, it was that big.

Near the far end is the famous lighthouse, first lit by paraffin in 1870.

The present tower of steel was built in 1897 to replace the original, as the first wooden structure was falling apart.

The Lighthouse employed a three man crew and the houses were built for them and their families.

Today the light is powered by electricity and is fully automated so the buildings are used for nature conservancy purposes.

A whale bone structure found on the spit along with a local signpost.

The old generator and lamp man's hut.
A study in steel.


Relics and reminders from the past.
The old lens housing with a superimposed, outside reflection.

After DIY refreshments at one of the keepers cottages (looked after by the tour company)

we returned along the sand, stopping along the way for a walk up one of the sand dunes to see the view.

Making our way to the top . . .

. . . just as the sun was setting.

Click here or on the photo for a full Loweswatercam 360 degree panorama

Time to be getting back.

Sun-tanned tourist on holiday.

Not for long as the sun had set and the shadows were lengthening.

What a great day out.

- - - o o o - - -

Back at Marahau next morning we planned to sample the delights of the golden sands, blue skies and blue seas of the Tasman National Park.

We booked in at the water taxi office for a boat trip up the coast, after which we would walk most of the way back to base.

The atmosphere in the office was cheerful . . .
. . . but outside was decidedly grey.

First port of call was round the corner to look at the Split Apple Rock

one of the ten most fascinating rock structures in the world according to the Addee.com website

One of the sandy beaches we pass as we take the fast boat up the coast.

Sea lion on Tonga Island.

Our skipper takes the small boat in close to the island so that we can see the fur seals more clearly.

A young seal close to the water . . .
. . . but it moves slightly higher as we get nearer.

Our water-taxi drops us off at Tonga Beach so that we can start our walk.

Photo by our fellow traveller, a young Irish lady called Tara from Donegal.

She was enjoying a short break during her working holiday in New Zealand.

The area has been opened to the public by the Dept of Conservation

who have cleared and improved the old tracks that work their way up and down the coastal region.

Some of these would be ancient Maori tracks and some, as in Quarry Bay, old commercial walk ways.

After Tonga, we climb the headland and look down on the next sandy inlet . . . Bark Bay.

At the head of the beach is a Dept. of Conservation hostel, known as a DOC hut.

Not for us today but these sorts of hostels provide accommodation for those walking (or tramping) the area.

We are there . . . on one of the few paths in the area.
Inside the hut is warm and cosy.
One of the communal bunk-bed sleeping rooms.
The common room viewed through the window as we leave.

I now realise the reason for the New Zealand idea of wearing thermal leg warmers and shorts, a common sight out here amongst serious trampers.

The reason . . . the sand flies which are worse than midges, despite the frequent application of repellant to one's arms or legs.

The leggings are for bite prevention not fashion !

We're leaving Bark Bay and heading left on the signboard, south in compass terms.

Tara was busy with the camera again !

Canoeing is the second most popular pastime compared to walking here.

A small flotilla arrives but are partially hidden by the murky conditions of the day.

Hoods are up as we make our soggy way through the 'rain' forest.

The path winds its way across the mountainside.

A fallen tree shown an unusual tree ring formation.

This is a fern . . . not a classic hard or softwood tree with round growth rings.

The tree grows by sprouting large ferns at its crown and these bind together to form the trunk.

Looking back at Bark Bay Hut
A more open variety of forest as we climb higher again.
Another inlet and this time a picnic table or two.
Full marks for the environmentally friendly toilet system

Sandfly Bay named after the wind-blown sand but equally applicable to the many biting insects there.

The Falls River Bridge at Sandfly Bay.
A suspension bridge, high over the river.
More fern trees alongside the well maintained path.
It's Spring here so they are starting new growth.

No golden sands for us today as we start our descent to Torrent Bay after our four and a half hour walk.

A damp seagull greets us as we make the ferry pick-up point . . .
. . . and the rain continues as we have to wait for our return launch.

We're reasonably protected by our waterproofs but I think he's coping better with the poor weather today.

A cold wait and then a fast boat ride finds us back at Marahau

on our only day of the holiday when the weather rather spoilt what we had intended to do.

Still, we travel south down the west coast tomorrow and the forecast is for better weather over the next few days.

Let's see what New Zealand has to offer next . . .

- - - o o o - - -

Stop Press :


Roger, Ann,

Kaiteriteri / Abel Tasman . . . just in case you wanted to know what the place looks like with the sun out !!

The north of South Island was perhaps the part of NZ we liked best -- apart from Mt Cook.


Cheers Martin, thanks for the pictures. We were always going to get a few days rain. It was just a pity it was on the day of our beach walk.

Our Farewell Spit trip the previous day had been glorious.

Keep watching for our Mt Cook outing, coming soon. I think you'll like it.



- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Fuji Finepix T300, my Canon G10 or 1100D digital cameras.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . . a large sun umbrella on the beach . . . to shelter from today's rain !

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