Nelson, Collingwood and Kahurangi National Park
In October 2012, we decided it was time for another trip. It had been a while, so we pulled out our map of New Zealand and had a look for places that we hadn't been and thought a bit about which locations we could tick off our list of places yet to visit. One place we hadn't visited was the very, very top of the South Island. Whilst we'd been to Nelson several times and gone as far North as Motueka, Kaiteriteri and Marahau (the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park) way back in 2002, we hadn't gone over the Takaka Hill and visited Farewell Spit and Collingwood at the very Northern tip of the island.
So, we booked a space on the inter-island ferry for our car and took off for the South Island terminal at Picton. It was a flat crossing, probably quite unusual for the Cook Strait which has a reputation for high seas and rough crossings. This was then followed by the scenic Westerly drive along the Queen Charlotte Drive coastal road from Picton to Nelson. Along the way, we passed by a significant traffic accident where an articulated lorry had driven off the side of the road into a stream. We paused long enough to check that the driver was fine; he was, and we continued on to Nelson.
Driving through Nelson, we turned North and started to head for the tip of the Island. We stopped at the little town of Motueka to try and pick up some information on the Kahurangi National Park and some lunch before continuing on to traverse the Takaka Hill. Our accommodation for the weekend was a little farm on the Northern side of Takaka Hill. The farmstay was a pleasant place, just a small farm with the farmer's house and a second smaller house on site for guests. The farmer, Ivor, gave us a little tour of his farm during our stay, showing off his cows, goats, a couple of pigs and a deer enclosure. We also had a chat about Kea as he'd suffered an attack on his farm from a flock of Kea earlier in the year who'd taken quite the fancy to the seat of his tractor, chewing off clumps of the foam, leaving the seat in a bit of a mess.
After dropping our luggage off at the farmstay, we continued North towards Takaka. We were hoping to go kayaking out on Golden Bay, but the winds were a bit strong for it so instead we visited the Labyrinth Rocks Park. It's a strange place where paths have been made between head high limestone outcrops, bluffs and canyons across a couple of acres - made even more strange by small 'happy meal' style toys being dotted around the place.
Next on the list, we drove up to Collingwood - the end of State Highway 60 at the top of the North Island. Here, we joined a bus tour which took us even further North up to the scattering of houses of the most Northerly settlement on the South Island, Puponga. Here, the bus took a slope down on to the beach and headed East along Farewell Spit. Farewell Spit is a 25km long sandy stretch which forms the Northern edge of Golden Bay. Whilst here, the bus tour showed us seals, a gannet colony (from a distance) and the lighthouse at the Eastern end of the spit which has been there since 1870.
Following the tour, we headed back to the farmstay for the night.
The next day, we headed South-West from the farmstay at Upper Takaka into the Kahurangi National Park up the Cobb Valley. The drive into Cobb Valley was a long and tricky one for our little car. the 28km road is mainly unsealed, narrow and winds its way up and down a couple of hills. The last few kilometers of the drive are particularly nice as the road hugs the edge of the Cobb Reservoir. At the end of the road, we stopped in order to do the walk up to Lake Peel - a 4.5km, 2 and a half hour one way walk up hill to an alpine tarn. The first part of the walk through Beech forest up to Peel Ridge was very pleasant and at the top we were welcomed by a lone Kea who flew around us for a bit before finding some berries to eat and flying off. The last supposed half hour up the the Lake took much longer than anticipated as the track was knee deep in snow and at certain points, the path was hidden by snow slips which had to be traversed carefully. Eventually, the lake was reached and we sat and enjoyed a sandwich based lunch before heading back down to the car. Before heading back to the farmstay, we walked a short track up to the Department of Conservation back-country Trilobite Hut.
The next day, it was time to head back to Wellington. We stopped off briefly in the lovely coastal settlements of Marahau and Kaiteriteri, hoping to do some kayaking, but again the weather and time were against us so we satisfied ourselves with a couple of short local walks. Then after a brief stop in Nelson, we drove back to Picton to catch the (absolutely packed) ferry back to Wellington.