Welcome to the South Island and the Spectacular Beauty of Marlborough Sounds & Abel Tasman National Park!
On Monday of this week, we said “goodbye” to the North Island. For the next week, we spent our time in the north section of the southern island to include Marlborough Sounds, Nelson & Abel Tasman National Park. Did we like the area? Let’s just say that if you told me that I could only choose one area in which I could return to, this is the place! Please read on so that I can introduce you to the Marlborough Sounds, Nelson and Abel Tasman!
The Marlborough Sounds
are undeniably picturesque with numerous bays, inlets, islands and peninsulas rising abruptly from the water to rugged, lush green wilderness and open farmland. Large parts are only accessible by boat which also provides the ideal vantage point for witnessing it’s splendor!
We started our journey to the Marlborough Sounds via a ferry from Wellington. It was a very comfortable and one of the most scenic 3 hour boat rides that I’ve been on! We arrived at a cute little town called Picton and immediately caught a water taxi to Portage where we stayed at the only resort in the area called The Portage Resort. It was a beautiful setting and the deck off our room had a breathtaking view of Queen Charlotte Sound!
On our first full day, it was raining but finally stopped by early afternoon. That gave us an opportunity to take a short 2 hour hike on Queen Charlotte Track!
Queen Charlotte Track is a hiker’s paradise! It is about a 45 mile trail (one way) that consists of a dense coastal forest along with breath-taking views of the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds. The really cool aspect of this trail is that you can do the whole thing in 2-3 days (or more) and be able to stay in really nice accommodations like The Portage Resort along the way. Now that is my idea of hiking and “camping”!
On our second day, we had a beautiful sunny day whereby we hired a boat for a breathtaking 3 ½ tour tour of Charlotte’s Sound
and a ride to Havelock
– New Zealand’s green lip mussel “farming” capital!
If you like mussels, you haven’t tasted anything more wonderful than New Zealand green lips. They are bigger, “meatier” and milder than your typical black mussel. Because I have a hard time finding them in the states (especially Tucson), I have been “OD’ing” on them! While they are awesome just steamed, I’ve had them both in a tomato and Thai-inspired coconut broth. All yummy!
After our stay in Portage, we “grabbed” a water taxi back to Picton, picked up a car and headed through the Marlborough Wine Region to Nelson - a quaint town that my husband and I fell in love with over 15 years ago!
Nelson is still charming as we remembered it. It is a fishing, farming, wine producing AND artisan community that is also home to Abel Tasman National Park!
The Abel Tasman National Park is a stunningly beautiful area of golden sandy beaches lapped by crystal clear waters and lush green “bushland” that is inhabited with abundant wildlife to include seals, penguins and many species of birds and fish! It can only be reached by boat or on foot and is a beautiful place to explore on foot, kayak or boat. We chose to explore it by sailing on a catamaran (but more about that later)!
While in Nelson
we spent our first day touring many of the local wineries including Woolaston Estates
and a vast array of artisans to include glass, pottery and wood working. Our second day was a day of sailing the Abel Tasman National Park
. Our sailing was booked through Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures
. Matt, the skipper was awesome. He and his wife, Judy, run the company. They are “locals” and really know the area and can put together a customized tour for you. We really enjoyed the day and my husband, Larry and I took turns “sailing” the boat. And because we came here on “off season”, we once again felt like we chartered our own private tour. If you go to Abel Tasman
, you must check out this company. I highly recommend them. Our final day in Nelson
was spent on a walking tour of the town and waterfront. The highlight of our last day was finding the bed and breakfast that we stayed at over 15 years ago (as we weren’t quite sure we could find it) and climbing the hill to “the center of New Zealand”.
We enjoyed our week long adventures in the northern section of the south island. Now we are heading south to Dunnedin. I hope to post at least one more blog of our adventures in New Zealand. Until then, Cheers!