off we go! travel blog

We set our alarm for 6 as we had an early ferry to catch. The drive around the bay was glorious in the morning sunshine. We got to the terminal in good time to,discover they had moved the departure time out by 35 minutes - oh bother!

Crossing time was a little over 3 hours but the loading and unloading took for ever; the kiwis are a very friendly bunch but sooooo relaxed. It wasn't at all like the cross channel ferries. The voyage took us out of Wellington harbour, across the Cook Strait where we met the ocean swell and several pods of dolphins, and then in through a gap in the islands to the Tory Channel and on into Queen Charlotte Sound, a beautiful, sheltered passage through the islands to Picton. It was a gloriously sunny, but windy day, and the cruise through the Sound was fantastic - the water was a beautiful shade of blue, the islands so green - their cooked breakfast was pretty good too!

We drove around Picton, a pretty little town but it didn't take long, and the place was full of holidaymakers so we left for Blenheim. Topped up supplies at the supermarket before moving on to our campsite at White's Bay, about 20km northeast of Blenheim. A lovely site, managed by DOC (Department of Conservation), plenty of room on small sites with the whole area, just above the beach. Sadly, as we arrived the rain clouds rolled in, so we just had to open one of our purchases - a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc! (well it is the local wine)

In spite of the wine we managed to cook a whole fish, a tarahiki we had bought earlier and good it was too. A walk along the beach at sunset, the wind had dropped a little and we were ready for bed.

The next morning it was cold but the skies were clear and the sun was brilliant. The view from our breakfast table was fantastic, just a gentle swell washing up on the beach and snow capped peaks of Tapuae O Ueneku in the distance. All was right with the world! A lovely walk along the beach and we set off for Blenheim again. The road out of the campsite was narrow and twisty and climbed up and down but from the high point we could see the length of Rarangi beach, some 11 kilometres, facing Cloudy Bay. Worth the drive.

The road back to Blenheim ran through mile after mile of vineyards, all neat straight rows of vines, some cattle pasture and a few orchards. Quite rural, but the vineyards, only grown there because of the poor soil, did seem out of place. Into the library for emails and a visit to a sort of boot sale, nothing of interest so we set off for Rock Ferry, a winery we found on Trip Advisor.

The wine tasting was good, a couple of their whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris and a couple of their reds, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir. All were good, the Sauvignon Blanc was not in the 'big' Marlborough style, more refined but with good flavours. The reds were very good, again, not in a 'big' style but very full flavoured. Lunch was excellent, once again a minimalist modern restaurant/cellar door with friendly service that makes for a very pleasant dining experience.

A siesta was called for so we drove a little way away and snoozed. We drove on, following the Wairua River to the coast where a long spit had formed. Wild beaches, black sand, logs and bits of tree and seabirds - Ruth spotted a spoonbill, a beautifully sunny afternoon though very windy. Plenty of people trying their hand at fishing by the river mouth but we didn't see any catches.

Late afternoon and time to find a campsite. We found one on an app on my iPad which was at the mouth of the Wairua River Diversion, just a few Ks away and about halfway down Cloudy Bay. It was set in a grove of trees alongside the river just before it reached the ocean. A lovely site, and protected from the wind - a bonus! We walked along to the beach to find another wild beach, lots and lots of driftwood - piled high in places, a few fisherman and seagulls. Absolutely wonderful.

A nice cup of tea by the camper and a bit of a read in the late afternoon sunshine, the wind dropping all the while. I went for another walk to the river mouth to watch the tide coming in and the fishermen not catching anything. It was just great to stand and watch, thinking about nothing and enjoying the moment.

Dinner was a delicious smoked fish, fillets of Trevally, washed down with a lovely Sauvignon Blanc in the rays of the setting sun; our first dinner outside for some time and all the better for it. One last stroll along the beach after sunset and time for bed.

Another beautiful morning, little wind; breakfast outside in the warm sunshine. We set of for Blenheim again, this time to visit the farmers market and to carry out essential dumps and refilling, both water and fuel. The famers market was a delight, very friendly local food producers and good quality products too. We bought quite a few things including freshly picked apricots and white peaches and some wild pig steaks!

North on highway one, back through forested country to Picton where we joined the Queen Charlotte Drive, a spectacular coastal road that wound it's way up and down along the Sound, finally up through a pass dropping down into Havelock where the road became less dramatic. It was a stunning drive with absolutely beautiful views across the Queen Charlotte Sound, the water was so blue. Plenty of lookouts to stop and wonder at the view.

Finally, we reached Nelson, our destination for the day. The town was a bit spread out but still not very big, good selection of shops, but it was Sunday! Found an Italian run gelataria and enjoyed delicious ice cream. Off to find the campsite, up the Maitai valley, a very pretty setting alongside a small river. The sites were amongst the trees and as the site was only a quarter full we had a good choice.

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