If you are coming to New Zealand you have to be prepared to treat the journey as part of the vacation. It’s not that the distances between locations are huge (they aren’t unless you try and cram too much into a short space of time), it’s that in many regions the roads are very twisty which will seriously push down your average speed but more that there will be so many great photo opportunities that and side attractions that you will constantly want to pull off the road, sometimes for much longer than you thought. Today was one of those days.
We’re spending some time in the Adel Tasman to do a walk and take a look at this popular part of the north coast of the south island. Google maps says the drive from Punakaiki to Kaiteriteri should take around three and a half hours without stops so we reckoned on pretty much the whole day.
After taking another look around the pancake rocks we started the trek north but were distracted by a sign for the Tauranga Bay Seal Colony Walk which lies a few km south of Westport. It’s about 15 km off the main drag but the walk itself is quite short and there were quite a few seals there. If you haven’t seen any seals anywhere else on your travels then it’s well worth the visit. So there straight off was an additional hour added onto our journey time.
We continued our journey north as the main state highway heads inland and into some spectacular scenery as you firstly enter the lower Buller Gorge national park which then leads to the upper Buller gorge. In fact it’s noted as a scenic drive and there are many stop off points / photo opportunities. It’s a very twisty road so you need to focus on where your eyes are looking and / or drive more slowly to soak some of it up.
We stopped off at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge which is the longest in New Zealand and quite an experience in its own right. Although I’ve mentioned the free experiences that NZ has to offer, they will deprive you of $10 each to walk across the bridge which feels well worth it.
However, we couldn’t resist also taking the jetboat ride down the river with the Buller Canyon Jet. In my view this is one of the best ‘paid for’ experiences we have been on and so much better than the boat we took in Queenstown. Mark (the owner) has a real passion for the river and the experience feels very natural and “non-corporate”. The Buller river was in full flow and splashing around through the rapids is really a great experience (you are virtually guaranteed to get wet). You get a 40 minutes for your money (or in our case nearly an hour) so it also felt like good value for money. Overall then we spent around two and a half hours there, a fair chunk in addition to the exiting travel time.
Did I mention the sandflies? Let’s just put this out there, you are going to get bitten irrespective of bug spray, so just try and cover up as much as possible (yes, even when it’s hot) and make sure you have a good after-bite gel.
One other thing you need to plan in your “story” (why you are in NZ, what you do for a living, your view on everything you have seen etc.). You are (hopefully) going to meet lots of interesting people on your journey (we certainly have) and you will need to repeat that story several times! So try and make it interesting and exciting!
We arrived in Kaiteriteri in the early evening. It’s a really dramatic town and the jumping off point for the Abel Tasman park. We’re staying at the Bellbird Lodge B&B which sits at the top of the town with spectacular views over the Bay and the surrounding area. After checking in (and joining our hosts for a quick wine tasting) we popped down to Fat Tui for a quick dinner (highly recommended – its outdoors so cover up!).
Weather not looking great tomorrow for our walk but we’re looking forward to getting some exercise after our day in the car today. Pop in tomorrow to see how it went.
* todays featured image is a Weka that paid us a visit briefly