We’re approaching the latter stages of our New Zealand tour as we head around the top end and down to our finish point in Christchurch. It was with some regret that we left the Abel Tasman both due to its tropical holiday like feel and also the pampering we had at Bellbird Lodge which had a very attentive owner.
Before talking about today’s brief events a quick word about our accommodation. In general we’ve chosen to stay in B&B’s because we felt that the interaction with locals was important. We’ve not been staying in cheap digs but rather in relatively high end B&B’s with a price range from $150 a night up to $340. Irrespective of the price it is the owners that make or break a good B&B with an attentive and genuinely interested owner making all the difference. We’ve had some mixed experiences with breakfasts but my advice to owners would be to focus on doing simple things well (e.g. never underestimate the pleasure to be had from a well cooked poached egg on a piece of toast!)
After yesterday’s exertion we were a little tired this morning so we had a lazy breakfast before heading off for a coastal drive. As has been the case for most of the journey we’ve generally eschewed the quickest route between points A & B with a view to taking scenic routes where possible.
We started with a drive to Nelson, the largest town in Northern NZ and specifically to the “center of New Zealand”. Essentially this is the historical center but not strictly the actual geographic center taking into account modern measurement techniques. However, never let facts get in the way of a means to bring the tourists in! Nelson itself is not a particularly attractive town (the view from the aforementioned center confirms this) although as with most northern towns the backdrop of mountains / hills is somewhat dramatic.
From Nelson we headed broadly north towards Picton. Shortly after passing Havelock there is the option to follow either a direct route to Renwick or take the Queen Charlotte Scenic drive (and travel through to Renwick via Picton). We (of course) took the latter.
The official website describes the drive as like “cruising the sounds without a boat” and it’s true, the road absolutely hugs the shore. Be prepared for a slow (max speed limit is 50kmh), twisty drive with some incredible vantage points and stunning views. But be warned, if your passengers are subject to travel sickness, this may not be the route for you.
In reality we should have stayed at Picton as it’s the jumping off point for tomorrow’s walk but not knowing the area and reading the reviews we decided to stay someway south in Renwick near Blenheim. Probably a mistake as Picton didn’t look that bad and now we lose 30 minutes of valuable sleep tomorrow! However, we’re actually staying in a very nice place at Renwick called Hillsfied House so that cushions the blow a little. We will be making the most of tomorrow as it looks like we are in for a couple of days of average to poor weather.