She’s a sturdy girl, that Mary-Ann, wide across the beam and built for comfort…and what a great name for a bus! Her driver, Elaine, handles her well through gravelled roads, bumpy hills and a long stretch of gorgeous beach. Elaine is the perfect Tour Guide, with an easy listening Kiwi drawl, warm and friendly.
The Farewell Spit Eco Tour bus is leaving from Collingwood at 11.00am sharp and we’ll be on it for a six-hour leisurely drive through the most beautiful scenery imaginable with a couple of stops on the way. Quick coffee at this cute little café then time to board the bus.
There’s a good selection of people of the bus today – Kiwis, Germans, French and endearingly polite Japanese. For the next half hour we meander past Harakeke Flax in full bloom, the signs of a hot summer to come. There’s a gasp from Elaine. She’s spotted two black swans with 6 babies, and click go the cameras. Our first stop is at Cape Farewell. We clamber out of the bus and split up, some of us heading up the steep part of the hill and others down to the viewing platform. Isn’t this a magnificent sight?
We could have stayed here for ages watching the Godwits who arrive each year from Alaska and Siberia to nest. And it’s the first time I’ve seen Oyster Catchers up close – love their shiny feathers and bright red beaks. Back on the bus for the main part of the journey which is travelling almost 29 kms along the beach to the lighthouse. First stop at Fossil Point and many interesting rock formations to be seen.
Handy hint: never get between a Fur Seal and the sea! A direct escape route to the sea provides security for fur seals, just in case they need to make a flippered run for it.
The Farewell Spit Eco Tour Company has a concession to go past the 4km mark where public access ends and that’s a good thing. The wildlife and the pristine environment need to be protected. And believe me, it’s very easy to become dehydrated and disoriented in the sandstorms that whip up around here, although they do provide amazing textural furrows for an arty photo.
Back on the bus and we’re heading towards the lighthouse reserve. This lighthouse is the only steel latticed framework lighthouse in the country and once employed the Head Lighthouse Keeper, and two assistants.
We stop for about an hour at the original lighthouse keeper’s house, have a cuppa and do our own thing for a while. Back on the bus and we head back down the beach, passing a fur seal and her newly born pup. There’s a mad scramble for photos but this time Elaine takes a much wider berth with the bus, moving on to leave mother and pup in peace.
It’s showtime folks! Finally we return to the sand dune at Mullet Channel for panoramic views of the intertidal plain and a climb to the top for a fun ’roly poly’ to the bottom. I’m expected to volunteer for this…
… negotiations begin and I finally agree to a flatfooted stomp all the way down…
…and it’s fun making your own tracks in this sand dune knowing they’ll soon be erased by the wind. No footprints left behind here, dear traveller.
No one seems to talk about St Arnaud. International travellers don’t often visit here because they simply don’t know about it. People see photos of kayaks, lakes and mountains and think that St Arnaud must be in the Marlborough Sounds or the Abel Tasman. But in fact, it’s located in the Nelson Lakes area 600m above sea level between Lake Rotoiti ands Lake Rotorua - 85 kms inland from Nelson City. See Google map.
Although modest accommodation can be found, we’re here purely for the nature experience where sometimes the chance discoveries are the most rewarding. We headed down to the wharf today and met the ruggedly handsome Hamish sitting in his water taxi waiting for customers. He saw us and seized the moment. Good for Hamish and good for us!
Hamish takes people to the end of the lake so they can walk back on the left side of the lake or the right. We’re being dropped off at the Lakehead trail – about a 3-hour walk back. If there are four or more passengers, the charge is $25 per person and today we’re lucky to be sharing the boat with another couple.
Here’s Michael turning off from the stresses of business and switching on to pure oxygen…a blissful moment:
Hamish tells us to look out for Blue whales and sea-lions and to shout out if we see a mermaid…mermaids, yeah right!
Here we are at the start of the walk and the signage makes it clear we’re in the right place.
Although you will encounter a bit of a rocky terrain in places, this track is mostly gently undulating, widening in places and narrowing in others. Stout footwear is a definite must as there are some muddy bits. Mostly it’s magic with bell birds and tuis singing their heart out!
Aha, like a turtle sensing freedom, Michael’s picking up the pace and making a detour down to the lake…..this can only mean one thing…
….and what a quick skinny-dip it is! Although crystal clear, the water is still pretty cold. Back on the track and enjoying the sight of a gorgeous little Tomtit. Chubby little guys with no neck to speak of. Time for one last sip of tranquillity before heading back home.
New Zealand has this reputation for big, bold and beautiful walks - the 5-6 hours to 5-6 day walks. But some travellers just don’t have the time or maybe they have small children and a challenging terrain is not appropriate. Not everyone has the fitness and legs of a mountain goat.
Good news! New Zealand has a walk to suit everyone. Look for the public car-parks off the main highways where you can leave your car and take a short walk with fabulous view.These walks are often in a loop formation so you return where you begin. We discovered this beauty at Little Kaiteriteri in the Abel Tasman area. If you follow this walk up from the beach, it will eventually lead to Stephens Bay. We only had to walk 10 minutes to get this view.
Most of these walks are clearly signposted so you can break up a long day with frequent stops to refresh and stretch the legs. There’s mostly always a picnic table and toilet facilities conveniently placed at the start of the walk and if you’re REALLY lucky, a big chair!
Beach stroll your thing? No problem. Choose a coastal road here you’ll find surf and sand. Who couldn’t love this slice of heaven?
There are bush walks galore in our fabulous little country.
The Fiordland region offers a range of outstanding short and medium length nature walks to ”blow your socks off”! A good one for families with small children is the Rainbow Reach part of the Kepler Track. Cross a NZ style swing bridge from the carpark and it’s easy walking thru native New Zealand bush. Some of the filming for the Lord of the Rings movie took place there! Another big favourite is the Gillespie Beach Walk, which starts about 25 kms from Fox Glacier on a gravel road. Always be prepared for a change of weather ( rain jacket – always!)
..check with your accommodation hosts or the Department of Conservation (DoC) office for practical information such as high and low tides. (A good source of information is the Department of Conversation website, which lists all walks for North and South Island.)
…and last, but not least, no walk is complete without a shameless ‘selfie’…
Located to the right of the Nelson Cathedral at the end of Trafalgar Street, is a very photogenic little building and a very special glass design gallery. Let’s step inside shall we….
Flamedaisy Art Glass is NOT about blending into your décor but about challenging your senses with it’s strikingly elaborate shapes and colours. You won’t find any don’t-you-dare-touch displays here. Co-owner and glassmaker, Anthony Genet actually encourages people to handle the glass on display. Just thinking about it gives me the collywobbles!
Since 1999 Anthony and Berinthia Binnie-Genet have been providing a very special experience for our overseas travellers where they not only get to view the art but to also watch the glassblowing process in the studio. And by prior arrangement and for a modest fee, visitors can have a go at making their special piece to take home. Plus you get to chat with the artists and meet the locals.
See that gorgeous blood-red orange glass sculpture? Yep, the one directly to the left of Anthony…it’s calling out to me…and maybe to you, dear traveller.
My perfect holiday revolves around birdsong, the sound of a gentle wind (not my own) rustling through native forest and if it’s not too much trouble, the sound of surf. I’ve changed with the years. After a day’s tramping, bike-ride or explore, give me peace and solitude plus a little luxury when it’s time to lay my head down. In this country, I’m never too far from a picnic table:
or a semi-deserted beach..no vying for towel or deckchair space here folks:
…and I can always enjoy a quiet golden sunset:
Even the boss knows there’s always a quiet public garden or park nearby for a quick catnap before getting back to the client who wants a skype call NOW!
Summer can be a stressful time for travel agents. Michael’s cellphone is always at the ready but we’re kinda the luckiest travel agents around too. We live in the beautiful Nelson/Tasman region. The Tuis are our friends, we walk and cycle everywhere - bike tracks and hills are right on our doorstep. Michael would like to add something at this point, but unfortunately he’s otherwise engaged.
Ok, he’s free now….nah…think we’ll leave him to enjoy a few moments of tranquillity in his beautiful corner of the world: