Welcome to part one of my South Island diary! Don’t worry, there are only two parts, so you’re not in this for the long haul.
Our family came to visit in August and we planned a Road Trip Extravaganza around the South Island and tried to cram as much into one week as we possibly could. This first part takes in the ferry trip, Abel Tasman and Punakaiki.
Up early this morning for our 8am ferry sailing from Wellington to Picton. Our Tardis-like van is packed full of bags and snacks and ready for adventure! The ferry crossing itself was plagued by misty grey weather, but we still ventured outdoors in our waterproofs to see if we could spot any orcas (Mr S is developing an obsession with seeing them in the wild and has a cry every time they appear in Wellington harbour whilst we’re at work).
Orca sightings are still at zero, but we did see some dolphins alongside the ship as we drifted through an eerily misty Marlborough Sounds. The colour of the water could not be captured with a photo, it’s like a cluster of emeralds and sapphires, truly beautiful.
The first leg of our road trip was from Picton to Abel Tasman. The rain eased off about halfway into the journey and the scenery was spectacular! We stopped off about an hour away from our final destination of Takaka to have a wander at Hawkes Lookout. There were incredible views from the top and a very cool story about a Maori god creating the jagged rocks in the area (which we had great fun hiding in).
We arrived at our first motel and were surprised by how comfortable and clean it was, a theme that was to continue for the rest of the trip. The motels we booked may have had some dated decor, but they were cheap and we all slept well.
We set out to explore the local area today, heading first to Tata Beach where we climbed the rocks and I saved the life of a starfish (my good deed for that day). It was fantastic to be walking along a beach straight off of a postcard with mountains in the distance. Plus we had lunch at a cafe with a giant penguin outside, so there was something for everyone.
We finished off our second day with a hike to Wainui Falls. This was an awesome walk, we felt like we were in the middle of an ancient jungle and it felt easy to imagine what New Zealand was like before all the pesky humans turned up.
The waterfall was worth the walk, standing near it was like being baptised by nature.
We visited Pupu Springs (hee hee) in the morning before we left for the next part of the drive. One thing we have noticed is how well maintained all the walking tracks are, the Department of Conservation are doing a fantastic job.
With scenery leaving us breathless the whole way, we drove to Punakaiki, the home of the Pancake Rocks. As you’ll see in the pictures, they are named this because they resemble a stack of pancakes. Apparently there are no other rock formations like this in the world! We were excited that we caught a glimpse of them before the sun went down, and then we sought out the only restaurant in the area for a well deserved dinner.
We went for breakfast and obviously all had pancakes (haha, I’m eating pancakes at Pancake Rocks etc.) and then went for another look at the rock formations before we left. I’m so please that we did, as they weren’t ‘performing’the night before!
It turns out that when the sea is hitting the rocks properly, the water is forced through hidden holes in the rocks that create massive geysers! It was spectacular to watch.
We then started our drive down to Franz Josef. I had to drive across a bridge that shared the same road space as a train. There were no lights to warn when the train was coming. I almost had a HEART ATTACK. Scariest driving moment EVER.
Continued in Part Two soon…