I’m not one of those people that wins competitions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m competitive (just ask my in-laws, I don’t think any of them will ever play Trivial Pursuit with me again) but I never get anywhere with competitions, so I let them slowly drift by.
However, New Zealand seems to have given me a winning streak. First there were cinema tickets that introduced us to The Best Cinema Ever, and then I entered the Aotearoa Cycling Challenge. It was about cycling as much as possible in the month of February. To be honest, I cycle to work most days anyway, so it wasn’t that much of a change in my routine, but I was trying to get my work colleagues on board and thought I should lead by example.
Much pedaling later and I received a very exciting e-mail informing me that I had won first place in Wellington and the prize was a free return trip on the Bluebridge Ferry to the South Island! EXCITING.
Mr S and I chose a weekend and booked up. Our sailing included a private cabin too, which I was really grateful for. The Cook Strait is notoriously rough and being able to lie down and have a doze through the choppy parts kept seasickness at bay. The cabins aren’t too expensive either – I’d really recommend getting one, especially if you have a really early/late crossing.
We had booked for 3 nights at a campsite we’d never been to before, so we had everything crossed that we’d picked a good one. Turned out, it was THE BEST CAMPSITE EVER.
After a 4 hour drive to Golden Bay (with a stop off at a hardware shop as someone had forgotten the mattress) we arrived to a warm welcome at an almost completely empty campsite. The lady in the office gave us the map and told us to make our way to pitch 5…which we quickly discovered was right next to the most glorious beach we’d ever slept next to.
Falling asleep listening to the waves was magical, but waking up to the sunshine hitting the empty beach was even better. We decided to go exploring the area and started off with a short walk up to Pillar Point, the northernmost tip of the South Island.
The views were incredible and the weather was beautiful, so we sat for a while eating our lunch and enjoying the solitude. It still amazes me that you can visit somewhere like Pillar Point, a stunning tourist attraction, and be there on your own for an hour. The lack of people is one of my favourite things about New Zealand.
From Pillar Point we went to Farewell Spit. You have to have a permit to walk the whole thing, so we walked halfway to the cut off point and then crossed to the other side to walk back.
Farewell Spit was a really interesting experience. It is a sea bird and wildlife reserve, managed by the Department of Conservation, but the geography of the spit means that it is often the site of mass whale strandings.
As we walked further and saw less and less people, the loneliness of the place was really evident. Maori people believe that this is a special place where the spirits of the dead leave the earth, and hundreds of whales have died here, and I think it really contributes to the atmosphere. As we walked further we found a dead whale, and it was shocking and sad to see such a beautiful creature out of the sea and dead on the sand.
In all, whilst Farewell Spit is beautiful it can also feel quite desolate. We were excited to get back to civilisation!
The Mussel Inn was next on our list of places to visit. It’s an awesome pub/restaurant on the road from Takaka to the campsite (just don’t get your phone out, they don’t like that!). We had amazing seafood chowder and an incredible tasting board of local beers. It was delicious!
On our last night in Golden Bay we tested our caveman skills and built a bonfire on the beach. We sat there until the sun went down drinking whisky and toasting marshmallows. It was a beautiful evening and I really didn’t want to leave!
So NZers, head to http://www.goldenbayholidaypark.co.nz/ to book up before we do.