New Zealand · Travel

North of the South

We left Christchurch on April 7th, and headed up to see some of the top part of the South Island, before we ferried across to Wellington.
The first night in Golden Bay we stayed at a campsite/hostel called Hack n Stay. We really liked their funky and unique set up. It had an outdoor kitchen area for the campers, complete with a brick pizza oven! They also offered horse rides along the beach (we didn’t participate). But most excitingly, they had glow worms within walking distance of the camp!

When we heard this, we decided to take a nighttime jaunt down to find them. The directions we were given by the lovely German house manager were, “Not quite halfway to the beach.” But seeing as it was dark, and we hadn’t been to the beach…. that meant very little to us.

We kept walking until we got uncomfortable with the distance and decided to turn back. There had been a sign that marked “Glow Worms” but we were looking for a cave or nook and hadn’t seen one.

On the way back we paused by the sign, and turned off our lights.

Boom! There they were. Hiding under the beams of our headlamps. And they are quite cool. Sadly pictures don’t quite capture the lights, so we just enjoyed it for a moment before heading back to camp.

The next day we drove out to Wharariki Beach. The walk out to the beach was super cool, along green hilltops with the sheep grazing (and often running away) right alongside you.

When we got onto the sand we were stunned. It was such a beautiful place! We spent a couple hours there, enjoying the crazy huge rock formations and massively long coastline. There were some seal pups playing in a tide pool, so we were pretty engrossed in that for a while. We both agreed that if we were seals- this was the place to be.


Afterwards we stopped off for some coffee and chill time at the Dangerous Kitchen in Takaka. It also doubled as a pizza parlor, and had a cozy and relaxed vibe.

That night we camped at the end of an incredibly long, windy and bumpy dirt road. We got there at dark so we had no idea what it looked like. In the morning we discovered how pretty it was.

From there we headed into Marahau to hike into Abel Tasman. When we got to the information desk we found out we were barely in time to catch the final ferry of the day! Lucky us.
The water taxi gave us a quick tour past Split Apple Rock. (Fun fact: this was the second most photographed rock in the Southern Hemisphere in 2016. Second only to Australia’s Uluru) They also showed us some seals lounging on one of the offshore islands.

We got dropped off at the end of what would be first leg of the Abel Tasman Walk. In total it’s a 5 day trek with camping or staying in huts along the way, but we didn’t have the time or the equipment for the whole thing. So we started at Torrent Bay and set back towards the beginning. We made a detour to see Cleopatra’s Pools which were stellar. On the way there we found probably the coolest mushroom we’ve ever seen! This discovery prompted a heightened awareness to the multitude of different species of mushrooms, growing along the track. It made for fun conversation and a sort of “I Spy” game for the rest of the walk.

We stopped off at Observation Beach to have lunch, and we loved it so much we hung out for a full hour before continuing on our way.

Abel Tasman is known for its gold sand beaches, insanely blue water, and luscious greenery. We got a clear, sunny day for our hike and we were pretty stoked with it.

That night we tried to stay at a campervan park but it was full, so we headed to a campground hoping we wouldn’t find the same. It turned out to be a lovely place, with welcoming camp managers, well maintained facilities and friendly fellow campers. We shared a fire with a group of British travelers, swapping stories and lamenting our respective countries recent choices.

The next day we headed to Nelson. It was a sweet little town and we enjoyed wandering around the CBD. We tried out a few cafes and checked some things off of our “To Do” list: buy some small towels to wipe off the windows (condensation likes to collect overnight), write a blog, get some windshield wiper fluid, swing by a pharmacy (note: they don’t call it a drug store), and make it to our couchsurfing hosts’ on time!

In the midst of our wandering, we discovered that a grocery bag full of food had accidentally been mistaken for trash and thrown away at our last campsite! It mattered enough that we actually went back for it…. don’t worry- it was tightly sealed up in the bag. But even with that detour we still made it to our Host’s in time!

His name was Adam, and he and his flatmates Isak and Edvin were all from Sweden! Adam, Isak and the two of us made and ate dinner together and hung out for the rest of the evening. We spent most of the night learning more about each others’ countries and sharing travel stories about New Zealand. Adam was a bit of an amateur chef and whipped up an apple pie for dessert and showed us how he makes his own muesli! They were fantastic hosts and really fun to hangout with, they even showed us how to roll a cigarette!

On our way to Picton the next day, we attempted to find a spot at a free campervan park, again unsuccessful. So we drove a bit out of town to settle in a DOC site near the ocean. It rained a lot that night and the whole campground was quite muddy but we managed to find a spot that didn’t turn into a puddle.

We got in line for the ferry bright and early and then sat and waited for an agonizing hour, to be loaded up. We found out later that one of the other ferries had mechanical issues so our’s had been double loaded. 

The ferry ride was mostly uneventful, with the exception of a gigantic pod of dolphins swimming by. They attracted the attention of pretty much everyone on board, and no wonder! They were amazing to watch.

The top of the North Island was even better than we expected it to be, and we’re so glad we got to spend a bit of time seeing it!


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