From Picton, we headed west around the coast, bound for the beautiful Abel Tasman. The quickest route would have taken us south to Blenheim before cutting back around the Havelock, but we decided to hug the coast and stay near the beautiful South Island coastline. All along this stretch of road are spots where the scenery of the Marlborough Sounds can be appreciated, and we did not want to miss them!
After rounding the Mahakipawa Arm, we reached Havelock. This little town, home to less than 500 people, has two major claims to fame: Ernest Rutherford and the green-lipped mussel! Certainly, if you are a fan of seafood, and mussels in particular, this is the place for you! If you have a little time on your hands, there is a great wee red-roofed museum here which has some knowledge on the history of the town.
From Havelock, it’s one hour to sunny Nelson. The geographical centre of New Zealand, it is also the South Island’s oldest city. Nelson has a thriving arts and crafts culture, with a fantastic Saturday flea market, as well as a Farmer’s market on Wednesdays. Marlborough is also renowned for its wine-making, and there are lots of opportunities to make the most of this around Nelson. For the more adventurous, there are 4WD and off-roading tours, as well as Ziplining and an aerial adventure park. We were happy to cruise through the seaside city, stopping at the gardens and along the beach, and having a coffee before continuing along the road.
To the northwest of Nelson, the town of Motueka marks the gateway to the Abel Tasman. The surrounding area has a number of orchards, and a variety of specialised crops such as hops. The substantial limestone caves in this area are fantastic for exploring and canyoning if you’re that way inclined, otherwise you could spend an afternoon visiting orchards, eating fresh, locally-produced fruit, and soaking up the sunshine (Motueka is one of the New Zealand’s top towns for sunshine-hours).
Nearby, beautiful beaches attract holiday-goers year round but especially in summer. We stopped by Kaiteriteri beach before finishing the last of the leg to the Abel Tasman, where an extensive campground and a golden-sand beach make for a perfect spot to camp or park up.
The road over the Takaka Hill is windy and narrow, with no town to stop at for a few hours. Our trusty van took the corners well - as always - and then it was downhill to Takaka. Once you see the beautiful beaches in this area, you know you have arrived in the Abel Tasman! There are plenty of places to park up for the night, and we found the perfect spot in Takaka. With surrounding bush walks, tramps, swimming spots, waterfalls and farmland, we felt instantly at home. Before we lost the daylight, we visited the beautiful Te Waikoropupu Springs, where the crystal clear waters are like something out of a dream. Then it was back to our van to cook up a feed and retire for the night!
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