When keen New Zealand holidaygoers traverse the gorgeous sapphire seas of Cook Strait from Wellington to the South Island, they travel through some of our most picturesque scenery. But once you alight in the quiet township of Picton, where do you go from there?
The following road trip plan will take you on a magical journey to a fantasy land of stunning beaches, sweeping valleys and gentle rivers. You’ll be surrounded by things to do, but not by thousands of other tourists trying to cram into the same attractions.
It’s time to visit Golden Bay!
Upon disembarking from the Interislander ferry, pick up a vehicle from Ace Rental Cars. Now you’re free to explore to your heart’s content, without the confines of a strict bus tour itinerary. Consider opening the day with a cruise from a company such as Dolphin Watch Nature Tours. You’ll be able to see fur seals, penguins and possibly even the endangered Hector’s dolphin, as the company claims it has a 90 per cent encounter rating.
The journey begins
When you’re ready to leave Picton, exit north via Queen Charlotte Drive to snake your way along the pristine Marlborough coastline. Luminous greenery will follow you the entire way, and you’ll bob in and out of sparkling bays, many of which are great picnic locations.
Soon you’ll come upon your first major stop, buzzing Nelson. There’s quite a lot to do here, so you might even want to consider staying overnight in order to pack more in. Consider accommodation at a location such as Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park, which is ideal for both campers and non-campers – offering facilities for all and being within close proximity to cafes, beaches, BMX tracks and kid-friendly Tahuna Fun Park.
The best way to see Nelson
If there’s one thing the upper South Island is famous for other than its scenery, it’s the wine. Titillate your taste buds with a tour of the local vineyards by popping on an experience hosted by Bay Tours. Whether you’re interested in going for a full day or just a half day, you’ll be able to sniff, swirl and savour a great many wines, as well as sample locally brewed beer and see some unique Nelson-made art work.
A walk in the park
Moving on, not far past Motueka, turn off State Highway (SH) onto Riwaka-Sandy Bay Road. This will take you to the southern entrance of the Abel Tasman National Park, one of the nation’s most famous walking regions. Though the full Coastal Track lasts over 50 kilometres, you can’t leave the area without popping up the way for at least an hour or so, your finger fixed to the button on your camera.
On to Golden Bay
Back on SH60, it’s just a short jaunt up to Golden Bay and your final destination on this route. If you’re looking to stretch your legs again, try the short walk at the base of Farewell Spit, the longest sand spit in New Zealand and the northernmost point of the South Island. It’s also a breathtaking bird sanctuary, and tours are available if you want to see more of it.
We recommend staying a night or two at Golden Bay Kiwi Holiday Park, centrally located to offer you the best access to the eponymous district. A shimmering golden beach is just next door, as well as a barbecue area to enjoy a classic Kiwi feast. Plus, locals touring NZ will be glad to know that Fido the dog is also welcome, meaning you won’t have to leave him at home!
Now it’s up to you what happens next. Will it be fishing charters and swimming for you, or more driving to see the sights? Pop to Golden Bay and find out!