On a rainy Monday morning at the end of February we decide it is time to go travelling. Our very generous friends Paul and Vanessa have lent us their second car so we stuff the boot with some clothes and essentials and hit the road South. We have no plan or reservations and decide to book B&B places along the way. Our first stop is Rotorua, probably the smelliest town in the world. Hot bubbling mud pools pop up everywhere as well as geishers and other volcanic phenomena and it smells like rotten eggs. We stay for two nights and have a lovely walk in the Redwoods forest where it is not smelly.
Next stop is Tongariro, a national park with ski resort in winter. We stay in Chateau Tongariro which feels like an old English manor but without the dress code ( In New Zealand nobody seems to ever get dressed up when on holiday). The Alpine crossing is supposed to be beautiful but a whole day walk is a bit much for the boys so we do a more gentle walk in the morning which is very enjoyable for everyone.
The next leg of the journey takes us further South and after a brief stop in Taupo and Whanganui we arrive in Wellington where we receive a very warm welcome from Seathan’s uncle Colin and aunt Susie. I’m pleasantly surprised with Wellington, it’s a fun, vibrant and laid-back city by the water. There’s an arts festival on and dragon boat racing and we visit the very educational Te Papa museum. We also catch up with Seathan’s dear friend Simon and his wife Debra and their kids. It’s been 25 years since Seathan and Simon saw each other so there’s a lot of catching up to do! We finish the afternoon with a walk through the botanical gardens and the next day take the ferry to the South Island.
We alight in Picton and head west to Queen Charlotte Sound. Our first stop is Ngakuta bay where we find a B&B right by the waterfront ran by an couple from northern England who live there with their four kids. After a lovely cooked breakfast the next morning we head further west and admire the stunning scenery on the way. We take a short detour to Okiwi bay and then head to Nelson for the night where we are lucky to find a B&B late in the afternoon with amazing views over the harbour.
From Nelson we head to Abel Tasman and we drive over the hill to Golden Bay where we find a great B&B in Takaka ran by a Belgian couple from Lint who moved to New Zealand four years ago. This is a beautiful area and we decide to a stay an extra day as there is so much to see. We visit springs and waterfalls both accompanied by a lovely walk and feast our eyes on amazing scenery. There is one negative though: sand flies. Luckily they don’t seem to bother the boys…
From Abel Tasman we head further South although we have to head back over the hill first as there is no way through the northwestern tip of the South Island. We get some miles (or rather kilometres as we are in NZ) under our belt and drive all the way to Hokitika to discover all accomodation is booked and there is a weird food festival on. It’s still only mid afternoon so we decide to go further and find a lovely B&B underneath Franz Josef glacier. It’s getting dark when we arrive but we get to see the snow on the mountains at breakfast.