Gloriously sun drenched. Is exactly how I would describe my first couple of weeks in the South. My tan has been well and truly topped up, my hair has been bleached by the sun and sea water, my shower has been either a lake or the sea and everything is covered in sand. Welcome to the sunniest place in New Zealand!
(Just look how awesome my bath is!)
Granted when we first drove off the ferry the sky was looking a bit cloudy and we spent our first night in a campsite getting poured on and our first morning dodging the rain in the centre of Nelson. It wasn’t looking promising. But then as we pulled up in our camp, which was in fact a car park (welcome to freedom camping) the sun did a beautiful thing and came out. Then, not to be cheesy but, it just didn’t stop shining.
(Car parks = Freedom Camping at its finest)
From the car park we headed slightly inland to Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park, home to the most picturesque jetty for all your instagram needs! Fair warning however underneath the pretty jetty several rather large eels reside. So after dramatically and photogenically jumping into it some fast swimming is required to swim as far away from the eels as physically possible.
(I may have jumped in a few times to get the perfect shot. There was a lot of fast swimming away from eels)
We camped out here a night in one of the doc sites and it was so incredibly nice to be out of a packed car park and surrounded by nature. Not so incredibly nice though was our introduction to sand flies! These little bastards turn out to be everywhere during the New Zealand summer, and they bite like crazy. I now have some very scarred up ankles and feet to go along with my tanned beach life look. Life on the road turns out has its down sides.
Long drop toilets are another of the less appealing sides to the New Zealand roadie. And we got our first South Island one at our next campsite. But holding your breath whilst going for a pee was worth it because for a mere $5 a night we got a bed on the beach!
(Look at that view with my morning cup of coffee)
Just outside Abel Tasman National Park we found this cute little campsite owned by the loveliest of ladies and from here we spent our days venturing off into the National Park. Abel Tasman is all about the yellow sand beaches and the blue blue sea and oh my goodness did I fall in love with it, you can see easily see why the place is swarming with tourists.
Most of the National Park is accessible only by boat and from Kaiteriteri we took the water taxi to trek some of the coastal walk. Away from the township the crowds thinned out and it was idyllic walking the leafy track passing little near empty beaches along the way and getting some pretty cracking views of the National Park. We were living the dream people. Living the Dream!
Heading off from Abel Tasman we took perhaps the longer and less economic, but so worth it route, of cris crossing across the country and drove ourselves over to stop number three Kaikoura on the east coast. This place was number one on my hit list because Dolphins!
They say Kaikoura is a haven for sea life and guys it really really is. As we drove along the coast line towards the town I may have done a little squealing as I spotted the seal colony living along the rocky shore. A whole stretch of rocks dotted with furry seals and their babies swimming, playing and mostly sleeping. Seals can also be spotted at the Kaikoura Peninsula, which you can walk around in a couple of hours, spy the seals, see some great views out across the ocean and spot heaps of native birds which for the life of me I can’t remember the name of. But it’s definitely a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Although the seals were cute and exciting, and the albatross sightings thrilling news for my sister who has some obsession with them, the real (and very expensive) reason we were here was for the dolphins! So on a bright sunny morning we took to the sea geared up in wetsuits, flippers and snorkels to swim alongside the dolphins. And when I say dolphins I mean first there was one, then five, then twenty, then hundreds! At one point I was looking down through the snorkel at the two swimming in circles underneath me, glanced up and was surrounded by fins. We were lucky enough to be swimming alongside a pod of up to 400 dolphins and I have never seen anything like it. Back on the boat we were supplied with cuppa soup and ginger biscuits, and could watch the dolphins swimming and flipping about all around us. It without doubt classifies as a best day ever.
Despite the mild sea sickness and the fact I lost my sunglasses (the third pair of those exact ones) it was worth every penny. And staying in a car park for free kind of made up the money lost (or so we told ourselves).
The other thing about Kaikoura was that it was hot. We quite literally melted on some days and the stony beaches (alas no more yellow sandy beaches of Abel Tasman) were like walking on fire to get to the refreshing sea. Turns out the best place to take refuge was in the pubs where a nice cold beer or even a pint of icy coke helped us to cool down. The strawberry tree was a particular favourite, a crooked old fashioned pub with a really delicious beer that goes by the same name.
Besides frequenting the pubs, some serious day drinking, befriending the local sea life and melting in the sunshine, Importantly this was the place I learnt how to successfully jump start my car. Having burnt the battery out charging our phones I awkwardly asked some, very young looking, German boys for a hand jump starting it and rapidly googled the instructions so I wouldn’t look quite so clueless! Nevertheless I did it and to celebrate my successful adulting headed out to take some photos of myself creeping at the nearby lavender farm.
(Tried to take the perfect insta pic just turned creepy)
With these three fantastic first stops South Island was well and truly off to a truly beautiful start and I could only imagine the good times to keep on coming. Stay tuned for more updates. I bloody love this country!