Driving further round Tasman Bay, we pitched up our tent in Motueka (or ‘Mot’ as it’s known here) as a base to explore the Abel Tasman National Park. We noted how small this world is when we met the lovely David, who lives just down the road from us back home, in neighbouring Shoreham! Hi David, if you’re reading this!
At 22,530 hectares, Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park.
We took a water taxi around the bay, to explore the infamous golden sandy beaches, rocky outcrops (mainly granite but with a scattering of limestone and marble) and varied vegetation cover that tumbles into the turquoise sea.
There are a myriad of tracks to explore through the Park. We’d have loved to tramp through the forests for days, camping overnight along the way, but we settled for a two-hour hike to Cleopatra’s Pool. Although the water was freezing, it was crystal clear; Lola and Albie braved the elements and dived in!
We were interested in the history of the area, where, for at least 500 years, Maori lived. It was the Ngati Tumatakokiri people who were resident when, on 18 December 1642, Abel Tasman, the Dutch seafarer and first European to visit the area, anchored his two ships. He lost four crew in a skirmish with the local people and soon moved on. Permanent European settlement began around 1855. The settlers logged forests, built ships, quarried granite and fired the hillsides to create pasture. For a time there was prosperity, but soon the easy timber was gone and gorse and bracken invaded the hills. Concern about comserving the coast prompted a campaign to have 15,000 hectares of crown land made into a national park. A petition presented to the Government suggested Abel Tasman’s name for the park and it was opened in 1942 – the 300th anniversary of his visit. Fascinating stuff!
Back on dry land in Mot, we explored the beaches…
The ‘Jamie Seddon’ wreck was beached here in 1955.
Although it looks gloriously warm, it was too cold to swim in the saltwater pool (which was maybe due a clean out?!).
…and loved Little Kaiteriteri, a local’s secret spot!)
There’re lots of cute quirky places in and around Mot, such as Toad Hall…
…Jesters House cafe/shop…
…where we saw feisty eels!
These eels are fascinating! Here’s what we found out about them:
1. The largest and the only endemic eel species in New Zealand.
2. They are long-lived, living for around 80-100 years.
3. They live in rivers.
4. They migrate thousands of kilometres from New Zealand to the breeding grounds of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean to breed just the once, at the end of their long lives.
5. The Maori name for them is Tuna. They are an important and traditional food for the Maoris.
Sadly, we didn’t get to adventure up to Golden Bay, right at the northern end of South Island, because the only road there was closed after cyclone Gita. Instead, we had the bonus of finding the lovely Peter and Veronica, who live just outside Nelson in their gorgeous traditional 1885 house. Their’s was the original farmhouse and would’ve been the only habitable building for miles in this stunning area.
We had the luxury of two rooms and this view over the Tasman Sea from the top balcony…
So generous was their hospitality and welcome that we felt like we’d known them for ages. In fact, we felt like part of the family!
They made lots of suggestions for things we could do whilst on our short visit, and Peter even drew us a load of brilliant maps to help us find the secret spots (we loved those maps, thank you!). One of our favourite places was a swimming hole, where we had fun leaping off a rope swing into the water!
If you ever need a comfy place to stay near Nelson, find them on Airbnb, make a point of stopping with them and say hi from us, pleeeease!
On our way to Picton, to get the ferry to Wellington, North Island, Peter and Veronica suggested we visit Pelorus Bridge, where there are a host of track options and swimming holes; it’s a beautiful special spot!
South Island, you’ve given us so many wonderful experiences and lasting memories, but it’s time for us to sail to North Island.