Nelson is known to be sunny and arty so it sounded like a good stop to us. And indeed, it is quite a cute coastal town with some nice galleries, shops and parks. After looking around Nelson for a day we decided to rent a car and explore the “Abel Tasman National Park”.
On the way to Abel Tasman National Park
In the morning we checked out of our hostel and went to the car rental office. By midday we were sorted and left Nelson. We drove a nice route along the coast and had lunch in the sun next to the beach. In the afternoon we arrived in Marahau, a tiny town from where the watertaxi goes into the national park. We found a campsite there and set up our tent once again. We spent the evening cooking and having some drinks with Irish people we met there. That night is was pouring rain until early in the morning but by the time we got up it had cleared and it turned out to be a nice morning. After breakfast and packing up our soaked tent we took the watertaxi to Torrent Bay. It was a nice ride along the coast and seeing fur seals on the rocks was a cool bonus! From Torrent Bay we followed the track back to Marahau, a part of the Abel Tasman Great Walk that takes around 3 days in total. Our hike was a nice day walk, around 16km. When we got back around 3PM we decided not to stay on the same campsite again but drive on land inwards to a DOC campsite. We drove up a windy road for a while and then a narrow and even windier gravel road for 11 km to Canaan downs. It felt like we were entering “Middle Earth” in a “Lord of the Rings” film, such a unique landscape. Long yellowish grass, strangely shaped rocks and beautiful trees. We didn’t get to a DOC campsite but just before it started getting dark we arrived at a place with a sign that you could camp there for $5,- per person. Bingo! A hippie couple was there as caretakers so we paid and set up camp. There were toilets made of painted wood and a tap with water from an underground spring. This was the most beautiful place we had camped so far! And nobody else around. At night it was so quiet, all you could hear was the ringing in your ears.
When we woke up in the morning and opened the tent, everything was frozen! So cold, but so beautiful. When the sun came over the hill the grass twinkled as if it was covered in millions of tiny diamonds. We stood around warming up in the sunshine while having breakfast. What an amazing experience! After packing up we drove a bit further along the gravel road and found the DOC campsite which was really boring compared to the place we had stayed. From the car park there we made a walk into the forest to Harwood’s Hole, a cave system and New Zealand’s deepest vertical shaft. It was nice to see some different parts of the Abel Tasman National Park and not just the coast. After the walk we drove back which was pretty scary because there was hardly any space to pass other cars. Back onto the main road we drove to Takaka. A hippie town which is completely dead on a Saturday afternoon in winter apparently. After having lunch there we drove on back to the coast where we stayed the night on a DOC campsite. Again a great place to stay, right on the beach and the first campground where we were allowed to make a fire! When it got dark some brown birds that look a bit like chickens, came out to see what we were up to and even came close enough to warm up by our fire, super cute. The next morning our Abel Tasman adventure was unfortunately coming to an end. After a drive of a few hours we were back in Nelson where we dropped of the car. Ready for the next step in our travels!