South Island meanderings…April 2017 …. Richmond-French Pass-Tennyson Inlet-Havelock-Titirangi Bay-Kenepuru Heads

Beginning of April and we spent another week in Richmond before moving on. One Saturday we caught an early bus into Nelson to browse around the Market.  It was certainly a busy place – we bought a few trinkets and were tempted to buy an amazing piece of artwork of a John Dory fish made entirely of different coloured seeds glued tightly together.  But no-where to hang or store it in our Motorhome so common-sense prevailed and we left it behind.

We also looked around the city streets and walked up to the Nelson Cathedral – we walked inside and were treated to hearing the Choir practising – the acoustics in the chapel was magic.

Nelson Cathedral

Also wandered around Queens Gardens before heading back to the Market and caught the bus back to Richmond.

We also bought a new Lenovo Tablet on special at Noel Leemings to replace the knackered one that we have mounted on the dashboard when we travel.  It tracks our journey and has good mapping to see exactly where we are as we drive along.  Must have been on a spending spree as we also upgraded our small vacuum cleaner to a cordless Dyson Stick Vacuum.  It’s the best thing since sliced bread – takes up less room in the cupboards and has amazing suction.

07 April – said goodbye to people we’d got friendly with in the Camp and headed north out of the Nelson area.

Explored a couple of side roads – one to the start of the Walkway along the Boulder Bank and then to Glenduan.  A beach area but “no camping” signs everywhere!

Moved on and drove to Cable Bay (where the first NZ to Australia telecommunications cable was laid).

Went for a walk up to a Lookout over the Bay – the Walkway continues over the hills back to Glenduan.  Another long walk that lends itself to having a vehicle at each end.

Cable Bay

Cable Bay Inlet

Onward and over the Whangamoa Saddle and ended up at the Graham Stream Reserve for the night.

A Rental M/Home was sitting there with its bonnet up so Neville went to offer assistance.  Their engine water hose had come adrift for the second time in two days.   No phone service so we drove the driver back up to the top of the hill and managed to get a signal for him to call for assistance.

Eventually a mechanic arrived from Nelson but he was unable to fix the problem on site so they had to stay there the night and wait for a truck to come in the morning to trailer it back to Nelson, together with a car to transport for the four occupants.

The NZ driver was quite ‘miffed’ to say the least – they’ve been planning this trip with their Australian friends for 2 years…now they’ve had their journey shortened by a week with the 2 breakdowns.  It was a brand new Van too….they were the first renters.

Drove on to Rai Valley in the morning and spent the night at a free camping spot on the banks of Brown River.  A nice spot – muddy in places but we were there early so got a good dry spot.

Brown River

Must have been our ‘good samaritan’ week – next morning we assisted a young couple camped nearby to jump-start their rental sleeper-car that had a flat battery.

09 August – the start of our forays up the arms of the Marlborough Sounds. Firstly heading to French Pass.  Crossed over the Ronga Saddle before descending down to Okiwi Bay in Croisilles Harbour.

View over Croisilles Harbour

Stopped at Okiwi Bay for a bit of a look around.

Okiwi Bay
Walkway at Okiwi Bay

Then onward following along a high ridge-line giving us great views of Squally Cove before descending to Elaine Bay on the eastern side (Tennyson Inlet).

View of McLarens Bay and looking up Squally Cove

Stopped there at the Wharf and got chatting to a couple of locals – a Frenchman who married a Kiwi lady.  They live in France for 8 months each year and NZ for 4 months.  He was busy installing a security camera to cover some large rubbish bins provided for the locals that are being filled by fishermen sneaking in to use them.

Elaine Bay

View up Tennyson Inlet

We set off again, the road was sealed to the top of the next hill and then, for quite a distance, roadworks had already prepared the next large section that looked like it was almost ready to be sealed.

Tawhitinui Reach

Eventually though we were on to the original gravel section.  It was in pretty good condition too – narrow in places but plenty of passing areas.

Hamilton Bay & the road to Bulwer
First view of French Pass
View back down Current Basin

After a few photo stops we arrived in French Pass at 1530. Drove into the DOC Camp and paid our money to the Camp Hosts.

DOC camp and boat ramp

Woke up to a beautiful day – clear, sunny and magical views across the bay.

Water taxi from D’Urville Island
Setting up for a trip
Paddling to D’Urville Island

A small pod of dolphins passing by (you can just see some fins sticking out of the water)

Spied a pod of dolphins swimming past and there were also stingrays cruising along the shoreline looking for handouts from people using the fish cleaning table at the Camp.

The next few days were wet so the grassy sites at the camp were getting very muddy…we were on gravel so we were OK thank goodness.  Just before it rained the Camp Hosts disappeared and were replaced by a couple who live locally but they only appeared every couple of days to check on things.  So that will probably be the ‘norm’ here now until next summer season.

Cyclone Cook has been hammering other parts of the country – we have fared pretty well here though. D’Urville Island must have been sheltering us.

Once the rain stopped we walked back up the road to a Lookout overlooking D’Urville Island and back down into the Bay.

French Pass channel
Fizzboat speeding past the channel beacon
Ngamuka Bay on D’Urville Island

A life-size statue at the Lookout depicts “Pelorus Jack” the famous white dolphin that between 1882-1912 would meet fishing boats and the Coastal Steamers travelling between Wellington and Nelson and ‘escort’ them to/from French Pass. He would appear both night or day, riding the bow waves and entertaining passengers with flips and jumps and became a ‘star’ worldwide.  In September 1904 an Act of Parliament was passed giving protection to the “Pelorus Jack” Risso Dolphins and it’s thought to have been the first time a Law was ever passed protecting an individual species.  However it was likely that “Jack” was the last survivor of a pod of Risso dolphins that lived in the Marlborough Sounds in the mid-1800’s and one day he disappeared and never returned.  His remains were never found so fable says he’s just resting in a sea cave below the waves!

17 April – have spent 9 days at French Pass so time to head back, after doing the short walk down to the Beacon Lookout on the south side.

Beacon from the Walkway Lookout

A brilliant sunny day so stopped frequently on the way back to take more photos.

View over south end of D’Urville Island
Looking down Current Basin
Fitzroy Bay
Okiwi Bay

Drove into Elaine Bay again with the intention of staying there for the night. But the ground at the DOC Camp was very wet, and we didn’t want to get stuck, so we continued on, back to Okiwi Bay. Stayed there at a private camping area, right on the beach front for only $8 per/van.

Went for a nice stroll along the shore later in the day.

Looking up Okiwi Bay – a great day for fishing

Next morning we headed back over the winding road to Rai Valley township.  Filled with diesel then backtracked to set off along Opouri Road towards Tennyson Inlet.

Spied a sign relating to an old historic cottage made from totara slabs, so stopped to have a look.

The road took us up another narrow winding road over the Opouri Saddle and dropped down into Tennyson Inlet.  Drove around the area – Te Maka Bay and then Duncans Bay and Tuna Bay.

Duncan Bay Jetty
Duncan Bay
Tuna Bay, Tennyson Inlet
People fishing off Tuna Bay Wharf
Cute Penguin

All very picturesque, but no-where to camp there so drove back up the road to settle for a couple of nights at a DOC Camp we’d seen along the way.

20 April – we travelled back through Rai Valley and on to Pelorus Bridge (where we stopped and did a small walk around the area).

Pelorus River Walk
Pelorus Road Bridge – deep swimming area
Pelorus Bridge signboard

Continued on to Havelock at the bottom of Pelorus Sound.  Explored the town and while at the Marina booked a trip on the Mail Boat for the next day.

Havelock Marina – Mail Boat is the second one along

We drove back a few k’s to Canvastown to stay the night at The Trout Pub.  We felt like a good meal so it was pleasant sitting around a roaring fire over a great dinner and chatting to fellow motorhomers also staying the night.

Early alarm call – drove back to Havelock and reported at the Mail Boat Office to pay our money.  The boat left promptly at 9:30am and despite a really cold wind, it was a perfect day as we cruised along.

(Refer here to a separate Blog I have done on the Mail Boat Cruise – it was a great day and we took lots of photographs, so felt it deserved its own space).

We got back to the Havelock Marina about 5:30pm so the whole trip took 8 hours.  It was a long day but we both thoroughly enjoyed the trip – riding on water makes a nice change from riding our wheels along the roadways.

Spent another night at The Trout Pub and next morning we drove up the side road beside the Pub, to follow the Wakamarina River up the valley to Butchers Flat DOC Camp at the end of the road.  It was a sealed road in most of the way – just a narrow gravel stretch near the end.

Along the way there were historic sign posts that told the story of the Canvastown Goldfields.  Obviously a lot of effort was taken for very little payout in the gold found.

Gold monument

The DOC camp was on a large grassy flat area above the Wakamarina River – which is about one of the most pristine and clear waterways you’ll ever see…freezing cold though!

Wakamarina River
Super clear water
Rocks underwater

After lunch we spent some time doing some exploring and reading up on the area.



Only thing we found that looked like a relic from the past

The camp area was on an elevated site above the river but at the far end it sloped down to a bend in the river and we found a short track down to the streambed. 

Butchers Flat camp

Only two other vehicles joined us overnight so it was certainly off the beaten track.  All up it was a great spot and one we’d like to come back to when passing next.

Moving back down the road next morning, we stopped at a ford across Dead Horse Creek.  Saw a nice little waterfall upstream so Neville paddled closer for a photo.

Pretty ford area

Upstream from ford

Further upstream along the left-hand fork is a disused Mine but (being wimps) we decided the water was too cold for a pleasant walk… and drove on.

23 April – Moving to a new area today – Kenepuru Sound. Drove back through Havelock, stocked up on fuel and groceries then set off along Queen Charlotte Drive which is the scenic route to Picton.

We stopped about 4kms out-of-town to walk up to a Lookout above Cullen Point. Great views up Pelorus Sound and back towards Havelock.

Looking up Pelorus Sound from Lookout

View back up the Pelorus River valley
Havelock town and Marina

At Linkwater we turned left into Kenepuru Road and drove over the hill to Double Bay (on the shores of Mahau Sound).  A nice little area set aside there for 6 Self-Contained Vehicles to overnight…so that was us for the night.

Went for a walk along the shore at low tide noseying at some of the houses hidden amongst the trees – most were empty at this time of the year.

Double Bay

When we got back all the other camp spots were full – ’tis a popular place! People were heading off around the point with buckets and it didn’t take them long to come back with heaps of large-sized mussels they’d picked off the rocks.  Their eyes were too big…so we ended up with what they couldn’t eat. We cooked up some and Neville shelled and marinated the rest for later.

Next morning continued up the Sound – the road twisting and turning around the hills above the various bays along Kenepuru Sound. Neville commented that it was the most winding road we’ve driven the motorhome on ever!  For sure the corners were never-ending. We got glimpses of fabulous views along the way but not many places to stop for photos.

We pulled in at The Portage but didn’t stop, as again, it was difficult to park anywhere. So continued on…corner after corner!

Roadside view up Kenepuru Sound

Looked at a DOC camp at Cowshed Bay and could have squeezed into the small area but decided to head to another camp at the end of Kenepuru Heads.  It was a good decision and it’s obviously the main DOC camp for the area – large grounds and a brand new kitchen and an ablution block with cold showers and flushing loos (such luxury).

DOC camp

Only three of us there overnight, but during the day the kitchen area was flat-out with cars & vans pulling in to use the facilities and then heading out before evening so they wouldn’t get stung for fees!  A Camp Host would be camped here during the summer season which would stop them doing this.

At low tide we went for a short walk along the shore which is covered with water at high tide.

Kenepuru Head

Onward next day, to drive to Titirangi Bay at the outer reaches of the Marlborough Sounds.  The road following the ridge line overlooking Endeavour Inlet where Furneaux Lodge is located (can only get there by boat or by walking down a track to it).

Another lodge – Punga Cove does have a road down to it but looked a bit dicey for our truck so we didn’t risk it.  Some vehicles were parked at the top so that indicated their occupants had also walked down.  We stayed at Punga Cove with our Dive Club many years ago – it had a great restaurant then, so appears it’s still going strong.

Drove on and it was an interesting drive through forested country and as we got closer to Titirangi Bay, we got some fabulous views of Port Gore on our eastern side.

Port Gore

This is where the Russian Cruise Ship “MS Mikhail Lermontov” ran aground and sunk back in 1986 after it had struck rocks rounding Cape Jackson.  This is another memory from our diving days as we have twice dived on the wreck – which I can only describe as being an awesome experience.  We still have souvenirs off the wreck…a bottle of Champagne, toiletries from one of the passenger cabins, coins etc.

(Read recently that the 7.8-magnitude (Kaikoura) earthquake has broken the top three decks off and they are now lying on the sea floor beside the rest of the wreck, opening up new diving opportunities. Just as well the quake happened at night and not while divers were inside).

Airstrip – you can just see it in previous photo at the far end of the bay

Before we dropped off the top of the hill into Titirangi Bay we stopped to look down into Port Gore & pinpointed an airstrip and the house belonging to some old friends of ours.

We phoned for a chat and waved from the hill!

Track down to Gore Bay

It would have been great to visit with them but the only practical way there is by air or boat.  There is a private track in for the local residents but it has also been earthquake damaged and is just a ‘serious’ 4WD these days.

There were a few cars parked at the top so presumably locals leave them there and just use a 4WD vehicle of some sort to get up and down the hill.

Melville Cove – lots’a mussell farms

The road down the opposite side of the hill into Titirangi Bay was a narrow steep zigzag – we were keeping our eyes peeled ahead of us as earlier we’d seen a cattle truck pass by and we didn’t want to meet it on its way back (if it had come this far).

Titirangi Bay
Heading down into Titirangi Bay
Narrow road
Waitui Station on other side of the Bay

As we neared the bottom of the hill we had a good overview of Titirangi Farm Park.

Farm Park Homestead

Reached the Farm Park without incident and drove into the private camping area – $5pp/night.  There are toilet and cold shower facilities and crisp, clear spring water on tap.

Farm Park camping area
Fellow campers

We spent 3 night here – enjoying walks along the beach each day and the weather was sunny up until the last night when we got a few ‘spits’ in the evening.  There were only a few other campers around, but that’s not surprising seeing as it’s so far off the beaten track.

Beach walking

The Farm Park is Crown Land and is leased out – currently it runs both sheep and cattle.  

The farmer’s wife calls around in the evening to collect fees and she told us they’ve been there for the last 21 years. 

View to top of the hill – and roadway down

Sand patterns.

There is another grass airstrip here which runs up from the beach and up a rise to a flat spot near the farm homestead.  Neville tells me he has landed here a few times in the past in a light plane owned by our friends over in Gore Bay.  Says it was a bit more exciting in those days as the strip was a lot shorter and the hill was steeper! (Yeah right…memory exaggeration maybe??)

Looking up the airstrip
Road visibility not that good!

28 April – headed back towards civilisation again.  Rain starting to set in, however, the road was wet but not too slippery as yet.

Did meet a light truck along the way but thankfully near the end, where the road was wider.

Drove back into the Kenepuru Head DOC Camp for another night.

Overlooking Waitaria Bay
Raetihi Lodge wharf

Next morning we went to explore around the other side of Kenepuru Sound.

The road followed the shoreline around Waitaria Bay and then over a small ridge to Nopera and Double Bay.

Drove almost to the end of the road. U-turned at the nice ‘up-market’ Raetihi Lodge – has its own wharf and launch so probably most of its guests arrive this way out of Havelock.


Raetihi Lodge

Didn’t look like many guests staying but the Restaurant was open – we almost felt guilty that we didn’t go in and buy something.

From here there is a narrow track across the hills to Crail Bay, however we gave it a miss as it didn’t have much of a gravel surface and looked pretty muddy and slippery. It was probably a wise decision.

Road to Clova Bay

We backtracked to Waitaria Bay instead and headed left up another narrow road and over the hill to Manaroa and Clova Bay.  This road was a little wider and did at least have a decent gravel surface.

A nice viewpoint from the crest of the hill.

Clova Bay

Bit of a jetty at Clova Bay and more mussel farms to be seen across the water.

The road continued on at the end of Clova Bay and around the other side to a settlement at Otatara Bay.   We had hoped to stop the night at another DOC camp there but the only flat areas were very wet and slippery so we managed to U-Turn after much difficulty and headed out again.  Spent another night at Kenepuru Head camp instead.

Before leaving camp next morning we washed most of the mud off the Motorhome.  At least it’s a sealed road all the way back so it will stay a bit cleaner. Then it was facing the long winding road again.   Did stop at Portage Bay though to stretch our legs and look at the view.

Portage Bay
Looking towards The Portage

It took us 2 hours to get back to Double Bay. Once there we went for another explore further up the road past Double Bay towards Moetapu Bay.  Lots of nice houses along the road amongst the trees and down steep driveways. Lovely views over the Sound that the Boat Trip took us last week.

Bug fly-past (we think it’s a cicada)

Nice seat – shame about the pole and wires
Pelorus Sound straight ahead – Mahau Sound to the right
Map of our journey

Map shows area we explored.

Spent our last night in April at the Double Bay free camp area (where we stayed on our way in).

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