South Island meanderings…May 2017 … Kenepuru-Picton-Ward Beach-Marfells Beach-Blenheim-Richmond-St Arnaud

01 May – Drove back to rejoin Queen Charlotte Drive and headed towards Picton.  But nothing is straight forward for us as we detoured up a side road to have a look around Anakiwa.  A nice little area with scenic views across the Bay and a lengthy Jetty so the water must be quite shallow close in.

Anakiwa Jetty

Back to the Scenic Drive and continued on to Aussie Bay where there is a small DOC Camp down a steep drive to the shore.  We stopped to have lunch and ended up staying the night.  Quite a few small vehicles came in during the afternoon and a coaster bus arrived and set up so much gear they must have been planning to stay for some time.  We enjoyed our view and listening to the water lapping close by.

DOC Camp view

Next morning was sunny but there was a cold wind blowing up from Okiwa Bay.  The steep concrete driveway out of the camp was giving some vehicles trouble driving out.  Knobbly concrete strips have been placed across to assist traction, without them there would have been a lot more wheel-spinning and burnt out clutches.  Our truck didn’t have a problem, but we were almost on our lowest gear.

View back towards Anakiwa

Drove on to Momorangi Bay – another DOC camp there which is one of the largest we’ve seen.  100 power sites and more areas for tents etc, nicely set out on terraced grounds with sealed roads and landscaping.  However, the camp looked to be closed, we saw a few caravans set up but they too appeared to be empty.

Momorangi Bay

The area was turned into a Recreation Reserve in 1963 and became a popular family camping ground.  DOC took over the Reserve at some stage and have been working to restore the area back to native flora and fauna, replanting canopy trees, and getting rid of pest plants and species (possums, rats etc). It’s great that the camping ground has been retained so that families that have been spending their summers here for generations can continue to do so.

After having a look around we moved on as we were aiming to be in Picton that night.  Stopped at various Lookouts along Queen Charlotte Drive for photos.

Ngakuta Bay
Ngakuta Point

Approaching Shakespeare Bay we spied a large area where timber was being stacked ready for export.  There was also a carpark on the other side to stop at for a different view.

Shakespeare Bay & Timberyard

Last stop was Waitohi Lookout overlooking the Ferry Terminus and Picton town.  We have been here before but always stop as it’s so spectacular and interesting watching what is going on below with the Ferry operations.

Our chosen place to stop for the night was the RSA Carpark right in town.  Cost was a $6 donation so pretty reasonable. We parked on the front forecourt and walked across the road to the supermarket for supplies.   Wandered down the main street that evening and ate a nice meal at a cosy bar/restaurant.  We could have eaten at the RSA but it was ‘housie’ night and quite busy – so we opted for a quieter venue.

Woke up to a horrible dull day – spits of rain and strong, gusty wind blasts.  Wasn’t a good day for driving so we decided to stay another night. Neville also wanted to check out the Boat Shops at Waikawa Bay so headed that way for something to do.  We bought a spare cupboard latch and a new water pump for the motorhome that has failed on us twice now.  Neville has managed to nurse it back to life, but it’s going to give up the ghost eventually.   At least we now have a replacement if it finally ‘dies’ while in the middle of nowhere.

Back in town we browsed the shops and later that night, Neville braved the wind and rain to fetch fish’n’chips for tea (hero points awarded).

04 May – Blenheim here we come! Left Picton about 10:00 am.   Another cold day but at least the sun came out.  After topping up our supplies we drove to the Racecourse for a couple of days.   Caught up with the laundry while there and also dragged out our winter duvet and polar-fleece sheets to put on the bed.   It was a chilly 2° that morning…so time to put away the cotton sheets etc.

06 May – We’re going to re-visit Ward Beach on the East Coast.  We wanted to see for ourselves how the beach has changed since the Kaikoura earthquake raised the seabed, exposing the reefs by around 3 metres.

The main highway was very quiet with no trucks on the road (Christchurch traffic diverting over the Lewis Pass).  The highway is open as far as Ward, after that only authorised ‘officials’ and local traffic are allowed to proceed.

We had a look around at Ward – the Garage there will be doing it hard with little passing traffic but there was a surprising number of people stopped at their Café.  Being a weekend they were probably Blenheim day-trippers.

Drove out to the coast.  The road to Ward Beach was OK but the surface was very ‘lumpy’ with the earthquake movement.  Drove into the Camping Area and settled down.

Sat there and observed the beach and changes we could see.  Looked up our previous photos to compare and it became very evident, especially at low tide.  However, if you hadn’t been there before, it would look quite ‘normal’ and be just another pretty sea view.

Ward Beach
Reef area below camping area

Next morning a single fishing boat launched off the beach but it would have had to go a long way as the fishery is still closed all the way from Kaikoura to Marfells Beach around the northern point of Cape Campbell.

Dozer working

The next day we saw a Resource Consent Application posted on a noticeboard in the carpark.  As the seabed has risen, the bigger fishing boats can no longer launch here, so they are seeking permission to develop the ‘paper road’ northward (through the farmer’s property) to make another parking area and launching place at a deeper bay near the Chancet Rocks.  Needless to say, the farmer and conservationists are protesting like mad.  Don’t like their chances however – fishing is the livelihood in this area so that will probably prevail.

After reading that we decided to take a walk up the beach to see the Chancet Rocks.  All along the shore we continued to see evidence of the reefs being exposed and the shore was littered with shells and dead and dried kelp. Many kelp stalks were still attached to the white bleached rocks.  It was quite sobering imagining all the sea-life that would have perished here and right along the coast.

Exposed reefs

We arrived at the Chancet Rocks that rise in a jagged line where the shore turns a corner towards Long Point.

The Chancet Rocks

We got a surprise to find an established seal colony there.  The first group was happily basking and swimming right where the fishing boats are wanting to launch.

Don’t come too close

The rest of the seals were scattered around the rocks and up into the dunes behind the rocks.  So it’s no wonder the conservationists are opposing the boat launching here.

This is my patch!
Lines of the Reef

Climbing up behind the Rocks
Looking towards the Bay where the Fishing Boats want to launch

The seals are breeding here too, the flattened patches in the dune grasses appeared to be birthing spots and there were plenty of pups lying around.  We spied on them from the height of the Chancet Rocks before heading back on the long walk home.

Lots more seals on the rocks heading towards Long Point
View towards Ward Beach and the long walk home
Beach boulders here very different to rest of the shoreline

Next morning we decided we’d stay another day.  The morning light over the beach was magic.

Near the gate into the camping area there is a rock ‘garden’ that people have added to on their stays.  Some of the pieces are quite artistic.

Later we walked down the Reserve to the Flaxborne Stream and along the beach towards the south.  The stream used to end at the beach in a murky Lagoon but now the entrance is open to the sea again, so we had to paddle across it to get to the rocks on the other side.

Stream running into the bay & view of the Reserve

Looking southward

We didn’t venture much further though as we were only wearing jandals and it was hard going trying to plough through the loose deep gravel along the shore and we’d had enough of that after our walk the day before.  There was also a strong cold wind blowing which made the thought of a warming cuppa back at the van seem like a better idea.

09 May – Woke to a sunny, windless day and packed up to head for Marfells Beach DOC camp.  There was a lot more traffic on the main road this time – surprising seeing that it is a ‘closed’ road.  But it was now a weekday, so probably vehicles heading down to work on the road or railway repairs.

Arrived at Marfells Beach before lunch and parked on the grassy bank beside the shoreline.  Last time here we had a lovely elevated spot overlooking the sea and were a little ‘miffed’ to find someone else was already camped there (how dare they).

That afternoon Neville went to get something out of the outside locker and the whole door fell off at his feet!  Phew, so lucky that it happened there than while driving along the road somewhere.  We’d replaced the hinge on the opposite side locker while back in Richmond but rain had set in at the time, so we’d shelved doing this one.   It sure told us that it wanted to be fixed NOW!!! So that was our afternoon chore sorted.  All good…and the s/steel hinges will be OK for the life of the M/Home now.  Why a plastic strip hinge was used in the first place was madness really – if they’d failed while driving it would have been quite a disaster!

Looking out at Marfells Beach we could see the changes here too following the earthquake, which has raised the seabed about a metre here.  At high tide the waves used to lap close to the raised bank where the camp is sited – now there is a wide sandy beach even at high tide.  Boats now have to be taken across the sand for quite a distance to be launched.

Marfells Beach at dusk

Next day it was quite overcast but we set off walking eastward along the shore towards Mussel Point from where we hoped get a view of Cape Campbell Lighthouse.

At the end of the beach it became a bit wet underfoot with seepage off the hills involving a bit of zigzagging for the driest bits.  Then we were onto a rocky section but at least you don’t have to wait for low tide now to cross it now.  There’s even a very rough rocky track across this strip that looks to be a mecca for quad bikes.

Looking back towards DOC camp

A couple of girls on horseback also passed us here and when we got to Mussel Point we could see them way up the beach, almost at the Lighthouse.  Certainly a quicker way to travel than us on ‘shanks pony’.

Looking back from Rocky Point – track good here but was just driving over rocks in places

It’s a further 2 hour return walk to the Lighthouse but due to the weather (was already starting to spit) this was as far as we were planning on going today so we turned around and headed back to camp.

Walkway goes along the beach to the lighthouse on the point
Lighthouse view
Lighthouse (great to have good zoom on camera)

Interesting that Cape Campbell Lighthouse was the scene for the 2016 movie “The Light Between Oceans”…a romantic drama set in the early 1920’s.  We searched out the movie after we learnt this and it was a good watch.  Had some good twists to the story which made it interesting.

Experience Cape Campbell” is run by the current farm owners and you can actually stay in the Cottage featured in the film.  I looked up their website and found the cost was only $150 for two people per night.  Reckon that’s pretty reasonable – maybe it’s discounted for all the gates you have to open and shut to get there!  Three other buildings are also renovated for guests and combined, they cater for up to 12 people in a group booking.

11 May – and moving on again…this time back to Blenheim.  We left early, before breakfast even.  It had started to rain and there was a section coming out of the camp where a slip had been down over the road and the surface looked like it would get very muddy – reckoned we’d escape before it became a problem.

Drove into Seddon and parked beside the local Bowling Club for breakfast… by this time it was raining steadily.  Once at Blenheim we did a bit of shopping and headed to the Racecourse again… grass soaking there too so had to park carefully to avoid getting stuck.  Sun was out again next day and I even got our laundry washed and dried.  Then the following day, for a bit of exercise, we walking into town.  Wasn’t far, only about a 15min walk.  Looked around the shops and ate lunch in a nice little café.

An earlier photo – growth on water is almost covering this area now

14 May – Packed up again in readiness to head back towards Nelson.   Firstly we drove up the local Wither Hills Road to have another look at the Taylor Dam Reserve.  We camped there about a year ago. Today we stopped for lunch overlooking the lake.  They sure need to clean it out as weed is steadily overtaking the surface – the ducks and swans were having real trouble paddling through it.

Left Blenheim and started off along the highway through the Wairau Valley and turned off at Renwick to drive to Havelock.  Thence on to the Trout Pub again at Canvastown for the night.  Had to park on the gravel carpark this time as their grass area was also too wet.  Ate another nice Bar Meal for tea that night.

Woke up enclosed in fog the next morning so lingered over breakfast waiting for the road to clear before moving on.  Passed through Pelorus Bridge and Rai Valley heading for the Graham River Reserve for the night (stopped there after leaving Nelson last month).

16 May – drove back over the Whangamoa Saddle, on through Nelson and finished up at Richmond to stay at the Showgrounds again.  Camp was full but they didn’t turn us away and offered a temporary site over the fence, by an equipment shed in the Showgrounds.  Next morning the Camp Manager came over to tell us he now had a power site for us.  No parking on the grass allowed there either as the grounds are too wet.  Booked in for a week.

Spent our time making a few repairs on the motorhome and sourced a new air filter for the truck.  Cleaned all the dust out of the outside hatches and bought a new plastic box with a lid on it to put tools in which should keep them cleaner.  Also did a good ‘spring clean’ inside the motorhome.

Walked to town every few days for some exercise and to buy any food supplies we needed.  Ate lunch out a few times to save me having to cook at night (always a ‘bonus’ I appreciate).

Had a couple of wet days when we first arrived but after that we had some nicer days following some cold frosty mornings – that was a shock to the system.

Double ended poles!

After our week we booked in for another couple of nights (we must have been feeling a bit lazy).


25 May – Time to move! Some chores to do in town before leaving though – dump station, get tyre pressures checked, topped up with diesel, did last minute shopping at Pak’n’Save and more importantly (for Neville) bought a new Sat Box with built-in Freeview that was on special at The Warehouse (yet another ‘remote’ for the drawer).

While Neville was busy dealing with ‘ablutions’ at the dump station I was enjoying a great view across the Waimea Inlet and some amazing reflections from the power poles (just cannot see where the poles end and the water reflection starts).

Like a millpond (timber mill steaming on the left)
Beach and one of the picnic areas

Eventually we were ready to leave town – drove out to Rabbit Island for lunch at the Picnic Area overlooking the sea.  Nice big areas that would be great for overnight stays – but camping of any sort is not allowed and the access gates are shut at sundown.

Most of the Island is planted in forest and criss-crossed with tracks that have gates across the entrances.  The eastern point of the Island overlooks Nelson city.

Rabbit Island & Nelson area

We continued west on the Tourist Drive and next stop was Mapua on the western entrance to the Waimea Inlet.  Walked around the historic wharf area – it’s been done up to attract visitors and has nice cafés, bars, galleries, and specialist shops.  We bought an ice cream and sat on a bench listening to a group of older guys playing calypso type music…they were very entertaining.

Across the channel is the western point of Rabbit Island.  You can catch a Ferry across to sightsee or continue on the Great Taste Cycle Trail that runs from Nelson to Motueka and Kaiteriteri.  In winter the ferry only runs on weekends and public holidays, in summer it runs every day (except Christmas Day).  Costs $8 per adult one way or $12 return…for a 10 minute journey.

Eventually we moved off and drove on to McKee Reserve Camp near Ruby Bay.  Another place we stayed at when we passed this way after we left Golden Bay.  Rain has taken its toll here too – wasn’t easy finding a safe ‘dryish’ spot to park on.

We spent 3 days there relaxing and generally ‘blobbing out’.  Took a few photos along the shore one day…a swell had picked up, creating rolling waves down the shoreline that were interesting to watch.  There were even a few Surfers further up trying their luck.

Ruby Bay shoreline

28 May – We had more rain overnight but it was fine by morning.  Left the camp and headed northwards along the Coastal Highway to do a bit of exploring before we reached SH6 towards Murchison.

Just past the settlement of Tasman we took a side road to Harakeke that took us uphill through wine country to join the Motere Highway.  A scenic road travelling south, following a ridge to Upper Motere and downhill again to Redwood Valley.  We ended up at Brightwater on SH6 (left to Nelson/right to Murchison).

We were then on the lookout for another place to stop overnight.  Spring Grove’s Hall was nice ($2/night) but was wet and we didn’t want to rip up their lovely grassy area with our heavy wheels so we continued on.  The Edward Baigent Reserve at Wakefield was another nice spot but very wet and boggy and quite a small area…moved on again.  We finally ended up at Wai-iti Domain just off SH6 beside the road bridge over the Wai-iti River.

The large Domain area itself was closed for winter but there is also a good area along the riverbank for people to park-up.  Again we decided to keep off the grass and settled on a gravel area quite close to the road…it was a lot noisier there but road traffic doesn’t seem to keep us awake (unless some smart-a##e truck driver decides to honk his horn as he roars past).

We did get a good night’s sleep and moved on again next morning.  Continuing along SH6 and up an over Spooners Saddle.  Shortly afterwards there is a large Reserve running between the highway and Norris Gully Stream.  Pulled over to have a look but halted at a very large muddy-looking puddle along the loop track.  “Hmm don’t think we should drive through that…you get out and walk through to see if there are any big ruts and how deep it is” says Neville! I don’t think so… “you’re dreaming mate”. So we backed up a bit and managed a 6-point turn to get back to the road.  We have stayed here many years ago (or so our old GPS record indicated) but it probably wasn’t during the winter.

Further on the SH came alongside the Motueka River and we turned left again onto Valley Road following the river upstream.  The Golden Downs Golf Course is about 2kms along and is a Club POP (park over property) where we can stay overnight for a $5 donation.  Notices indicated where we should park, so settled in, paid our fee and registered our details in the book in the Clubrooms foyer. We also had access to the toilets that surprisingly, were not locked overnight.  Once all the golfers had gone home for the day we went for a long walk around the perimeter of the Course which was a good stretch of the legs.

Village Plan

30 May – Woke up to a cold morning and completely fogged in. Heater was working overtime for sure.  We lazed over breakfast while waiting for the fog to lift before we hit the road.

We continued along Valley Road and ended up at Golden Downs settlement. There used to be an extensive logging village here and we found some signboards that told the story of the area and even a diagram of the buildings.  There was a ‘woodsman school’ here and some of the buildings are still standing (one of them currently being used as a Pistol Range for a Nelson Club.


Then followed Kerr Hill Road towards St Arnaud – this road was also very scenic, passing through forested areas and downhill to meet up with the Korere Tophouse Road.  Eventually we met up with SH63 (which is currently the main road through the Wairau Valley from Blenheim).  From there it was only about 4kms to St Arnaud on the shores of Lake Rotoiti.

Stopped for a late lunch at the lake edge and went for an ‘obligatory’ stroll down the jetty.  Had to wait to take a photo at the end – a young couple there taking so many ‘selfies’ it was quite ridiculous!

Lake Rotoiti

We were entertained while waiting, watching a bloke trying to launch a little jetboat.  He couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t drive it off the trailer…we noticed that he hadn’t unchained it!  We had to tell him in the end – boy did he have a red face!  He finally got underway – then perhaps to negate his ’embarrassment’ proceeded to show off by doing a big 360 and sped off down the lake exceeding the stated speed limit, before disappearing from view.

Speeding off
Water wheelie!

The camp ground at St Arnaud is very expensive but on our last visit here we found an alternative DOC camp beside the Ice-Skating Lake a little way out of town.  Drove there and got quite a surprise – DOC have given it a ‘make-over’.  All the parking areas have been sealed and fenced and another composing loo installed.  Last time no fees were being collected and the site was inundated with sleeper cars but it’s now the standard $8pp/night (reckon it won’t be so popular now).

Skating Lake – late afternoon

31 May – Got up and went to have another look at the Lake as it was only 1° deg this morning and a heavy frost.  The lake has not frozen over yet but the reflection was quite beautiful.  The morning sun was bright on the hills but the reflection was shaded, bringing out the colour.

Frosty morning reflection
Forest path

We moved back to Lake Rotoiti after breakfast as the trees at the camp were going to be shading our solar panels well into the day.

Parked on the lake edge again and after lunch we set off to do a walk into the forest on the eastern side of the bay.  We did a loop combining the Fantail and Honeydew tracks.  It was uphill for a lot of the way but not too difficult and took about 50 mins altogether.

Growth on shaded tree trunk

We walked back along the lake-shore enjoying the afternoon view across the lake.

Afterwards we ‘upped-sticks’ and drove back to the Teetotal DOC camp and re-claimed our spot from the night before.  Another quiet night, only a couple of other campers joined us (and we did see both of them going to the Pay Station to pay their money, which was good to see).  We use our Annual DOC Pass – good value as we stay at DOC camps often and we recouped our fee a good while ago.

And so ended another month as we curled up in our warm bed under our feather duvet with our diesel heater ticking over to keep the chilly air out!

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