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 10 Days in the South Island Day 2

A perfect sunrise at Marahau in the Abel Tasman National Park near Nelson

10 Days in the South Island Day 2 - Our adventure continues!

Today we head north from Kaikoura, along State Highways 1 and 6, to the thriving city of Nelson, located in the Tasman region (if you missed reading about "Day 1" click HERE.)

Regarded as the sunniest region in New Zealand, the Tasman is home to the famous Abel Tasman National Park, and is one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand.

With family in the area, we have spent a lot of time here over the years, and it's a real favorite of ours.

The entrance to the Ohau Stream seal pups
Handy Tips

1) You can view our route map at the bottom of the page. You can zoom in and out for more detail.

2) Want to take the same route as us? Feel free to hire a car and use this itinerary as a guide, or fill out the form at the bottom of the page to talk to one of our local experts. We can put together a fully packaged self drive tour for you.

3) Place your cursor on a picture for a description of the picture.

4) There is much less traffic in New Zealand than in many other countries, and the roads are well sealed, so driving is easy, as long as you drive to the conditions. In winter, "grit trucks" patrol the highways and when there is snow or ice about, they drop fine grit onto the roads to improve grip.

Day 2 Kaikoura to Nelson

Our drive from Kaikoura to Nelson takes around three and a half hours.

After a hearty breakfast, cooked in our room, we leave Kaikoura around 9 am, with a promise to return as soon as possible. It's a special place.

Seal pups frolic at the Ohau stream waterfall

In all the times we have been here, we have always neglected to visit the Ohau Stream and waterfall. This time we decided to stop. Good choice!

Located around 25 kilometers north of Kaikoura on State Highway 1, the waterfall is a short 2-3 minute walk from the highway.The walk is slightly uphill, but fairly level, although there is a small set of 8 or 10 steps.

What's so special about a waterfall? Well, in winter, hundreds of seal pups make the journey up stream from the beach to the waterfall. 

After several hundred meters, negotiating the rocky stream, the pups reach a pool under the waterfall, where they leap, dive and play.

This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. How they negotiate the rocks is beyond belief, but to see them there, meters away from you, playing under the waterfall is just "wow".

It's hard to count them, but there were possibly 20 or so on the day we were there, and a few more at different spots along the stream.

Kekerengu Store - image courtesy Kekerengu Store

If you are heading north or south during the winter months, do yourself a favor, and pull over here and have a look.

After that awesome experience we hop back in the car and continue north. The highway follows the rugged coastline for ages, and we marvel at the colors of the ocean. Along here it always seems to have a very soft blue color.

Around 60 kilometers north of Kaikoura, we pull over at the Kekerengu Store. Perched above the beach, the store is popular as a wedding venue, but it's also a really good spot for a meal, or in our case, a coffee. By now it's around 10 am, and still chilly outside, so the roaring fire is very welcome (our pictures of inside didn't turn out for some reason so we have included a shot courtesy of the store).

The pretty foreshore at Picton

Our thirst satisfied, we continue north to Blenheim (about 130 kilometers north of Kaikoura).

As we make our way north, the snow decreases and is now only visible on the higher peaks. The rolling hills leading into Blenheim though are no less impressive, and it seems that every bend in the road reveals a new photo opportunity.

Blenheim is the largest town in the Marlborough district. Well known for it's many award winning wineries, the Marlborough is also home to Picton, the South Island entry point for the Inter Island Ferry.

Picton is about 28 kilometers from Blenheim, but is a diversion that we don't take today. If you have time, Picton is well worth a visit.

The quirky Mussel Pot at HavelockThe quirky Mussel Pot at Havelock

It's a very pretty town, sitting on the shores of the Marlborough Sounds, and if you are traveling from the North Island to the South via car, you will need to pass through Picton after hopping off the ferry.

Be aware though that many car rental companies will not let you take their rental cars onto the ferry, so you may need to drop off on one island and then collect a new car on the next island!

As we drive through Blenheim we decide to take an alternate route through Rapaura Rd. This adds perhaps 10 minutes to our trip, but takes us past dozens of the regions wineries. If you have time to spend here, there are various organized tours and wine tastings available, and a few motels and resorts close by.

Lamborghini at Havelock

After a few kilometers we rejoin the highway, which has now changed to State Highway 6.

Another 60 kilometers or so down the highway we stop at the Rye Valley, a small village, for lunch. The cafe there is pretty basic, but they have a good selection of hot and cold food, and good coffee. There is also a self service petrol pump opposite the cafe, just in case you need to top up. A local "delicacy" are mussel pies, made with New Zealand green lip mussels, and we buy a couple for a relative who we plan to see tomorrow.

About ten minutes down the road we have a quick stop at Pelorus Bridge. The river cuts through a steep gorge here, and the rock pools are impressive. There's also a cafe and gift shop here.

Tahunanui Beach near Nelson

A little further on is the village of Havelock. Home to a large marina, Havelock sits at the head of Pelorus Sound, one of the many Marlborough sounds.

We suspect that it's a bit of a millionaire's playground, as in addition to hundreds of valuable boats, we also find a very expensive Lamborghini parked here.

There are a few restaurants and gift shops in Havelock, including the quirky Mussel Pot.

It's another 70 kilometers or so from Havelock to Nelson. For 30 or 40 kilometres of this, the road snakes its way over the ranges, before leveling out just out of Nelson.

We pass the turn off to Happy Valley and Cable Bay, where we once went on a four wheel motor bike tour (great fun and wonderful views).

One of the beautiful beaches in the Abel TasmanA beautiful beach in the Abel Tasman National Park near Nelson

Then, all of a sudden, we crest a hill, and the ocean (in this case Tasman Bay) appears.

As we follow the coastline into Nelson we pass some of the exclusive bay side suburbs which overlook the glistening waters of Tasman Bay. This ever growing city is now home to over 60,000 people, and it's easy to see why. Beautiful bays and beaches, and snow capped peaks in the distance!

Soon we reach our destination. Kim's aunt Audrey has kindly offered her home to us for a couple of nights, which will give us a chance to show our wide eyed friends the best of this gorgeous region.

Continue to Day 3

Self Drive Tours - Build Your Own

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