New Zealand South Island Part 5

18 - 24 March 2017

Scratching at our mosquito bites, we headed up the trail to view Fox Glacier. Our early start meant we had the place to ourselves while we ate breakfast but that soon changed.

We continued the winding coastal road as far as Hokatika, where we turned inland to check out the Taramakau River fishing before heading to beautiful Lake Brunner for a spot of free camping.

On the way to Fox Glacier

Taramakau River

Sandfly – that's how big they feel when they bite!

Free camping at Lake Brunner

Nearby was the Arnold River where we tried out two fishing access points from our book. The first was a short stretch right under a road bridge. The second proved to be a lovely spot and after a peaceful riverside walk, Phil landed a large brown trout. By the time we were finished enjoying the river, it was getting late and the beautiful camping spot of the night before called to us again.

The following day took us along the Grey River to Reefton and then the Inanghua to Murchison. We stopped at a picturesque campground on the Owen's river which belonged to a hotel. We planned on walking back up to the bar later to socialise but after an unsuccessful attempt to fish through a swarm of sandflies we gave up on both ideas!

Arnold River

Owens River Campground

Owens River Campground

We worked our way along the Motupiko and Motueka Rivers the next day, stopping at the McLeans Reserve to fish and again be eaten alive by sandflies. It looked like an inviting spot for a dip but we definitely weren't removing any clothing.

At a fishing shop in the town of Motueka Phil ran into Geoff and June from Yorkshire. Geoff was window shopping for a new fly reel, after leaving his at home but Phil had a spare he could borrow. After driving the mad mountain road to Takaka and fishing at Uruwhenua Bridge, we returned to a Takaka commercial campground which came with lots of rules and regulations. Apparently staying beyond the hour of 10 am meant paying for an extra day after spending most of your first day attending your laundry whilst in the machine. We met up with Geoff and June for a fun evening at the local pub.

We visited the northernmost part of South Island, Farewell Spit. This was a sandy, narrow stretch of land reaching out into the Tasman Sea. We hiked over the spit to Fossil Point on the ocean side.

As we'd come so far out of our way to reach the very north of the island, we were determined to see every landmark in the area and set off down a gravel road in search of the “Devil's Boots”. This was a weird rock formation, one rock each side of the road, resembling a giant pair of upside down boots.

Farewell Spit

One of the Devil's Boots apparently.

We attempted to visit a fishing access on the Aorere River, listed as “easy access with parking for multiple vehicles”. Again it seemed some artistic licence had been taken. If we had managed to fit our van in the small scrubby area presumably the “parking area” after surviving the trip down a steep gravel incline, we would have only found a fishing access sign in the midst of undergrowth so dense a machete or chainsaw was needed to get anywhere near the water.

Giving it up as a bad job, we parked up in Bainham for lunch before pressing on to Te Waikoropupu Springs, a stunning spot, where warm crystal clear water rose from the rocks, a sacred Maori site. When the ducks dived to the bottom, you could see them all the way. Apparently they didn't get the Maori memo about not having contact with the sacred waters!

Te Waikoropupu Springs

The day's adventures weren't over as we drove the winding but scenic road into Abel Tasman National Park. There were a couple of spots which were a bit tight where the road had been cut through the rock.

The trail we'd selected to hike proved to be inaccessible to our campervan, so by serendipity we ended up on an amazing hike to Wainui Falls. Then we only had to find our way back along the road to the Uruwhenua Reserve, where a fish was hooked but escaped!

Breathe in Charlie!

Wainui Falls

We headed back over the mountain to Motueka and through Nelson to the Rai River. Here we attempted another access, “follow the road to the access sign.” A few hundred yards into this road it was apparent that it was extremely narrow and seemed to end up in some private houses. We managed to get Charlie out of there by reversing all the way.

Stressed out by the ordeal we headed for the campsite at Pelorus Bridge, which was famous for its swimming holes. Eagerly we headed out from our campsite to the nearby river in our swimsuits, only to be eaten alive and those of us who actually stupid enough to venture into the icy water to be half frozen to death.

Rai River wide part of the fishing access road

Giving up on the idea of swimming, we returned to the Rai river to wade through thigh high weeds to reach the river at a different access spot.

On the return trip to Pelorus Bridge we found a spot to park on the main road and walked down the road we'd attempted earlier. When we finally worked out where the river access was and negotiated the steep steps down to the water, it turned out to be a beautiful spot with crystal clear water, again probably better for swimming than fishing if you were brave enough to survive the hungry bugs.

Back at the campground we headed to the River Trail, fishing rod in hand, only to find its whole length ran about fifty metres above the water through beautiful woodland. Not very conducive to fishing! Back at camp we spent a lovely evening with neighbours Doug and Ginny from Seattle.

So this was why we were risking life and limb earlier!

Queen Charlotte Scenic Drive


It was time to head to Picton for the ferry to North Island. We took the very scenic Queen Charlotte Drive along the coastal inlets, passing many islands along the way until we reached the city.

In Picton we visited the maritime museum where the country's oldest merchant ship, Edwin Fox, had been salvaged, dry-docked and partially renovated. It was fascinating to see the conditions under which people had made the long voyage to New Zealand in olden times.

Being camped right in the town, we decided we could paint it red for our last night on South Island. It turned out that we only managed a shade of pale pink as Friday night in Picton was far from wild.

Cabin for a trip half-way around the world anyone?

Phil checks the bilges.

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