Monday 22nd January is Wellington Anniversary day, a public holiday in the Wellington region. We decided to make a long weekend of it and take a short break to Nelson for a few days. We hadn’t been to Nelson since October 2015, when we concentrated on the Nelson lakes area. This time we decided to re-visit the Abel Tasman track in the Abel Tasman National Park, which we’d not visited since – blimey! – 2012.
To this end, we decided to base ourselves in Motueka instead of Nelson town. This is a small town on the opposite side of Tasman Bay, a short drive from Nelson. We took a Sounds Air flight into Nelson – for which you fly due west, even though it’s on the South Island. This part of the South Island is in fact on the same parallel as Wellington.
We collected a rental car and decided to drive into Nelson first, as we wouldn’t be checking in until the afternoon. We re-familiarised ourselves with the town, and had a light lunch at Ford’s Restaurant. In the afternoon we walked up the river track and watched ducks shooting the rapids with some success, and some backpackers attempting to do so with rather less. (They had to get out and walk – too shallow!) After taking a quick turn around the Queen’s Gardens, we headed back and took the short drive round to Motueka (or MotchOOka, as the car’s Australian-accented satnav insisted on calling it). We checked into our accommodation, and then went out to New World to stock up on provisions for our stay.
In the evening we went out to what TripAdvisor reckons is probably the best restaurant in Motueka. We later learnt that this wasn’t due to fierce competition. Precinct Dining Co provide good, fresh, well-cooked food, presented and served well. It’s nothing fancy, but otherwise you can’t really fault it.
The following morning, we made our leisurely way to Kaiteriteri, to pick up our ride to the Abel Tasman track. We’d booked ahead with Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles (I had to check this, as there are four different companies, all with very similar names) to take us to Tonga Quarry, with a pick-up at Medlands Beach. This is a more northerly section of the track than we’d done last time, but still takes about the same time to walk. On the way we passed Split Apple Rock, and also had a quick tour around Adele Island, where we saw a baby seal and her mum. The baby was only about a week old, and had yet to venture into the water, apparently.
The boat dropped us at Tonga Quarry and, after a quick stop to take some pics of a weka which was scrounging around the campers on the beach, we set off on the track. It was a hot day so we took it easy, with frequent stops especially on the uphill stretches. A fantail (a juvenile I think) posed for some pictures for us on the way. We also saw bellbirds, but too far away to photograph (I’d left my big lens behind as it’s too heavy to lug about). You realise how spoilt we are in Wellington with Zealandia, and how tame the birds there are compared to in the wild.
Despite taking it easy, we were in fact at the pick-up beach in time for the 1:30pm return trip – we’d originally planned for the 3:30pm return. No point hanging around an empty beach for two hours, we thought…let’s get back and explore Motueka further.
In the late afternoon we went out looking for Motueka beach. This turned out to be a schoolboy error – it doesn’t have one. What it has instead is the saltwater baths – i.e. a swimming pool which fills up from the sea with every high tide; and a sandspit, which is home to various seabirds. We saw oystercatchers both pied and variable, bar-tailed godwits, white-faced herons and pied stilts.
We got some dinner later at Elevation Café in Motueka. We liked it so much we went back there for breakfast the next day.