The best part of being on a campervan road trip is the discovery of new gems of places that we had never even heard of! We just finished our third campervan trip around New Zealand and this time was extra special as we got to do it with our very good friends and their 10 month old baby visiting us from Thailand 🙂
We travelled from Auckland down to Wellington in the North Island, stopping at our old favourite spot Kerosene Creek, Rotorua and Lake Taupo. From Wellington, we took a day trip to Kapiti Island before taking the ferry across to South Island. Ashique saw dolphins during the cook straits crossing!
In the South Island, we explored the Nelson and Marlborough region followed by Kaikoura and then made our way down to Christchurch where we dropped the campervan off and flew back to Auckland. It was a brilliant 10 days of sunshine, beaches, turquoise waters, mountains, bushwalks, waterfalls, feasting and ending 2015 and starting 2016 on such a positive travel high 🙂
Whilst I sift through the hundreds of pictures and ponder on the many posts I plan to write about our epic journey, here are five of the best non planned highlights of the South Island part of our trip:
- Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve
After we arrived in South Island, the plan was to slowly make our way to Abel Tasman National Park, over two days. We spent the first night in Havelock in the Marlborough Sounds – the Greenshell Mussel Capital of the world. The next day we set off for Abel Tasman and along the way we discovered our new favourite swimming hole in New Zealand. We had no plans for any activity that day other than to get to golden bay and perhaps do some wine tasting…and then we passed this bridge over a river…and we just had to jump in 🙂 The water was absolutely gorgeous, just the right temperature, crystal clear and the colours, wow! Ashique and the kids had so much fun jumping in from the high rocks. Pelorus Bridge was one of the best experiences of this trip so far. There is also a bushwalk one can do around the scenic reserve but we were having too much fun in the water.
2. Wild Earth Cafe
We went wine tasting after swimming at Pelorus bridge and during the winetasting the person guiding us through the tasting gave us some recommendations for when were in Abel Tasman. Most of it was around the famous coastal walk and kayaking in the area. He also mentioned about this place where one can go salmon fishing and next to it was a cafe which had some petting animals. We thought that sounds good as Ashique and the kids could do some fishing and we can introduce our 10 month old guest to farm animals. He lives in the concrete jungle of Bangkok and hasn’t seen many animals yet. Little did we know what a gem of a place Wild Earth actually was!
Wild Earth is located on the banks of the Anatoki River and surrounded by native bush, and it was so much more than a cafe! In their own words – “Wild Earth is a magical world where friendly animals, nature, history, and art combine” Run by this inspiring family who have implemented the principals of permaculture at their farm, the place was just the perfect environment to have a fun-filled relaxing family afternoon, and we did just that. From spinning poi, our old favourite pastime, hula hoops, rope swings, Tibetan bells, abundance of green space, amazing food and wine, and lots of happy and healthy farm animals to delight the kids and grownups alike.
3. Nelson Lake National Park
After we had spent a wonderful two days in Abel Tasman, we were heading to Kaikoura, but it was a five hour drive so we wanted to stop the night somewhere in between to break up the journey. The Nelson Lake National Park just happened to be that midpoint and once again we were not expecting to find anything so wonderful as we did.
I think this part of South Island is underrated and it’s not surprising as Nelson Lakes are completely overshadowed by Abel Tasman on the top and the stunning West coast on the left, both of which are amazing. We stayed at a lovely free site by and the next day we spent the morning enjoying coffee and swimming in the clear cold waters of lake Rotoiti. We had stopped here the night before and it was swarming with sandflies, but thankfully this morning there was none.
4. Pupu Springs, Takaka
We would not have know about Pupu Springs had it not been for a friend in Wellington who told us about these sacred waters, apparently the clearest and purest water in all of New Zealand. Pictures don’t do it justice, you had to see it for yourself and look into the bottom of the lake to understand how clear the water really was!
The Maori people of this region say this is wahi tapu, sacred water. In earlier times they used the water for healing, ceremonial blessings and the departure and return of travellers. Before people used to be allowed to swim in the lake but now all that is banned. There is a leisurely half hour way around the springs, passing through bush (and purple rocks?) and in the parking lot there were billboards with information on the geology and ecology of the springs. We were hoping to see some of the creatures listed on the billboard but we only saw some water birds, algae and marvelled at the beautiful colours and crystal clear water.
5. Wairau River Vineyard, Malborough
On the last leg of the journey, we were headed to Kaikoura for two days so our friends could go whale watching. We were driving through the Marlborough famous wine region and Ashique casually suggested that we stop for a last wine tasting session. We needed to have lunch as well so we looked up vineyards with cafe. We sure chose well when we stopped at Wairau River Vineyard because we had the best meal of our entire trip at this Vineyard Restaurant! Enjoying great wine and food whilst soaking up the sun, large area for the kids to play out and lovely stroll through the vineyard, we couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the last day of 2015 🙂
So there you have it, our top five unplanned highlights of our epic 10 days campervan trip. I love these simple moments – finding good food, coming across beautiful natural sites and meeting people who inspire you. Ashique and I would love to have a farm and cafe like Wild Earth when we move to Bangladesh, where we can have visitors enjoy a day in the countryside. Who knows, maybe it might actually happen..
These new adventures and discoveries is what we enjoy most during slow travel and long road trips 🙂 Have you had some great unexpected finds in your travels? Do share some of your stories in the comments below!