New Zealand: Nelson and South St

27 04 2009

While we only stayed one night in Nelson, we wish we could have stayed longer.  We had not heard much about this city before our arrival. In fact, we only stayed in Nelson so that we could save an hour on the next day’s drive.  What we found, however, was a small but vibrant city that had a lot to offer. Not only is Nelson known for its art and music scene, but it also has a walkable and interesting historic downtown with beautiful Victorian architecture.  Did I mention that it is also one of the sunniest places in NZ?

Trafalgar Street in Nelson, NZ

You can take a relaxing stroll down Trafalgar Street, where we saw many inviting food stands and cafes.  Strangely enough, we saw a falafel stand, a German sausage stand, and a Japanese food stand.  We also saw lots of interesting shops, galleries, and boutiques, many housed in restored Victorian buildings.  We stopped by both an exotic knitting store and a wool outlet shop, among other places.

Trafalgar Street looking towards Church Hill.

We saw this cute coffee kiosk downtown.

Believe it or not, but this quaint Victoian building near Church Hill houses a law office. 

As always in NZ, this side street was clean and tidy.

On the recommendation of our B&B hosts, we made sure to take a walk down historic South Street.  South Street is famous because it is New Zealand’s oldest fully preserved street.  The cottages on South Street were built for local trademen and date back to 1863.   South Street is located just to the right of Church Hill.  

The houses were mostly wooden framed cottages, tiny by modern standards, but adequate for the 19th century tradesmen.

I loved the framing around the roofs.  Many cottage had what looked like steeples on them.

It’s amazing how a few decorative slats can transform a boring wooden house into a beautiful cottage reminicent of a gingerbread house.

Next: A Scenic Drive Along the Coast, some wine, and Kaikoura


Review: A Charming Inn in Nelson, NZ

22 04 2009

Over the course of our visit to NZ, we stayed at a multitude of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and apartments in a variety of price ranges. All of our experiences were extremely positive. From the high end B&B on Waiheke Island, to the gigantic apartment in Queenstown, to the very hospitable B&B in Kaiteriteri, everyone we encountered was ultra friendly, helpful, and contributed greatly to our NZ experience. Our favorite place to stay, however, was the charming Baywick Inn bed and breakfast in Nelson.

The Baywick Inn in Nelson, NZ

The Baywick Inn is an elegant but comfortable bed and breakfast located in a beautifully restored Victorian house in Nelson. The B&B is owned by a Kiwi and Canadian couple, Tim and Janet, who have poured their hearts and souls into the restoration of this beautiful home. Everything we saw was well maintained, clean, and wonderfully decorated. We loved the B&B from our first glimpse.

Janet was a chef in Canada, and it shows! Her breakfast was superb, and only enhanced by the interesting and lively conversation we had at breakfast. I can personally attest that her homemade Muesli is awesome. Be sure to ask her about all her Princess Diana tins and other memorabilia!

The Breakfast Room

We stayed in the Parkdale Suite, which in my opinion, is the best room in the B&B. The bedroom is beautifully decorated in a Kiwi Victorian style. Everything was placed for both looks and comfort, including the inviting bed. After hiking all day, this little piece of civilization was a dream to come home to.

The Parkdale has a modern ensuite bathroom that includes both a shower and a claw footed tub. LOVE!

The Parkdale also includes a private enclosed porch with a wonderful view of the middle of New Zealand. I am being serious – the white pole you see at the top of the mountain is the geographic center (centre) of New Zealand. 

We wish we could have spent more time just sitting on this porch contemplating life with our cool drinks. We slept with the windows open and it was divine.

Should you wish to relax outside, the Baywick Inn also has a nice outdoor area for guest use.

Now for the practicalities – the Baywick Inn is located about a 10 minute walk from downtown Nelson. Being in Nelson, it is close to the area wineries, art, and shopping, and about one hour from Abel Tasman National Park. As mentioned earlier, you can hike to the center of New Zealand, which is supposed to be a nice scenic walk. The inn provides a computer for guest internet use for a small fee, but there is also free wireless internet throughout the house.

We only stayed a night at the Baywick Inn and we wish could have stayed longer. We felt truly relaxed at this B&B. In addition, Nelson has enough sites and activities that a visitor could easily spend 2-3 days here and never be bored.  Next time we are in the Nelson area, we will definitely be ringing up Janet and Tim for another stay here!

New Zealand: Abel Tasman National Park

20 04 2009

After arriving in Picton, we drove straight to Kaiteriteri Beach, our home base for the next two days.  The plan was to kayak the entire length of Abel Tasman National Park, which is located on the beautiful northern coast of the South Island.  Abel Tasman National Park is a pristine coastal wonderland, featuring hiking trails, camping grounds, and a multitude of beaches along the clear turquoise waters, and that’s just on the land.  By sea kayak, visitors can explore private coves, enjoy inaccessible beaches, and witness a multitude of sealife in their native habitat, including dolphins and seals.  A seal colony resides on Tonga Island, located just off the coast on the northern end of the park.  The park is also serviced by frequent water taxi service that pick up and drop off at various points in the park.  

Abel Tasman National Park, as seen from the sea.

We decided to stay in Kaiteriteri because it’s as close as you can get to the park.  There is a tiny hamlet called Marahau that is even closer to the park, but boats and kayaks launch from both places.  Another alternative for a place to stay near the park is Motueka, a small town 15 minutes south of Kaiteriteri.  Many of the sea kayaking operations offer van service from Nelson as well, but you have to wake up earlier to catch them.  We elected to stay at a friendly B&B called Robyn’s Nest located on the hill above Kaiteriteri.  

Kaiteriteri Beach is a crescent shaped white sand beach located just ouside of Abel Tasman National Park.  We arrived in Kaiteriteri right in time to see this magenta sunset.  

Kaiteriteri Beach

Unfortunately, that first glimpse of Kaiteriteri Beach was the only time we would have clear skies for the next day and a half.  On the first day of our planned sea kayaking excursion, our trip was cancelled due topouring rain with strong winds.  We lost an entire day because the weather was too rough for any outdoor activities.  Although it stopped raining for most of the second day, our sea kayaking trip was cancelled again due to continued high winds.  We were able to salvage our visit, however, by going hiking (or as the Kiwis call it, tramping) instead.  

We were still able to see part of the park from the water, however, because we made use of the water taxis to deposit us in the park.  The water taxi is an easy way to arrange hiking expeditions in the park because they drop you off and pick you up.  The companies do this all day long and can arrange hikes from short to long.  We chose to hike the trail between Bark Bay and Torrent Bay, said to be the one of the most scenic parts of the trail.

On the way to Bark Bay, our water taxi stopped by the famous Split Apple Rock so we could snap some photos.

Split Apple Rock, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

We started our hike at Bark Bay, which is the site of one of the campsites along the trail.

Bark Bay is a white sand beach with crystal clear blue water.

The trail between Bark Bay and Torrent Bay takes about 2.5 hours to hike. It takes you along the coast, where you will catch glimpses of the glittering sea, and inland, where you will feel like you are walking in a primeval forest.  The trail is well maintained and while it has steep sections, it is not a difficult hike.  We were mostly distracted by all the natural beauty on the way.

Because of the rain, the park was especially green on the day of our hike.

Along the first half of the trail is a fork that leads to an ocean view. The sign will say that it is a 10 minute detour. Take the detour because the view is FANTASTIC! Be advised that the trail is 10 minutes each way though.

We had a picnic lunch here.

It was hard to gauge how long the trail would take us to complete because there are not a lot of signs. However, I believe that if you walk at a normal pace, you will be able to make your pick up time easily.

According to the map that was given to us by the water taxi company, this bridge over the Falls River is about the midpoint of the trail. There is a sign there that says Torrent Bay is still an hour and 45 minutes away. This is an overestimation. It did not take nearly as long to get back to Torrent Bay. We rushed a bit from here and got to Torrent Bay in about an hour. You could easily walk from the Falls River to Torrent Bay in an hour and 15 minutes.

You have to walk across this swing bridge to meet your boat!

The Falls River

Finally, we reached Torrent Bay.

Another gorgeous beach awaits at Torrent Bay.

We were picked up at Torrent Bay by water taxi and driven back to Kaiteriteri. I believe the water taxi will wait for you if you are a little late getting back to the meeting point because the driver asked for us by name. We also learned a funny Kiwi saying from the driver when he was giving someone directions. He said, “First you make a left at X, go two blocks, take a right, then Bob’s your Uncle!” Apparently, it means the same thing as “good as gold,” another common Kiwi saying.

The ride back to Kaiteriteri was also very scenic.

When we got back, we finally got to see clear skies on Kaiteriteri Beach.


While we were disappointed that we didn’t get to do the two days of sea kayaking as planned, we were happy that we were still able to see the beauty of Abel Tasman National Park on foot.  In fact, now that I have hiked Abel Tasman, I would recommend seeing it this way as well!  This is especially convenient for those who are short on time.  Hopefully next time we will be able to explore the park on a sea kayak.

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