Day 43: Richmond
Today was a dedicated library day in Richmond for us to submit our Australian working holiday visas. By the time we had submitted the forms it was late in the day so we decided to stay in Richmond for one more night before hitting the road again tomorrow.
We stayed at Fittal Street Carpark, a 15 minute walk from Richmond town centre. We had views of the bay as well as access to toilets and a water supply.
Day 44: Richmond to Takaka Hill
We spent the morning walking along the waterfront and looking around Richmond town before we continued the venture towards Takaka Hill, a gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. The road is notoriously steep and winding which was a bit of struggle for our little camper, but we got there eventually.
We dropped the camper at Cobb River campsite for a well deserved rest, and walked down to the Riwaka Resurgence springs, just a 45 minute walk. The waters are considered to be sacred in Maori culture and are said to have powerful healing properties. Traditionally Maori people will not eat or swim at the sight. The water runs down from Takaka Hill and is crystal clear.
We headed back to the campsite for the night and planned our next few days of exploring Abel Tasman.
We stayed at Cobb River campsite which is an ideal location for exploring the Riwaka Resurgence Springs, however the toilet was pretty grim and there was zero coverage.
Day 45: Takaka Hill to Takaka
We continued up the steep and winding road towards the town of Takaka. En route we stopped at the Takaka Hill walkway, a 1.5 hour return walk through beech forest and marble rock formations to the top of Takaka Hill. The views from the summit were incredible. To the east we overlooked the Tasman mountains and Kahurangi National Park, with Golden Bay to the west. This was a pretty easy hike and definitely worth it for the views.
If a 5 km hike is not your thing, you can get similar views from Hawks lookout, which is on the way to Takaka. This is also a freedom camping site, however, the toilet is pretty horrible.
For the next 32 kms we continued to struggle uphill on route 60 but with the reward of amazing views over Kahurangi National Park.
We parked up just outside Takaka town for the night, had beers by the river, and watched the sun set.
Waitapu Bridge campsite is the only freedom campsite between Abel Tasman and Cape Farewell. All other campsites in Abel Tasman are quite expensive as this is such a popular tourist area. As a result, this campsite gets very busy but it can accommodate at least 30 campervans.
Day 44: Abel Tasman National Park
We awoke early to start exploring Abel Tasman. We drove to Totaranui Bay, a one hour drive from Takaka. This road was possibly one of the worst that we have driven on over the past 3 months. It was an unsealed gravel road for most of the journey.
Totaranui Bay is the start point for the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. This track is 60 km in total and takes 4-5 days to complete. There is an option to kayak half of the route and then walk the remainder which we have heard is really worthwhile. However, to do this track in its entirety will cost you. Accommodation is at least NZ$60 per person per night, and to kayak you are looking at least NZ$150 per person. Unfortunately this was totally out of our backpacking budget so we improvised by walking the first quarter and last quarter of the track as day walks, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out too much.
From Totaranui Bay we walked along the coast to the end of Goat Bay. This part of the walkway was mostly beach side with some inland coastal forestry track. We could not get over how white the sand was as well as the clear blue sea water. New Zealand really does have it all.
On the way back to Takaka we stopped off at the Wainui Falls track, a short 3 km walk through forestry to an impressive waterfall. This took about 1 hour return, including taking time for photographs and was well worth the detour.
We stayed another night in ‘Waitapu Bridge’ campsite.
Day 45: Cape Farewell
Today our adventures took us right up to the most Northerly point of the South Island; Cape Farewell. This is just a 45 minute drive from Takaka, and we thought, why not when we were that far anyways. This is part of New Zealand is not well advertised and for this reason many people leave if off their itinerary. After visiting here, we can’t help but think they are missing out.
The road is a straight forward coastal drive with gorgeous views along the way. The first stop is Farewell Spit. This is New Zealand’s longest sand spit spanning 25 kms. If you want to see every part of the 25 kms you must book a tour. Otherwise you can walk along the first 4 kms, which is of course the option we went for. Walking along the spit is nothing remarkable and it feels like a never ending beach. We would also advise looking up the tide times as we got there during low tide and it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. We ventured up to the sand dunes in the middle of the spit which looked like a massive desert and looked more like what we expected from the spit. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that we found out that there are huge patches of quick sand in the dunes and it is not advised to walk up there. However it was really gorgeous and made our trip to the spit worthwhile!
Next stop was Cape Farewell, the northern most point of the South Island. This is where we got some of the most breath-taking views of the trip with dramatically sculpted quartz sandstone cliffs dropping vertically into the Tasman sea. The viewpoint is only a 100 meter walk from the car park and here you can see the eroded archway that Cape Farewell is known for. Most people turn back towards their cars after seeing this, but we decided to explore a bit further off the beaten track. We walked over the green rolling hills to the right of the viewpoint and we were awarded with the most incredible views of the sandstone cliffs and Farewell spit.
Our final excursion for the day was Wharariki Beach. To reach this beach you must walk 20 minutes through farm land inhabited with sheep and a section of forestry before arriving onto the beautiful windswept coast. It was nothing like we have seen before, resembling a desert more than a beach. The sand dunes were surrounded by sandstone cliffs with views overlooking Cape Farewell arch and numerous sea stacks. We were also lucky enough to spot some fur seals playing in the waves.
The trip up to Cape Farewell, although not a well explored tourist region, proved itself to be one of the most scenic parts of New Zealand to date.
We stayed one final night in Waitapu Bridge campsite in Takaka.
Day 46: Takaka to Motueka
Our plan for today was to leave Tasman district and drive to the Nelson Lakes. On the way we stopped at the Te Waikoropupu Springs; the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand and the largest cold-water springs in the southern hemisphere. There is a great 20 minute loop walk that takes you through bush land to the lakes. It is certainly some of the clearest water that we have ever seen.
On our way down towards the Nelson lakes our little van got into some difficulty so we had to re-route to the closest town of Motueka. This is where we had to spend the weekend as it was a Saturday, and nothing is open in New Zealand over the weekend. This ended up being a blessing in disguise as we met a lovely German couple that have since become really good friends.
We spent the weekend in Port Motueka Beach reserve a lovely seaside freedom camp spot. The facilities were brilliant for a free campsite, with a bbq and cold showers available. It was also just a short walk to the Janie Seddon ship wreck and salt water baths.
Day 47: Motueka
In the morning we wandered into the local Sunday markets and picked up fresh fruit, vegetables and veggie burgers for the bbq. The town otherwise was completely shut for the weekend, a reality in New Zealand that we have gotten used to.
We took a stroll along the beach and explored the Janie Seddon ship wreck and relaxed in the sun for the rest of the day. Hopefully we will be back on the road tomorrow and ready to continue our adventures.
Thanks for reading,
Róisín & Bernard