Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Our NZ Christmas

Christmas Eve
We pack our bags again and head off up to Picton. It’s a beautiful bright sunny day, we stop at a supermarket to get provisions for our Christmas w/e then drive up through the mountains, and along a river valley through old gold rush towns, stopping in Havelock to look at their funny little museum and flea market where we pick up a few bargains, arriving at Picton at about 2pm. The owners live in the bottom half of the house which is smothered with Xmas lights and decorations, and they’ve kindly supplied us with a few bits to get us in the mood. The place is comfortable and fully equipped with a large hot tub on the verandah. We wander into Picton which seems to have more boats than houses, then go for a swim down by the harbour. This is where the interisland ferry comes in from Wellington, it’s a really busy little harbour and marina.

Picton Harbour

Christmas Day
Driving through the Marlborough vineyards till we reach the Port Underwood Road that takes us along the coastal route up to Whites Bay, we decided we had to do the local thing and spend some time on the beach for Christmas Day. But we start off doing a circular walk, Black Jacks Track, through bush up to a look out, where we stop for our Christmas lunch of cheese and gherkin sandwiches. It’s very warm and we’re enjoying the cool shade of the bush. From the top of the ridge Mike spots 2 whales way below us swimming near the shoreline. Whites Bay is a local beauty spot and quite a few families have put up tents in shady spots behind the beach, everyone very relaxed and happy.  It’s a beautiful unspoilt beach and we enjoy a long swim, before setting off home, exploring  Monkey Bay on the way. Back home we have lamb, silverbeet and Jersey Bennies for dinner (they’re not real Jerseys of course, but a reasonable imitation). I manage to bite on a piece of bone, breaking a piece off one of my molars. After dinner we struggle to do a family skype the kids but the internet connection just isn’t up to it, so we end up watching an ancient episode of Dragnet on the telly before bed. It’s been a lovely day but not remotely like Christmas. Too hot to use the hot tub unfortunately.

Whites Bay on Christmas morning
View from the top of the ridge up the coast to Port Underwood
Boxing Day
What an amazing day! A really early start as we have to check in at the harbour at 7.30 with packed lunch and so on. The boat takes us up Charlotte Sound to Ship Cove on the eastern end of the peninsular where we do a leisurely 5 hour walk back westward to be picked up again at Furnaux Lodge. It’s one of those clear calm days with the sea’s like a mill pond. We’re soon surrounded by flocks of shearwaters skimming low over the surface of the sea. The captain then leisurely points out that there’s a few bottle nosed dolphins up ahead. The few turns out to be a really large school of dolphins, ducking and diving, chasing the boat and swimming underneath it, all just for fun it seems. There are babies swimming beside their mothers as well, and it is just the most amazing spectacle: there must be about a hundred of them surrounding us.

Setting off from Picton early morning Boxing Day

Ship Cove jetty where the boat drops us

Ship Cove is a lovely tranquil spot, visited no less than 5 times by Captain Cook, who came here to mend his ships and stock up with fish. Now there’s just an old jetty with a large info board, a few Maori carvings and a toilet block. The Queen Charlotte track begins here and meanders 3-4 days walk westward. We begin climbing quite steeply through natural unspoilt bush, and then drop over a col down into Resolution Bay. The Marlborough Sounds must be idyllic for people with boats: it’s a large area of peninsulas and islands, so there are masses of tiny coves and bays with no roads, boats being the only transport; so on a day like today, with just a light breeze, the sea is a wonderful turquoise blue and it’s as close to Paradise as one can imagine.


We’re just getting peckish when we come upon a picnic table where a few of our fellow travellers are gathered along with a group of wekas. They’re large flightless birds with tiny stunted wings, similar in shape to kiwis but without that great long beak. They’re very friendly, and are here begging for food. They grunt at us and skuttle around under our feet after the best deal. Really comical. We follow the coastline from here on more or less, and the bush changes from tree ferns to mostly manuka and beech. We’re hearing lots of bell birds and eventually see some, they’re olive green and are easily camouflaged up in the trees but their loud resonant song is unmistakable. Getting tired as we approach Furnaux Lodge where we drink tea and await the boat. The dolphins join us again on the return journey in spectacular fashion, it’s been quite a day to remember.

Looking down on Resolution Bay from the Queen Charlotte Track

27 December
Pack up again and head on back to Nelson a different way. First we visit the Wairu Lagoon bird Reserve, but it’s a hot still day, the birds are all hiding and there’s no shade, so we don’t last very long. We stop at Blenheim for coffee then drive back through the Wairu River valley between the Wither Hills and the Richmond Range, with famous vineyards all the way along. By then it’s nearly lunchtime so of course we just have to stop at the Cloudy Bay Winery for lunch, and a little bit of wine tasting while we’re here. You can sample 6 different wines for $5 which seems really cheap and the lunches are terrific, eaten out in the garden with misty lines of hills beyond the vineyards just like the Cloudy Bay wine labels. We stop again at the Nelson Lakes and do a short walk from the Visitor Centre at St Arnaud. Fish & chips back in our Nelson Motel.

Leaving South Island
We had a terrific holiday in Picton and because it’s hot Summer over here, we're out exploring every day and it's not a bit like Christmas so we didn’t really miss the kids any more than usual. Mike having the chance to work down here has been a fantastic opportunity for us to see another part of New Zealand, having accommodation and flight paid for, and my being able to slot into working in the local Hospice Shop has meant that I can keep busy doing something useful too. Beginning to feel like a gypsy with all the moving around though so quite looking forward to returning to our Auckland home on Friday, where we've been told Santa's paid us a visit.


  1. Wow looks lovely and as you say almost Paradise like there. A great way to spend Christmas Day and the following few days too, so different to what we do back here!

    Certainly getting to see the islands and the scenic side of NZ and we love seeing the pics. Loved the little video clip of the bird of course!

    Enjoy checking in now and then to read the updates of your life down under! :o)

  2. What do you mean not missing the kids?!

    Happy New Year!