On my previous trip to the South Island of New Zealand with my granddaughter, I did not make it to the north end before time ran out. I wanted to make sure George and I got to do it. Not staying in Queenstown gave us more time.
Buller River gorge
We took Hwy 6 from Westport and headed northeast. Along the way as we drove down the beautiful Buller River gorge, Tourist Radio advised that we were approaching New Zealand's longest swingbridge. It was a fun break to cross the Buller River on the bridge,and see the uplifted fault line at the epicenter of the June 17, 1929 earthquake.
They offer jet boat rides and goldpanning in addition to crossing the bridge and doing some short hikes. And if you are a little adventuresome, you can ride the Cometline back in either a swing or harness. I zoomed across on a swing!
Tracks in the north
I'm hard put to say whether the Catlins or the north is my favorite part of the island. In the north, we hiked on both the Abel Tasman and the Queen Charlotte tracks. In both cases we took a boat out, were dropped off and then were picked up at a distant location several hours later. In both cases we had a variety of hikes or walks of varying lengths to choose from. Overnight gear could be transported to the evening's destination eliminating the need to carry it. And both places—by land and by sea—were gorgeous.
For Abel Tasman, we could get picked up at our holiday park. The Queen Charlotte meeting place was a short walk from our park. In both cases we could leave our campervan parked. Picton, where you access the Queen Charlotte Sound, has inexpensive day parking for those who prefer that.
We stayed in Matueka to access the Abel Tasman. We did a trip where we hiked 10-11 km. If we came back to this area in the future, I'd probably get a three-day boat pass and do more than one hike.
In this area there were all sorts of options for activities. Sea kayaking, sailing, multi-day tramping and wine tasting are just a few. Young people flock to the area. We had a pretty nice day for our boat ride, which made numerous stops, and for our hike. Our boat from Able Tasman Sea Shuttle pulled into several drop off/pickup points on the way to the last one in the national park. We were given a narrative on the way out about the land, sea and history. On the way back, we were dropped off at Torrent Bay and hiked to Medlands for a later pickup. People were dropped off at each stop so lots of hikers were going each way. We waited about an hour on the beach for a pickup.
At the east point of the north coast is Picton and the Queen Charlotte Sound. The Queen Charlotte track follows the Sound. Here we did a 15 km hike from Ship Cove where Captain Cook first landed to Furneaux Lodge in Endeavour Inlet. Cougar Line offers several excursions plus serves as a water taxi and delivery boat for houses and businesses all along the Sound. It was less of a tour, stopping only where passengers or items needed pickup or drop off. The nice thing about this hike is that the group of 15 hikers or so that were dropped off quickly spread out and we only saw others twice, just as they were moving on. And, the lodge served food and drinks so we could get a bite to eat or drink while waiting for the boat.
You can bike the track or walk all or part of the 70 km. You can do many other activities here too, including swimming, fishing, sailing, sea kayaking, mountain biking, bird watching, diving and historic side trips. Glow worm grottos add to the walkway's nightlife. The two locations are must-stops if you like to hike. Or if you like scenic boat tours, kayaking or seeing birds and marine life, Abel Tasman National Park and Queen Charlotte Sound should be on your itinerary.
Our time is drawing to a close. Time to head south to Kaikoura. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak