Getting There: Wellington to Nelson

When you cross the Cook Strait and arrive in Picton, you don’t necessarily know where to go from there. Do I go to the east coast or to the west coast? We ended up in Nelson and saw a lot along the way.
Heidornmännchen waving goodbye to Wellington
We say farewell to Wellington as we move on to discover the South Island of New Zealand.

So last Sunday morning it was finally time to leave windy Welly and make our way to the South Island. We had bought tickets for the 8am Bluebridge Ferry from Wellington to Picton and since we had a vehicle, the check-in time was already 7am. Needless to say, we were pretty tired that morning and desperately searching for a decent coffee somewhere on board.

Crossing the Cook Strait

After boarding the ferry, parking our car on Deck 3 and heading for the communal area, the ferry proceeded to leave right on schedule. It was a fairly overcast and windy day in Wellington, so we were a bit worried about particularly choppy waters in the Cook Strait. Everyone we had spoken to had pointed out that the forecast always either said “rough” or “very rough” waters and a fair amount of people on their trips had had to grab on of those famous brown bags which are scattered around the ship, just incase you feel the need to unload your last meal.

Curious what it sounds like in the ferry’s communal area
Bluebridge Ferry communal area while crossing the Cook Strait
Bluebridge Ferry communal area while crossing the Cook Strait

But turns out it was absolutely fine in our case. Nothing out of the ordinary and the sky was also slowly clearing up here and there. The main section of the crossing went by rather quickly. After about 2 hours we were already headed into the Marlborough Sounds, passing Arapawa Island on the way. We headed to the top deck to take in the beautiful views. However, as you can imagine, it was so very windy out there and there’s a limit to how much head on winds we’re willing to take.

As we slowly sailed into Picton’s little harbour, clouds formed in the sky and the local weatherman decided it was time to provide us with his interpretation of rain: A drizzle. Living in Hamburg that obviously couldn’t shock us much. Though I must admit we had hoped for better weather.

Curious what it sounds like on the viewing deck?

Where to Stay?

We hadn’t booked any place to stay before we arrived in Picton. On multiple occasions locals had recommended us to travel with the weather as much as we can and it was unclear whether some of the rain and wind would head further towards the east coast or rather concentrate on the west coast. We ultimately decided that the west coast would make more sense initially, so we took the scenic route out of Picton and headed towards Havelock.

Heidornmännchen driving through the Malborough Sounds with their rental car "Lutz"
Heading from Wellington to Nelson, we pass through the long-winding roads of the Malborough Sounds.

What do I mean when I say scenic route? Well there’s essentially two way you can get there. The quickest route is about 60km. There’s a way that’s only half that distance (the scenic route), but since it’s basically a sequence of endless winding roads, it takes longer and unless you’re visiting New Zealand as a tourist, we wouldn’t really recommend taking it either. But hey, if you’re looking for a nice little dose of what the Marlborough Sounds have to offer, then this is the way to go.

Just before Havelock there’s also a nice little lookout called “Cullen Point Lookout“. It’s a very short walk up the hill (10min) and has some nice views onto Hoods Bay and Mahau Sound. So unless you’re in a rush, it’s a nice little stop along the way.

Curious what it sounds like at Cullen Point Lookout?
Cullen Point Lookout sign in the Marlborough Sounds

360° Photosphere of the Cullen Point Lookout

Have a look at the 360° photosphere below which will hopefully give a good idea of what to expect.

As we drove into Havelock we realized that it was still very early in the day. Originally we had considered staying at a camping site in Havelock. It’s a really tiny town but apparently home to it’s unique green mussels. Dozens of signs promoting the local wine and mussels festival made this very clear.

We weren’t quite ready yet to set up camp here, but we still wanted to see if we could grab us some of those mussels. Driving past the camp site we discovered a little mussels shop. Jackpot! A quick lunch would suffice and so we ordered ourselves a few of these green gems. We’re still not entirely sure whether the mussels are meant to also taste differently (to be honest, they don’t), but yes, they have a green-ish color and the ones we had tasted absolutely great!

Nelson Looks Nice

With our stomachs properly filled, we proceeded to head further west. We really weren’t quite sure where we were going to end up. Particularly since we still didn’t know how the weather would turn out in the next 2 days. It all seemed quite unpredictable. We knew that we might want to head up to Abel Tasman National Park in the following days, so we also did not want to drive too far.

Nelson, also located along the coast of Tasman Bay, seemed like a nice and reasonably big city. We decided this was where we wanted to spend the next 2 nights. So we took highway 6 towards Nelson, completed various additional sections of long-winding roads and put in one last little detour up to Cable Bay. The latter isn’t something most people would put on their list of highlights for New Zealand, but we wanted to explore a little bit and even though it’s really just a very small bay, it did not disappoint.

Curious what it sounds like at the super windy Cable Bay beachfront?
Cable Bay Recreation Reserve Sign
Cable Bay Recreation Reserve Sign

360° Photosphere of Cable Bay

Have a look at the 360° photosphere below which will hopefully give a good idea of what to expect.

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We would have stayed longer, but unfortunately the wind was blowing through the canyon-like area so strongly that you could barely hold your position. Therefore the most logical next step was to head into Nelson city and start looking for a place to spend the night. Luckily there were more than enough options. And one of the local Holiday Parks right on Tahunanui Beach also still had a lot of vacancies. So no time to waste, we booked a basic cabin for two nights.

Relaxing a bit in Nelson was great. But what next? Off to Abel Tasman National Park?

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