Nelson and Golden Bay

A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Wellington and then Nelson with a colleague, Chris, from work. We had meetings with DOC (Department of Conservation) in both cities. After our meeting in Nelson on Friday morning we drove down to St Arnaud beside Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park.

If your hovercraft needs topping up with eels then Lake Rotoiti is not the place!
It would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

I dropped Chris off at the airport later that afternoon. I checked in to the Custom House backpackers hostel that night which was exactly what it said on the tin. I had a great meal on Friday night at the Boat Shed Cafe, a Nelson institution.

On Saturday morning I had breakfast at Lambrettas cafe, another Nelson institution and definitely recommended.

I was a little disappointed it was cloudy when the forecast was for clear skies. I then drove to Motueka, a wee bit inland and up, up, up. The gravel track up to Flora Saddle carpark is a cracker. There are sections that are seriously steep, steep enough that an aggressive approach was required in a little front wheel drive rental car. There were pitches where I was trying to maintain some speed, but was getting slower as the front wheels were struggling for traction until the gradient eased a bit. Fun, but not for the faint-hearted when you see the drop-offs at the side of the track. A good friend recommended walking here and he was right. Starting at over 900m, well above the low cloud below, it was brilliantly clear and sunny.

The splendid view from just below the Flora Saddle.

I walked part of the Flora Track, past the Flora Hut and on to the Gridiron Rock Shelters, the site of one of NZ’s gold-rushes.

Gridiron Gulch sign tilts to the gold-rush history, used to be a population of 471 apparently.

The Upper Gridiron Shelter has a hut with bunks and a fire-pit outside. The Lower Gridiron Shelter is alfresco but looks like a cool place to spend a night.

Lower Gridiron Rock Shelter

A 15km round-trip, not particularly challenging, but stunning scenery and interesting history.

I had booked a night in a cottage at the Eatery on the Rock, just outside Takaka, the hub of Golden Bay. From Motueka there is the amazingly tortuous Takaka hill road over to Golden Bay. I thoroughly enjoyed driving my little rental car like I stole it. You can have a lot of fun in the smallest rental car on a really twisty road and you’re nowhere near the speed limit! Whilst enjoyable in a wee hire car, it would be fun beyond description on two wheels – it could outdo the amazingly twisty road I traversed on a rental VFR800 in the Sierra Nevada’s a couple of years ago – even if that topped out at 11,000 ft compared to less than 3000 ft on the Takaka hill road.

The weather forecast for the Sunday was appalling, so I explored as far as I could that evening. Golden Bay is a beautiful area and I will definitely head back on the motorbike, to tramp, or to get on, or in the water. I had a great dinner, the pan-fried deep-sea dory was cooked to perfection. Overnight the weather did turn to poo as forecast. It was absolutely chucking it down, so I headed straight back to Nelson and managed to get an earlier flight home to Hawkes Bay.

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