During a recent road trip of the South Island I rediscovered my favourites but was also overwhelmed by spectacular sights that barely get a mention..and all in my own own country.
We flew into Nelson known for enjoying the most sunlight hours in New Zealand. And yes it was certainly sunny! I've always been fond of this town known for it's flourishing Art scene and this time was no different. The main streets were lit up by bountiful flower baskets and there were even more restaurants and cafes to tempt the tastebuds whatever time of day.
First choice for dinner was the harbourside Boatshed Cafe(http://boatshedcafe.co.nz/) and we were fortunate to secure a last minute booking...certainly worth it as our table overlooked the night waters glinting under the full moon. Fantastic food,wine, service and atmosphere made for a special evening..highly recommended and I will return!
While in Nelson a simple but free activity is to take a stroll along Hardy St to Botannical Hill,claimed to be the geographical centre of New Zealand-if you're hardy enough to reach the summit take time to enjoy the sweeping coastal views.
Heading for the wild West Coast we stopped for a break in the Nelson Lakes Nationa Park area.. just over an hour's drive south of Nelson. Well, what a contrast! The terrain certainly had an Alpine flavour (and scent) and the village of St. Arnaud could have been set in Switzerland or even Colorado. However, the piece de resistance was without doubt...Lake Rotoiti. It was raining but the lurking mist provided for one of the most stunning scenes I've ever encountered only to be enhanced by a quadrophonic chorus of bellbirds-a definite photo opportunity. This area happens to be a year round destination and is ideal for both boating and hiking in the warmer months and then skiing in the Winter. Stop by the very impressive DOC Visitor Centre. There you'll appreciate the park's history and can pick up maps and advice about the many local hikes..some with a higher degree of difficulty than others.
It may have been a short stop but it was enough for us to plan for a return visit..maybe involving a cottage stay-not forgetting the necessary bug repellant as sandflies often have the upper hand.
Next installment...the West Coast.
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