Sounds and Sights from the Centre of New Zealand…

Sounds and Sights from the Centre of New Zealand…

We woke up to a beautiful day in Nelson after camping at the designated parking site just five minutes out of the city. It was a Saturday so we decided to pay a visit to Nelson’s Saturday Market at Montgomery Square, where we had heard that we could also find a shower!

The market was heaving with local people browsing the stalls, which were filled with all sorts of produce from clothing and knick knacks to fruit & veg, handmade snacks and other unique local products. Before we decided to join the crowds however, we sought out the public shower facilities and spruced ourselves up!

After that we made our way around the bustling market, stopping to sample a few Nelson rarities including whisky blended with lime and honey, Sauvignon Blanc fruit juice and red wine and Venison pie!

Once we had been around every stall we headed back to the camper and drove to Botanic Hill – one of the most famous landmarks in Nelson (and perhaps the whole country) as it is allegedly the official “Centre of New Zealand”. To get to the “centre” of the country – so called because it is the ‘zero, zero’ point from which the first surveys were started in the 1870’s by Nelson’s Chief Surveyor – we first had to climb Botanic Hill! This was perhaps the steepest hill we have climbed in a long time and with the baking sun beating down on us; it really was a hard slog! It took us around 25 minutes to reach the top, where we were rewarded with views of the city and surrounding hills, as well as a plaque signalling the significance of the spot!

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After taking in the views for a few minutes (as well as catching our breath) we headed back down the hill, which was much more pleasant than going up! Botanic Hill leads onto a reserve which just so happens to be another famous spot in the history of New Zealand. The Botanic Reserve is the site of the country’s first ever Rugby Match, played between Nelson Football Club and Nelson College in 1870. Charles Monro, a former Nelson College student, attended school in Finchley, England where he was initiated into the game of Rugby. Upon his return to New Zealand he convinced the newly formed Nelson Football Club to try this new game and the rest is history!

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We couldn’t spend too much longer in Nelson as we had a ferry booked to return to the North Island later that day. The Picton ferry terminal was only a couple of hours drive away but we wanted to be able to take our time along the Queen Charlotte Drive so that we could stop and take in the views of the Marlborough Sounds.

The Queen Charlotte Drive takes you all the way into Picton and starts at the town of Havelock, 73km east of Nelson. Pretty much as soon as you turn onto this picturesque road you are confronted with viewpoints of the Sounds below. The first one we reached was Cullen Point which was absolutely beautiful – we could see right the way down Mahau Sound.

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Continuing our drive east towards Picton we soon arrived at Governor’s Bay – a pretty lookout above a small inlet and white sandy beach.

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It wasn’t long before we neared Picton itself, so we stopped at Shakespeare’s Bay lookout to take a look at the town and Marina below.

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After having our last ‘South Island’ dinner overlooking the bay at Picton Foreshore, it was time to board the ferry for the three hour crossing to Wellington. It was very sad to leave the South Island behind as it has given us so many amazing memories and we also knew that our time in New Zealand would soon be coming to an end. But we still had a few days until our flight left from Auckland, so we were determined to continue making the most of it!!

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