Swing Bridges and Sandy Bays…

Swing Bridges and Sandy Bays…

After leaving our sea-side camp in Westport’s North Beach, we spent a few hours in the town sorting out our laundry, filling up with petrol, showering and using the internet before setting off once again!

We drove through the beautiful Buller Gorge en route to the Abel Tasman National Park. The Buller Gorge is not only famous for its stunning natural scenery but also for being the home of New Zealand’s longest swing bridge! At 110 metres long, crossing it is a bit of a nerve-racking experience – not because it is particularly high but because it is incredibly wobbly!

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Standing right in the middle of the swing bridge is a great way to photograph the Buller River rushing by underneath – but only if you can manage to keep steady as it sways in the wind!

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The location of the swing bridge also marks the spot of the 1929 Murchison earthquake. This 7.8 magnitude quake was felt throughout New Zealand and caused many treacherous landslides in the area. The most noticeable change to the landscape is where the ground along the White Creek fault line was raised by 4.5 metres! Once you cross the bridge you can then access numerous walks in the surrounding countryside (all included within the swing bridge admission prices of $5). We did the 15 minute loop walk which crossed over the fault line and was dotted with information boards detailing the history of the area.

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After our walk we got back into the camper and continued our journey north-west to Abel Tasman. The National Park is famous for its picturesque coastline and hidden coves, but we wouldn’t be experiencing it until the following day. We drove through the Motueka Valley as far as Motueka town where we camped for the night. The camp was probably one of the strangest places we had stayed in so far – it was right next to the sea and salt water baths, in a car park close to the port. The site was free for campers which resulted in hordes of hippies, ‘free-spirits’ and life-long travellers making the most of it through practically setting up home there. It was a bizarre evening as we watched a couple of jugglers practising in the car park, groups of friends hula-hooping and the odd ‘magic herb’ seller getting friendly with their occasional visitors.

We sort of slept with one eye open that night and were pleased to be on our way the next morning when we drove to Abel Tasman. Once we arrived at Marahau – the ‘gateway’ to the national park, we paid a visit to Old MacDonald’s farm to have a shower before entering the park. We walked part of the Abel Tasman Track – one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’ which took us along the coast and past some beautiful bays…

Stus Lookout, Abel Tasman
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Abel Tasman’s Porter Beach
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Tinline Bay
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Once we had completed our chosen track section we walked back to Marahau where Fred was parked and then drove South to the pretty seaside town of Kaiteriteri.  The beach here is famous for its safe swimming waters and family friendly watersports – the weather was great so we stopped by the beach to grab something to eat and then made our way down the Ruby Coast towards Nelson.

Kaiteriteri Beach
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We arrived in Nelson just before the i-site closed so we asked them where we could camp for the night. Luckily, Nelson is extremely camper van friendly and had a designated parking area next to Guppy Park where we could stay for free – complete with portaloos! Later that evening, we made the most of the warm weather and took a walk into the city centre where we bought a Chinese takeaway for dinner. We ate it back in Fred and it was a nice treat for me not having to cook! The next morning we were awoken by the sun beating through the windows which was a great start to our day out in Nelson…

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