Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Australia & the Pacific
Reload this Page > Can You Help with NZ Abel Tasman or Marlborough Sounds logistics???

Can You Help with NZ Abel Tasman or Marlborough Sounds logistics???

Reply

Jan 5th, 2009, 05:54 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 2,473
Can You Help with NZ Abel Tasman or Marlborough Sounds logistics???

This will be our second trip to NZ and we were blown away by the beauty the first time. The next trip will be three weeks in May.

Here's what I'm wrestling with ...

I'll be working long, intense hours teaching all-day master classes in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch during weekends. So, I don't want to do long, exhausting drives on my 4 or 5 days off in between. We've already seen the cities themselves -- and prefer scenery to cities.

What we love is nature and scenery; long walks -- but not demanding, or overnight hikes. Our time around Auckland is already accounted for. One of our hosts will be taking us to the Northland/Bay of Islands area for four days. We might also try to fit in a couple of days in Rotorua because we loved the beautiful, unearthly scenery at Waimangu Volcanic Park.

We prefer staying several days in one area and using it as a base for exploring -- not driving from place to place trying to see everything in a series of one-nighters. And it helps knowing that we will likely be returning in subsequent years.

Snow-capped Queenstown (and especially a Nomad Tour of Skipper's Canyon) was probably the highlight of last year's trip, and while we'd love to return, we're thinking of checking out some other areas. FYI, we've already visited Milford Sound and thought it was beautiful -- but it was not a highlight compared to some of the scenery en route (i.e., Mirror Lakes) or what we saw outside of Rotorua and Queenstown.

So, with all of this in mind ... if we were to include either Abel Tasman or Marlborough Sounds -- are there ways to get to these areas from either Wellington or Christchurch WITHOUT grueling, full-day drives? Can one take a flight, a train, or bus -- and then rent a car?

While I'm at it, one more question ... We're thinking about the Tranz-Alpine rail excursion from Christchurch to Greymouth ... This might be an ignorant question -- but what does one do after arriving in Greymouth?

Thanks so much for your help.
Songdoc is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 5th, 2009, 08:16 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 17,079
Songdoc, when I went to Abel Tasman I took the ferry from Wellington to Nelson (although I believe you can fly to Nelson also). There is a coach service that can get you from Nelson to the water taxi departure.

http://www.abeltasmantravel.co.nz/

You can read about the water taxi and other boat options here. You can do a day trip, or stay in their lodging in the park.

http://www.abeltasman.co.nz/VistaCru...taCruises.aspx

I am not the expert on Marlborough Sounds, but you will see a lot of it if you take the ferry from Wellington (it looks a lot like Marin County, if you ask me).

There isn't much to see in Greymouth itself. You either turn around, or rent a car and go north or south along the West Coast.
mlgb is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 5th, 2009, 02:39 PM
  #3
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,358
Hi Songdoc -

After arriving on the train in Greymouth, most people pick up a rental car and head south to the glaciers, often with a detour first to Punakaiki (45 minutes north of Greymouth). Greymouth itself isn't all that interesting, although I once spent three nights there and found plenty to do. From the glaciers, people usually head to Wanaka, Queenstown or Te Anau.

The fastest way to get to Abel Tasman is to fly to Nelson. From there you can rent a car or take a bus to Abel Tasman, which is about a hour's drive. If you rent a car and spend all of your time in the area, you'll find plenty to do - loads of wineries in the Motueka Upper Moutere/Richmond/Nelson area, lots of walking opportunities, arts and crafts studios, and of course Abel Tasman.

You can do the same to get to the Marlborough Sounds - fly to Nelson, then drive or bus to Picton, which is about a 90 minute drive.

There's also an airport in Blenheim, so you might be able to fly to Blenheim, then drive or bus to Picton, which is about a 25 minute drive.

There's also a train that services Picton and Blenheim, but I'm not familiar with it.

Once in Picton, you can either stay there, or take a water taxi to one of the resorts in the Marlbrough Sounds. If you do the later, I highly recommend Bay of Many Coves.

From Bay of Many Coves (or other resort), you can arrange transport to several points along the Queen Charlotte Track, so you can walk for a few hours then return to the resort.

I've also heard good things about Craglee Lodge, and we met the owners on one our trips to the sounds. We're considering staying there on our next visit.

I'm pretty familiar with the top of of the SI and have written several detailed trip reports covering this area. Let me know if you're intersted and I'll post the links.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 5th, 2009, 03:20 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Not sure on what if any short hops across the straight www.airnewzealand.co.nz do but Sounds Air offer flights Wellington to Nelson, Picton and Blenheim - http://www.soundsair.com/

For the eco minded travelling light traveller you could take off Wellington and dive/float down [in tandem] the other side but they seem to have closed up shop for now.
Bushranger is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 6th, 2009, 03:49 PM
  #5
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 2,473
Ok, this is seeming a bit less overwhelming. Thank you for your responses!

It sounds as if I'll fly to Nelson and rent a car. I'm a little unclear as to the water taxis, but I'm guessing they would be necessary depending on where I decide to stay. But obviously, if I rent a car, I wouldn't be taking the water taxi. Right? Then would I rely on water taxis to get everywhere?

Re: the flights from Wellington to Nelson ... FYI, I use the website House of Travel to book all of my flights within NZ. They're in NZ and the price is MUCH better. Similar to a site like Kayak, they offer all the flight options.

One more question ... Knowing what I like, would you recommend Abel Tasman over Marlborough Sounds? (FYI, I have no interest in wineries.)

If I do choose Abel Tasman is there a "best" town or area to use as a base to be in a pretty location that's also centrally located to the attractions?

PS. I don't think I'll be diving or floating from Wellington to Nelson! Especially not carrying supplies to teach workshops and enough winter clothing for six weeks!
Songdoc is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 6th, 2009, 05:16 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Nelson is the regional centre in east of Abel Tasman region and then around the bay you have Moteuka and as you move past the park heading west to Golden Bay you have Takaka and Collingwood, progressively smaller towns.

Water taxis are used to get to different points on coastal walks and if you have a look at www.doc.govt.nz you'll get an idea of walks in either location and their site info on particular walks also has info re access by water taxis and accommodation options.
There's also a couple of sea kayaking/camping companies, think they're probably based in Nelson where you'll find most tour operators.
Bushranger is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 6th, 2009, 08:25 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,358
Hi again Songdoc -

It sounds confusing, but it will make sense once you get there.

You'll need a car (or bus) to get from Nelson to Abel Tasman.

The water taxis are used to get into and around Abel Tasman. You can drive as far as Marahau (considered the gateway to Abel Tasman), park your car there, then take a water taxi into the park, or simply hit the track on foot.

If you want to walk a section of the Abel Tasman track as a day walk, you can walk into the park and take a water taxi out, or take a water taxi in, walk a section, then take a taxi back out, etc. There are alot of options, but you need to book the taxis before you head out.

Water taxis into Abel Tasman leave from Marahau, Kaiteriteri and Totaranui.

Marahau and Kaiteriteri are the closest to Nelson. Totaranui is considered 'the end' of the Abel Tasman track - it's a 28 km drive from Takaka (10 of which are unsealed squiggles). Takaka is on the other side of Takaka Hill in Golden Bay.

Most visitors to Abel Tasman start at Marahau or Kaiteriteri.

As far as where to stay, you have several options -

Nelson, which is about an hour's drive from Marahau

Marahau, which is right at the doorstep of Abel Tasman

There's one accommodation option within the park - Awaroa Lodge, which can only be reached on foot, by water taxi or by helicopter.

Kaiteriteri, a beach community that's about a 10-15 minute drive from Marahau

Motueka, the only town of any size in the area. It's about a 20 minute drive from Marahau

Tasman, a tiny spot on the road about 30 minutes from Marahau

Upper Moutere, a rural and wine growing area located between Motueka and Nelson

Mapua & Ruby Bay, located about 30 minutes from Nelson, 30 minutes from Motueka

There are several lodging options on the other side of Takaka Hill too, but that's probably further than you want to go with your limited time.

Some people stay in Nelson and visit Abel Tasman from there. That's fine if you're only going for a day, but if you plan to spend more time in the park, I think it makes sense to stay closer.

If you choose to visit the Marlborough Sounds, you would arrive in Nelson (or possibly Blenheim) then drive to Picton or Havelock.

Picton is a small town right on the water, Havlock is a tiny town west of Picton.

You can stay in Picton or Havelock and take water taxis into the sounds from there, choosing just a ride, or a drop off and pick up somewhere along the Queen Charlotte track, allowing you to walk a portion of the track as a day walk.

Or, you can park your car in Picton (or possibly Havelock) and take a water taxi into the sounds for an overnight(s) stay at one of the resorts in the sounds.

From these resorts, you can arrange water taxi pick up and drop off as needed.

You can get to a few of the resorts in the Marlborough Sounds by car, but not all of them. I've done this and wouldn't recommend it. The drives can be long and squiggly on rough unsealed road. If you're prone to car sickness, forget it.

Considering your interests of nature, scenery and long walks...you really can't go wrong with either Abel Tasman or Marborough Sounds.

Personally, I think there's more to do in the Abel Tasman area even if you're not interested in wineries. You've got the park itself, the Golden Bay area, Nelson, etc.

Both areas offer plenty of coastal scenery and walks. The Queen Charlotte track is more diverse IMO than the Abel Tasman track. Sections of it feel entirely different from one other, whereas the Abel Tasman track feels like alot of the same to me.

Both offer similar activities. The Queen Charlotte track isn't as popular as the Abel Tasman, so there are fewer people and it's more serene (although since you're visiting in May it may not matter).

Hard choice.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 6th, 2009, 08:31 PM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,358
Her's a map of the Abel Tasman water taxi drop off and pick up points to give you an idea of the options:

http://www.abeltasmancentre.co.nz/map.html
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 6th, 2009, 08:38 PM
  #9
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,358
And some info on the Queen Charlotte Track:

http://www.queencharlottetrack.co.nz/
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 7th, 2009, 04:39 AM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 2,473
Melnq8 wrote:

Personally, I think there's more to do in the Abel Tasman area even if you're not interested in wineries. You've got the park itself, the Golden Bay area, Nelson, etc.

Did you mean to write Marlborough Sounds in the above?

This info is exactly what I needed -- and I couldn't find it anywhere else. So, thank you SO much.
Songdoc is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 7th, 2009, 10:50 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 764
I live in Christchurch, Songdoc. In holiday periods, many locals will go to the Nelson/Golden Bay area because of the climate, beaches, wineries, arts and crafts, walks, etc in that region. Having a boat available is a bonus, but not essential.
Those going to the Marlborough Sounds usually do so because they are doing one of the walks (e.g. Queen Charlotte) or they have a bach up there (often with a boat available) and are intent on doing a bit of fishing or other relaxation in or near the sea. There aren't as many other attractions in this part of the country and having a boat available is a definite advantage if you are staying there for more than a few days.
In either place (but in the Sounds in particular), make sure that you take insect repellant. The sandflies and mosquitoes can be a nuisance at times.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 7th, 2009, 01:17 PM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,358
Songdoc, no I meant to write Abel Tasman.

Maybe it's the winery reference that confused matters.

The Marlborough Region has loads of wineries, but so does the Nelson Region.

I just meant to say that there's plenty to do the Abel Tasman area even if the wineries aren't of interest.

Just to clarify - the Marlborough Region stretches from the Marlborough Sounds to Kaikoura and includes the townships of Blenheim, Picton and Seddon.

The Nelson Region covers Nelson & Richmond, Mapua, Motueka, Moutere, Abel Tasman National Park,
Golden Bay and St Arnaud (Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi national parks).

As kiwi_rob points out, the Marlborough Sounds is more about fishing, relaxing and the Queen Charlotte Track. And the ferry from Picton to Wellie, I might add.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 8th, 2009, 06:25 AM
  #13
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 3
A few years ago I spent a month traveling around NZ and Nelson was my favorite stop. Make sure you are there for the Saturday market! It's one of the best I've been to out of 44 countries. I didn't have a car but took the bus (great system), trains (scenery is fantastic and the bus waits for the train!) and ferries on a self-arranged trip. When in Nelson I took a boat ride up to Abel Tasman and then hiked back to a spot where a van picked me up. It worked really well and I didn't have to hassle having a car. My second trip to NZ I did have a car and it was nice to have the convenience. Either way NZ is a great place in every respect, especially the people. I love it there!
tripper123 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 8th, 2009, 09:32 AM
  #14
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 2,473
Thank you SO much for your responses. I can't tell you how helpful they've been. I just wasn't understanding how to make this work. Now it makes perfect sense.

I wish I could go to the Saturday market, but if I weren't working (teaching) during the weekends ... I wouldn't have M - F to explore NZ.

Thanks again. I'm sure I'll come up with more questions as I begin to lock in hotels.
Songdoc is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 8th, 2009, 02:11 PM
  #15
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,358
tripper123's post piqued my interest about the boat from Nelson to Abel Tasman, as I was unaware of this option.

It seems you can take a 90 minute boat ride from Nelson to Abel Tasman, spend the day, then take the boat back. It looks like an iteresting option, but if you plan to spend more than a day in/around Abel Tasman, you'd definitely want a car (well I would anyway).

Here's the link:

http://www.sailingcharters.co.nz/launch2.html

Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 8th, 2009, 03:10 PM
  #16
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 2,473
Thanks. I'm thinking of 4 days in the Abel Tasman area and I will probably rent a car. I'll be working intense, long hours during the weekends and want to relax and enjoy my time off. I don't want to run around and cram in all the sites--especially as I'll likely be going back every year or every other year.

By the way, when I finish with NZ, I'll head to Australia -- so this will be a very long trip (5 - 6 weeks). Life is tough ... but somebody's gotta do it ;-)
Songdoc is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 8th, 2009, 06:19 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,358
Lucky you Songdoc! I just read your Kauai trip report on the US forum. I'm trying really hard not to be too jealous.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 12th, 2009, 10:16 AM
  #18
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 92
Abel Tasman is My personal favorite and there's lots to do there. Recommend the chalets on the hill as quite idyllic with wonderful sea views and walking distance to all sea, riding, kayak, eating.

The water taxis are a pretty good network to transportation but if you want to hike up and stay overnight in one of the camp shelters (also excellent) you need to book ahead.

A lovely place with the exception of some really loud cicadas.

cheers,
Opus

opus is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 12th, 2009, 04:04 PM
  #19
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 2,473
Do you recall the name of the chalets? Sounds nice.
Songdoc is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jan 12th, 2009, 04:21 PM
  #20
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,358
I think Opus is referring to these:

http://www.accommodationabeltasman.co.nz/
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:59 PM.