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Road tripping New Zealand’s South Island: Wellington to Abel Tasman

When my dad Bob emailed about visiting me in New Zealand, my first thought was, “Yes! Dad’s coming!” then I thought, “We have to travel the South Island.”

He only had 12 full days to visit me and my boyfriend Ric. We spent two of those days in Wellington, where I had been living and working for five months with a working-holiday visa, then set off for the country’s lower island. The first part of our trip led us across the Cook Strait to Blenheim then Nelson and finally Abel Tasman.

Ferry crossing

south island road trip new zealandThe fact that there are two main islands in New Zealand adds to the fun of traveling the country. While it may seem like a hassle at first having to figure out how to get across the Cook Strait, especially on a budget, I found our ferry crossing just added to the trip.

We chose to cross via ferry, because we had our own car, and we wouldn’t dare leave trusty Maximus behind. Opting for an early cruise, on board we had a big breakfast, checked out the Marlborough Sounds and even spotted a few dolphins. The three-hour journey from Wellington ended in Picton, where we had a fish and chips picnic.

Blenheim, Nelson and sky diving

new zealand road trip

With only 10 days to travel the South Island, we didn’t have as much time as I would have liked in Blenheim and Nelson, but we managed to fit in a few beers and an amazing sunset at the two. Our first stop was Moa Brewery to visit a friend and give my dad a taste of my favorite beer company in New Zealand.

As the unfortunate designated driver, I took the wheel and drove us to Nelson, where we spent the night at Tahuna Beach Holiday Park. We didn’t get to see much of the town as this holiday park is located out of walking distance from the town center, but we set up camp right off the beach where we had a brilliant sunset right at our door step.

16,500 feet later, my dad was all smiles and buzzing off the rush.With only one night in Nelson, we headed off early the next morning for Motueka Airport where my dad would skydive for the first time. Since this is New Zealand, he had to try at least one extreme activity to make the trip complete. Don’t worry, Ric and I had our fill of the extreme later in the trip.

Relaxing in Abel Tasman

South Island road trip ideasEverything mentioned above was done in about 26 hours. Needless, to say our next stop would be longer and more relaxing.

Abel Tasman doesn’t really look like it belongs in New Zealand. White sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and tall black mountains, it’s a scene you’d expect to see in Thailand. But with a jump in the water, which is freezing, I was back in New Zealand.

We spent our days in Abel Tasman walking around its National Park, kayaking its waters and eating local green-lipped mussels. Arts Unique was a really special find there. The outdoor gallery features works by local artists, as well as a market and massage caravan. It’s definitely worth a stop, as is Fat Tui, which I’ll say it, serves better burgers than Ferg Burger in Queenstown. But be prepared to wait.

Next stop: the West Coast!

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