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During our two month road trip around New Zealand, we came to realise that it truly is a special country. I’m pretty sure it could accomodate for any kind of holiday you are looking for, whether you enjoy hiking up mountains, city breaks, beautiful beaches, skiing or hot weather. We experienced all of this in New Zealand! We saw a lot of the country in our two months, but there is so much more we could have explored. As you can imagine we have lots of highlights, one of them being a one day road trip we took from the top of the South Island at Farewell Spit, through Golden Bay and Abel Tasman, and finishing up in a small town 105km South called Motueka. This post is all about that day, so I hope that you might add it onto your travel list if you are also driving around New Zealand!
We planned our day using Wikicamps, the app shows not only campsites but also Points of Interest. Using this tool you can see what sights appeal to you in the area! Below you will find an interactive map, where I have pinned all of the stops we made along the way and the route we took, which you can save and refer back to for your own use.
Make sure to read through my Four Week New Zealand Travel Budget blog post, for all the cost saving tips you will need when road tripping the country. And keep your eyes peeled for our ultimate two month travel itinerary for the whole of New Zealand, it’s going to be a long one!
CAMPSITE FOR THE NIGHT BEFORE – TAUPATA GRAVEL RESERVE
FREE CAMPSITE WITH PORTALOOS
Taupata Gravel Reserve is the only free campsite in the area, and your starting point for the road trip. So make sure to get there in the early afternoon, around 3pm should be ok. It is a basic campsite with portaloos, and is located just before the hook shaped piece of land called Farewell Spit. Make sure to set your alarms for a nice early wake up, around 7am should do it! You’ve got lots to fit in the next day!
If you are looking to complete this road trip in one day you could go from both directions, if it easier for you to start from the bottom. We decided to start from the Northern point, as we had experienced a run of rainy days leading up to this. It made sense to use the rubbish weather to do the long drive, and then make all the stops the next day when it was due to be sunny. Driving North first and spending the night there also means you will likely be able to arrive at the campsite earlier, securing that spot! There are only spaces for around 20 or so vans, depending on the size of them!
WHARARIKI BEACH – STOP NO. 1
15 MIN DRIVE TIME TO CAR PARK
After a nice early start to the day, and once you’ve had your much needed breakfast, take a short 15 minute drive to the Wharariki Beach car park. Then walk just 20 minutes along the marked path to reach this wild beach. Being right near the top of the South Island, it didn’t really seem like a beach holiday-goers flock to, luckily! When we arrived it was just us and a couple of surfers, we just sat and looked out at the dramatic arches out to sea. We were then joined by a seal enjoying the waves and playing around near the surfers! I think you will agree from the photos that this beach is well worth the stop, I think it was both our favourite of the day!
TE WAIKOROPUPU SPRINGS – STOP NO. 2
50 MINS DRIVE TIME
To get to the next stop, you will drive along the beautiful coastal road of Golden Bay for 50 minutes to Te Waikoropupu Springs. There is a 30 minute loop walk around the vibrant springs, which have spiritual meaning in the Maori culture. So for this reason you cannot touch the water here! When you reach the main pool of the springs you could see why, the colours are extremely vivid, almost too bright for it to seem natural.
GROVE SCENIC RESERVE – STOP NO. 3
15 MINS DRIVE TIME
It is surprising how many diverse forms of nature you stumble across in New Zealand in such a small area. Just a short drive away from the springs is a short walk through a woodland area. It is dotted throughout with strangely shaped rocks, creating archways and paths, combined with the ancient trees you feel transported to a Jurassic Park like place. At the start of the short 20 minute walk are rocks about 15 metres high with a narrow walkway between them that takes you out to a beautiful lookout to the fields and hills below.
ABEL TASMAN MEMORIAL – STOP NO. 4
7 MINS DRIVE TIME
After just another short 7 minutes drive, you will reach the Abel Tasman Memorial. There are just a few steps to climb up, to a viewpoint with beautiful views over the beach below, which just so happens to be our next stop, Ligar Bay!
LIGAR BAY – STOP NO. 5
2 MINS DRIVE TIME
Ligar Bay is the perfect place to stop for lunch, there are many picnic benches situated just beyond the sand on the beach. We were the only ones here when we made our stop! It is quite a small beach, with holiday homes overlooking it on the other side of the road. An ideal beach too if you want a quick dip in the water with noone else around, although it was pretty chilly!
KAITERITERI BEACH – STOP NO. 6
1 HOUR DRIVE TIME
Our next stop takes us around Abel Tasman National Park, so if you want to do part of the coastal walk here you could add on one or two more nights to this road trip. Maybe find yourselves a nice campsite and hike part of the track in the morning and then carry on to Stop Number 6. Kaiteriteri Beach is a 1 hour long windy drive from Ligar Bay, and seems to be a popular holiday destination with Kiwis.
It is a much busier beach compared to Ligar Bay, but arguably just as picturesque. But not too busy that it would take away from your experience! There is also a great fish and chip place along the seafront, the best ones we had in New Zealand! So if you didn’t have any lunch at Ligar Bay, make sure to eat here.
JANIE SEDDON SHIPWRECK – STOP NO. 7
20 MINS DRIVE TIME
And finally just a short 20 minute drive to your last stop of the day before the campsite. But this was actually the one we were most looking forward to! We arrived at about 3pm, and luckily it was low tide so we could see it in all its glory. At low tide you can reach the shipwreck by walking over the placed rocks, instead of through the deep mud that you will most likely lose your shoes in! This is the biggest shipwreck i’ve ever seen, what is left is a rusty skeleton of a boat. But please be careful not to touch it or climb on it, it is extremely fragile!
CAMPSITE FOR THE NIGHT – MOTUEKA BEACH RESERVE
5 MINS DRIVE TIME
FREE CAMPSITE (OPTIONAL DONATION) WITH TOILETS, COLD SHOWER & BBQS
After a jam-packed day you will most likely feel relieved to get to the campsite at last. We were really impressed with this one! It had about 20 self-contained spaces, and got full at about 6pm, we saw a few vans turn up later who couldn’t get a spot. It had flushable toilets (which become a luxury when road tripping around New Zealand), a cold shower if you can bare it and a number of picnic benches to cook on. A really great spot, and just a few steps away from the beach!
I really hope this might inspire you to make all or just a few of these stops on your New Zealand travels, if you do let me know which were your favourites! There is still a lot of New Zealand travel content coming to the blog, so make sure to keep a look out for that too.
VAN LIFE ESSENTIALS
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