We are up at 6:30, have breakfast load the car and head up the road to the ferry terminal. After checking with the car park attendant, we park the car and head to the check in. We have to be checked in by 7:55 and there was a large crowd trying to do just that as we arrived. We check all the luggage except the electronics and hand the clerk the cars keys...how easy is that! The Inter-Islander ferry "Kaitaki" sails from Wellington across the Cook Straight to Picton on the South Island at 8:30. The ferry is huge and used to work out of Cherbourg, France, judging by the welded name on the bow. It will hold some 600 cars on three decks.
The public areas were full of families on holiday so we spend some extra money and purchase access to the Kaitaki Plus lounge. Here we have some space and snacks are free and plentiful. We also can leave our gear that we didn’t store in a $3NZ locker at our seating area and go out on deck to take pictures. This was worth the extra money to us.
The sail into Picton by way of Whekenui Bay, Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound is quite impressive and reminds us both of some of the areas we saw on our cruise through the Norway fjords. It is another blue bird day! The water is clean and a pretty green with white sand beaches. There are lots of boats out with people enjoying the day.
We arrive at 11:30 after the three hour, 50KM passage. Hertz has our rental car ready for us and by 12:15 or so we are on our way to Nelson by way of the scenic route; up and over the steep hills along Queen Charlotte and Mahau Sounds. It is roughly 75km to Nelson on Tasman Bay. We really enjoy this gorgeous drive.
After locating our accommodations, the Bella Vista Motel, one of a New Zealand chain of spartan but clean studio room units, we check in, unload and head out again to explore the area.
We head on around the Tasman Bay to nearly the entrance to Abel Tasman National Park. This is a truck farming and fruit growing area between the forested mountains and the blue green water. We stop at two orchards and purchase peaches at one and a kilo each of strawberries and cherries at another. There are also vineyards growing both grapes for wine and olives for the oil. We drive as far as Motueka where hunger and thirst call a halt at "The Gothic Restaurant and Bar." We are one of the first customers of the evening and take a nice, shady table on the patio.
An order of the Bread tray consisting of three homemade breads and three dipping sauces gets us started. Carolyn has fish and chips and Dick modifies one of their steak offerings as follows: "Hold the parsnip puree, baked tomato, bacon, and fried egg. Keep the sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions. Grill the steak medium rare and let me have some of the boiled new potatoes on the side." The young waiter is very accommodating and the food arrives, hot and delicious. The bar did have a bottle of Jack Daniels and we treat ourselves to a double each.
On the way out of town, we stop at a grocery store and buy a few necessaries. We are back in Nelson around 7:30, way before this summer sun goes down.