Craft beer and the craftier Weka – the end of our south island adventure

Howzit? Jump in the back of the van for another leg of our New Zealand road trip.

So we were now done in glacier country, it was time to get moving north and find some more awesomeness to look at with our jaws agape. The drive as usual was nothing short of stunning. The road followed the coast through dense native forest, twisting and turning as we made our way over the many inconsiderate hills that had placed themselves in our path. Despite the steep climbs the van was holding out well and still much to our surprise lugging our arses everywhere we wanted it to. I’d been pessimistically expecting something bad to have gone wrong with it by now but the trusty old Ford Econovan wasn’t going to let us down.

The last leg of the south island was going to be following a familiar theme you might have started to pick up from in our earlier posts, although cranking it up to 11! We were heading towards the craft beer capital of NZ, the holy land that is Nelson. We still had a few things to see first though so contain your thirst! We stopped off at Punakaiki, or pancake rocks, to see some crazy rock formations, the name gives a pretty big clue as to what they look like. Apparently geologists can’t even agree on how they are formed, we both agreed that they looked pretty amazing though and with some big waves crashing against them made for a spectacular sight. We stopped for lunch at the back of the van after this and out the corner of my eye several times thought I saw something by Emma’s leg, only to look and see nothing there. The next thing I knew a very bold little bird came walking over to us to see what we were up to. He was a Weka, a very rare little fella only found in very limited areas now in NZ. We couldn’t believe our luck in seeing him, he spent fifteen minutes working out what we were up to and seeing if we had anything interesting he could borrow. These little guys are famous in Māori stories for snatching things and running off into the bushes with their prize, even if it is something completely useless to the them! Eventually he lost interest in us and ran off to investigate some other unsuspecting tourists.

Over the next few days we worked our way on towards Nelson, stopping off in the middle of nowhere in a DOC campsite for the night on the grounds of an old gold mining site. Only a hundred years ago there had been a town with hotels and banks here, now all lost to time without a single sign it had ever existed. We walked down to Lyell creek that night and tried our luck at finding gold, it seems the miners had taken the lot as we all we found were sandflies!

Entering the Nelson/Abel Tasman region in the far north-west of the south island, immediately we were seeing fruit farms everywhere and something even cooler than that, hop farms! All of these green little wonders were destined for the many craft beer breweries in Nelson, NZ’s craft beer mecca. We weren’t heading that way yet though as we still had the Abel Tasman national park to take in and the remote far north-west. Here we visited Te Waikoropupu, the clearest freshwater springs in the world. The water was like nothing either of us had seen before, in the hot weather we just wanted to dive in and drink our fill of it, but the springs are tapu, or sacred to the Māori. That’s definitely a good thing too, as they’ll stay the clearest springs in the world that way. We stood and looked into the clear blue depths, envying the luckiest trout in the world that were cruising around in that paradise. The springs were surrounded by regenerating native forest with fragrant manuka bushes everywhere and mature totara and rimu trees standing tall, just how I like NZ.

For our first taste of the area’s beer, we stopped off in a remote and very laid back brew-pub called the Mussel Inn. We got to taste some of that manuka I just mentioned in one of their beers called Captain Cooker, check that link out. It’s made using manuka tips just like Captain Cook did when he stopped by in 1773, making him the first man to brew beer in NZ. Interestingly he was making beer for the health of his crew in an effort to combat scurvy, so proof that beer can be healthy, WAHOO! Aside from tasting divine, this beer is packed with antioxidants too. From following that link you’ll see people have had a shot at making the stuff in Belgium, the USA and even in England – Dad you know what you have to do! They made many other lovely beers here, all in an extremely environmentally responsible way, as far as I’m concerned anyone coming to the south island has to check this place out, we absolutely loved it. Grandad, this one was right up your street 🙂

Heading back on ourselves now, we passed through the Abel Tasman national park where we admired the shallow clear and calm waters of the area and made a visit to Split Apple Rock. From there we eventually reached the lovely city of Nelson where we stopped for a few nights. As I mentioned before, this is craft beer paradise, so aside from taking in the sights of the lovely town we took in the beers too. The Moutere Inn, The Sprig & Fern, The Freehouse (a church that’s been converted to a much more useful purpose;) ) and Founders, all of which made or sold incredible and great tasting pints. If you are still drinking from the same tap every time, you should seriously start branching out into the incredible world of flavour out there, as when you come to a place like this you really would miss out on something special. One beer that stood out for us was a coconut porter from the Geek brewery, imagine that, a thick black beer with a roasted flavour and the soft smoothness of the coconut coming through, divine! Aside from its awesome landscapes, beautiful culture and beautiful people, NZ makes and drinks great beer. I will really miss this place.

As we drove our final stretch of south island road on the beautiful Queen Charlotte drive, we felt very sad that we would be leaving this land the next day. The south island was everything that everybody had told us it would be, and more. We parked up in the lovely little town of Picton for the night and remembered that leaving the south island wasn’t all bad, we would be getting to see the equally beautiful north island again too, but I’ll leave Emma to tell you all about that one. Remember we had a van to sell still 😮

Kia ora, and thanks for reading guys,



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