Almost heaven …life is old there…older than the trees!

Although HELEN PERRY has travelled to a good many parts of New Zealand, the beautiful
Tasman district, including Golden Bay, had remained elusive….until last month that
is. After four days she was almost ready to decamp from Auckland and head south
permanently. Well, not quite.

Peaceful outlook over the Mapua inlet.

Moved house on Friday, unpacked on Saturday, sorted suitcases on Sunday, flew to Nelson on Monday. So what if I was shattered? The beautiful Abel Tasman Park awaited.

First glitch (sort of). Husband forgot his wallet so no driver’s licence – all motoring left to me. Oh goody, I like to be in charge! Second glitch, pick up car, leave Nelson Airport, potter down the road, turn onto State Hwy 60 and, as we do so, two wailing police cars and an
ambulance flash by. Five kilometres later we are met by a road block and diverted up the Moutere Valley Rd.

The next day’s newspaper reveals a horrific crash involving a truck, 4WD towing a caravan and a car carrying two American tourists – two killed, five injured. Very sobering and not a good start.

The accident detour took us past the historic St Paul’s Lutheran Church at Upper
Moutere. Photo supplied

But you know, Abel Tasman – our Abel Tasman that is – works its magic, calming the soul, delighting the spirit and re-energising the body. From the first we are awed by the scenery as we climb the Takaka Hill (between the Abel Tasman Park and Kahurangi National Park) then descend the Takaka Valley Hwy, the winding road providing plenty of viewing bays.

Nobody tail gates despite me driving a cautious 80kph most of the way and dropping lower at times on this unfamiliar road. I pull over on occasion to let others pass, no one seems interested. We drive on comfortable with the pace.

At this point we know four days can only be a reconnaissance trip. Two weeks next summer is the plan. And, why not? This must be one of New Zealand’s most stunning regions.

I love many parts of this country, the unquestionably beautiful Queenstown among them. But no place tempts me to leave home and family as Pohara Beach, Takaka, Motueka, Mapua and Kaiteriteri Beach, just a few locations I now believe every Kiwi should put on their
bucket list.

For two days we relax alongside sea and sand at Pohara Beachfront Motel not bothering to cook once – Brigand for lunch on our arrival in Takaka – a platter for two does the trick.

Breakfast at Totally Roasted Cafe which not only delivers ‘startyour- day’ goodies but bakes a phenomenal array of mouth-watering cakes. Dinner at Plan B Cafe and Bar.

There is no Plan A we are told, just Plan B and we agree, you don’t need a Plan A. We dine here both nights savouring the cool garden courtyard along with good, honest food.

Suddenly it is time to head back over the ranges to Motueka, along the pretty Ruby Coast and on to Mapua. We love the drive. Mapua welcomes us with sunshine, wine and a shop called Delicious. No, not food, just delectable homewares for every taste. I buy books for my grandsons. I want to buy more – for me – but there’s no room in the luggage.

Golden Kaiteriteri Beach.

We wander up to elevated Mapua Chalets looking straight out to sea – quiet, welcoming and complete with outdoor solar heated pool, indoor pool and spa.

Man about the house swims, I read. Again, cooking is not on our menu. Mapua Wharf offers plenty of alternatives – The Boatshed, Jellyfish Cafe & Bar, The Apple Shed, Rimu Wine Bar and The Smokehouse not to mention the Golden Bear Brewing Company, one of many boutique breweries in the area…such fun.

We sit just above the water line – a low tide, glistening inlet, stony shoreline and pines. Where are the grizzly bears catching salmon? Not here but we feel they should be.
Next day we drive to Kaiteriteri Beach – this is me, for sure. Small, buzzing, contemporary cafes, emerald water, golden sand. We join a scenic cruise passing pretty bays accessible only by water.

Mama seals and their pups bask in the sun, shags, many shags, (oops cormorants) dip and dive. But as everyone knows, when you’re having fun two days disappear in an instant. We are back on the road heading for Nelson. No sign of the tragic accident of four days previous.

We admire hops growing in the field, we admire apples and pears growing in the orchards, we admire vines, laden with grapes for the picking.

We also admire stunning Hoglund glass…a lot. We do not admire the price. I cry – the piece I want is $9000!

Not this year and not next year either. We cover the last few kilometres full of joie de vivre then say goodbye to Tasman. We are home again. “How was Nelson?” everyone asks. “Nelson? We never managed Nelson but Tasman – Tasman was terrific.