Abel Tasman, Kahurangi, and Life in the S. Island of New Zealand

From the end of February 2019, Bella and I would land in Christchurch, having flown in from Danang via Singapore. We had racked up enough frequent flyer points from our hotel stays in Hoi An and essentially got two free tickets to New Zealand.

Our journey began by staying at a holiday park in Christchurch and relying on a cheap rental car. From the get-go, we did our best to get out of the city and make our way up to Hamner Springs, then up and onto Nelson, Motueka, Kaiteriteri, Golden Bay, Takaka, and the Abel Tasman region of the south island where we would end up staying in a rental cottage over the winter for six months in Marahau. 

Below are journal entries from different places we traveled to and lived up until we departed from the South to the North Island at the end of November.

RELATED: Milford Sound & Alpine Parrots


Takaka Hill to Golden Bay
takaka hill
Takaka Hill

Back on the road again after spending a couple of nights at Motueka Top 10 Holiday Park. Last night it rained, and today it drizzled and was overcast. We got some coffee, and the caffeine hit hard. NZ coffee is quite strong and great for road trips. 

Taking the winding roads up into the mountains, we stopped off at Takaka Hill Lookout to stretch our legs.

The green fields in the valley below are bright; sheep are scattered on the hillside, and clouds blanket the mountains off in the distance. The drive from Motueka up to Parapara, Golden Bay is about an hour.

We finally made it to Golden Bay Holiday Park and checked into our cabin. Waves can be heard crashing as we’re right next to the beach.

Scallops, clams, and oysters can be collected, and daily limits are around 20 per.

Driftwood beached—some charred from fire. Permits are available at the office, and tomorrow we’ll have a beach BBQ. Walking along the coast, tons of shells and colorful rocks can be found.

The sky transformed from clear blue to yellow, orange, pink, and purple in the evening. The ocean mirrored the sky.

Golden Bay
Golden Bay

Beach BBQ at Golden Bay Holiday Park

We’re staying at Golden Bay Holiday Park. Yesterday, we went into town (Takaka) to check out a hospice shop, and we were super lucky to have found a tent, a metal pot, and a grate with a handle, which was great (pun intended) to use for our BBQ beach cookout later that night. We set up the tent, and luckily all the poles came with. A sticker saying “comes as is,” and for $10, I had my doubts. I set up the hammock by attaching one end to a tree and the other to the roof rack of the car to hang out.

We got white top mushrooms, minced garlic, butter, cucumber, red bell pepper, shrimp, kumara, coconut flour for damper and fish, lemons, and bamboo skewers from the local Fresh Choice supermarket.

The beach has a perfect spot next to our campsite where a lot of dry driftwood piled up.

Charred pieces can be found from previous fires. I dug a hole, cleared the area, and proceeded to fill the spot with the driest wood I could find, considering it rained the other day.

We made our way down to the beach with all the stuff we’d need for the cookout.

beach bbq

Large logs were placed around the fire to use as benches and one wooden slab was the go-to portable table. Embers formed, and we wrapped the kumara in foil, placed it in the ember pit, and let it cook for an hour. We cooked kebabs on bamboo skewers, coconut damper, and fish with lemon, salt & pepper. In the end, we cut open the kumara and ate them with butter for dessert. 

As the sun went down, the sky turned purple, pink, orange, then pitch black.

The temperature dropped, but we stayed warm from the heat radiating from the fire. The entire beach was silent besides the waves crashing. A billion stars came out, and the Milky Way Galaxy was overhead.

Farewell Spit, Whale Bones, and the Clearest Water at Te Waikoropupū Springs

pilot whale bones
Pilot whale skeleton

The other day we drove down to Farewell Spit. A “spit” is like a large narrow sand peninsula. The drive out was super scenic, and the coastline was beautifully distracting. I kept wanting to focus my attention on the bay, the birds, the mountains, colossal-sized dead trees that lay off to the side, and the wildlife before me. 

We eventually made it to the Farewell Spit lookout after driving ~25km.

As we hiked down to walk along the beach, a fence around an old pilot whale was on display. At first, I thought it was some ancient dinosaur with moss growing out of the skull. But after looking it up, I discovered that the spit had become a graveyard for whales. On one side, there were bright green hills, the cafe / visitor center at the top could be seen, then cliffs and the ocean. Mounds of soft squishy seaweed covered the coast, and we walked barefoot most of the way.

After walking for around 5km, we spotted a storm cell gathering off in the distance, and the smell of rain was in the air.

The sky on one side was bright blue then turned to dark grey and cloudy. We decided to head back the way we came and drove back towards Collingwood. 

Te Waikoropupū Springs

Te Waikoropupū Springs are the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, the largest cold water springs in the Southern Hemisphere, and contain some of the clearest water ever measured.

Just between Takaka and Collingwood, we took a short drive to get to the springs, and overall the roundtrip hike around the springs and over the river took around 30 minutes. A short trip, but definitely worth seeing. Reading some of the signs at the entrance, they mentioned that “old water” at the bottom can be over 20 years, and the closer to the top, the younger the water.

To local Māori, Te Waikoropupū Springs are a taonga (treasure) and wāhi tapu, a place held in high cultural and spiritual regard.

The waters of Te Waikoropupū represent the lifeblood of Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) and the tears of Ranginui (Sky Father). The springs fall into the wai ora (water of life), and Wai Ora is considered the purest form of freshwater.

Gold Fossicking at Salisbury Falls and Aorere River

salisbury falls
Salisbury Falls

Hearing about gold in the area made me daydream about hitting it rich. With excitement to find gold in the Aorere River, we drove out to the Salisbury Falls, a popular spot for swimming during the summer and a place that has the best skipping stones I think I’ve ever found. I feel like I definitely broke some skipping record. We brought a metal pan with us to scoop sand on the river banks to test out our luck at finding any gold but gave up after a while.

Fun fact: The Salisbury Falls and Aorere River are a famous spot where Tauriel & Legolas meet before heading into Lake-town in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

In 1887 the suspension bridge was built across the river but was swept away in a flood three years later; its replacement was also destroyed in a flood in December 2010.

The current swing bridge to get to the falls is a great lookout point to see the impressive boulders and massive rocks below sitting in the middle of the river. The water along the river’s edge appears yellow and gold, with the deeper parts a rusty dark crimson red. All this juxtaposed by bright green fields up above on the hillsides, white snow-covered mountain tops off in the distance, and a piercing blue sky.    

After exploring the falls, we made our way down further to another bridge.

Signs posted for fishing and game access were found, so we parked off to the side and made our way down to the rocky river banks. Crouched over and turning stones and sifting through the sand, anything that sparkled deserved a closer examination. Still, after a while of this, we eventually gave up any hope of finding gold. Dreams crushed. We would need an upgrade, and we talked about getting a metal detector.    

At the Golden Bay Holiday Park, I spoke with one of the owners, and he had mentioned that a guy had actually built a home near the river and would find a steady $1000 a month in gold as well as sell sluice boxes to tourists and those interested in finding gold themselves.

I thought it’d be a pretty sweet job title for a resume – full-time trout fisher and gold fossicker. One can only dream.

After spending a few weeks in Golden Bay, we made our move down south to Motueka, “The Mot,” to stay at an Airbnb house truck next to the Motueka River. At the same time, we waited for our lease to start at the cottage we would be renting in Marahau, next to Abel Tasman National Park’s entrance.


Raumanuka And Motueka Sandspit Scenic Reserve

A popular destination for walkers, joggers, and wildlife enthusiasts, the Motueka Sandspit is also an internationally recognized site for local and migrant shorebirds – some flying epic distances to get here. Thousands of birds roost and breed on the sandpit each summer. Godwits, oystercatchers, terns, and shags are the most common, while turnstones, knots, and dotterels can also be spotted.

I left the Top 10 Motueka Holiday park in the morning for a run, and before setting out, found the reserve on Google Maps. I was in for a pleasant surprise as the place was super scenic and exceeded my expectations by a long shot.

I even stumbled upon the landing spot for the first Europeans who came to Motueka back in 1842.

The land is an original Maori Reservation, part of the Wakatu legacy. The people of Wakatu are descendants of Te Atiawa, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama, and Ngati Koata, who hold manawhenua over lands throughout Te Tau Ihu.

The Motueka River delta is formed of sediments from the Motueka and Riwaka Rivers, swept into continually changing shapes by the sea.

Running down the trail along the shoreline, the beach was cluttered with thousands of shells.

Bay scallop shells larger than the palm of my hand, fully intact and almost artificial-looking. Oysters, clams, snail shells, and cockles in the mix. Driftwood along the banks and some stacked into piles. There’s a burn ban, but I could picture some epic bonfires taking place here at night.

A mix of sea scallop shells on the shore.

The whole area is ecologically important. It has extensive areas of bushland and saltmarsh where whitebait spawn; it is rich in shellfish and, therefore, a major feeding ground for wading birds, up to 10,000 of which feed or roost on the sandspit in summer.

Coming back out for sunset in the evening, the tide had receded, and the bay exposed mud with thousands of sea snails, cockles, oysters, and holes where small whitebait burrows. Cranes were off in the distance getting their dinner, and it reminded us that it was about time we got ours too.

Motueka River Valley and House Truck Living

We’re living in a van down by the river! Well, actually, it’s called a House Truck, and Bella found her on Airbnb (she always finds the best deals). The place is set up nicely and is on a bit of land, just a quick walk from the Motueka River. It’s been a great place to settle into a routine for the next three weeks. Outside is a picnic bench and a couple of peach and walnut trees. Foraging for food has become a new hobby, and we’ll keep a lookout for blackberries as well.

The light green hills roll off into the distance. White wool spots on the hillside moving about. Sheep are everywhere here! I’m picturing a sheep zombie apocalypse situation. 

Dark green emerald pine trees cover the mountains off in the distance. The river has multiple access points, and we’ve been finding new spots to swim. Ice cold water at first, but when the sun’s out and after the initial shock, the numbness that is now covering my body phases out any feeling at all. I’m acclimated now and can touch the bottom of the river bed. The current isn’t too strong, and the water is clear. I look down to see if I can spot any trout.

motueka river
Motueka River

Sandflies hover around my head and are looking for any opportunity to bite. My ankles have been swollen and itchy ever since I’ve gotten here—the itchgasm. The sweet pleasure-pain tradeoff of scratching is addictive.

About a 15-minute drive from our place, we can make it to downtown Motueka.

Countdown Supermarket has been our go-to for picking up supplies (cheap white wine). On our way back, we’ll hit up the Riverside Milk station where people can get raw milk straight from the cow from a vending machine. Taking the winding roads back, windows down, the rolling hills and farm animals off to the side make it a pleasant journey.


A Hike to Flora Hut 
Kahurangi – Lodestone

Having stayed in the House Truck in Motueka for the past few weeks, we decided it was about time we made it out to the Kahurangi National Park. Located in the northwest part of New Zealand’s South Island, Kahurangi is New Zealand’s second-largest national park and just west of Abel Tasman.

In places, it is untouched wilderness; elsewhere, a wonderful network of tracks lets you explore wild rivers, moss-covered trees, high plateau, alpine, and coastal forests.

READ: Fiordland Fungi of New Zealand 

We made our way up the dirt road about a 30-minute drive from our place. The access road into the Mount Arthur area (Graham Valley Road) is steep and narrow and prone to corrugations and slips. They recommended 4WD vehicles only since the road had potholes, intense gravel, and was basically 1-lane the entire way up.

Once we got to the car park, we were relieved that the car made it up in one piece. We set out on our journey and along the way would spot traps for invasive predators like stoats, opossums, and other rodents that have been decimating the local bird and wildlife population. Warning signs were posted saying no dogs allowed since endangered Kiwi birds and Whio ducks live here in the forest.

The hike was only 2km to the Flora Hut. The path was mostly shaded, and the entire way the river could be heard down below. No uphill intense mountain mile trekking, but a lax and level path. My kind of speed.

We stopped at one point and went off the beaten path and into the bush. This place would have to be the mossiest place I had ever been to (second to the Kepler track). The greenery and thick blanket of lichen covering everything was majestical. 

With picnic tables to sit, it was nice to rest out in the sun. Checking out the hut, inside are bunks and a fireplace for overnight stays. The huts are available on a first-come, first-served basis. In the middle is an open space with chopped wood for the fireplaces. Inside the hut is a logbook where people who stay overnight or pass by can leave notes. Many visitors mentioned spotting and hearing Kiwi cries down by the river at night.

On the way back to the carpark, we stopped alongside the river where the air was cool and fresh. There was a tiny waterfall if you could consider it one. Sitting in silence and listening to the running water and the bird song was meditative and serene. It was a great way to cap off the last bit of our journey before heading back home.

We would later stay multiple nights at the Flora Hut and get the opportunity to spot a trio of whio ducks, as well as experience snow.



The time had finally come for us to move into a more permanent abode, and Bella and I moved into “The Cottage” up on a hill that overlooked Sandy Bay and Fisherman’s Island off the coast of Abel Tasman. The winter spent here was mild and not as cold as I’d expect it to be. With the entire national park to ourselves, we had half the year to explore every nook and cranny and cove along the coast, as well as extensively hike throughout the national park with little to no people around. To go from bustling cities with millions of people to sudden isolation was a nice reprieve and much-needed re-calibration to my health. 

Breathing in air pollution from both Shanghai and Hanoi had taken its toll, and what was once a chronic cough had now, but all disappeared given that the air in New Zealand is the cleanest in the world. 

Living at our new place, I had the opportunity to chat with our neighbors Miriam and Peter, who lived in the wilderness for seven years. Bella and I saw their Youtube video while we were living in Hoi An debating about where to travel to next, and this video may have played some role in influencing our decision to make the move. Coincidentally, they became our neighbors, and the lovely couple had a lot of knowledge to share with us over the months.

I showed Peter the book I was reading at the time. Some sci-fi novel with a chapter about a spaceship called the ‘Gilgamesh.’ Peter went on to tell me the history of the city-state Uruk and its ruler. I asked him about his thoughts on city life compared to living in the wilderness, and we both had an agreement that there was a sense of anxiety whenever the need to go into town arose.

“The pace of cities can be too overwhelming, the unnaturalness of it all reinforces our need to live in the wild and be self-sustainable,” Peter said.

“There is a point where the perception of time alters, and days become seemingly longer. You enter a state of ‘deep-boredom’ where you become hyper-aware of your surroundings and yourself. You gain the ability to observe trees growing,” as he pointed to our fig branches outside the cottage window.

“You can even hear grass growing. It’s a psychedelic state of mind. The sensory deprivation and returning to the essentials change the mind.”

This stuck with me and has been a reminder that getting back to nature is essential to health and well-being. Peter would tell me more about their experiences hiking the entire length of the country and how they lived a frugal and minimalistic, nomadic lifestyle. Miriam wrote the book “Woman in the Wild,” and it inspired both Bella and me to live more deliberately. I spend most of my days figuring out ways to stay out in New Zealand forests and have taken to photographing fungi and learning more about the natural environment and wildlife here.

READ: Te Anau and the Kepler Track


Coastal Foraging Cockles and Mycology in Abel Tasman

Apple Tree Bay

At low tide, the bay exposes hundreds of thousands of shells—clams, cockles, scallops, mussels, of all shapes and sizes. The further out, grass and seaweed poke out, and oystercatchers and herons are picking at their food. Cockles can be harvested by either digging below the top layer of sand or finding the larger ones drifting in.

I brought a large bowl and a tin pot with me to fill up with saltwater later for purging. Sitting in saltwater, the cockles will spit out sand. The daily limit is 150 per person, and I was able to reach that limit in less than an hour easily.

I made my way back after collecting dinner. These guys would later be cooked in a frying pan with garlic butter. Super delicious with salt, pepper, lime, and it made me miss snails and clams in Vietnam.           

The coastal track is relatively flat, with only a few hills. Across the bridges at the entrance, people spell out “Happy birthday” and “I love you Mom” with stones. Further along, is Porters Beach and some nice lookout points where the coast can be seen, and people are either sailing or kayaking out in the bay.

But one thing that has caught my attention are the fungi.

Nature is weird and spotting these guys along my morning run usually slows me down to take a closer look.

The variety of birds, mollusks, plant life, and fungi are extremely diverse here, and I’ve been cataloging my finds on the iNaturalist app. The app has missions and species nearby to keep an eye out for, like real-life Pokémon.

The track has damp green moss growing on the cliff’s side, and creeks and waterfalls are everywhere. People wearing backpacks come from the other way if they’ve been camping out further up north. 

Seeing Blue – Entoloma Hochstetteri and the Tinline Nature Trail


After a couple of weeks trying to track down an Entoloma hochstetteri, I managed to find not just one, but six! Jackpot! Sometimes photography is just about being lucky. At the Tinline campsite on the Abel Tasman coastal track, there is a nature trail loop. I’ve been making it a habit to make my rounds in the morning in search of any strange looking fungi that sticks out. Hidden amongst the green moss covering a tree, the blue mushrooms stuck out.

An Entoloma hochstetteri is famous for being on the back of the NZ $50 banknote and is the only banknote in the world to have a mushroom on it. As more people push for natural ingredients researchers, have been trying to cultivate the fungi to produce blue food coloring. 

The Maori name for the Entoloma hochstetteri (werewere-kōkako) gets its name from an old Tuhoe story, in which the kōkako rubs its wattle on the mushroom, taking on its color. It is such an unusual color to see in the New Zealand green forest, so when you stumble across them, it’s a pretty spectacular fungus to find…kind of almost surreal.

Although blue, a tell-tale sign of psilocybe/psilocybin found in the psychedelic variety of mushrooms, the Entoloma hochstetteri is not, as it does not “bruise” blue.             

As I continued my hike through the nature trail, I felt like I had a trusty sidekick next to me.


The fantails are super sociable birds and sound like when you step on your dog’s squeaky chew toy a bunch of times. 

On my way back home along the coastal track, I had to do a double-take as I found hundreds of what appeared to be hypholomas covering a tree branch. I had never seen so many densely packed together before, and it was quite an unusual sight. The entire national park reminds me of the movie Annihilation. Everything is surreal and alien, and the park is a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply

Coquille Bay, Kahurangi, and Tinline

Coquille Bay

Fishing pole in hand and a bag with a tin can filled with weights, hooks, and live fish bait, I hit the trail to Tinline Bay. The last bridge crosses a creek that empties out to the bay, and it’s my favorite part of the coastal track. Down over the rocks and when the tide is low, a large rock sticks up and at the top, one lone tree is growing. Further along, the bay rocks are covered in black mussels and oysters. Crunching beneath my feet, I hop from rock to rock and make my way out to the furthest spot to bait my hook and get to casting.

Coquille Bay is an ideal place to surf cast, and in the evening, Kahawai fish are hungry for dinner.

The seagulls, oystercatchers, and pied cormorants patrol the bay and swoop low. Little shags dive in shallow water for up to 20 seconds to catch some kaimoana – usually crustaceans, small flounder, or eels. Some do violent nose dives and dart into the ocean to snag small fish. A flock of birds flies right across, and the leader holds a fish in their beak. The sunset turns the sky pink, and I keep casting, but smaller fish nibble my bait off the hook.


A large rock shark made its way to the surface, and I swear it winked at me as it swam by. I caught a baby Kahawai and another small gurnard. As I unhooked my catch to step down, I spotted an eleven-armed starfish and another one hidden in the crevice of the rocks. I continued to cast for a while longer before heading back. One last series of casts and I spot a stingray and another rock shark (maybe the same one I saw before). No more bites, and I’m ready to call it a day as the temperature drops pretty quickly. Winter is coming.

Walking with Geese, Wekas, and Hiking to Apple Tree Bay

Walking across the sandy shore, the estuary is exposed at Sandy Bay. Bella and I took our shoes off and rolled up our pant legs so as not to get our clothes wet. The water immediately sent a shock through our system, and before I knew it, I couldn’t feel my feet. Mallards lay next to a large washed-up log and were startled by us. At least 20 flew off.

As we continued, the water level kept getting deeper.

We made our way to the other side of the bay, and a shag poked up from out of nowhere and kept diving for shells embedded in the coastal floor. Playing a game, we guessed how long it’d hold its breath and where it’d pop up next. Further along, a gaggle of geese was laying out, and as I got closer, they remained calm, unlike the other ducks that immediately got spooked, these geese seemed familiar with me. And for those wondering, is gaggle really what they’re called?

According to Google: The collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team, or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump.

I tested how close I could get as they casually waddled about. I followed them and their leader. It felt like they accepted me as one of their own, and we were on a mission.

I’m surprised at how close I’ve been able to get to birds here in New Zealand and think to myself that that’s probably why a lot of the native land birds are endangered or extinct. They haven’t had a need to be on the defensive, as there are no real predators here.

A few days later, I would stop by Coquille Bay to take a break and rest on a log after collecting cockles for dinner. A lone Weka pecking at shells came to hang out and curiously poked its head near my phone and went through my backpack. Not a care in the world.

Coquille Bay
On the way to Apple Tree Bay

At low tide today, Bella and I are hiked along the coast towards Apple Tree Bay.

The sand ripples that were once underwater extend out and form a unique pattern up to the rocks. Porous and exfoliating, volcanic, these rocks and stones are used by oystercatchers, seagulls, and Cormorant to find food.

As we continued along, the beach’s shaded part was blanketed by a thin layer of white frost, enough to scoop up into a snowball. Yet out in the sun, the temperature was warm—two polar opposites, dark and light, cold and warm, ice and sun. Once we reached Coquille Bay, we continued past the driftwood teepee and stumbled upon tons of white basket fungus. One was solid enough to kick around like a soccer ball.

RELATED: The Alienness of White Basket Fungus

The tide was at its lowest I’d ever seen before, and we continued climbing over the rocks lining the coast. 

What I encountered next was even more of a surprise.

A fur seal had been tucked between a couple of rocks, and I nearly stepped on it. Before I could, though, we locked eyes and had a split moment of interspecies telepathic communication. It let out a shrieked, high pitched, half-growl, half-yell then darted straight for the water, sliding over the rocks and swam gracefully to another part of the bay.

Keeping an eye out for any other fur seal family members, we ended up making it to Apple Tree Bay.

Apple Tree Bay

The sand was coarse, and the water was a pristine blue and green. There was a private house on one end of the bay, and the occasional boat to Anchorage made its way past Fishermen’s and Adele Island. We sat on the beach, ate our picnic, and laid out in the sun. I set up my hammock between two pine trees, and we chilled for an hour or so, daydreaming about living on a houseboat and having the view as our backyard.

The temperature began to drop, and we quickly packed our belongings and took the trail route back to Marahau. We didn’t want to double back the same way we came and risk being caught on the rocks as the tide came back in. I prefer dry socks too. We made it back to the car and finished the trek just before sunset—an eventful day. Nothing gets old here in Abel Tasman, and every day is a new adventure.

Rabbit Island

The other day I packed up my fishing pole and gear. Knife, hooks and weights, and my metal pot to fill with cockles and mussels on the walk back to Marahau and where I parked my car in the lot of the Abel Tasman entrance. Ready to head back up over the bridge where sacred kingfishers hang on the power lines and down Marahau Valley Road.

The road winds, and farmland, feijoa trees, and scattered farm homes border the road. It’s springtime, and the sheep have given birth to baby lambs. They let out bleats and skip and hop together, sometimes tumbling, learning how to use their new, unfamiliar knobby limbs. A ridiculously cute and heartwarming sight, the idea of eating lamb is no longer on the table.

It’s peaceful at the cottage. Bella and I are sitting in the living room and drinking our morning Tuatara coffee. The great thing about this place is the bird song and the green ferns and other trees that breathe life into the space. Sunlight hits the couch, and it’s nice just to lay around. Once the caffeine kicks in, I’ll start to be productive, and the space becomes my office.

Sunset at the Cottage

Our place overlooks Sandy, Tinline, and Coquille Bay. In the distance is Fisherman’s Island and just north Adele Island, named after the wife of French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville. Small NZ blue penguins sometimes visit, and many tourists come over the summer to kayak. Fur seals also swim around the rocks near the shore.

I spotted one once I had arrived at Coquille Bay to cast from the rocks. Off to my left and further up the bay, a lone seal was enjoying their swim, and I was able to get closer before spooking it, as it dove and swam away. They remind me of dogs of the sea but are finicky like cats.

The entire country of New Zealand is one giant national park.

Forest bathing has become a new meditation by osmosis, and it helps to block out mental noise by replacing it with silence and a more acute focus on the present. Time slows down.

Being hyper-observant of the natural landscapes over the past six months has allowed me to appreciate the bays’ micro-worlds — the birdlife along the shores. The Kahawai in the bay is easily caught from the rocks where seals sunbathe and play. The Canadian geese huddle together on the sand plateaus, surrounded by clear cold running water emptying into the bay.

The estuary changes rapidly throughout the day with water covering hundreds of meters; and then suddenly emptying into the ocean, creating a sandy, rippling desert with squishy wet steps as I trudge through the shore. Sometimes I stumble across small green blankets of seaweed growth, islands that are filled with cockles, whelks, and rotting driftwood teeming with baby crabs, some smaller than a fingernail crawling inside shells and between green-lipped mussels. 


After fishing and catching a few baby kahawai at my spot in Coquille Bay, I head back for the evening.

The next day we head to Rabbit Island, which is just south of Mapua and can be accessed by either ferry or by car (if you’re coming up from Nelson).

The island is a reserve, and many trees are planted here to be used for timber. There are many picnic benches and places to park for people to enjoy the island and the beach. As we ate our lunch, many wekas, including some newborns, came out curiously looking for food.

Te Puna o Riuwaka – A Hidden Gem

riwaka resurgence feature
Riwaka Resurgence

I think one of the biggest regrets living in Abel Tasman all this time is that it took this long to discover the Riwaka Resurgence (Te Puna o Riuwaka). This serene green hidden gem is just down the road from Riwaka, and it’s a perfect place to escape. Take a short walk along the river, which leads to a stunning swimming hole and dip your feet in while listening to the bird song, breeze passing through the canopy, and river water rushing, split by rocks covered in emerald moss.

For Maori, every river has its own mauri or life force.

Rivers are the veins of Papatuanuku, Earth mother, and the water in them is her lifeblood. Rivers nourish all living beings and link us with ancestors. It is by our rivers that we know who we are. Te Puna o Riuwaka has special mana or status because from here springs waiora – the waters of life. For generations, Maori have come here for cleansing and healing, their feet following the path of those who have walked this way before.

The damp forest, crystal clear cold water, still pools, and moss-covered, water-worn marble rock create a fairyland-like scene.


The walk to the cave goes deep, and there is a clear pool where the Riuwaka River emerges from the depths of the Takaka Hill. Te Puna o Riuwaka is a short hike that takes you to a deeply sacred place. The energy and beauty here are powerful, leaving one feeling renewed and alive.

Split Apple Rock – Tokangawhā

Split Apple Rock
Split Apple Rock

Off the northern coast of the S. Island of New Zealand is Tokangawhā (Split Apple Rock), a geological rock formation in Tasman Bay. This popular tourist attraction was officially given the name “Split Apple Rock” in 1988 and is a point of interest for many tourists. In the shape of an apple (go figure), the granite rock appears to be cut in half. This naturally occurring attraction is estimated to be over 120 million years old and was formed by water that made its way into a crevice and froze during an ice age, expanding and thus splitting the stone in half.

Traditional Māori legend Claims the boulder was split by two feuding gods who were fighting to possess it.

Eventually, they used their godlike strength to split it in half. The Māori name for the rock Tokangawhā means “burst open rock.”

The water is an ombré of shimmering turquoise, lime, navy, and soft tan powdered sand with the occasional black volcanic sand layer on a sunny day.

Approximately 50 meters off the coast between Kaiteriteri and Marahua, I hop from rock to rock, making sure not to get my shoes wet or get stuck in the crevices where small crabs, cat’s eyes snails, mussels, and other crustaceans stick around. 


I make my way around the cove to get a better view of the pied cormorants / shags who all huddle together and sunbathe on the backside of the rock. The females swoop up the side of the cliff and feed their chicks in nests in the trees above.

Tunnels carved out by the tide over time create pathways. Cut through to the other side of the cove to get closer to Split Apple Rock.

Split Apple Rock is just a short 5-minute hike (downhill). Depending on the tide (either low or high), one can explore more along the shore and even get a closer look at the rock. It’s cool to just sit on the beach and think of different scenarios as to how the rock ended up looking the way it does. I feel like it was perfectly karate-chopped or knifed by a massive Maori-God giant. Or struck by lightning. One’s imagination can run wild, relaxing, and lackadaisical strolling along the beach.

We would say goodbye to The Cottage and Miriam & Peter at the beginning of November and pack up all our belongings into our car. We would then drive to Kahurangi to do some hikes and Nelson and Richmond to hike for a couple of weeks, staying in huts and various holiday parks. We would go to St. Arnaud and Nelson Lakes and hike up to Bushline Hut and spend the next few weeks traveling before catching the Interislander ferry up to Wellington and the North Island, where we would explore some more before settling in Auckland for the summer.

Ngaio Bay & Island – Kaiteriteri


Joseph Pallante
Joseph Pallante
An avid traveller, Joe enjoys spending time exploring the New Zealand countryside. In his spare time, he travels around in his campervan, writes about nature and how to live a frugal and sustainable lifestyle.

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