Guest Blogger: Marie Barry
Our first stop on New Zealand’s South Island was at a lovely town, west of Picton ferry port, called Nelson. On the way, we stopped off at Pelorous Bridge, where a short forest walk lead us to down to an enchanting river, where we sat on the rocky bank and admired the clear waters. This particular area had was where part of The Hobbit was filmed, and certainly had that middle-earth type feel to it.
We arrived into Nelson quite early in the day, which meant we had plenty time to explore. After we checked into our hostel (a lovely hotel-style hostel called The Innbetween) we went for for a stroll about town. Our walk took us on a twenty minute trek up a very steep hill to a massive pin point, marking the centre of New Zealand. We were just in time to catch the sunset over Nelson, creating beautiful views of the town and the sea.
Our very chatty landlady had also suggested we visit Queens Garden Park and see the last night of the Nelson Light Festival. Not knowing what to expect we joined the queue waiting outside the park for the free event. There was a real festive buzz around the place with all the street vendors and stalls. Inside the park, sixty two artists were showcasing their light-inspired artworks. The pieces were spectacular, each more beautiful than the next. Our favourite was The Dancing Girls, which were silhouettes of girls dancing, suspended over the river. The Giant Moa was pretty impressive too! Made from plastic milk bottles, the massive extinct birds glowed a soft light from the inside out.
Admiring all these beautiful masterpieces made us quite hungry, so we took a walk about the variety of restaurants before settling for a Vietnamese Restaurant called Green Bamboo. We ordered fresh spring rolls, followed by Pho, both of which were delicious. Since Nelson is well known for its craft beers, we went on a bit of a pub crawl, and tasted some of the local brews. The Sprig and Fern, was a lovely cozy pub where we had a pint of the local Tasman beer, and Harry’s was a more upmarket bar, but with a lovely chilled out vibe. The best however was a bar tucked away behind a yurt, called The Freehouse. This was a truly different sort of a bar – a woodburning stove in the middle of an old church, with enormous copper beetles climbing the wall, and a great range of craft beers.
Nelson is not only famous for craft beers, but is also home to some of New Zealand’s most popular wines. To check this out, we went on a wine tour. Despite being winter, and the vineyards bare, we had a remarkable experience. We visited 5 different wineries, and tasted a selection of reds and whites in each. The proprietor in each vineyard, told us the history of the winery, and the process of making the wine. We learnt how to sample wine properly, and soon were all sticking our noses right down into the glass to see what notes we could smell, and swirling the wine around the glass to check for legs!
We were sad to say goodbye to Nelson, and felt we would miss its artistic vibes, and vibrant atmosphere. However, Nelson was only the start of what was going to be a great adventure in the South Island.