Picton – January 2021
FYI this is not a normal blog, much shorter (and perhaps sweeter lol) than normal but I decided it was worth writing even if only as a place holder for the photos!
Now, all good Kiwi summer holidays should have three things – a beach, a boat and a bach (“Pronounced ‘batch’, it is a term Kiwis commonly used for a holiday home. Often located by the sea, river, lake or forest, baches are all about kicking back. They offer the perfect range of accommodation to allow you to holiday like New Zealanders do.” – thanks www.newzealand.com for that thorough definition)! Now I do not have any of these things, nor do I know people with a bach! But thankfully, I do know people with boats and New Zealand has plenty of wonderful beaches which are free, so my kiwi summer is saved 😂.
I grew up with English parents so although we always had great summer camping holidays, we never had the boating/water skiing holidays that others had. Luckily my brother now has a boat (as do some of his friends) and has family holidays like this and every now and then we join them and their friends for a few days. This year we were based in Waikawa – a small bay around from Picton at the start of the stunning Marlborough Sounds.
Picton is a small town and a gateway to both the Marlborough Sounds and the North Island via the Inter Island ferries that plough through the Cook Straight. Incredibly the Marlborough Sounds boosts 1/5th of New Zealand’s coastline (from the map you can see how) and only 1% of the population lol. Picton’s population is less than 5,000 which swells massively in the summer. Sadly, it has been badly affected by the lack of tourists over the last year (it used to get over 40 cruise ships a year stop in its deep water harbour) but hopefully it will bounce back as the world returns to normal (fingers crossed).
No holiday in Picton or the Marlborough Sounds is complete with other the drive up the coast. Though there are still road works and repairs going on from the massive earthquake that hit the area in 2016 (which closed much of the road for many months) it is still a stunning journey as you travel up the coast, along the beautiful turquoise Pacific Ocean (the photo does not do it justice) and then inland pass the vineyards, even with the intermittent rain.
Day 1 was the perfect day. This involved getting in the boat (which our friends keep in the marina here) and heading out to find the perfect bush lined deserted bay to set up for the day which happened to be in Kaipakirikiri Bay (according to my trusty maps.me). And the soundtrack to this perfect day … bird song and the perfectly clear water lapping the shores.
As relaxing as it may sounds, a fully day of sun and sea is exhausting lol. Even more so for those riding the biscuit (not sure why it is called that, but it is basically an inflatable ring they you sit or lie on and get towed behind the boat) or water skiing – neither of which was me 😂. I could not even ‘spot’ from the boat (too busy taking photos) without injury. The call is supposed to be ‘skier down’, not ‘spotter down’ 🥴.
After a perfect day on the beach, we tried out a spot of fishing on the way home, but the wind and swell had come up and we gave up after a few attempts. (I also did not fish but spent my time taking photos of jelly fish lol.)
On our second and last day it was a much more moody morning, but we were out again and explored some of the hundreds of beautiful bays and inlets with bush down to the beach. It was a bit to cold for water sports, so fishing was on the agenda – again unsuccessfully.
As the seas got rougher, we decided to stop off at the lovely Lochmara Lodge, one of the many small resorts in the Sounds, accessible only by boat. Their marketing slogan is “Just like Fiji, but cooler…” – so true lol.
It has 14 rooms and a waterfront café which was a lovely place to spend an hour or two over a beer or a coffee. They also have an underwater observatory and 11 acres of land which I hope to get back to explore one day.
It is probably worth noting you can still enjoy the joy that is the Marlborough Sounds even if you don’t have access to a boat, as there are ferries/water taxis and also the post boat which you can jump on to move around the bays.
Returning to the mainland we headed back in to Picton for the afternoon, where they were having their annual Maritime Festival which, not surprisingly celebrates maritime history of the region. Unfortunately, the weather was less than ideal, and it very soon turned into torrential, wind blown rain! That was our cue to head to the pub!
Picton was original the site of a Māori Pa called Waitohi (Wai meaning water, and Tohi meaning a ritual given to warriors before battle). When the British arrived, they realised how valuable the deep water harbour was, and ‘purchased’ the land from the local Māori who relocated their pa to Waikawa Bay (where I was staying).
And just like that it was time to head home. That coastal route home did not disappoint. After stopping briefly to check out the seals at Ohau Point we stopped again to watch a huge pod of dolphins just of the coast – 100s of them. You know when the family is out for a nice Sunday walk and 2 of the kids are crazy – constant jumping and twisting 😂😂. What a perfect end to the trip.