Cycling the South Island – Part 9 – Westport to Nelson

Beautiful Buller Gorge
Beautiful Buller Gorge

Westport to Murchison was a change of pace from ocean to river gorge views. The road had lots of twists and turns along the gorge sometimes even carved into the mountain side. It was also a long, undulating uphill ride for exactly 100 km to our campsite at the Murchison Kiwi Holiday Park. To reward ourselves we enjoyed a “handle” of beer and a basket of wedges (like chips only with a pint of sour cream on the side) at the local tavern.

One of many one-lane bridges on today's ride.
One of many one-lane bridges on today’s ride.

It was a good thing that the following day’s ride to Tapawere was also long and hard to work off the calories from the previous night’s basket of wedges. We stayed at the Tapawere Hotel which has a GREAT self-contained (bath and kitchen) room for a reasonable price. Eric and I basked in the private shower, fluffy towels (getting sick of the shammy cloths – light weight hiking towels), the side chairs and the tv.

After cycling north for about 10 km we crossed a bridge at Woodstock and joined the Great Taste Cycle Trail. We were pleasantly surprised that the “trail” was actually a paved road following the west side of the Motueka River. The trail was aptly named because of the apple, pear, and cheery orchards, vineyards, honey and jam stands, and hops. To makes things even tastier, we enjoyed a fresh fruit ice cream – I chose raspberry – at Riwaka. Then pedaling a little further brought us to the Hop Federation Craft Brewery where we tasted their Pale Ale and bought a 1.3 L bottle for happy hour at our camp. To make a great day even better, we arrived at the Motueka Top 10 Campground to the beginning of “off-season” pricing which meant a great 2-room cabin with a complete kitchen at the lowest price we’ve paid in NZ.

One of the many hiking bridges on the Able Tasman Trail.
One of the many hiking bridges on the Able Tasman Trail.

For a change of pace we took the Sea Shuttle to Abel Tasman National Park and hiked 11 kilometers. We enjoyed the hike, saw some beautiful scenery, and were serenaded by many great song birds. Our muscles appreciated the change in pace we and actually felt a little sore and tired in different places. A soak in the spa at the campground and a glass of wine took care of the fatigue and made for a great sleep.

Even though the ferry was closed at Mapua, we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch.
Even though the ferry was closed at Mapua, we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch.

The following day we took the long,scenic “Great Taste Trail” to Richmond. The trail, an intermediate Grade 3, was fine for our loaded bikes but did have more than a few steep hills and a long of unpaved roads. I like the the solitude and scenery of these gravel tracks but Eric prefers the pavement. The ferry from Mapua to Rabbit Island just changed to a winter schedule so it was closed for our weekday arrival. It would have been fun, but riding on Highway 60 was not a problem as there is a big shoulder. We stopped for the night in Richmond and found The Oxford Court Motel at a great off-season rate.

Enjoying the 360 view from the Center of NZ
Enjoying the 360 view from the Center of NZ

Cycling to Nelson was a short 15 km on a bicycle route along the bay. Near the airport we stopped at the WOW and Classical Cars Museum. I loved the WOW and Eric enjoyed the cars. We cycled another 6 km up a hill, along the cycle path into Nelson where we stayed at another Top 10 Holiday park. There we met up with two other cycle tourists and enjoyed some conversation and experiences. We spent the afternoon exploring downtown Nelson and hiking to the “Center of NZ” at the top of a hill.