Wintering over in sunny Nelson

By: Carron Stevenson

Wintering over in sunny Nelson Wintering over in sunny Nelson
Wintering over in sunny Nelson Kekerengu Beach Wintering over in sunny Nelson
Wintering over in sunny Nelson Monaco Point Wintering over in sunny Nelson
Wintering over in sunny Nelson Brightwater Cycleway Bridge Wintering over in sunny Nelson
Wintering over in sunny Nelson Great Taste Cycle Trail on to Rabbit Island Wintering over in sunny Nelson
Wintering over in sunny Nelson Kaikoura Coast Wintering over in sunny Nelson

Carron and Geoff Stevenson wintered over for the first of their years full time on the road. Carron tells the story of their travels.

Before you read on, check out part one in Carron and Geoff's new series of stories in Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations about chucking it all in for a great new life on the road. 

This year, was our first as full-timers. We studied the weather patterns of the warmest places and came to the conclusion that sunny Nelson was the place to be. We weren’t alone. We kept meeting people who were also heading to the Nelson area for winter.

It took us a month to get to Nelson from Christchurch on the coastal route. Stopping at all those little places on the way that we used to drive past and say, "We must go there someday". Well that day had finally arrived.

Our first stop was Amberley Beach. We took a bike ride along Amberley’s main street which is lined with information panels, to read about Amberley’s history and look through the replica Cobb Cottage. The Hurunui District has been home to notable New Zealanders including Riwi Alley, Sir Charles Upham VC and Dame Kate Harcourt.

After Amberley, we continued on our journey with stops at Teviotdale, Parnassus and Kaikoura. Teviotdale – or Motunau – is perched on the cliffs above the Motunau River mouth, where the fishing boats come in and out at high tide. At Parnassus, there is an NZMCA Park over Property (PoP). At Kaikoura, the seals were seeking refuge from the unusually high seas. And we were unable to stop at the peninsula north of Ohau Beach, or Kekerengu Store, because of the fury of the sea.

As it turned out, we were fortunate to get through before the road was closed. Seals escaping the high tide had moved on to the road and washed up debris had become a danger to traffic. We found refuge at Ward Beach, where the grey, heaving, sea sent wave after wave crashing over the normal high tide mark and down the other side of the gravel bank, into the lagoon.

On our first night at Ward Beach, we had one of those happy hours with people that just clicked together. All too soon, we had talked and laughed well past the usual 6pm. Our new-found friends each continued on their way the following morning, but we stayed on another two nights, watching the wild sea. As we left, the bulldozers were out repairing the damage to the beach making it possible to launch the fishing boats again.

Wintering Over2

In Blenheim, we needed to refill our LPG tank. Then we took a detour to the DOC camp at Rarangi for a couple of nights. It isn’t the best camp in winter, with the sun hiding behind the hill until late morning. However, during summer, we believe you would need to arrive early to get a camping spot. It would be worth a visit, to take the short walk over into Monkey Bay.

We stayed at another property in the Waiau Valley before heading to Richmond where we wintered over for two and a half months.

Our hosts at the A&P Showgrounds, Graham and Shirley, went out of their way to ensure that campers had a pleasant stay. Happy hour is on each evening for those who want to meet other campers.

We are usually freedom campers, so staying in a camping area for an extended period of time was quite a big thing for us, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Being connected to power on the odd wet day was also a bonus.

It is an easy walk along Queens Street to the shopping centre and Sundial Square, where each of the water fountains represents a water source for the area, river, aquifer or water race. These form a good visual reminder for when water is getting low and needs to be conserved.
We thoroughly enjoyed biking the Great Taste Trails. The Tasman and Nelson councils, with local community support, are still growing this network of trails. After the mild climate, it was the main attraction for us staying in Richmond.

Riding to Brightwater for coffee one day, we discovered Post Impressions across the road from HQ, the coffee shop. Fossick here for fossils, crystals and minerals from all over the world. If old rocks with fossils in them don’t interest you, maybe the screen printing, or traditional Moroccan tajines and locally -made products will keep you browsing for ages. I dare anyone to go in and come out empty handed.

Another five minutes south of Brightwater, is a memorial to Ernest Rutherford, famous for being first to split the atom. It is well worth a visit.

Our ‘living like locals’ discoveries included real, raw milk from Oaklands, behind the extensive and still to be completed Saxton Fields Sports Complex, where the 2015 South Island Masters Games will be held.

Other highlights were Founders Village, the Vintage and World of Wearable Arts, the climb up to the Centre of New Zealand, Rabbit Island, and the Ferry to Mapua for fish and chips at the Smokehouse on the Mapua wharf. Not to mention the walks along the many beaches.

As the days began to warm up, it was time to start moving again. We were missing the sound of the streams, rivers and rolling seas. The road ahead was calling and it was time to leave the sunny beaches of Nelson.

Read the full article in the latest issue (#134) of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations.

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