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Punakaiki & Nelson, New Zealand – Day 1

March 1, 2023

Before leaving Franz Josef we stopped for gas at the only station in town. It took a long time because it doubles as the post office, and a man ahead of us mailed a few packages. There are 12 helicopters in this town but only one gas station.

We drove three hours north to Punakaiki, home of the famous pancake rocks. Scientists are not quite sure exactly how the rock originally became stacked in layers, but it does look like pancakes. About every 4-5 inches there’s a line and another rock sediment placed right on top of the previous. This occurred over and over again as the rocks around about 50 feet tall, maybe taller.

We scoped it all out, then went to the cave in search for glow worms but came up empty. So we piled back in the car and drove further north to the Tauraunga Seal Colony. We only saw about 10 seals in the distance, but it was worth it. They were enjoying some of the pockets of cool water with reprieve from the crashing waves.

Tauranga Seal Colony far below

We ate our sandwiches while watching the seals, then walked back down to the car. On the way we crossed the enormous, wide beach with long, slow waves that eventually reach shore. Again, it looks a lot like Oregon.

From Tauranga, we drove 3 more hours through the mountains to Nelson. This wine region looks quite different from the Central Otago region. The Nelson region is much greener, boardering the sea and the mountains.

We checked into our hotel and went next door for Thai food. None of us wanted to get back in the car, so the Thai food easily won. Bonus points for actually tasting good.

In the evening we booked tickets for a sea shuttle in Abel Tasman National Park for tomorrow. It’ll take us from Kaiteriteri to Anchorage and back.

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