Ron Laughlin The Ultimate New Zealand Travel Guide
From Blenheim take route 6 to route 63 south or if you are coming from Motueka on route 61 south at Kohatu you catch back up with route 6. At the junction of route 6 then left to the Nelson Lakes National Park and St Arnaud with a population of 200.
St Arnaud is the gateway to Nelson Lakes National Park lying on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. Both Lakes Rotoroa and Rotoiti are each renowned for brown trout fishing. Take a leisurely day walk through native honeydew beech forests, fish or kayak or just enjoy the natural majesty and alpine surrounds of St Arnaud. There is a camp ground there on the lake. You may be there to see the annual antique & classic boat show on Lake Rotoiti in March. Scenic water taxis operate on both lakes. Several companies offer on-demand transport to Rotoroa from St Arnaud and Nelson.
Nelson Lakes National Park has 101,753ha of beech forests, valleys, isolated glacial lakes and craggy peaks. There is something for everyone at Nelson Lakes - boating, fishing, walking, mountaineering, bird watching, swimming. For more comprehensive information on Nelson's National Parks go to the Department of Conservation website
It is home to the DOC Nature Recovery programme, which has increased the populations of native bellbirds and kaka. Other species earmarked for recovery are kiwi, kakariki, kakapo and bush robins.
There are a number of walks of varying lengths leading off from the campground, including a track around the lake.
Nelson Lakes National Park is centred on two beautiful alpine lakes: Rotoiti and Rotoroa. Craggy mountains, tranquil lakes, beech forest, clear streams and pebble ‘beaches’ are synonymous with Nelson Lakes.. Vegetation is predominantly red, silver and black beech.
The local birds are tomtits, robins and the tiny rifleman. The South Island kaka is less common, but can be spotted in Nelson Lakes.
Walks and Trails
There are both short tracks which highlight the forest, lakeshore and glacial features and longer hikes. In summer tracks are suitable for an average fitness level; in winter more experience is required. The walk around the Nelson Lakes is spectacular and the terrain is suitable for most ages.
Be prepared if hiking -
While all three national parks are beautiful in all seasons, it’s important to dress warmly in winter and, if staying overnight, be prepared as the weather can change quickly. Check at any of the local Department of Conservation offices for up-to-date information on weather and track conditions. Remember pack your food and water in, and take your rubbish out. Don’t forget to check tides in the Abel Tasman National Park especially when crossing tidal inlets.
Basic Important Information - What to bring for hiking the parks
Warm clothes in winter
walking shoes or hiking boots
bags to take rubbish out in and store wet clothes in
Huts are available in all three national parks. There are also designated campsites with water, toilets and fireplaces. Lodges and Kiwi holiday homes are also an option in the Abel Tasman National Park. PLEASE NOTE: All visitors staying overnight in the Abel Tasman National Park are required to book huts and campsites before entering the park. To book contact the region’s Information visitor centres and/or the Dept of Conservation offices.
Continuing on south on route 6 –
From here you travel through some very scenic country along the fabulous Buller River that has it start in the Nelson lakes region. Kawatiri is at the crossroads of route 63 and route 6. Continuing along route 6 through Gowanbridge and Owen River you reach the town of Murchison the whitewater capital of New Zealand.
The town of Murchison with a population of 700 and is the southern gateway to Kahurangi National Park. It is a farming community that lies beside the Buller River, which flows from Lake Rotoiti to the West Coast.
Murchison is a capital for river-sports: with fifteen river runs located no more than 30 minutes out of town. Kayaking and whitewater rafting on the Buller River is for everyone. They provide lessons for novices.
Hiking and fishing are also popular activities, with a number of walking tracks located in the surrounding mountain ranges. On the drive north of Murchison you will be driving along the Owen River that was immortalised in the film Lord of the Rings.
Explore a historic gold trail - or try your luck gold panning! Gold nuggets are still being found in the Buller River.
Learn about the local 1929 Murchison Earthquake at Murchison Museum. There is accommodation and café/restaurants available here along with a chance to fuel up.
If you plan to enjoy any river activities you have from the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge to white water rafting thrills. Good café here and great accommodation for both the campervanner and the car traveller.
On south on route 6 and you really get a close look at the scenic Buller River. When you get to Inangahua Junction stop at the old building in town that has old photos and information on the 1968 7.1 earthquake that destroyed 70% of the town that we find really interesting - and well worth the stop.
Continuing on south we always stop at the Berlins Café on the left for a coffee. Great barista. The old photos on the wall are interesting. I like to stop just past to try my luck trout fishing on the Buller River where there is easy access.
On to the West Coast.............
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