The Great Tasman Taste Trail is a cycle route almost completely off the road that travels a distance of 64km from the outskirts of Nelson to Kaiteriteri on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. The one downside of a cycle route like this is that it is one way, and you either have to go back the same way you came or figure out a way of getting back.
It was getting close to Christmas and all we wanted was to just stay in one place for a couple of nights. It’s surprising how tiring travelling constantly can get, and we haven’t really been scheduling in much relax time so just hunkering down and watching Christmas movies was really the only thing we wanted to do. Unfortunately, the taste trail had other plans for us…
So after the torrential rain of the day before, we woke up to a beautifully sunny day and were excited to hit the trail. We had heard lots of good things about it and were expecting a slew of vineyards, restaurants, craft breweries and gourmet ice cream shops to dot our passage, but alas, the taste trail…had other plans for us…
Initially out of Nelson we biked along some lovely off-road cycle paths that kept us off the busy highway and took us through a chillingly familiar place named Richmond with it’s own airport and river delta. It was flat, but windy. Of course. The tide was out and the clouds had blown in so our view was mostly of mud flats and industrial wasteland lining the coast. In great taste? I think not (although looking back at the pictures, it doesn’t seem all that bad!)
We eventually made our way to Rabbit Island which had a land bridge on one side, but a passenger ferry that left every hour over to the little town of Mapua back on the mainland. The island was a privately owned pine plantation forest with reserve land along the coast and some nice beaches and dunes.
We opted not to stop and swim, but rather feel that “dash to the ferry” rush (we were missing Bowen) and got there with 10 minutes to spare. We very much enjoyed the nature of the ferry service:
If only the Bowen ferry worked this way!
Mapua was probably only 50 feet across the water, but the ferry was a necessity where we also learned that a little company called Trail Adventures had just started a shuttle service where they would drive you and your bikes back to Nelson from the end of the trail in Kaiteriteri. After the lacklustre scenery so far, nether of us could bear going back the same way so decided to book the shuttle bus for Boxing Day. From that point forward, the trail was just a bit more enjoyable knowing we were only going to see it once.
Mapua was a cute little spot with lots of little cafes, a fish and chip shop and it’s own brewery. To save money and justify a stop at the brewery, we made some peanut butter banana wraps for lunch and ate them on a picnic table trying to ignore the drops that were starting, and were just parking our bikes outside the brewery when our two favourite Dutch friends biked by! Seconds after that, the large drops of rain turned into a torrential downpour followed by a brief, but fearsome, hail storm:
Well, that was fun! Leon and Tessa were also heading to the nearest campground and we reunited for a cycle in the downpour towards the town of Tasman and a $5 campsite (McKee Memorial Reserve) that ended up being far too basic to warm up, have any shelter outside of our tents, or make any food for dinner, as it was pretty much just an open field with drop toilets. We decided to head further along up a massive hill to a more expensive, and thus better serviced, campsite, the Tasman Motor Camp, which we ended up arriving at just as the rain was dying down. We had enjoyable evening eating a ton of pasta and sharing stories, wine and tea with our buddies.
The next day: Christmas Eve! When you’re travelling during Christmas, you can either try your best to make it feel as festive as possible (which is what I attempted to do for the first half of the day) or you can just try to ignore it because no matter what you do, it isn’t going to feel festive because your family isn’t there and, in our case, it was far too warm and sunny to be Christmas. We had left the campsite without having breakfast because Christian refused was getting really sick of oatmeal, and ended up stopping at the Jester’s Cafe and Tame Eels which was a very fortuitous decision.
We ended up having a lovely breakfast at this very quirky place. There were tons of play structures and statues and even a stand where you could borrow a hat or a tail while you enjoyed your food.
They also had (as the name suggests) tame eels you could feed down by the stream. They were giant and scary, and there was more than one crying child down by the riverside being goaded on by their parent to throw in the eel food you could buy at the cafe.
We had a delicious brunch and then the panic that we had nowhere to sleep on Christmas Eve set in…the last thing I wanted was to be sleeping in a tent in some scuzzy campground on Christmas eve. So I scoured the internet and thankfully found a lovely little “bach” in Motueka (which ended up only being available one night), and we headed there to enjoy a sunny afternoon which included sampling some craft beer and cider (including a Mango Lime one) while listening to Michael Buble’s Christmas album…
We also enjoyed a late curry lunch, and bought two meals worth of food as we knew all the shops would be closed without exception on Christmas Day. We spent the evening trying to find an enjoyable Christmas movie on Netflix which turned out to be nigh on impossible. Festivity foiled again.
Christmas Day morning we wake up and listen to all our favourite Christmas carols, Christian having the epiphany that if he only listens to Christmas carols one day of the year, he can actually enjoy them.
After we check out of our bach, we end up biking through deserted streets from Motueka to Marahou, encountering a diversion through a mountain bike park that was exhausting with the heavy load, but kind of entertaining if you managed to just go with the flow of it. Between Marahou and Motueka is Kaiteriteri, the end of the Great Taste Trail as well as the location of a beautiful sandy turquoise-watered beach.
We learn of the Great Kiwi Christmas Tradition as we approach the beach and see just how packed it is. It’s a little too cold to swim (even though it would’ve been cool to say we went swimming on Christmas Day…but no regerts) and we will be returning here to take our shuttle bus back to Nelson the next day, so we enjoy watching kids blow up their brand new paddle boards and float on their shiny new blow-up toys, and hit the road again (after a snack of…you guessed it! PBB wraps).
What we thought was going to be a nice easy 8km to the airbnb ended up being steep and hilly throughout, so we arrived sweaty and exhausted. Not the Christmas Day we had planned, but it all ended up working out because: a) the airbnb was lovely and quiet, b) we had free wifi and got to talk to our families, and c) I had had the excellent foresight to purchase a bottle of wine and an assortment of cheeses, chutney and crackers.
We had a festive little feast, watched some episodes of The Crown, and all said and done, it turned out to be a pretty good Christmas Day after all.
Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com.