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Entries about backpackers

Nelson and Marlborough

A Split Apple, Mussels and Wine

View 1. A Land Down Under on Where's Willy's travel map.

Kia Ora! We're now in Auckland and ready to leave back to Melbourne tomorrow. We've been really busy and unfortunately fallen a bit behind with the blog. The good news is, that means there is plenty coming your way! Hopefully you are enjoying the blog, two blogs, Kaikoura and Sydney Bridge climb, have even made it to the Travellers Point Featured Blog page!!

Photos have been re-tweeted on the Wheres Willy Twitter page and the last blog on Kaikoura has over 700 hits at time of writing! So thanks for your support! Without any further pomp and ceremony, here's what we've been getting up to;

Nelson and the wine region

Leaving the mountains and oceans of Kaikoura behind, the Marlborough region meets you with a sea of vineyards, right off the front of a nice wine label. Marlborough is well known for its wine, and driving through the vineyards there are countless signs with familiar wine names on, sat next to rows of perfectly aligned grape vines. Think of it as browsing the new world wine section in Sainsburys, except each bottle is a couple of miles of vineyard.

Through the vineyards takes you up into the New Zealand hills, this time covered in NewZealands 3rd largest export, pine trees. The pines are deforested in plots creating a patchwork of green trees against squares of cleared brown earth and lighter green patches where the pine has been replanted for another harvest.

Nelson is the largest port in South Island and the certainly the largest place we'd seen since arriving in New Zealand. We picked a lodge at random to stay in and as we pulled in I realised it was the same one I stayed in 8 years ago! Still, free soup in the evening, free breakfast, a pool, hot tub and to top it all off.... FREE SUPERNOODLES! Starting to understand why we picked this place last time! Nice one Paradiso!

We'd planned to get up early and kayak the Abel Tasman, one of my favourite activities last time I was here. As with every time we plan an activity, we were again thwarted by the weather. Rain so heavy we needed the kayaks just to get down the road!! Lucy's windscreen wipers had trouble keeping up (no surprise there!). Given the rain, we decided to scrap the kayaking and drive out to split apple rock, a naturally formed wonder sat in the sea that not surprisingly, resembles a split apple.


Well worth the hour and a bit each way in the pouring rain! The rock sits in a cove with naturally formed caves to explore and the rocks on the beach and in the caves were starting to spawn tiny mussels. Mussels - starting to feel hungry just thinking about them!


The Green Mussels of Havelock

On the way back to Picton we were stopped by a 3ft tall Mussel, at the Mussel Pot in Havelock. Havelock is the 'green lipped mussel capital of the world', so it was only right we stopped for a couple of pots. I've never seen mussels this big, you can practically hear the sea in them!


Mussels have a foot which grows outside of the shell; this foot will move the mussel till it finds a suitable spot where it can feed off the algae. Farmers treat fishing lines up to 100m long with a culture to breed the algae for the mussels and drop them into fresh water. When the line is pulled up 12-18 months later, complete with mussels, it can weigh up to 40 tonnes with the average mussel shell being 9-10cm long!

Mussels that big completely change the taste. Natalie had to take hers out the shell and cut them up they were so big! Very tasty too. The Mussel Pot serves a wide variety of steamed, smoked and grilled mussels, as big as your ears! We went for the steamed Thai green curry mussels, and the grilled ones with cheese and bacon, garlic and tomato sauces. Om nom nom!


It felt wrong having mussels without a glass of something. When you're in Marlborough, shouldn't be too hard to find.

Wither Hills

Wine is big business in New Zealand and with the falling prices of cotton and pressures on the lamb industry many farmers are switching to wine. Some remain undecided and it’s not uncommon to see lambs grazing amongst the vines. So next time you're sipping your Oyster Bay commenting on its earthy notes, see if you can detect the lamb poo!

One of the things that has always puzzled me about wine is the strong emphasis on the teloir of the wine. That is to say the soil it is grown in, its mineral properties and how that affects the taste. That's all very well and good, i'm sure it does make a difference. What I don't get is how one vineyard will have wine selling for £20 a bottle and boast its strong teloir, then a huge road with trucks, cars and all sorts go through, then on the other side a £5 a bottle vineyard. Anyway.....when in Rome.

We stopped off for a glass at Wither Hills, which just so happens to be the wine we had at our wedding. So good, we've chased it back to the grapes which sit the other side of the road to Oyster Bay and Cloudy Bay wines.


Natalie and I chose different wines to sample: Natalie had the award-winning 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, I also had a Sauvignon Blanc but this one from 2011 and from the Rarangi area of the vineyard. Both were great wines and the vineyard was a beautiful place to sit and relax:


I think when you look at these views and see the mist on the hills, the plush green vineyards slowly turning yellow and red as autumn approaches, the somewhat rudimentary brush stroke pictures on wine labels suddenly come to life. Absolutely gorgeous!


Checking into our hostel at the end of the day, I realised for the third night in a row I'd stayed there before. What I also didn't remember is The Villa lodge also serves free apple pie every night! Amazing!

Next Blog: crossing to the nation’s capital Wellington and our adventures in Parliament!

Posted by Where's Willy 04:23 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand picton nelson backpackers marlborough wither_hills split_apple_rock Comments (2)

Around Sydney

View 1. A Land Down Under on Where's Willy's travel map.

Back to backpackers!

In Sid-knee now staying in our first backpackers. I think I look back on my gap year with rose tinted glasses and had forgotten that most backpackers greet you with the smell of incense, the sound of rap music and a white guy with dreadlocks behind the desk whose response to every questions is “cool”.

Homemade backpacker ‘art’/graffiti adorns the walls and the promise of the evening’s entertainment of “Goon Pong, 8pm, with free goon” made me very quickly realise I am no longer the 18-year old care free traveller I was on my last trip. Perfect location for the hostel though as we are pitched between the Chamberlain Hotel and the Broadway Musical – The Addams family! At least irony is on our side if not the need for Dettol!

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Still, it may not be the best accommodation on our trip but it certainly won’t be the worst either. Only there to sleep anyway……out to the city!

Sydney City

Once our bags were dropped we were quick out the door to discover what Sydney had in store. A long walk down the busy Pitt Street brought us out into Circular quay and to the enormous harbour bridge and the iconic Opera house.


A stroll round the harbour, obligatory photo in front of the opera house and trek up to the bridge climb office to book in our bridge climb for Saturday morning had built up a thirst for a quick pot of beer. Luckily this also meant we were in the historic ‘Rocks’ area of Sydney and able to stop by in the Lord Nelson for a glass of Three Sheets pale ale and a chat with some morris dancers.

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I first went to the Lord Nelson when travelling alone on my gap year. Having been travelling by myself for a whole 12 hours I, desperate for conversation, told the barmaid all about my school, how there was a house called Nelson, and how it served minors a pint of beer, cider or even wine for a bargainous £1. Seemingly uninterested in serving alcohol to the under aged she moved on quickly and I returned to my solitude. Luckily this time I had the wife with me to retell the story to for a 5th time and she was equally uninterested.

Bondi to Coogee Bay

Wednesday morning saw the first test of our pale British skin against the Australian sun as we jumped on the ‘Bondi Bendy’ to the world famous Bondi beach. Having been repeatedly warned that Bondi was not a nice beach, was a tourist trap, and there were much nicer beaches to go to in the area, we were blown away at the beauty of the beach. Bondi sits in a secluded bay that serves as a trap for sun, waves and surfers. The near on white sand and blue waters certainly beat the beaches of Skegness or even Bournemouth, if there are nicer beaches in the area – point the way!!


Having packed our ‘togs’ (swimming kit to Australians) we soon remembered bondi was made famous by its surfing and that. Realising going for a quick dip would be the equivalent of picking a fight with a giant washing machine, we opted to watch the pros and start that sunburn. Steve embarked on his first surf lesson on the beach and we soaked up some rays on the beach before taking the dramatic costal path round to coogee bay. I have to say at this point how well the path is maintained with information/look out points, water fountains and even free suntan lotion.

The path is also dotted with free public swimming pools that get filled by the tides of the Tasman sea. Now that's what I call a wave pool!


Walking round to Tamarama beach was just stunning, and a real lesson in physical geography and the power of erosion from wind and sea. Although only 6km the walk round to coogee took well over 2 hours mainly due to the endless Kodak moment viewpoints, each equally jaw dropping with the bluest waters hitting into the layered rock.


Botanical Gardens and the Opera House

The end of the day took us through the botantical gardens in Sydney and to Mrs MacQuaries Chair for an unrivalled view of both the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Perfect end to the day, now lets go get a beer!

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Posted by Where's Willy 17:36 Archived in Australia Tagged opera_house sydney bay backpackers coogee lord_nelson bondi_beach Comments (0)

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