Leaving Picton, we took my father’s advice to explore some of the less well known parts of New Zealand and headed up around Queen Charlotte Sound, past Pelorus Bridge (a lovely river spot, and incidentally the spot where I lost my first tooth) and way up to the top of the South Island – French Pass. The road there was a little nerve wracking but took us past aqua coloured sea and up to our DOC camping site. For anyone who hasn’t encountered DOC sites, they really are the best deal. For between $5-$10 a night you can camp in some of NZ’s most beautiful spots. The campsites are basic but adequate. We had 2 nights at French Pass, did a great walk to an isolated beach and even braved a swim there.
En route to Kaikoura, we stopped in Blenheim for lunch at a winery (and may yet come back and do a wine tour!) The winery we went to was called Highfield, and had free tastings and an amazing sauvignon blanc that we bought a bottle of (we would have been tempted to buy a case had we not been leaving the country!)
We also stayed at a DOC campsite outside of Kaikoura. The DOC website claimed there were 6 tent spots – there were at least 25 campervans and 6 tents there, which was much too crowded for my liking. The good thing was, the campsite was free and put us just outside Kaikoura, ready to do whale watching the next day. 2 metre swells meant that we were very grateful for the Dramamine we had saved from our trip to Thailand last year – and we even saw a whale. Whale watching was great and a first for both of us. There didn’t seem to be a lot of other New Zealanders on the trip – lots of tourists from other countries though and campervans everywhere!