With a 1 pm check-in time for our water taxi to Bay of Many Coves Resort, we had limited time for stops and side trips along the 155 km drive from Kaikoura to Picton.
After checking out of our hotel, we were driving north by 9 am. We didn’t get very far – maybe 10 minutes up the highway, before we stopped at the Ohau Stream Walk. It’s just a ten-minute walk from the parking lot to the Ohau waterfall, where Fur seal pups like to play during the winter months. We visited in February (late summer), so didn’t see any pups, but it was still worth the walk to see the beautiful falls.
After we were all satisfied we had some good photographs of the waterfall, we retraced our steps to the parking area and then waited for a safe opportunity to cross the highway to the rocky shoreline, where we spotted one seal pup and a couple of lounging females. They were pretty relaxed, but we were still glad we had long lenses and could stay far enough away we didn’t disturb them while shooting some Fur seal portraits!
New Zealand Fur seals are also called kekeno and the population near Kaikoura has been slowly increasing since 1978 (when they became a protected species under New Zealand’s Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978). They prefer rocky shorelines, also called haul-outs. This is what the shoreline is like across the highway from the Ohau Stream Walk:
A few other onlookers came and went over the half hour we stayed on the beach. We would have preferred to stay longer but were up against a deadline, so we waited for a break in traffic, crossed back to the parking lot and then resumed our drive.
We made one more brief stop along the way – at the Lake Grassmere Saltworks, where we found a couple of geocaches and took several photos. There are no tours here, which I found disappointing. A jar of New Zealand pink sea salt would have made a great souvenir! It’s hard to tell from the accompanying photo, but depending on the time of year and also on weather conditions, the evaporation ponds range across various tones of pink and purple. This saltworks is unique in the world; most saltworks use solar evaporation, but this one is further from the equator than most and relies on wind’s drying power to do the work.
After a bit of back-and-forth in Picton, returning our rental car, dropping luggage at the water taxi office, grabbing a quick lunch, etc., we boarded our water taxi on schedule. The “boys” sat on the top deck in the sunshine and K didn’t suffer any recurrence of the seasickness he experienced while we were whale watching the day before. We enjoyed the scenery of beautiful Marlborough Sound for about an hour before Bay of Many Coves came into view…
This was our home-away-from-home for the next two nights, where we enjoyed a walk to check out some glow worms, some night photography and a hike along part of the Queen Charlotte Track, which will be the topic of another blog post coming in the next few days.