Today was a big long travel day to get us and the enormous van down to the south island. We woke up early in our pathetic camp (which was just a parking lot) and drove to the ferry station in Wellington. The ferry was huge, with ten levels to choose from. We sat up top on the sun deck since it was such a nice day and we had a great view. The ferry takes about three hours to cross the Cook Straight between the North and South islands and has amazing scenery along the way. Once the ferry gets closer to Picton, it enters the Marlborough Sound which is made up of drown river valleys and only the mountain tops remain above sea level. The ferry twists and turns through narrow straights making it's way to the little town of Picton.
From the ferry we could see the 9th oldest sailing vessel built in the world, housed under the roof of the maritime museum on the water. We turned out of the ferry terminal up the steep and windy Queen Charlotte Road which wound along the Marlbourough Sound offering fabulous views of turquoise waters and green mountain sides. We stopped for lunch at one of the lookouts along the way and took in the scenery.
Continuing on through the town of Nelson, we stopped at Seifried Vineyards for a wine tasting. This vineyard happened to be the largest and oldest in an area famous for it's white wines. Everything was delicious, and we enjoyed our little rest stop.
Onward to Abel Tasman National Park on the west coast, we noticed a lot more camper vans and quickly realized the South Island was not the deserted icy wonderland we'd expected. It was sunny and relatively warm, with campers driving around looking for a spot to themselves. After a long search, we ended up just north of the town of Takaka, which we liked very much, at the Pu Pu Springs trailhead.
The South Island is stunning with the huge mountain peaks and so many national parks. Once we get further away from the northern areas, it seems like it will become more remote.