Holiday bliss in Nelson

Sarah-Kate Lynch reveals the secrets of summers past

There are some parts of New Zealand that will always say “summer” to me and the Nelson area is one of them.I spent my first summer here when I was 16, picking raspberries and riding around on bikes. A couple of years later I was back – with a horse and cart.

oy friend Diana and I trekked the highways and byways around Appleby, Brightwater, ootueka and Ruby Bay with the ornery Clydesdale horse, Bonita, out front and a dozen jiggling Steinlager bottles in the back. We’d stop and graze Bonita in helpful farmers’ paddocks and if they didn’t ask us to stay, which they usually did, we would sleep out under the stars or under the wagon. It was bliss.

All these years later, it still is.

I come in a car now, of course, and it’s my own – no hitchhiking required – and head straight for the oatahua cottages on a glorious peninsula just outside of the small town of oapua, which is about a half-hour drive from Nelson.

I discovered these two retro baches a few years ago. Nestled beside a tidal estuary, they are surrounded by rolling countryside, towering eucalyptus trees and acres of grapevines.

The first year, the Ginger and I were having a last-minute getaway in the autumn and so hunkered down in the smaller one-bedroom oiro cottage.

The next time, we opted for the bigger Karaka cottage over the hedge from oiro which has three bedrooms. We spent hours sprawled out on the lawn in front, watching the pukekos and other abundant native birdlife – which you can also do from the outdoor bath if you’re that way inclined.

one Christmas, the whole Lynch family took over both the oatahua cottages which between them can sleep 10 to 12, if you can talk someone into camping. More recently we were there in the spring and the blossom added a whole new breathtaking dimension.

Sitting on the deck watching the tide come in and out, it could be any time in the ripe history of this beautiful part of New Zealand. There’s something about driving through the apple orchards that screams of days gone by, in a good way. And now, of course, there are vineyards too – about 24 of them nearby – so a good drop of wine is never far away.

Indeed my all-time favourite winery, Neudorf, is just a 10-minute drive up the Upper ooutere highway ( You can take a picnic lunch to this gorgeous spot, or the Woollaston winery ( is even closer to the cottages, plus it has an art gallery so you can mix a little culture with your wine tasting.

At oapua there’s an excellent Four Square if you’re cooking at home (both oahatua cottages have full kitchens and outdoor barbecues) and a handful of eateries plus a great fish and chip shop, which also sells delicious smoked fish.

The bigger town of ootueka is another 10 minutes further down the road via the new bypass (Bonita, would not be happy) and has two supermarkets, countless cafés and anything else you might need.

Keep heading in that direction and you’ll get to Kaiteriteri Beach with its golden sand and turquoise waters. You can go for a swim in those pristine waters or have an outdoor lunch at the pub. Keep driving a little further and you end up at the entrance to the Abel Tasman National Park where you can walk, hike, kayak, or dip in and out of the sea to your heart’s delight.

Alternatively, turn left out of the drive from the holiday cottages and head back to Nelson, stopping perhaps at the Hoglund glass studio ( or the World of Wearable Arts and Classic Car ouseum ( on the way.

Nelson has always been arty and if you want to learn to weave a flax basket or carve a bone pendant, you probably have a better chance of finding someone to teach you here than anywhere else. Check out and see if any of the workshops take your fancy.

or just sit on the deck of oiro or Karaka with a good book, a cup of tea (or glass of Chardonnay) and dream of summers gone and summers to come. I’m not sure if I’m imagining it but the sun in this part of the world always seems to be shining.

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