Happy New Year (belatedly) all! This is the post where I’m talking about all things New Year's break that I need to catch you up on, particularly our holiday in Nelson & the Baton Valley.
Things were at crisis point in October this year. After three years with Matt, we still had never been on a proper holiday away together without our parents (what can I say, we’re homebodies), past the Wellington region. I was despairing. Granted, Matt had been at uni for most of that time, but after 5 years of working over here, I was starting to wonder if we would ever get a chance to unwind in a semi-exotic location (or anywhere!).
New Year seemed like a very good time for me to make this dream a reality. So I started by looking into something I’d wanted to do for a long time - a Canopy Camping trip, glamping somewhere far flung in Aotearoa.
Founders Liz Henderson and Sonia Minnaar, started in 2012 Canopy Camping Escapes to solve a problem. They wanted to escape with their families - somewhere unique and outdoorsy. They loved the idea of arriving at a beautiful location with a luxury canvas tent, fully set up and waiting, somewhere private and secluded (with decent loos). Since then, Canopy Camping Escapes has gradually curated a collection of special places of the glamping kind, all lovely, and all off the beaten track. The collection includes beautiful tents surrounded by nature, quirky cabins with packets of personality and secret hideaways that offer something completely and utterly unique.
I looked at their site but decided to email them and ask where we could go over New Year's Eve. Immediately, I got a response back outlining the four options that were still available around the area. One of them was in the Baton Valley, 40 minutes from Motueka. It was called Honeywell Hut and the photos just made it look a picture. So, without further ado, I emailed back and said we’d take it. I booked flights on Air New Zealand, weighing up my options, and managed to get something not astronomical. I wish I’d known more about other options, like the alternative airlines to fly on, but at this point I just wanted it locked down.
Once we’d paid the $40 deposit on our accommodation, we had our heads in the game. I paid the rest off at the start of December - so know if you book somewhere with Canopy Camping, you don't need to pay it all up front which is quite good for people like me who get intimidated by large costs.
Planning The Trip
I regret to say we didn’t do a huge amount of due diligence before going away. I’d NEVER BEEN TO NELSON BEFORE (how??) so had no idea about what to expect. The most I did was ask my friend Nina from Flash Jewellery (the best jewellery ever!), a local Nelsonian now living in Sydney where to go once we arrived. This, however, did make it an exciting playground to explore
We did need to book another night in Nelson itself because we could only secure two nights on New Year's Eve and New Years Day in our Canopy Camping Escape. I looked on Air BnB and to be honest I was quite let down by what was available. Lots of the good stuff had already gone by the time I checked it out. I had a look at some other travel sites bit eventually found the amazingly cute bed and breakfast in Tahunanui ‘The Beach House’. It looked clean and fresh, just what Matt & I needed!
We flew to Nelson, as mentioned above, on Air New Zealand. Flights for both of us were $385.
We decided to fly down on Saturday rather than Friday so that we didn’t need to pay for an extra night of accommodation. Our flight was a bit delayed, meaning we left at 1:40 from the Wellington Airport, but because the flight is so short, we were at our bed and breakfast in Tahuna by 3pm. We promptly slept for 3 hours (raging New Years vibes).
If you are travelling to this part of the world and are thinking about going anywhere outside of the little city of Nelson, you’ll need a car. We used the wonderful and lovely Rent a Car - a Nelson company that I found when seeing lots of mainstream brands were sold out. Lovely Liz helped put us right and they were so generous, not even getting grumpy when we took the car back a little later. The wee Nissan Tiida became our friend over the next four days (although Matt struggled with the ‘keyless' element at first).
What I Wore and Beauty/Skincare
I brought lots of books with me for the trip, plus my trusty sunhat I got from the Warehouse for Toast Martinborough a few years ago. I wore my new G-Star Denim Raw Jeans from Hurricane Jeans, my white silk shirt I got from R. M. Williams in the sale just after Christmas, and a few other tops, as well as my trusty TopShop straight-leg jeans that I love. I also took my Lonely swimsuit, which was gorgeous on the beach!
I used Estee Lauder Double Wear Nude as my foundation while I was away, a perfect foundation for hot summer days with SPF 25+. Instead of bringing all my individual toiletries, I took my Auckland Aesop Travel Kit, with mini's of the Classic Shampoo and Conditioner, Mouthwash, Toothpaste, Geranium Body Wash, Mandarin Hydrating Cream, Fabulous Facial Cleanser and Parsley Seed Toner. This was a great idea (and I'd been saving it up for this trip to be honest with you) because it saved me so much space in our tiny luggage (we only brought carry-on). I'm a huge fan of Aesop and love every one of their products (I used to sell it when I worked at WORLD on Victoria Street when I was in High School), so it was an absolute luxury to have their products on hand as I carefully stepped through sheep dung on the field to the out-house mirror. Aesop is a Melbourne based brand who are natural based and have a clear philosophy based on being practical, aesthetically pleasing and pleasurable to use.
For footwear, I just brought my Chuck Taylor Converse shoes and jandals. I made sure to pack plenty of underwear and my phone charger. However, I didn't take my laptop and as it turns out I didn't check my phone very often, because I tried to be on a bit of a digital detox. At the end of the time away, although it was only three days, I felt clearer and fresher from not being on my phone. That feeling was one I wanted to make sure I remembered heading into 2018. It can be very hard not to check Instagram and email 24/7 but it is very much worth it when you switch off, both mentally and for my hand physically (which sometimes cramps from all the tapping I do of the big iPhone 6S screen).
As mentioned above, we stayed at The Beach House and Honeywell Hut. Both were lovely and I’d highly recommend. You DO share a bathroom at The Beach House but it was very neat and pretty. Plus the bed was amazing and Matt and I had almost a 12-hour sleep before heading off the next day.
Honeywell Hut is located deep in old Gold Miner Country, on Baton Valley Run. It is a horse ranch, as well as a working farm. You can either drive to Motueka from Nelson and then into the backcountry, or you can drive straight across the backroads from just past Richmond which is about half an hour faster.
The views of the land surrounding Honeywell Hut were stunning. It has the most incredible hills and while it was a bit overcast on the days that we were there, the mist made the skies look mystical and like they were from a Jane Campion film. With a cottage as cute as it looks in the pictures, it wasn’t hard to imagine we were on the open plains of the frontier.
Highlights include total privacy if you want it (although we elected to spend New Years Eve with the farm owner, a local Indy who was working on the farm over Summer taking treks out and a lovely Woofer called Clara from Europe) and the ability to decide exactly how you want to do your canopy camping experience. If you want to lie in bed all day and read, you can, or if you want to drive to one of Nelsons many great beaches, you can do that too. There is literally just you, the sheep and the scenery so should you wish to walk around the paddock nude, you can (look away Sheep, look awaaaaay!)
Inside, Honeywell Hut has a gas cooker, so you are able to make your own dinner, two large double beds in bunk bed form, and a third single bed. The bathroom is an outhouse, which is very clean and charming and isn’t scary at all. There is a very pretty bathtub that we took advantage of on our last night which you can jump into, although you do need to heat up the water with a coal fire. The last guests had already heated the water, so we were lucky enough not to need to do such manual labour.
I’d recommend bringing your own water. We were dumbos and didn’t do this in our big New Years Eve countdown shop. The water is fine, probably more pure than most, but it is a bit gritty from the river.
Normally, you can have a fire by the river where there is a concrete couch and brassiere but unfortunately, the weather had been so hot that there was a total fire ban. Our Hut was surrounded by sheep, which was quite funny, because on the second night one kept baa’ing around 4 am, making Matt furious. Apart from that, and the many sandflies (do make sure you take loads of insect spray for your body), Honeywell Hut was a sweet dream.
What We Did
Nelson, and the Nelson area has so much to do. We couldn’t possibly start to cover it all but here are some highlights:
Horse Trekking on Baton Valley Run
Oh - my - word. This was by far and away my favourite thing that we did. And funnily enough, it was actually Matt who pushed for us to do this adventure. I had been humming and ahh-ing because I was worried about pushing out our budget (it was $100 each) but I am so glad that we decided to do this. Turns out, my few years of horse ridining came flooding back to me which was a real kick and that Matt, who I expected to be quite afraid of horses for some reason, was a natural horse whisperer (if the horse whisperer bonded over the fact that his hungry mare and him both enjoyed eating and hated climbing hills). We even got to canter together over a wide prairie like plain. We enjoyed this part of the journey particularly because of our gorgeous girl guides, Indy, Jasmine and Clara. Jasmine kindly took this photo of us on horseback (I was a bit nervous about taking my DSLR out). We were given a shot of Bailey's over the lovely wide view of the land just before the end and a Tim-Tam (#service!!!).
Restaurants & Food
We ate at a few places around and about Nelson and Motukea. Honeywell Hut is truly in the middle of nowhere, so don’t expect to be popping down to the local pub. However, that didn’t stop us taking advantage of some of the areas great food attractions.
Harry’s had been recommended to us, but we were a little disappointed because while not bad at all, it was crowded outside and the food was good but not amazing in our view. Much more delightful was The Boat Shed Cafe overlooking the sea, where we had breakfast the next day. It was light, breezy and popular, and I even ran into a friend from Law School on holiday with her boyfriend (shout out to Jen Howsen)! We’d 100% go back there again. The cheese scone was to die for (although we thought the mussels were a bit meh!). This was probably my favourite place to eat for the scenery and the ‘English seaside’ vibe.
Another solid choice was Toad Hall in Motueka were we went on New Years Day. The food was hearty and generous and the service speedy and helpful, especially because they were packed. To finished off our eating, we checked out Burger Culture on the way back to the airport which was a bit like Wellington’s Burger Liquor. We gorged on fried chicken burgers, a rich vanilla milkshake and soy and ginger chicken wings. This place is constantly packed, but it worth it!
Going to the Beach
While we would have liked to have spent more time exploring the beaches, all we had time for in the end was a short dip at Stephens Bay. But I was truly wow’ed by the gorgeous sand and sea, which reminded me very much of our little family bach up North past Whangarei where my mum and dad go every year. I couldn’t believe that such pretty beaches were as close to Wellington as this! I happily frolicked in my Lonely swimsuit and soaked up the sun. We gotta remember that in New Zealand we’re so lucky to be this close to beaches of beauty, like those in Nelson. The experience made me resolute to go explore New Zealand more this year. Turns out, twenty minutes in the sea is almost enough to reset your stress levels, and prepare you to embrace a New Year.