A spot of sun, sea and peace

23:01, Jan 20 2011
Mistletoe Bay
RELAXED: The Collier family, Jonathan, Joe, Sarah and Lucy, take a moment to look out over Mistletoe Bay in the Marlborough Sounds.

Being a born and bred Aucklander I'm not used to being able to get anywhere in 15 minutes, let alone away from civilisation in that time.

But that's all it takes to get from Picton to the Mistletoe Bay eco village in the Marlborough Sounds by boat.

It's an overcast Saturday morning in Picton with a slight breeze – perfect conditions for my first trip into the Sounds. I'm meeting the chairman of the Mistletoe Bay Trust, Simon Heath, their new programme and marketing director Jonathan Collier and his family to have a look around the village they have built from the ground up from a former DOC campground over about seven years.

Skipper Chris George demonstrates his vast knowledge of the Sounds by pointing out the different bays we pass by.

Surprisingly I still have fully functioning sea legs after years as a land lubber.

On arrival at the village, just off the Queen Charlotte Track and frequented by those walking it, it's immediately clear why the Sounds are the jewel in Marlborough's crown – quiet, serene, beautiful.


There's no room here for people in a hurry, that's for sure, but why would you be?

Aside from getting back to nature, visitors to the bay can go mountainbiking, walk the Queen Charlotte Track, or do a multitude of water activities like kayaking and sailing.

The village hosts both school and corporate groups in eight huts, known as whare, as well as families, campers and backpackers in a neighbouring campsite and a self-sustaining cottage.

It prides itself on being self sustaining and a beacon of sustainable living in the Marlborough Sounds.What can be recycled is and all food scraps go to the pigs or the worms – not a drop of waste goes into the bay.

Talking to the caretaker of the village Chris Knowles, he is quick to point out all the work is done through volunteer labour. German tourist Alessia Ruiu, 38, and Maria Kalmari, 29, from Finland, both said they camped at the bay and loved it so much they decided to stay.

The pair do general maintenance around the site in exchange for food and a bed.

The sight and sound of donkeys and alpacas are not quite as synonymous with camping as nesting and feeding tui are, but donkeys Willow and Polly and alpacas Raymos and Yani play their primary role in the upkeep of the site by helping reduce the fire risk.

The four-legged foursome graze the terraces above the campground, removing the need for motorised lawnmowers that could start a bush fire.

I imagine they keep the children entertained as well, but they probably don't mind the attention – it's a small price to pay to live in one of the most tranquil bays in the Marlborough Sounds.

The Marlborough Express