Best in Nelson
‘Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats", said Mole in Kenneth Grahame's book, Wind in the Willows.
Living in Tasman Bay means that we are spoilt for choice on where to go on the sea, whether by kayak, run-about, ketch or large launch.
The ocean invites us to explore and mess about by boat. Judging by the number of trailer boats parked up driveways, and the 600-odd vessels berthed in the Nelson Marina, we are a region of keen water enthusiasts.
There are numerous boating destinations in Tasman Bay and three of my favourites are Croisilles Harbour, Abel Tasman and the Nelson Haven.
First up is Croisilles Harbour, northwards along the coast between Delaware Bay and French Pass. The harbour is a big area of largely sheltered water with Whangarae and Okiwi Bays its two main anchorages.
At Croisilles Harbour's seaward entrance are three small islands. These are perfect for exploring - just be wary of aggressive seals that don't like being surprised.
Bach holders at Okiwi value the area for fishing, as well as scuba diving, spear fishing, scalloping, bush walks and swimming. The launching ramp at Okiwi gives good access for small boats to D'Urville for those with lots of fuel on board and an understanding of the marine weather forecast.
A tip for families who have a captain of a non-trailerable boat who loves sailing, but a crew that gets seasick, is for the crew to drive to Okiwi Bay, park on the waterfront and get your captain to pick you up from the beach. Then when you have had enough pottering around in the sheltered harbour, get dropped back ashore and drive home, remembering to stop at the Hira store for a large icecream.
The Abel Tasman coastline, from Separation Point to Kaiteriteri, is a popular summer playground. The Department of Conservation estimates that 160,000 people visit Abel Tasman National Park annually, making it New Zealand's highest density park for visitors.
Despite this popularity, Abel Tasman doesn't feel too crowded when on a boat. An easy trip from Nelson gets you to Anchorage, my preferred bay because of its excellent shelter and proximity to shore.
There are also sheltered all-weather overnight anchorages inside Adele Island. Overnighting in any of the east-facing bays can be unpleasant as a small swell often rises in the very early morning.
The mild climate makes the park ideal for sea kayaking, so keep one on board for exploring estuaries. You can also take advantage of side trips to Tonga Island Marine Reserve for snorkelling.
Although the water isn't seething with fish, children can easily catch spotties (outside the Marine Reserve), and if you want something for dinner, head just off the coast and get a kahawai or gurnard.
An alternative to hurrying out through The Cut for a weekend, is a day trip around the Nelson Haven, visiting Haulashore Island and the Boulder Bank. If beachcombing is your thing, this area is ideal.
We have found many useful plastic items and rope, a torch that works, pens that don't and countless interesting rocks. I suspect that half of my clothes-peg supply has been sourced from Haulashore.
The Boulder Bank Lighthouse was made in England, then shipped to Nelson and lit in 1862. It remained in use - and was staffed - until 1982, when a new automatic light was installed.
A key to open the lighthouse is available from Port Nelson.
Larger boats need to be careful in this area as the channel is not marked and a depth-sounder is very useful.
Now is a good time to buy a boat. There are loads for sale at the Marina and for under $50,000 you could find a decent family sized ketch.
The summer weather is about to enter a more settled phase (fingers crossed) and from now on is the perfect time to head out and find your favourite marine haunt.