Driving into Blenheim one sunny morning on the way to Kaikoura to swim with seals, I was taken aback by the size of the town. I had expected something smaller. So what was supposed to be a quick dash through, turned into a couple of days of exploring.
Blenheim sits right in the north east corner of the south island of New Zealand. As I was driving through from Havelock I noticed the big set of hills behind it. Mountains and canyons always have full undivided attention so I set about a quick detour to see what was there.
QUICK HIKE, OK LETS GO!
Reaching the Wither Hills farm park, Lanna and I got ready, made some lunch and started up the Mount Vernon track.
Looking back every now and then, you see the great views start to develop. I always find it exciting as this happens, and is what spurs me on to the top most of the time!
After about an hour and a half, you reach the top. The views are spectacular!
A small structure up top with seats and local information allows for a great lunch spot. With no shelter, it’s always a good idea to bring a hat and use sunscreen. The New Zealand sun can be mighty harsh!
Reading the information panels, it showed the active fault line placement you could actually see in the city beneath you! It also talked about the state of the land many years ago, both before european settlers and the local Maori people. It’s a reminder, as always, we need to be careful about our impact on the earth. Places like this might not last much longer with increased urbanization and pollution.
Once done taking in the scenic view, we decided to head the alternative way down, making a nice loop of the track. This is pretty straightforward, as is the whole hike, with plenty of signs marking the way and well trodden paths. The only thing you'll get lost in is your thoughts!
We also met Ronnie, a rock.
Painted and marked with a little description, Ronnie wants to go to the top of Mount Vernon. One person, 5 steps at a time.
I obliged and carried him uphill 10 meters. I'm interested to know what date he makes it up there, having spent 2 months on the way up so far. Please let me know if you find out!
Back at the car, we noticed the rain in the distance closing in but figuring we would have enough time, decided to do another hike nearby. It wasn’t a big cloud anyways so we would be fine with our rain jackets.
A LITTLE PRO-TIP FOR NZ HIKES
To find many of the hikes I do, I use free apps and websites. For New Zealand, nothing beats Discover the outdoors from DOC (Department of Conservation).
DOC has some amazing resources out there and this is one of them. Just open it on the computer or your phone and zoom into the area you are in. Make sure to select ‘all tracks’ on the drop down menu and you'll see the page light up with squiggly pink lines. These are all tracks. Just click on one to get more information! Easy!
TO THE NEXT HIKE!
Our next hike involved a little trip to the historical shipwreck of the SS Waverly in the Wairua lagoons.
Made in 1883, this 112 foot steamship had a colourful life transporting cargo and passengers around the top of the south island. Dismantled in Wellington in 1928, she was towed to the mouth of the Wairua river to be sunk as a breakwater, but before being scuttled a flood swept her into the channel and into the lagoons to her final resting place.
You can read about the life of the SS Waverly HERE.
Back to the hike.
Starting down Wairua Lagoons walkway from our parked car, we found the path flooded from the recent rain. We did have the foresight to wear appropriate shoes at least!
A part of me has the feeling this track is often a little wet, so jandals/thongs/flipflops are the way to go. While mostly flat and featureless, the beauty comes from the open expanse. A recent sighting of sea lion had been made, so we were also on the lookout should we spot it! We had a long camera lens for this, as sea lions can be extremely dangerous. Best to keep some distance and observe from afar.
After the odd 50 minutes or so, we made it to the wreak. I love historical walks and hikes, they always add a little extra to the day. So I couldn’t help but have a little look around the rusted remains.
Crossing the choppy water, muddy from the recent rain, I clambered up the side of the leaning hull and spent a few minutes seeing what was left.
Once I had had my fill, I hopped back over the rail and down climbed to the shore. We hurried back to get to out cars, keen to get a shower after a good day of checking out Blenheim’s best walks. Alas no sea lion was ever spotted.
Even if you are just passing through, I highly recommend taking the time to check out Mount Vernon and the SS Waverly wreck. Both can be done in under 3 hours each, and who knows, you might get to spot the sea lion!
HERE’S THE LOWDOWN ON THE HIKES:
TIMES/LENGTH: Allow 3.5 hours return with short lunch at top.
START LOCATION: End of Redwood Street HERE.
EQUIPMENT: Day hike items.
OTHER COMMENTS: More tracks and full information can be found HERE.
SS Waverley wreck
TIMES/LENGTH: Allow 3.5 hours return.
START LOCATION: End of Hardings road HERE.
EQUIPMENT: Day hike items.
OTHER COMMENTS: Read about the ships life before going HERE! Always makes the hikes a little more awesome. The track is completely flat- NO UPHILL!