Perhaps as the crow flys it is not a long way, but once we turned off after Pelorus Bridge (great coffee, food and walks there) in the Rai Valley the road narrowed and snaked out along the ridge lines, we slowed down and were very grateful that we were not towing our new caravan – this would definitely be a challenging first tow, not a straight line in sight.
The road took us 24 kms down to the small settlement of Okiwi Road looking out on Croiselles Harbour. Then it was back to the ridge and another 17kms of tight turns to Elaine Bay. No cars passed us, we were on our own.
The road narrowed even more and there we were in the most beautiful tranquil Elaine Bay with a few houses and a working wharf for the nearby mussel farms.
Accommodation in Elaine Bay Marlborough
We were staying in a Elaine Bay holiday home right across the road from the water. We pulled in and the only sound we heard was the birds (Tui and Weka everywhere) and a beautiful stream tumbling over rocks beside the house. The only traffic an occasional truck loaded with mussels heading off for processing.
The house has a huge window seat looking straight out on the Tawhitinui Reach of the Pelorus Sound and the layers of islands and mountains that make up secluded part of the Marlborough Sounds.
View the map below to see where we were – basically at the top of the South Island of New Zealand.
It is beautiful – the house is nothing much to look at, having been built in layers over an old boatshed. But it is set up beautifully to stay in – though you need to bring your own linen. At $80 a night it is great value.
The owner, Neil also rents sea kayaks, but I am not sure we will get time to explore by water. Cynthia has headed to the left for a walk on the Piwakakawaka walk through native bush, and I turn right with my electric bike to see what lies beyond the wharf. Archers track follows a wide track through pine forest, opening occasionally to spectacular views of the Marlborough Sounds.
Unfortunately the predicted rain arrives and the track turns to slippery and treacherous clay. Soon drenched, I head home for a change of clothes and I settle for reading a book in the window seat. Cynthia soon returns with great reports of her walk to a secluded bay where she had a spring dip before the rain came.
We settle into the rhythm of the tides – at full tide a metre or more to swim in, then the tide goes out to reveal a rocky shore. If it gets really hot the steam beside us has some clear rock pools that look inviting. Kids would have a grand time here!
French pass is another 20kms beyond Elaine Bay – a hand written sign at our turn off intriques us with a promise coffe and no wifi. It is also the stop off for a ferry to D’Urville Island one of the better know islands in the area.
It is an hour drive to French Pass – 10 minutes of seal, followed by a beautiful drive through Garne and Saville Bay Department of Conservation Scenic researve, then we are out on farming country with long views over the Sounds, and a magnificent view of D’Urville Island.
We are at about 1500 m height when we hit the downward curves into French Pass, the main departure place for D’Urville Island. $300 will get you a boat across with bikes and gear. There are places to stay and roads to follow and you can get a barge to take a car over if that is your thing.
The French Pass store is simple and welcoming – Aleshaa produces two great coffees – a sign proudly proclaims there is no wifi and no covid. A nearby sign says “Gone Fishing” which seems to be the main attraction in the area. A simple campground offers sites with million dollar views.
A group of men arrive off the boat with their bikes, which are hoisted up on the back of a truck, a few dollars changes hands and they are taken up the first steep part of the road before riding on. I decide this is a great idea, and Cynthia drops me and the bike at the top of the hill before a very pleasant ride back to Elaine Bay.