During our time in Nelson, New Zealand, I thought it would be a great idea for us to explore the beautiful beaches of the surrounding area while also getting a taste of the tramping yet to come on our 6 week trip. When researching the region during the planning of our adventure, the Cable Bay walkway regularly appeared on tourists’ “things to do” lists. It’s promoted as a three and a half hour (one way) walking track that connects Glenduan (12km out of Nelson) to Cable Bay and offers magnificent coastal views of the Boulder Bank, Kahurangi and Abel Tasman national parks and Nelson. Despite the little information I could find on the walkway it appeared to check all the boxes for how we planned to spend our time in Nelson; it led us right to the beach, gave us practice for walking a reasonable duration and even provided us with the opportunity to use the tent at the Cable Bay holiday park. Perfect! Or so I thought…
Prior to our arrival I hadn’t looked too far into the specifics of how we were to arrive at the beginning of the walkway. I had assumed that if there were no viable transport options we would simply walk since it was only 12km and, after all, our first day of the Heaphy Track was 17.5km all uphill – so how hard could it be? Apparently impossible. During a visit to the i-Site and Department of Conservation in Nelson the attendants behind the counter seemed rather perplexed as to why we would even be asking about walking to the beginning of the track, since it is most common for people to drive two cars and leave one at each end of the walkway, or have one car and walk an abridged loop. After looking at several maps, and ensuring that the path we had already considered using was in fact legal to walk on, we thanked the DoC staff and were set on our way to walk the apparent impossible.
The next morning we caught the local N Bus as far north of Nelson as possible, to the Clifton Terrace School on Tresillian Avenue. We then proceeded to walk the 1.5km up the highway to the beginning of Boulderbank Drive, a dirt road which led us to the famous Boulder Bank – a natural spit of boulders, formed from the debris of land slips swept southwards by currents over thousands of years. After passing yet another doubter of our plan, a concerned female jogger was quite surprised upon hearing we were walking to Cable Bay, we arrived at the Boulder Bank – and finally the real walk had begun. Maybe it was the countless number of rocks that made up the unstable walking surface, maybe it was the affluent treatment plant we were passing, whatever the reason, walking along the Boulder Bank was at times challenging to say the least.
Approximately two hours passed and, after a snack stop, small victory dance and secret sigh of relief that we actually made it to the beginning of the trail, we set off across farm land as the Cable Bay Walkway had begun. The walk itself provided a range of terrain and scenery, mainly grazing land with a with a middle section of varied native forest. The climb up was certainly worth the effort, with breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean on a gorgeous sunny day. Nothing, however, had prepared us for the descent – an exceptionally steep traverse along sheep tracks that only begun when we really thought we could climb no more. Compared to ‘real’ tramping tracks I know the walkway doesn’t rate very highly for its degree of difficulty, however with 6 weeks worth of gear and three nights food on our backs it was certainly a worthy introduction to world of tramping.
Our time in Cable Bay was spent relaxing around the holiday park, strolling along another boulder bank beach and just taking in the world. We stretched out on the lawn, soaked in the sun and had great conversations with new friends. The official greeter of the park, Tony, is an interesting man and definitely worth chatting to if you ever make your way over to that beautiful, peaceful corner of the world.
The Cable Bay Walkway and Cable Bay itself are worthy additions to any New Zealand itinerary. While our approach wasn’t for the faint of heart, don’t let this deter you from visiting. If you do hike the walkway and feel as tired as we did by the end, take the effort to head back up the hills just one more time to watch the sunset – trust me, it’s worth it.