Explore Marlborough, Nelson and Kaikoura
North of Collingwood the road skirts Ruataniwha Inlet, and, after 10km, passes The Innlet. The road now follows the coast 11km to Puponga, at the northern tip of the South Island, where you can stay at the excellent Farewell Gardens Motor Camp. Around 2km on is Puponga Farm Park, a coastal sheep farm open to the public; check out the visitor centre.
From the Puponga Farm Park, there are great views right along Farewell Spit – named by Captain Cook at the end of a visit in 1770 – which stretches 25km east, often heaped with tree trunks washed up from the West Coast. The whole vast sand bank is a nature reserve of international importance, with salt marshes, open mudflats, brackish lakes and bare dunes providing habitats for over a hundred bird species: bartailed godwit, wrybill, long-billed curlew and Mongolian dotterel all come to escape the Arctic winter, and there are breeding colonies of Caspian terns, and large numbers of black swans. Sadly, the unusual shape of the coastline seems to fool whales’ navigation systems and beachings are common.
Short walks head to the outer beach (2.5km) and the inner beach (4km); both provide good views of the spit, which is otherwise off-limits except on guided tours from Collingwood.