The Boulder Bank, Nelson
Sunday 13 November 2022
A horribly wet and cold Saturday saw the Ellis Hut overnighter put on the back burner, and instead we rustled up an easy Sunday trip along that most fabulous of Nelson icons, the Boulder Bank.
Te Pokohiwi (The Boulder Bank) is a natural spit of grandiorite rock that runs for 13km from its start at McKay Bluffs to its finish at The Cut. Most people however choose to do the 8km walk from the end of Boulder Bank Drive out to the Lighthouse. As did we, making it a 16km return walk on a gorgeous bluebird day.
The BB runs pretty much parallel to the coast of Nelson, getting slowly narrower and the stones smaller the further west you walk. There is a higher shelf with larger boulders on the seaward ocean-side, and on the estuary-side (Nelson Haven) there is some lower flat land, the stones are smaller, and it is easier walking.
However we were unable to take advantage of the kinder route on the sheltered side, as it was full-on nesting season for colonies of Black Backed Gulls and Red Billed Gulls. More than once we inadvertently got too close to the odd rogue nest up on the higher ground and got dive bombed for our impertinence.
Many people say the BB is boring, but I think it is anything but. Read on!
* Close to the start of the walk we stopped to investigate a massive driftwood teepee. These structures are commonplace on Nelson/Tasman beaches but this particular one was on steriods, an impressive two spacious rooms long.
* The next point of interest, an hour from the start and conveniently situated for a morning tea break, is the famous Shag Tree. Being nesting season, the tree was full of Pied Shags hunkering down on their mounds of twigs.
* A little bit further on you reach the first of the historic baches. They are modest rustic affairs spread out over about a kilometre-long stretch. Some are brightly painted, some have aloe gardens, some have driftwood artwork or seating. Unfortunately last year one of the more picturesque ‘arty’ baches burnt down, and all that remains now is a forlorn teepee of blackened timbers.
* And then two and a half hours from the start (including generous breaks), with the stones now mere gravel and with the Port of Nelson directly across the water, we reached the iconic 1862-built BB Lighthouse (built 1862) – and conveniently it was right on lunch time.
We had intended wandering down to The Cut, but could see masses of nesting birds littering our way, so we watched from afar as a couple of container boats navigated the narrow stretch of deep water on their way into Port Nelson.
Normally we would have organised a key to go inside and up the lighthouse to enjoy its panoramic views. However this was a hastily organised trip, so not this time.
At one o’clock we started our return journey back to the cars. Normally it is quicker on the homeward stretch of a return walk, but not so today. Rubbish bags materialised from our day packs, and we commenced a beach clean-up.
It’s only once you really start looking for it that you notice just how much rubbish there is. Each of us collected the equivalent of a large black rubbish bag. As well as the usual plastic bottles, cans, shoes, plant pots, face masks, dog toys, chip packets and chunks of polystyrene … we also collected a hard hat, a watering can and (the prize of the day) a toilet seat.
One last thing to mention for the birders out there … as well as the afore-mentioned gulls and shags, we also had a fly-over from a flock of Royal Spoonbills, as well as seeing Banded Dotterel and Oyster Catchers.
Hopefully this Trip Report has convinced some of the nay-sayers that the Boulder Bank is worthy of a day out. Yes, it’s a bit hard on the soles of your feet, but they’re rounded stones rather than boulders, there’s well-formed paths to follow, and isn’t the ankle-twisting ordeal that the name implies. There’s plenty to see and explore. And it’s flat - the perfect walk for beginner trampers, or an easy day out for the more seasoned.
We were five well-seasoned trampers: Diane (Leader and Scribe), Jenny, Dean, Esther and Eric.