Our driving guide assumes you’ll be starting from Blenheim, Nelson or points further south. If you’re coming from Picton, everything will be the same except you won’t go through Havelock. Your points of interest will then start at Linkwater.
The drive should take about 2 hours from Havelock if you don’t make any stops. The best time of day is midday, especially on a day when it is sunny or partly cloudy. The water will look an absolutely brilliant turquoise and you’ll have some excellent viewpoints along the way.
You’ll see things that the average person driving in the sounds doesn’t see, as many of them start in Picton and make it no further than Queen Charlotte drive (the first leg of the trip) or Portage.
If you have GPS and cellular data available on your phone, you can plug in our address and Google Maps will absolutely take you there.
Points of Interest
The driving details below are more to help you if you don’t have a smart phone or data available. And to provide fun tips along the way.
Havelock is the last “major” town on your way to St Omer. Major means it has gas, a grocery store and several restaurants. It is also home to the Havelock marina, and where a lot of boat tours and mussel boats leave from.
This handsome (and tasty) devil looks like he knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he? Havelock is known as the Greenshell Mussel Capital. As you venture out in the Sounds, you’ll find the farms in the water and mussels on the menu.
- Havelock Groceries – The Four Square Supermarket here is not near as large as in other towns, so it should not be your main place to stock up with provisions.What Havelock lacks in groceries, however, it makes up for in restaurants.
- The Havelock Marina –the Slip Inn Cafe is a lovely spot to grab coffee and watch the comings and goings in the marina. On a wet or foggy day, it just hits the spot. Plus, they make a mean Flat White
- Shiloh The Blue Shop Kaffe is a must stop for coffee, preferably a Flat White, and a pie. Or two. Maybe three. My favorites are the Chicken & Leek, the Pork Belly & Mash and the Mexican Pulled Pork. These are combos you won’t find elsewhere. If you’re coming through before 1:30 or 2, they should still have pies. After 2 it starts to get iffy. They close at 3pm. It is located in a clue building with a railing almost directly across from Havelock Takeaways
- Havelock Takeaways – just across the street from Shiloh Blue, Havelock Takeaways is a real gem. If you’ve arrived past coffee and pie time, or you just need some fish and chips, then this is your stop. Quite possibly the best chips I’ve ever had, anywhere. Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Like most chips, they’re a tad on the greasy side. And like most chips, they come wrapped in paper. Don’t lay the paper on your lap! The Blue Cod is pricey at $10 per piece, but the pieces are deceptively large. You won’t need as many pieces as you think. Especially with those scrumptious chippies!
The Mussel Pot in Havelock is a Kiwi institution (the good kind) serving New Zealand’s famed green lip mussels. If you just can’t get enough mussels, then this stop is for you. Plus the place is just darn cute. How often do you find mussels on the rooftop?
Point of Interest # 2 – Cullen Point Lookout
From Havelock, head out on State Highway 6, turn on Queen Charlotte Drive. This is where you’ll find several scenic overlooks in the first few kilometers.
All the viewpoints will be on your left when you’re headed out to St Omer, making it easy to pull in. I recommend you pull in to each one. There are maybe 4 or 5 at most, each with a slightly different view.
If the weather is brilliant you won’t be sorry!
Point of Interest # 3 – Linkwater
Your first left turn will be in about 12 kms at Linkwater, when you turn onto Kenepuru Road. Linkwater will be your last chance to buy ice or gas. You’ll be on Kenepuru Road for the rest of your trip. There are a couple of restaurants in Linkwater, and a place that says they rent mountain bikes for $25 per day.
Also heed the warning on the sign about fuel. You won’t need a lot fuel once you arrive at St Omer, but you do need some to get back! Make sure your tank is topped up.
Point of Interest # 4 – Te Mahia Resort
Te Mahia Bay Resort is located directly across from Nopera and St Omer, so if you look out from Te Mahia you can see the area.
Te Mahia is a key stop on your trip, particularly if you purchased coffee at Shiloh Blue Kaffe in Havelock. A bathroom stop should be top of mind just about now.
The thing to beware of about Te Mahia is the road going in and out (really more like down to it and up from it) is very narrow. So you’ll need to be on your best courteous driver behavior and forgiving if you meet Mario coming the other way. The good news is that the road is fairly short and there’s also a good chance you may not meet another car at all.
You’ll see this signage as you arrive at the resort. To the left is the resort, restaurant and gift shop. Straight ahead is the wharf and public restrooms.
The restrooms are not fancy but they’re clean and new.
A short walk past the restrooms takes you to the wharf. The shuttle for Raetihi leaves from here and you can also pick up the Kenepuru Water Taxi. (with prior bookings)
Te Mahia is also home to a coffee and gift shop. Chances are you’ll find some unique gift items here, but the key takeaways are Bliss Balls and ice cream.
Obviously, the ice cream you’ll have to eat on the spot. And you may be full from Havelock. But Bliss Balls – those you can buy and take away. They’re sold at the counter near the register, labeled clearly so you can’t miss them.
I find Bliss Balls all over NZ, but in the US I’ve never found them at any restaurant or store. So depending on where you’re traveling from, you may or may not have heard about them.
Point of Interest # 5 – Portage
Portage is both a community and a hotel/resort. The setting is absolutely gorgeous and one of the key attractions is that it is just a short walk from the Queen Charlotte track.
Recently purchased by THC Group, the resort (“The Portage”) is being redeveloped and it shows. If you’re in need of a snack, there are three options, ranging from a café & lounge bar open all day, to a fine dining restaurant open for dinner. Hours are seasonal and the hotel is still ramping back up after the remodel, so it might be best to check ahead if you’d like to be sure of a meal.
You reach the far eastern end of Kenepuru Sound and the end of the south shore at Kenepuru Head.
Pull into the camping area at the sign and you’ll find these restrooms.
Shortly after the Kenepuru Head campsite you’ll come to this fork in the road.
Anakoha and Titirangi Rds are to the right. Don’t go that way.
Turn left instead.
At this point you have 23 kms left to St Omer.
Point of Interest # 7 – Ohauparuparu Bay
Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce the name of the next stop. Neither can I.
Ohauparuparu is a camping site on one of the few flat areas you’ll come to right next to the road. It’s a fairly sheltered spot and looks like it might be a nice spot for a swim, if you’re so inclined. No facilities.
Point of Interest # 8 – Waitaria Bay
Your last big turn (left again) is at Waitaria Bay.
You’ll see this red building (house?) on the left at your turn. It’s hard to miss.
From here on out you’ll start seeing mussel farms.
Shortly after this turn you’ll see a series of mellow yellow buildings on the right. This makes up the Waitaria Bay school. Ten area children are bussed to this school that covers grades 1-8.