Why would anyone want to stay in Linkwater?
By: Christopher Cookson
Last Modified: 4-2-2022 22:43
Why would anyone want to stay in Linkwater I thought? A flat, fairly uninteresting area of dairy farms surrounded by plantation pines or bare hillsides where they had once been, with a pub, a school, and a petrol station, didn’t sound like the most exciting place for a holiday. Even the church had been sold and was now a private residence. Either side of Linkwater were the sea and bush clad hillsides of the Marlborough Sounds; Tōtaranui/Queen Charlotte Soundto the east, and Mahakipawa Arm off Te Hoire/Pelorus Sound to the west, so staying in the midst of farmland when there were much more appealing vistas close at hand didn’t sound particularly exciting.
My family hadn’t had much of a summer holiday, as visiting my parents inevitably ends up as a working holiday, with almost a week of lawn mowing, scrub-cutting and chainsawing firewood, so we were keen to do something before the school holidays were over. We’d managed one night camping at Robin Hood Bay, and we considered some more camping but my wife was rather keen for a bed, and the popular campground at Momorangi Bay seemed to be heavily booked anyway. Given my opinion of Linkwater, if that hadn’t been the case, we probably wouldn’t have booked at Smith’s Farm holiday park.
Lunch by the sea
We were fairly late leaving Blenheim, stopping at Havelock to buy lunch where I ordered a sample of yet another variant of mussel pie which I’d only recently discovered on a trip to Nelson for a medical appointment. We stopped to eat at a picnic table by the sea in Mahakipawa Arm. The tide was in, so the silty shore was hidden under water. It was the first time I’d driven Queen Charlotte Drive since the July 2021 storm, and there were traffic lights and washouts on numerous sections of the road between Havelock and Linkwater.
At the end of the long straight through the flat dairy land of Linkwater, that could almost be a road somewhere on the Canterbury Plains, if it weren’t for the surrounding hills, we arrived at a tall barberry hedge, and a model motor home letterbox, with a large sign, partially obscured by the hedge, proclaiming Smiths Farm Holiday Park. Turning into the drive, we found that inside the property the tall hedges continued, but the prickly barberry gave way to native lemonwoods and an open area for tents and camper vans with a handful of vehicles parked.
I went into the office, obscured a bit by the vegetation, to confirm our arrival and pay for our cabin, which was a family friendly price, and along with the usual instructions and map I’m used to receiving at most holiday parks, I was handed a small bowl of still warm muffins, one for each of us, and a bag of animal pellets that looked a bit like oversized all-bran, so I appreciated being told that it was to feed the tame farm animals rather than being continental breakfast for us. The map and verbal instructions revealed that there was a private track to a waterfall in the bush, for paying guests only. Already, I was having to reassess my previous negative assessment of Linkwater as a place to stay.
We’d brought our bikes, which was fortunate, as the Link Pathway passed outside the holiday park, and offered a safe walking and cycle way to Anakiwa which we’d considered the main reason we’d come here.
Smiths Farm Holiday Park
The holiday park was busy, but not crowded, as it had a modest number of cabins, motel units, and camping sites, so that it did actually feel like you were getting away from civilisation, rather than joining crowds of people with the same idea. Apart from people, there were a few well behaved dogs around the place, which we took particular note of as our daughter had finally managed to convince us to get a puppy after years of asking, and we were a little apprehensive about how where we’d holiday in future after it arrived. We found out cabin, which was cosy, and would have slept five, but there were only three of us, so it was more than adequate. On the advice of the owner, we’d brought our own sleeping bags to avoid paying extra for bedding, and appreciated the option to be able to choose between economy or having everything provided.
Swimming and Mountain Biking at Anakiwa
Once we’d unloaded our sleeping gear, we drove the four and a half kilometres to the beach at Anakiwa. We probably could have cycled, however it was an extremely hot day, so driving with air conditioning on, though not very environmentally friendly was certainly more comfortable. My daughter wanted to swim of course, but she’d had nasal surgery less than a fortnight previously. We came to a compromise that she could swim with her head out of the water, or if she wanted to jump off the jetty, she had to use a mask to avoid getting water up her nose. She readily agreed to this, and was soon enjoying the water. I didn’t go for a swim, but spent quite a bit of time wading around trying to see how many different marine organisms I could find. There were thousands of tiny fish swimming around the jetty, which I later confirmed were juvenile yellow eyed mullet. I also saw a large eagle ray silently gliding through the water alongside the jetty.
After my daughter got tired, and a bit cold from swimming we decided to bike the first section of the Queen Charlotte Track to Umungata (Davies) Bay. We’d walked it a few times before, but this was the first time we’d cycled it. In spite of the heat, cycling the track was bearable, as it was in the shade of the forest. We had to look out for walkers and cyclists coming the other way, but it was generally an easy ride. At Umungata Bay, one of my favourite Marlborough beaches, we enjoyed the water again, with the shallow, flat bay allowing us to walk a good distance out into the bay past scuttling small, grey crabs that disappeared into their burrows in the mud near the high tide mark.
Getting late in the day, it was time to head back to Anakiwa and drive back to Smith Farm to prepare dinner. It was already well after six by the time we had our bikes loaded back on the bike rack.
Back at the farm park, while our dinner was cooking, I went with my daughter, animal pellets in hand, to check out the farm animals. There was a rather large pig, that lived up to all the stereotypes about pigs and their lack of finesse and obsession with food. It was very persistent when it knew that we had food, however there was a very loud, motley coloured goat that made an astounding noise, almost sounding as though it was possessed, making it clear that it felt that it was just as entitled as the pig. The goat to its disadvantage was on a chain, whereas the pig wasn’t, so it followed us around hoping to get more food. Another goat, this time white, was also rather opinionated, but not noisy like the first one. Some pretty relaxed sheep were probably the most polite of the animals, happily accepting food, and allowing themselves to be petted without trying to butt or demand more. If it wasn’t for the fact that the sheep were plain white, it seemed rather like Mossy Bottom Farm, the home of Shaun the sheep, in the animated cartoon series.
As we were petting the animals, someone leaned over the wire fence and greeted me. I’m terrible at remembering names and faces, but he remembered me from years ago when I did a stint playing the fiddle in the Country Music Club in Blenheim. It turned out like, us another family had never considered Linkwater before, but had ended up at Smiths Farm by chance with family, and wondered why they hadn’t stayed there before. In the cabin next to us was a family who were cycling Queen Charlotte Drive with their young kids, and dog, and wanted a place to stop over to break the journey. The whole place had a friendly, family atmosphere about it.
Getting ready for bed, my daughter noticed something rather entertaining about the toilets. They had prominent signs stating that nothing other than toilet paper was to be put in them. I don’t want to use any language that might not be family friendly on this blog, but the thought, “No ...t?” crossed my mind.
During the night, I heard morepork and weka calling in the bush. Apparently the waterfall had glow worms, but my wife and daughter were too tired to walk up the track, and I had some urgent work I needed to catch up on. Armed with my laptop and a free wifi voucher, I was able to make some headway. The internet connection certainly wasn’t blindingly fast, but it was reliable, which was not something I’d always experienced at other holiday accommodation.
Cycling the Link Pathway
In the morning, I woke up before the rest of the family, and decided that I could occupy my time by cycling to Anakiwa and back. The morning was cool, so I decided that I needed a windproof jacket, but I could tell that it was going to be another hot day. The cycle way turned out to be easy and mostly flat, with only a few rises and falls when it followed the coast, however there were several washouts where it was narrow, with a steep drop to the shore below with no vegetation to catch a fall, and although possible to ride, as a precaution, I walked these, since my wife didn’t know where I’d gone. In spite of this, the ride was pleasant, much of it passing through native bush, with the foliage closing over the path like a tunnel, so that I had to duck in sections.
At one point along the track, I found a signpost that read, “Garden Path – Seat of Contemplation – Ancient Beech.”
I parked my bike off the track and walked down the steep, narrow path that the sign pointed to. The beech certainly was huge, and ancient, and it had lost a large limb, which at first I thought was the ‘Seat of Contemplation’, until I noticed that a couple of metres further on, there was in fact, a wooden bench seat, nestled in the undergrowth, with a view out over the sea.
The trail came out of the bush at Tirimoana, where a long grassy strip between the road and the shore led to a boat launching area. I stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the view, relaxing on a wooden park bench near where the trail came out of the vegetation. From here, to past the Tirimoana jetty, there was no cycle trail, but Anakiwa Road was quiet at this time of the morning, and it was easy enough to ride on the grass anyway. I think I passed one, maybe two walkers getting some early morning exercise. Beyond the Tirimoana jetty, the Link Pathway began again, and I was back onto a vegetation lined trail. The trail finally ended on the beach at Anakiwa, with a bank of agapanthus on the landward side and native flax on the seaward side, which I thought was a bit of an interesting juxtaposition.
After sitting and contemplating the sea that was at low tide, exposing the sea grass beds where people had been swimming the day before, I got on my bike to make the return journey to the holiday park. By now, a few more people were starting to get active, and someone was already out on the water for a morning paddle in their kayak.
Back at the holiday park, my wife and daughter were awake and having breakfast. After they’d finished, we decided it was time to do the walk to the waterfall. At first the path crossed pasture, and the land gradually rose in front of us, then suddenly we crossed a small stream, and were in the bush. Ferns of all types, and a variety of native trees were around us as we followed the narrow path marked out by round, red plastic lids nailed to trees. We had the path to ourselves. Part way along the path, my daughter spotted some freshwater crayfish or kōura in a pool. Soon we made it to where the waterfall was, and a rope tied to the undergrowth helped us keep our balance as we scrambled up a steep, narrow bit of path to the waterfall. As far as waterfalls go, it wasn’t spectacular in terms of the volume of water, although it was reasonably high, however the surrounding terrain, with tilted rock strata and tree ferns reaching skyward, was spectacular. Around the waterfall, someone had made a number of stacks of flattish rocks, giving the place a bit of an other-worldly kind of feel to it, as though this was some place where aliens had visited. At least this place would never be overrun with tourists, as the holiday park catered for modest numbers at a time, and this was their own private treat for guests.
By the time we got back to our cabin from the waterfall, it was lunch time and the day was already heating up, and we’d enjoyed ourselves so much that I asked if we could stay for another night, which fortunately was possible.
We headed back to the beach at Anakiwa, where the tide was now high, and my daughter decided to do more jumping off the jetty, but this time a breeze was coming up and clouds were beginning to gather although the day was still fine, so she insisted on wearing her wetsuit. The water was a bit cooler, so I wasn’t tempted to swim, but the day was still hot enough that we all treated ourselves to icecream at the caravan that was doing a steady trade with people gathered at the beach.
After my daughter had tired of swimming, I decided I’d like to try some fishing, so we drove around to the Grove at the other side of the sound where there were no boats and slightly clearer water. By now the sky was quite overcast and there was a chilly breeze. My fishing efforts weren’t very successful. I managed to catch a very small kahawhai which I released.
Beer and Chips at the Pub
The fishing, done it was time to think about dinner, and my daughter announced she wanted to go to the pub and have a beer. I want to reassure readers that my wife and I don’t ply our child with alcohol, however she does enjoy (alcohol free) ginger beer and lemon beer, and knows that most pubs serve at least ginger beer, and have food. We decided that we could afford a little extra treat, and made our way to the pub at Linkwater known variously as the Linkwater Country Inn or Queen Charlotte Tavern, at the other end of the long, straight road where Smiths Farm holiday park was located.
The place had an air of nostalgia about it, with décor and architecture out of a past era. A handful of locals were conversing and drinking near the bar, and there were one or two others sitting down to meals. As expected, they had the mandatory ginger beer, and my daughter opted for an embarrassingly unhealthy kids’ meal of hot dog and chips. We did a bit better with gourmet burgers and chips, with the burgers crammed with generous helpings of salad greens. It was classic pub fare; tasty and satisfying without being pretentious or trying to make health statements.
Having completed our meal, it was time to head back to our accommodation and get a good night’s rest. The morepork were noisy again but we were tired, and didn’t pay attention. We did notice the trees and structures around the park lit up with fairy lights though. Certainly, the glow worms would have been more impressive, but that would have to wait for another time.
In the morning, under a grey sky, as we packed up to head back to Blenheim, we wondered why we’d never bothered to stay at Linkwater before. I think perhaps Smiths Farm Holiday Park is of Marlborough’s best kept secrets, within an easy drive from Blenheim, and not too much further from Nelson. For those who want something more up market, there is a motel just down the road from Smiths Farm too, although since we didn’t stay there I can’t comment on it, apart from saying that they don't have a waterfall.
I’ve certainly had my opinion changed about Linkwater as a place to stay.
Disclaimer: My family and I pay our own way, and any reviews are strictly my own opinion. I don't receive any payments or discounts from anyone.
Cite this page
Cookson, C. (2022). Why would anyone want to stay in Linkwater?. Retrieved May, 26, 2022, from https://www.marlboroughonline.co.nz/marlborough/information/commentary/why-would-anyone-want-to-stay-in-linkwater/
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