Havelock, NZ: Lips, Shoes & Views
Leah Walker February 6, 2012

When I got off the Interislander ferry in Picton, my first time in New Zealand’s South Island, I knew where I was headed. Oh, I wandered around Picton for a bit, but none of its cute cafes or coffee shops deterred me from getting to Havelock for lunch. What’s in Havelock, you ask? Well, Havelock happens to be the green-lipped muscle capital of the world!

Now, I’d never heard of green-lipped muscles, much less tried them prior to my New Zealand research, but I love muscles, so why wouldn’t I love these? I headed south on Highway 1 towards Blenheim, the town where I would be staying two nights. It wasn’t the most direct route to Havelock, but I wanted to stop at Makana Confections. What can I say? I brake for chocolate. In their Marlborough factory, I watched chocolate truffles being made by hand and probably sampled it all. I bought some goodies and was back on the road.

Marlborough, New Zealand

Across Highway 62 and through the rows and rows of grapes, I hit Highway 6, the road that would take me north to Havelock. The fifteen-mile stretch morphed from vineyards to a mountainous landscape filled with sheep and cattle grazing. Yellow gorse made it appear as if the mountains were on fire. A blanket of peridot-green grass covered the lower regions making it a dream for the livestock.

Havelock, New Zealand 8

I drove slowly, even though the speed limit was 100 km. I didn’t want to miss anything. I’d been in New Zealand only three days, and each day I thought I would never see anything more beautiful. Driving through Marlborough, I was sure that this must be the most spectacular part of the country. Coming from drought-stricken Texas, the lush greenness through my eyes was exponentially multiplied. I was only a few miles from Havelock, and my stomach rumbled.

“WHAT the hell’s that?”

Havelock, New Zealand 6

I slammed my brakes and pulled off into the ditch; I had to get a closer look. My stomach be damned! Draped on the barbed wire fence running along the highway were 50 yards of shoes. Flip-flops, running shoes, and hiking boots, were all strung with no rhyme or reason. I had to find out what that was all about, but first I had to take photos. I took a piece of weathered shoestring off one of the shoes and hung my flip-flops. However, there was no way I was leaving my fancy Gypsy Soules on that fence. I got the shots and headed into town. Perhaps I could find someone to tell me about the shoe fence.

Havelock, New Zealand 7

I was greeted with a sign proclaiming Havelock the “Green-Lipped Muscle Capital of the World.” I was ready, as was my stomach, to try these famous muscles. I was told that the Slip Inn, located in the marina, was the place I needed to go. Because of my multiple stops and the time at the shoe fence, I arrived at an odd time; it wasn’t lunch and it wasn’t dinner. I had the whole place to myself. Noticing they had free Wi-Fi, I brought in my computer.

Havelock, New Zealand 5

It was a little cool out, so I elected to sit inside rather than on the deck overlooking the sounds. Since I was in a region known for its sauvignon blanc, choosing a wine was a no-brainer. The meal was a tougher decision, as everything sounded delicious. I decided on cottage potatoes and the white wine, fresh garlic, and herb steamed muscles with a side of homemade bread. While I waited on my food, I checked my email, Facebook, and Twitter, but mostly I watched boats come and go and enjoyed my glass of wine.

Havelock, New Zealand 4

My waitress, an English lady living in New Zealand on a work visa, brought my food. Upon hearing my accent, she asked where I was from. As usual, I told her Texas. A huge grin took over her face. She’d lived many years in Guymon, Oklahoma where her father worked, which isn’t too far from where I was raised. We chatted a bit and I asked her about the shoe fence. She didn’t know either. Hmmmm…

Havelock, New Zealand 3

I’d eaten every last muscle and sopped up the juice with the bread. It certainly lived up to the hype. My second glass of wine and my bowl were empty, and it was time to explore the area. It didn’t take long to find something to pique my interest. Just outside of the Slip Inn was a sign advertising the Pelorus Mail Boat. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, you can deliver mail to homes scattered throughout the Marlborough Sounds. For $128 NZD, you ride along as they deliver the mail and see the sights of the sounds! Ha! I couldn’t wait to tell my mailman about this. He’s certainly missing the boat  (pun intended).

Pelorus Mail Route

From the marina, I spotted a road high above the sounds. I didn’t know how I’d get there, but I knew I’d find a way. I meandered through town until I found the narrow, steep road that would take me to the vantage point I desired. My grey, four-door Nissan struggled to climb the mountain as I struggled to keep my eyes on the road. It’s amazing what a change in elevation can do. Keeping my gawking in check, I found the Cullen Point lookout and pulled over. Grabbing my camera, I couldn’t wait to capture this beauty.

Havelock, New Zealand 2

I gazed out over the varied landscape. Below me were the sounds, muscle farms, marina, and the town of Havelock. In the distance were mountains covered with grass, shrubs, and pine trees. In the further distance, mountains were covered in snow.

Havelock, New Zealand 1

This must be the most beautiful part of New Zealand, I thought. I knew in the back of my mind, though, that Havelock was just the beginning of what the South Island offered.

PS. I still don’t know about the shoe fence. If you know, pray tell.

UPDATE: The folks at the Slip Inn gave me some insight on the shoe fence. Apparently one person hung their unwanted shoes on the fence some 15 years ago and it’s continued from there. Just so you know, there’s also a bra fence in the Central Otago area of the South Island. I’m going to have to check that out next time.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

28 Comments

  1. I love Havelock – it’s where I go every summer before heading out into the Sounds to our batch. Where are you now??

  2. Yeah it is such a beautiful place. I live in Christchurch so next time your here give me a shout and we can have a coffee!!

  3. I’d love that. I only spent one night in Christchurch, the night before we flew out. I’d originally planned on spending more time there, but when I was making the itinerary, another strong aftershock happened. It was suggested to me by some Kiwi friends that I limit my in Christchurch. How are things looking now?

  4. Still having aftershocks but it’s like second nature now! Nothing big though for a while – touch wood!

  5. Yeah not really – but after 10,000 of them in only a year and half you can’t help but get used to them.

  6. Your first photo of the chocolate factory and the one of the shoe fence have great depth of field! There is def a photographer in you, you multi talented lady! Loved the story.

    1. Thanks, missy. (That’s a Southern thing.) Shocking that I was able to do that before all Gareth’s great lessons. I guess every squirrel finds a nut. (Again, another Southern-ism.)

    1. I went specifically for the muscles. I loved it so much, that I returned the next day to eat them again with my husband. If you’re going from Nelson to Picton (or vice versa), Havelock would be on the way. I think it’s worth a stop for sure.

  7. Love the truffles photograph. Makes me want one or two or three… Looks like a gorgeous area too. I visited a shoe tree in Nevada. Sounds like a similar roadside attraction.

    1. Thanks, Suzy. I think I stayed a bit longer in that chocolate factory than I should have. Call it research. I’m thrilled to be one of your stumbles of the week. You’re awesome! I hope you’re enjoying Prague and the rest of your trip.

  8. The mail boat trip has now been added to my bucket list! Did you have enough time to try it out?

    Another question: could you tell a difference between green-lipped and regular mussels?

    I’m so glad to finally learn the story behind the shoe fence! What a relief! 🙂

    1. Isn’t that mail boat the funniest? You’re kind of paying them to deliver the mail! The muscles tasted different from the oysters we eat on the Gulf Coast. They were bigger and meatier. I’m not sure what sort of muscles you’re used to eating. I was really hoping the shoe fence had a cooler story, but alas, it’s kind of what I figured. Either way, it’s still a cool thing to see, especially when you’re not expecting it.

  9. I’ve never seen these kind of mussels. They look really interesting. Do they taste any different than regular mussels? The last time I had some was in Normandy, France right across from the fish market and they were delicious 🙂

    1. Well, now, Normandy is supposed to have some of the best oysters and muscles, so I’m not sure how they would stand up against those. I’m used to the muscles we get on the Gulf Coast, so I found the green-lipped muscles to be much better. I just had some muscles in Rio today, and I enjoyed the New Zealand muscles better too. I guess you’re just going to have to go and find out! What a great excuse to visit New Zealand. 🙂

  10. That and all of the other awesome things I have heard about NZ. Been wanting to visit, but just visiting family and friends keeps us busy for now. Expat life… it all has advantages and disadvantages, doesn’t it?

    1. I hope to find out one day. Except for studying in college, I’ve never lived abroad longer than a month. Make sure NZ is bumped up high on your list. It’s so worth it.

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