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Traveling to St Omer by Car

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. 

Blue water and skies; green and gold slopes are the colors of the Marlborough Sounds

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.

Greenshell Mussels welcome you to Havelock

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.

These little beauties are just waiting to tempt you.  Just give in already!

  • 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 – it is difficult to choose between the burgers and fish/chips

  • 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!

Where else can you eat with little green mussels on your roof? Do they click click click like reindeer?

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?

Those views

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!

The message is clear.  This is your last chance for fuel.  Oh and for ice.

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.

Outdoor dining at Te Mahia Resort

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.

Follow the signs down this short road to restrooms and the wharf. Then come back to the shop for Bliss Balls.

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)

Bliss balls are a must.  Guard yours carefully or buy more than one.

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.

Portage is your next stop

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.

Last bathroom stop before St Omer at Kenepuru Head

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.

Turn left here

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.

Nice low spot to pull over and stretch.  If you can pronounce Ohauparuparu Bay correctly you must be a Kiwi.

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.

Another helpful sign

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.

You can’t miss this one

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. 

Your destination – St Omer Bay and Nopera

The Wholemeal Cafe, Golden Bay, New Zealand

There’s a Whole Lot to Love

I’m writing about The Wholemeal Cafe in Takaka because I believe that if you are lucky enough to find yourself traveling almost anywhere in Golden Bay, you should make a stop at The Wholemeal Cafe.
I’ll go so far as to say that you should visit The Wholemeal even if you’re as far away as Nelson.  We actually planned our first visit from Texas.
You just have to be prepared for “the hill“.

” I like coffee culture. It’s got integrity. After all, we are legal drug dealers, so why not have integrity?”

Wayne Green

The Granddaddy of Kiwi Cafe-Culture

If you’ve spent any time traveling in New Zealand, you’ve no doubt experienced New Zealand cafes.  I think the concept is slowly catching on in the U.S., but in many destinations here they’re missing entirely. Or you have to really work to find them.
Not so in NZ.  There are cafes everywhere, with many serving simply outstanding food.
And in my opinion, none does it better than The Wholemeal Cafe in Takaka.

Pinwheels can be seen in the upper left and lower right of the display case

A Brief History of The Wholemeal Cafe

The Wholemeal Cafe started out life as The Wholemeal Trading Company in 1977, as a sort of bulk food co-op.  The current owners took over more than 25 years ago and have “gently guided” Wholemeal to what it is today.
Located in the small, but exceptionally sited township of Takaka, The Wholemeal Cafe is a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
In 2000 they expanded into other parts of the old theatre building and the cafe took on the space and shape it still has today.
The Wholemeal Cafe is a place for the young and the old; for hipsters and hippies; for tourists and locals.

Fresh, tasty and unpretentious cafe-culture food

What You Should Eat at The Wholemeal Cafe

Anything.
Seriously, whatever strikes your fancy.  I’ve had everything from coffee to baked goods to wraps to salads to breakfast to meet pies to fish/chips.
So hopefully you get the picture.  It’s all good. Really.
So my typical MO is to go for breakfast, getting a quiche or eggs, along with the infamous Flat White coffee.  But I never leave without lunch to go in the form of a scone, or meat pie, whatever delectable fruit-filled bar they may have, a pinwheel, a salad of some sort, and a wrap.
I’m not really a wrap fan.  The only places I will eat them are at The Wholemeal Café and at T and Me Tea Company in Gulfport, Florida.  (Which is sadly no longer in business.  Come back? Please?)  Wraps not on the menu but you’ll see them in the display case.  If you’re lucky, they may have one or two leftover from the previous day and you can get those at a discount.

Insider Tip: The Wholemeal Trading Co. Green Salad Dressing

You’ll want some.  It’s self-serve, on the counters at all times in those ketchup/mustard-style squeeze bottles.  So no need to ask for dressing “on the side”. and definitely no judgement for how much of it you’ll be wanting to put on your food.

The Flat White was gone before I finished taking the photo

Whatever you decide, make sure to at least get at least one item that you can put the Wholemeal Trading Co. Green Salad Dressing on.  This might be the most perfect, both tasty and versatile, salad dressing on the planet.

About the only items this would not go well on would probably be any fruit bar or scone, or of course, not in your coffee. Or maybe in coffee would be ok.  Other than that, I think everything else is fair game as a potential vessel for this outstanding dressing.

The only caveat to getting lunch to go is that The Wholemeal is a responsible restaurant. Therefore, it isn’t chock-full of “to-go” packaging.  I’ve put the dressing on my wrap before leaving the café before, and wasn’t thrilled with the effect when I delayed eating for several hours.  So earlier this year they gave us a to-go coffee cup that we put the dressing in and covered it with plastic wrap. Needless to say this might not be the best set-up if you have an active day planned.  So if you’re traveling with a small close-able container, you’ll be set and you can add your dressing at the perfectly precise moment..

It’s a bit of a gathering place – check the local bulletin board to find out what’s going on

When To Go

This part is a little trickier.  Wholemeal Café opens early – between 7:30 am and 8:30 am most days.  But they also close early too, around 3 or 3:30 pm.
But it seems like they may now be staying open for dinner on Fridays, at least until around 8 pm.

Insider Tip: The Wholemeal Cafe cookbooks

Now there are three.  We have the first two.  The third came out earlier this year. Both of the first two contain the salad dressing recipe. For several years Terry and I ate this salad dressing on our salads every single day.  It was the perfect icing on the cake for our salad.  (Recipe to be shared later!)

Filling the display to start off the day

How to Get There

The Wholemeal Café is in the burgeoning metropolis of Takaka, the largest town in the Golden Bay region with a population of just over 1100.  (After you’ve been in New Zealand awhile, you’ll start to think of towns like Takaka and Motueka as big. And Motueka IS big – population almost 8,000!)
Just don’t be misled by the number of kilometers (104) between Nelson and Takaka. The kms don’t begin to tell the story.  In between those two towns is Takaka Hill. (If you spend much time in the region, you may see some cute t-shirts with references to The Hill on them.)

Insider Tip: Trust me, you’ll want a container

As is the norm in New Zealand, The Wholemeal Cafe runs pretty lean in terms of to-go packaging.  So you may want to bring small container if you’d like to take some green salad dressing for later.

The road through Takaka Hill is very steep with many bends.  But on good weather days the views over Tasman Bay and Golden Bay are simply stunning.  There’s no need to rush and there are plenty of places to turn out if the traffic behind is pressing you.

Takaka is going to be on your way if you’re heading up to Onekaka, Pupu Springs, Collingwood or the Farewell Spit from Nelson.  And frankly, it’s a great central place to stay, and more affordable for trips in Abel Tasman National Park than places in Kaiteriteri.

The Dressing

” Simple recipes handed down can become timeless treasures, enriching our identity and our culture.”

Wayne Green

Leave a comment below and tell us if you’ve been to The Wholemeal Cafe!