What do you do when you love Mussels as much as I do?




You visit Havelock, New Zealand, the Green-lipped Mussel capital of the world. Definitely one of our favourite days exploring NZ!

This area is in the spectacular Marlborough Sounds region on the South Island of NZ.


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We left early on the Pelorus Mail Boat out of the town of Havelock.   This boat delivers mail, supplies and people to remote coastal areas.  There are no roads, ferries or cruise ships.

Living out west on Vancouver Island, we have had the opportunity to spend the day on mail boats.  It is a nice way to let someone else do the navigating and spend a relaxing day enjoying the scenery.  We were looking forward to a break from driving the challenging NZ roads.


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It was a gorgeous day, some areas calm, some windy with stunning scenery in every direction.


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The captain and guide were very kind, fun and knowledgeable about the history and wildlife in this area. 

The Green-lipped Mussels are endemic to NZ.  The name comes from the distinct emerald green colour of the shell.  They are sometimes called Green Shelled Mussels or NZ Mussels.  They may have anti-inflammatory health benefits for some people. (weblink)

We saw many mussel farms in the inlets of Marlborough Sounds.  Up until now, I have enjoyed eating mussels, although, I had no idea how mussels grow in the coastal waters.


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Spat (juvenile mussels) are collected, where they wash up attached to clumps of seaweed.   Spat arrive at a mussel farm and are transferred to ropes in seawater until about 6 months of age.  They are removed and then reseeded onto long stretches of rope, and grown for another 9 to 12 months.  They are then harvested. 

Most aspects of farmed and wild mussels are identical. The mussel farms are located in the same areas where wild mussels thrive.  Mussels require sheltered areas. There are over 600 mussel farms in NZ and they cover thousands of hectares of marine space. (weblink) (link)

We saw some boats go by carrying huge white bags.  Each of these bags contain over a ton of mussels.  These boats were obviously very low in the water.


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We stopped at a remote lodge for lunch.  Of course, we ordered the mussels. 

I bit down on a mussel to the sound of a crunch.  Was it a piece of shell or my tooth?  Hiding underneath the mussel was a pea-sized crab.  More on this later in a future story.


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We stopped for a hike on a secluded beach.  The only access to this area is by boat or helicopter.


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We came across colonies of beautiful, big seabirds called Gannets.


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We were introduced to a huge insect endemic to New Zealand called a Giant Weta.  It is described as a relatively harmless insect.  Only a few of them bite.  I didn’t know which side of the fence this Weta belonged, the biting or the nonbiting side.  And using the term “relatively harmless” does not make me feel better. 


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A highlight towards the end of the day was to have a large school of Bottlenose dolphins swim around us.  Even, Trish, the guide became very emotional. Although she travels these inlets every day,  she had never seen this many dolphins stay as long to play. 


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We have been surrounded by breathtaking scenery and incredible natural beauty in NZ.  Every day has been an adventure.  We have learned about the history of the Islands.  We have been fortunate to witness the diverse marine life and wildlife native to this country.

Exploring the Marlborough Sounds region on the Pelorus mail boat was definitely a highlight for us. It was one of our best days in New Zealand!


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And what will I continue to order for my favourite meal?  Mussels, of course!


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25 thoughts on “What do you do when you love Mussels as much as I do?

  1. Hi Deb, This day was a little more relaxing for my husband, not driving the NZ roads. No white knuckles for me, either. We had not heard about the Pelorus mail boat. Recommendations from a local. Many wonderful days and this one was a highlight for us. Thanks for reading, Deb. (looks like you and Joanne had a fun day – IG photo – hope to hear more 🙂

  2. The scenery is amazing and so calming even through the photos you shared. Mussels are definitely a favourite food of my husband and I so I’m glad you shared how they get to our plates! I’ve wondered over it in the past, but forgot to investigate!

    Thanks for sharing your experience in New Zealand!

  3. Hi, Erica – What a wonderful trip, with amazing photos!!
    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    I would have loved to join you for mussels…but there is no way that I would ever have let the Giant Weta crawl on my hand (biting or non-biting). 🙂

  4. Hi Kem, (unsure if this is your first name). I often order mussels when we are out and I have made them at home. Usually a pretty light meal. I prefer steaming them with wine, garlic, onions. Of course, everything tastes better with wine. I also didn’t know how mussels grow and are harvested, until now. Thank you for reading. Erica

  5. Hi Donna, Every day was great although this particular day on the Pelorus mail boat was extra special. We have done trips like this on the Island and fun to do with visitors.

    I was fine taking the photo of the Giant Weta. No plans to touch it. Naturalists were visiting in that area and they brought it on board the boat to show us. Thanks for reading and your comment, Donna.🙂

  6. We actually made mussels tonight! Steam them with white wine, garlic, and onions just like you said. Thankful, my husband is half-Italian so he taught me to love seafood and it often makes for a lighter meal. Still super satisfying. It was also a joy to read it so no problem!

    And KEM is just my initials. My first name is Kelsey. 🙂

  7. What a wonderful day! The clouds were gorgeous too.

    I’ve only seen one Gannet in my life. Somehow it ended up out here on the Faralone Is. in San Francisco Bay.
    It was actually far away as the island is protected and our boat captain had to maintain a certain distance from the bird habitat. Still though my lens I was able to see it. How wonderful you were able to see so many so close and dolphins too!

  8. I Deborah, We were fortunate to hear about the Pelorus mail boat in the first place. We came across a few Gannet Colonies and I was just lucky when zooming in using my point and shoot. Thank you for reading. I am always in awe of your photos, Deborah.

  9. Hi, Erica. For years I’ve known that New Zealand mussels are bigger (and greener) than “normal” mussels are, but I’ve always been too lazy to learn anything about them. So in spite of that, you helped me — — actually learn something today. I absolutely love mussels, especially over pasta with olive oil. And what better to go with them but some decent Marlborough white wine, eh? – Marty

  10. Hi Marty, I did not know anything about mussels, except they are often an option on menus on our West Coast. We were given a short lesson on how mussels grow and are harvested. I was curious to find out more information about them. And you are right Marty, decent wine makes everything taste better. All of NZ had wonderful wines and especially the Marlborough region. When we arrived home, my stomach lining could not really tolerate any more wine (for the first week 😉). Thank you for reading.

  11. Oh Erica, the views in New Zealand just look stunning!! I am really missing the ocean (which I’m remedying soon) and these definitely perked me up 🙂 I’ve had mussels before, but hadn’t heard about different types. What a relaxing day to have someone else at the wheel! Those Gannets are beautiful. The Weta, not so much. lol. But he does look quite interesting. I love dolphins!! We used to see them playing when I lived in Naples. Seeing such a large school must have been amazing!!

  12. Hi Amy, I am very grateful for the opportunity to visit NZ. I did not know anything about mussels except they are usually my first choice on a menu. The boat was picking up Naturalists in an isolated area. They brought the Weta on board. I took a quick photo and moved far away🙂Amy, are you referring to Naples, California or Naples, Italy when seeing dolphins?

  13. Actually, Naples, Florida. That is my hometown. I knew about the one in Italy but didn’t realize there was one in California as well! 🙂

  14. Always interesting to live in different communities. People in NZ would often ask us where we live. In the beginning we would just say Victoria. They immediately assumed Victoria, Australia. We then began to give a different response ie West Coast of Canada. Enjoy your day, Amy

  15. Hi Erica,
    Beautiful, beautiful pictures…what a gorgeous place. Fascinating info about the marine life, too. Sadly, I am not a mussel fan, although Dan likes them a lot!
    Looks like a wonderful day of adventure and relaxation!

  16. Erica, we had NO idea that New Zealand was ground zero for mussels!! And how HUGE and delicious they look as well! Would love to get ourselves some mussels now for breakfast, but alas no mussels in Sri Lanka!

    I used to live in the North of France in Lille, which had a massively popular annual mussel based festival. When every single restaurant in town shuttered their regular menu and switched for the whole weekend to just mussels. Most interestingly, they then dumped the empty shells in the sidewalk in front of the restaurants, and there was a competition to see who would have the highest hill of discarded mussel shells at the end of the mussel festival. It made for a pungent end of weekend, but oh mussel heaven!!

    Love your photos of the boat ride and those gorgeous dolphins (so so lucky to see this…) and the sea birds are spectacular. What an incredible trip! Okay you have convinced us to put NZ on the list now!!!

    Ben (& Peta)

  17. Hi Ben and Peta, After reading some of your posts, I didn’t think you had anywhere left on your list to explore. You have already been to amazing places on our planet! I love your story about the mussel shells and a mussel festival. I did not know anything about mussels (except they are often my first choice on a menu) until our day in Marlborough Sound, NZ on the boat. Very grateful to have the opportunity to witness the beauty of the surroundings and the marine and wildlife.

  18. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of mussels (although my wife likes ’em), but the rest of that excursion looks terrific. NZ is a beautiful place, it’s been way too many years since I’ve been there.

  19. Hi Dave, Thank you for your comment. I understand that mussels are not for everyone. I like seafood, although, I am not too keen on trying raw oysters. I can now see why people love NZ. We could easily make a return visit. There was so much we still did not see. The one challenge was driving some of the NZ roads. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂 Erica

  20. Fantastic photos! Thanks for sharing — it’s so nice to see your smiling face back in the yoga studio!

  21. Hi Diane, Thank you for your kind comment. I am definitely grateful we had the opportunity to visit NZ.

    Nice to see you at yoga, too. Your dedication is inspirational. My body really craves getting back to yoga on many levels, as you well know.

    Thank you for checking out this site. I look forward to seeing you again. Namaste. 🙏

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