2014 – 2 weeks in New Zealand’s South Island

On our first trip to New Zealand 2 years ago we thought, perhaps a little naively, that we’d see right around the South Island in our 3 weeks. What we ended up doing that time was 3 weeks across the middle. So this time, with only 2 weeks, we were a little less ambitions but were determined to see at least some things we didn’t see last time.

Our main reason for this trip was to visit No 1 Son who is working over there at the moment, but who knows for how long, so seeing him at work was a good excuse to go. And also a good opportunity to go to the Wild Foods Festival at Hokitika, which is why we chose this particular time.

Day 1:

As always, we started with compulsory drinks at the upstairs bar at the international airport. No matter the time of day.

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Our plane landed in the middle of the night so only a short sleep at the Sudima Hotel which is, fortunately, close to the airport and has its own 24 hour shuttle. We had stayed there before and chose to stay there again for that reason, given our arrival time. Then off to pick up our hire car and head north.

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Stopping at Kaikoura for a picnic lunch, we then drove out to the end of the peninsula and spent far too long taking up-close and personal photos of the cutest baby seal. I guess we were a bit late in the season as there weren’t many seals about, but enough to make me go a little gaga at the cuteness.

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We stopped at Kekerengu for coffee and enjoyed the view and a walk on the foreshore where the Pacific Ocean wasn’t particularly pacific. The shop is called The Store. Can’t think how they came up with that name.

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On to Picton where we spent 3 nights in a Book-a-Bach apartment which was lovely.Our lovely landlady gave us some homegrown lemons, to which we added fresh fruit that we’d bought on the way.

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A walk around the town then dinner which was home made and included a crayfish we had bought on the way north. Mmmmmm yum.

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Day 2:

Breakfast at Le Cafe. Mine was average but Stu really enjoyed his scrambled egg made with cream cheese and homemade smoked fish. We wandered down to the Marina to choose a cruise and/or fishing charter.

We opted for the Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary & Dolphin Cruise in the afternoon. A bit of a lack of wildlife which, of course, is no one’s fault and the crew did their best to get some good views of birds and seals and were very informative in their commentary. At the Island we got caught in a hail storm on our way down from the lookout so were pretty cold and wet and the boat headed for home about half an hour early. I was a bit disappointed that our time was cut short and thought it would have been nice if they’d offered us a discount on one of their other cruises. Not that we were intending to take one but it would have been a nice gesture Not to worry.

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A bonus: I had bought a waterproof backpack that is, perhaps, a bit bigger than I need, but was the only one I could find that was big enough to take my camera bag. It paid for itself 10 times over in that hail storm. One Planet Zipless: Thanks for saving my camera!

We dried off and changed and headed for the Irish pub where we found some fellow travellers from our afternoon cruise so we all had dinner and tried to organise a fishing charter for the boys for the next day, but no luck.

Day 3:

As the fishing charter didn’t eventuate, the boys decided to go fishing in the river (yes, they did have licences). So we girls sat on the bank and read until lunch time. It’s lovely to hit it off with people you meet and we all seemed to get on well.

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We shared a delicious lunch and wine tasting at Twelve Trees Restaurant at the Allan Scott Winery. The sauvignon blanc was the best I’d had so far on the trip. Maybe that’s a big call but it was pretty good.

Check these photos. It wasn’t the best weather. Can you pick the English couple and the Aussie couple?

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Back in Picton we all shared a fish and chip dinner in our lovely little Art Deco style apartment.

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Day 4:

A beautiful day – crisp and clear – for driving to our friend’s place at Hokitika where we would be staying for the next 4 nights. We stopped along the way for more fishing (for him) and reading (for me) as well as for morning tea and lunch at random picnic spots. Including stops, the drive took about 8 hours and was fairly stress free.

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We originally met our friend, Ann, when she was Couchsurfing in Australia. Now she’s been to visit us a few times and we’ve stayed with her twice. If you think Couchsurfing is only for them young ‘uns, you should think again and give it ago.

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Day 5:

Daylight saving has us sleeping in way past our usual time to rise and shine so we’ve been having some late starts and today was no exception. It was about 11.00 before we headed out to the lovely Hokitika Gorge and the swing bridge. This is an easy walk as long as you don’t want to climb across the rocks once you get to the end of the track. I was a little disappointed that the walk wasn’t longer, though I believe this is being extended in the near future. Still, nice views.

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On the way home we stopped at the Kowhitirangi Incident Memorial and read the story of this rather bloody and sad episode in local history. We then drove home via Lake Kaniere which might warrant more investigation next time.

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Back to town for lunch and a look around, a visit to the kiwi centre, and to buy a gift for our house sitter.

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Day 6:

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A fairly relaxed day. A friend of Ann’s took Stu fishing on Lake Mahinapua where they caught a nice lot of perch which were cleaned and put aside for dinner the next night.

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Ann and I went to the Tree Top Walk. This is nice and will get better as the trees grow higher and closer to the walkway, but I must admit that at the moment I think it’s too expensive.

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Day 7:

Today was the Hokitika Wild Foods Festival, one of the main reasons for revisiting this area on this trip. This isn’t really my thing but I still found some interesting and enjoyable taste sensations. Just not the weird and wonderful ones like huhu grubs, though Stu did try one of those. I tasted the mutton bird, which I didn’t like (too fishy for me – I’m still trying to get the taste out of my mouth) but skipped the smoked eel, placenta pate, colostrum cream and moonshine served from a drench gun (which several people said tasted like mouthwash). Boring, aren’t I? I confess, I’m not adventurous with food at all.

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A cooking demonstration provided a recipe for a tasty cognac sauce which was served with hare and tahr and was delicious. We recreated the sauce for dinner and served it with our venison. Yum.

They really take their fancy dress seriously at this festival and there were some funny, clever and very weird costumes roaming the grounds all day.

There is talk around town that this might be the last Wild Foods Festival, so we’re glad we made it this year.

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Day 8:

Ugh! up in the dark and an early start to head off to Fox Glacier for the half day walk. This was great – another sunny day so it wasn’t even very cold. All the gear was provided and I felt really safe. So glad we did this. It’s quite spectacular to walk on the glacier rather than just look at it from above. Amazing how rugged it is when you’re right there.

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Drove to Haast to spend the night at the Top 10 Park and dinner at the pub which is walking distance. The Top 10 gives you a 10% off voucher for meals and drinks at the pub. A nice location but absolutely no internet or mobile coverage so if you don’t want to pay for it there, do all your emails and phone calls before you go.

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Day 9:

Drove to Glenorchy to spend time with Number 1 Son, Aston, who is working there as a tour guide. We visited this area on our first trip, not really expecting to come back for any particular reason. Have a look at the photos. You’ll see that it was no great struggle to revisit.

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Day 10:

Today we took Aston’s tour “Ride of the Rings” with Dart Stables, which took us around some of the filming locations for Lord of the Rings and other movies. I know nothing about LOTR but did enjoy the ride, the scenery and the entertaining commentary. I knew this was going to be a gentle ride, and it sure was. I suspect some of the horses that do this one have forgotten how to trot. A great ride for anyone who has never been on a horse before.

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The afternoon was dedicated to a walk to Lake Reid and some unsuccessful fishing.

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Day 11:

Off to Queenstown rather late in the day so started with lunch at Winnie’s Pizza Bar. We had chicken, cranberry & brie; Mexican; and Thai chicken. Yum. They have some great combinations and a good lunch deal – $15 for a small pizza and a drink.

Took the TSS Earnslaw boat trip but didn’t get off at the farm. A nice trip but maybe a bit expensive. Not the most exciting thing we did but enjoyable anyway.

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I offered to take Aston paragliding. Neither of us had ever been and we were a bit concerned they were finished for the day as they no longer seemed to be flying in town (this was due to the conditions), but we got on one at Coronet Peak.

I must admit that my knees were shaking and didn’t improve when I was told I must “walk with power then run when told to … and don’t stop”. But once we were in the air it was very, very peaceful.

A fantastic experience that I’d be happy to repeat. Would love a longer ride so may have to go from somewhere higher up next time. Stu wouldn’t even consider it and did the gondola ride instead. He was happy with that and enjoyed the views.

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Day 12:

The day dawned cold and wet so the decision was made early to stay inside and play board games all day. A wise move.

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Day 13:

We headed off to drive to Christchurch, stopping overnight at Fairlie. This is a very scenic drive with dramatic scenery that brings to mind the Scottish Highlands. We didn’t do any sight seeing along the way, just enjoyed the views.

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Overnight at the Fairlie Top 10 which is a bit old and tired but clean and comfortable, which is all we needed.

Day 14:

Onward to Christchurch via the Inland Tourist Route which. The highlights of the day for Stu were stopping again at Fat Albert’s Smokehouse to purchase some smoked venison (which did get back into Australia) and some smoked duck breast (which didn’t). We also had some cheese that we’d bought the day before which made it home too.

We stopped at what we thought would be a a quiet spot on the Waimakariri River for a picnic lunch and a last chance for Stu to get in some fishing. Ha, so much for our quiet spot. Seems like everyone else had that same idea, and then there there was the jet boat … oh well.

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Overnight again at the Sudima to be close to the airport for our early flight home which was, fortunately, not affected by the approaching cyclone.

Thanks New Zealand. Once again, you’ve been great. See you next time.

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17 thoughts on “2014 – 2 weeks in New Zealand’s South Island

  1. One of my dreams has been of going to NewZealand ever since I read books by Essie Summers:) I don’t know whether I will be able to go there, anyway I hope for the best. Thank you so much for the beautiful photos, it was almost like being there. Lakshmi Bhat

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  3. I enjoyed reading about this trip. Loved the photos. The water in the NZ rivers in this part have a fascinating colour. I had plenty of time to take in the hue while waiting on the bridge for hours waiting for my turn to bungee jump, in 1989. Thanks for sharing.

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