Archive for the ‘South Island’ Category

I love a road trip. That’s no secret. And as our PM has announced that, as of Thursday, we are free now to move around the country, and support our local tourism businesses, it seems appropriate that this week my Blogging with Friends topic is “take me on a walk, or road trip.” I’ve taken you on road trips before. I initially was going to take you on a short one, giving you intimate details of a short, lockdown drive my husband has been making to visit his father. But suddenly life seems a bit freer here, so I’m going to whisk you around the South Island, on my favourite route. No, it’s not a short trip; in fact, ideally you’d take three to four weeks (or more). But I’ll try to keep it brief. And a note for hopeful future travellers – I highly recommend this for international visitors too, as I think it is varied and captures the best of the South Island.

The perfect road trip begins on the ferry, just five minutes drive from our house. We leave the lovely harbour, cross the sometimes treacherous Cook Strait, and enter the always calm Marlborough Sounds, gliding through the Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound, before arriving at cute little Picton, which we barely see as we drive off the ferry and into our South Island road trip.

We’re heading for the West Coast, but first we’ll make a quick photostop at Lake Rotoiti. This is where the famous West Coast sandflies first make an appearance, and as I always forget to have any insect repellent on hand, I take a few snaps, and get back in the car eager to continue my journey.

Lake Rotoiti, with mountains in the distance

Lake Rotoiti

In what feels like the middle of nowhere, we might take some sustenance for a meat pie and a coffee at the Inangahua café too. I have stories about meat pies, always a Kiwi favourite (especially amongst the men), but will save them for another post sometime. We’ll drive down the West Coast, one of my favourite stretches of road in New Zealand, from the aptly named Cape Foulwind in the north, past lakes and wild coastline and snowy mountains and glaciers, through beech and kahikatea/totara (podocarp) forests and narrow stretches of farmland squeezed between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea.

Road trips in New Zealand require patience – roads are windy and hilly, and so distances become deceptive. But that’s part of the joy of this route too – meandering around hills and landscapes, and never quite knowing what you’re going to see or find next. So we would usually overnight at least once on this road. Last time we did this route, just 18 months ago, we had two overnight stops, and enjoyed that little bit more freedom it gave us to explore and do some bush walks, and just relax in the beauty of this area.

When we leave the coast, we head west and then south again, through the gentle Haast Pass, a route lined with waterfalls, down through a valley with classic NZ shots of sheep grazing with snowy mountains behind. There are plenty of lovely spots to stop and take photos, or have a picnic, if you’re well-organised. We rarely are, and my most common phrase on a road trip – in NZ and throughout the world – is always, “that would have been a great shot” as we speed past!

Sheep grazing with snow-capped mountains behind

Sheep on Haast Pass Road

We arrive at Central Otago’s large lakes. Wanaka is my favourite spot here – I reminisce about childhood holidays in this area, known for its cold winters and hot summers. It’s beautiful in all seasons, though I associate it most with summer. Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu is – usually – tourist central, filled with adrenalin-spiking activities, or if you prefer, beautiful mountain scenery, winter skiing or summer walks, and really, really good wineries. A platter lunch surrounded by vines, coupled with a Central Otago pinot noir, looking up at the dramatic rocky Central Otago cliffs, is an absolute delight, and the reason we go there.

Now we head “home,” up to the east coast of the South Island. We take the Lindis Pass. It’s remote, and barren, but when you get up into the tussock at the top of the Pass it is beautiful, with rolling hills and the play of light and shadow.

View of the tussock-covered hills and valleys of the Lindis Pass

Lindis Pass

From there, it’s all downhill, down through the barren MacKenzie Country, past the three large hydro lakes and power stations on the Waitaki River, where my father used to go fishing (and where I caught my first and last trout), and cousins still holiday as often as possible. We turn inland, crossing the river, and drive through increasingly familiar farmland, where friends from school lived, through a narrow gorge, and arrive at the town where I went to high school. It seems so small now, and I don’t know anyone there anymore, but the streets are still wide, the gardens still lovely, and the huge silos are now covered in murals of local luminaries, including NZ’s first female GP, a local Maori chief, a former NZ Prime Minister who was born in the town, and a local hero and Victoria Cross recipient.

Silos with paintings of a Victoria Cross recipient Eric Batchelor, and Margaret Cruickshank, NZ's first female GP.

Waimate’s painted silos

Once I tear myself away from childhood memories – which always include a detour loop off the main highway down past the farm where I grew up, and these days a stop with my sister about half an hour further north – we’re into the Canterbury plains. They used to be lined with wheat fields when I was a child. These days, dairy beats wheat, fed by irrigation from the several great local rivers. The Southern Alps are now far to the west, but they are almost always visible under the plains big skies.

Christchurch is often an overnight (or two) stop as we head north. A chance to catch up with friends, check on rebuilding progress after the earthquake, and for the Husband to visit the casino. We met here, many moons ago, at university, so it is a city dear to our heart. Continuing on our final leg of the trip, I’ll take you the coastal route north, through the North Canterbury vineyards (where I get a favourite riesling and chardonnay) and then out to the coast, looking out for seals sunning themselves on the rocks, and a stop in Kaikoura, perhaps for some of the local koura (crayfish/lobster) of its name. Our last trip we saw all the new roads, the evidence of rockfalls, and the sea floor that had been lifted high and dry in the 2016 earthquake.

We arrive in the vineyards of Marlborough. Famous the world over for its sauvignon blanc, it is well set up for relaxed vineyard lunches, wine tasting, or staying out surrounded by the vines. We have come here for destination dinners (celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary), quick lunches before or after catching the ferry, relaxed stops of a day or two or three, or just for a weekend break. The chocolate factory is always worth a visit too, before heading back through the narrow gorge to get to Picton, in the heart of the beautiful and tranquil Marlborough Sounds, filled with canoeists and boaties and tourists in their camper vans (though not at the moment), and the ferries taking us home.

Vineyards backed by ranges of hills

Marlborough vineyards

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What do you think? I took this photo on my December travels down the South Island of New Zealand. It was taken at Lake Kaniere, southeast of Greymouth on the West Coast, on a gorgeous day. It was still a week or so before Christmas, so there were only a few lucky souls enjoying the view, walking in some of the native bush trails around the lake, and visiting the occasional waterfall. I had fun with my camera, practising getting my hyperfocal range right, and on this photo, it seemed to come together about right.

Here is the original:

p1100358 lake kaniere copyright web

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