It was nice to arrive back in New Zealand in November 2010 although a bit odd that my Canadian in-laws Joe and Inga met us at Christchurch airport. I am a kiwi and it should have been the other way around except that we now live in the UK. Our first stop was a Best Western Hotel near the airport and then dinner at Annie’s Wine Bar at the Arts Centre in central Christchurch. Sadly it has now closed due to the damage by the earthquake.
The next day we drove to the West Coast stopping at Castle Rock which is an area famous for rock bouldering. Another claim to fame is the Dalia Lama named it in 2002 a Spiritual Center of the Universe. If you are up for a little adventure just a few kilometres up the road is the Cave Creek Reserve where you can get your feet wet and walk through a cave.
Next stop was Arthur’s Pass where I have done a few tramps or hikes and where I have many happy memories, including surviving being swept downstream in a river. I introduced my in-laws and wife to the Charlie Chaplin of the bird world or better known as the New Zealand Alpine Parrot the kea. Famous for its clown walk, curiosity and a beak that can do a lot damage to fingers. They also can be highly amusing, I remember one tramping trip at 3 am in the morning hearing banging outside our hut and finding a kea hitting the corrugated WC or long drop roof with a stick. When I was at university I also helped a friend catch them to test their blood, he was doing a post-graduate on lead poisoning in kea. Such a cheeky bird. After our entertainment from the Kea we drove via Lake Brunner to the Punakiki Pancake rocks.
The West Coast of the South Island
We stayed at a lovely motor camp just down the road from Punakiki. It also was the place my wife and her parents introduction to the New Zealand sandfly and their realisation why we were the only ones on the beach at a picnic table. No hobbits seen probably avoiding the sandflys. The next day we leisurely drove down the coast stopping for lunch at Greymouth and eventually ending up at Fox Glacier. I was sad to see how developed and horrible Franz Josef had become since I last visited and much prefer Fox Glacier. We stayed the night at Fox Glacier and had a lovely meal at the Mattheson Café with a view of Mt Cook in the distance. Reviews of the first two places we stayed at are below.
It was lovely to walk up to the glacier at Fox and to soak in the scenery as we drove down to Wanaka over the Haast Pass. After a short lunch break at Wanaka we then drove over one of the most scenic highways in New Zealand, the Cadrona Highway with a short stop at the Cadrona Pub before heading down to Arrowtown.
Why we stayed in Arrowtown
I did not want to stay in Queenstown as it is just a horrible place to stay. The activities and scenery are fantastic but the over development is there for all to see. In contrast, Arrowtown which is nearby becomes an oasis of peace and is quite lovely after the tour buses leave in the late afternoon. I did some research and we managed to stay at the best accommodation we encountered on our travels in terms of quirkiness and hospitality of the hosts. It is an 1875 old miners cottage with two bedrooms and a spa bath. The link to the cottage is below:
We stayed a few days in Arrowtown and my wife Debbie did a shotover rafting trip. We then went on to Te Anau as a base to go to Milford Sound which we did on a gloriously fine day. It is around a two and a half hour drive to the Milford Sound from Te Anau and we went early to avoid the first buses arriving from Queenstown. The boat tour was good with sightings of dolphins and some yellow eyed penguins as well as the scenery. In Te Anau on our return we did a night tour to look at the glow-worm caves across the lake, However, it was a bad year and the glow worms were less than glowing.
My father in law wanted to get as close to Antarctica as he could so we drove down to the bottom of the South Island to a place called Bluff. Then we went via the Catlins Park on the East Coast to see New Zealand’s Niagara Falls. We stayed the night at Tokanui close by to Curio Bay which has a petrified forest on the beach and you can also see Yellow eyed penguins. Below is a review of the place we stayed.
Up the East Coast
The next day we stopped at another lovely spot, Oamaru. Famous for the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony where you can see the little waddlers return around twilight to their nests for the night. It is quite comical to watch and looks like a Penguin Normandy landing invasion. It is a paid attraction and you sit in a little stand and bang on time from a few to dozens of penguins arrive on the beach and clamber up to their nests. For more information about the penguins below is the website:
Dunedin was next and then the famous Moeraki boulders where again no hobbits were seen. We then spent a few days in Christchurch and a drive out to Akaroa New Zealand’s only bit of French culture. Then we drove up via Kaikoura to Picton and the ferry to Wellington. So ends Part 1 of our search for Hobbits which had been a complete failure.