We love the fact that New Zealand is so distant. Even though the trip to there took 30+ hours and lots of flying , it is a journey that is totally worth it. Being so far away from… everything, means that this Middle-Earth preserved its natural beauty of landscapes and cultures up to a high degree.
Aotearoa is so beautiful that all you need to get a car and drive! Just make sure you can afford many stops and mind-blowing views. Here we share week three of our 4-week (during December and January) itinerary. We tried to cover as much as possible from the vast lands of this endlessly fascinating country.
Day 15 Watch out! Cart of coal passing!
As we were at the Miners Bay we visited the old village of Denniston and the coal mine. An experienced ex-miner took us through the history and guided us through the mine itself. We were assigned different mining jobs and rewarded with a scenic views from the historic train. We drove south along the gorgeous ragged west coast and stopped to explore the Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes. In the distance we noticed a playful group of dolphins performing for us. The scenes along the coast were not worse while driving to Greymouth, the biggest town on the west coast. We walked on the Great Wall of Greymouth which was erected to protect the town from another flood.
Two hewers, countless Pohutukawa trees, a curvy stretch of road…
Day 16 Shiny bits in the punchbowl
Shantytown is a replica of a gold mining town where we rode the steam train to try gold panning and now we are wealthier with a few specks of gold. We approached the Arthur’s Pass which is the highest highway on the Southern Alps. After the magnificent view of the Otira viaduct and the local mountain parrot Kea we reached Arthur’s Pass village to hike up to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall amidst alpine scenery.
Alpine huts, the shop closing at 5, picnic under the tree vs. sweaty hiking, that kind of stuff…
Day 17 Arthur has one hell of a pass
We couldn’t get bored on our way to Christchurch because of the even more magnificent views our road offered. Huge mountains hanging over lake, stone forest – things like these. As soon as we arrived in Christchurch and finished our lunch we headed out to sightseeing center of the city.
There are many nice things to see like the parks and gardens, the historic buildings and the cute vintage tram, but you can’t miss the post-earthquake impression. The cathedral is half-falling apart as many other buildings – old and new. The Re:start mall comes to support the cause of post-earthquake recovery. A danceomat where you pay for the music and you have the floor for yourself near the Regent street and next to an art sculpture home for swamp dwellers.
A place to visit like no place else. Let’s hope no quakes anymore!
Day 18 From the Riviera to the Penguinarium
While you’re dreaming of being part of an Antarctica expedition you can visit the Antarctic center in Christchurch. It gives detailed information on every aspect of the life there, including experiencing a snow storm and riding haggalans. Don’t miss the little blue penguins feeding time! Only about 80km away there is another beautiful peninsula – the Bank peninsula, which gives tourist drive opportunities and is a nice rural escape from the city. The little French village Akaroa is a picturesque and peaceful place to visit not only for the francofons. Juts make sure you stick to the tourist drives and not the state highway 75.
Don’t let the narrow roads disturb you! That’s how you’ll drive slowly and have more time to take in the views!
Day 19 Your boat is never big enough
We drove towards the Alpine Pacific triangle to visit Kaikoura – “eat crayfish” village. The village lives for and from whale watching tours. The sperm whales are huge creatures which can scare you with their size – 20m long and 3 times heavier than the boat. They finish their dives with a spectacular tale splash. We saw two of them and it was totally worth the 2-hour shaky experience in open waters.
North Hagley park in Christchurch the new years open air party was rocking with high quality local music and alcohol and smoke free venue. We greeted the new year 2016 eleven hours earlier than our friends home.
Rock the boat or rock the party – they’ve got it all!
Day 20 View of sea or sea of views?
Heading to Dunedin after regrouping our energy(we partied till late last night) and luggage. We stopped for a picnic lunch in the city of Timaru. It was so empty and soulless before we met a nice lady closing the ISite place. She told us that the people are on the beach and there is a fair there.
So this is our lunch picnic location, after driving no more than 3 minutes we arrived at a big green park full of campervans and retro cars and people having party around them. A little more far the green park was evolving in a beautiful city beach. We found a small shady green hill with a view towards the beach, this is our romantic picnic for first time in the new year. Moeraki Boulders was our next stop. Many almost perfectly shaped rock balls are laying on the beach attracting many tourists taking weird photos. Dunedin was also calm and empty but had enough open restaurants for our dinner while observing its Octagon central area.
Nothing stops working just because it’s New year. But be ready for the 15% holiday supplement unless you’re packed for another picnic or you a boat to entertain yourself, as every proud kiwi!
Day 21 Alice in Wonderland
Pretty tough schedule for today. Visited the central railway station with the Saturday’s artisan market. A Lebanese old lady offered us homemade vegetarian meals, so we packed our picnic lunch. Then we walked on the world’s steepest residential street according to the Guinness book of records. The Baldwin street gains 1 meter vertically for every 2.86 meters horizontally and is major attraction for walkers, runners, bikers, drivers and so on. Not far from it is the Botanical garden of the city. It is a home of a species from all over the world and it is built on three vertical levels. You can lose yourself in the aromas if the herb garden or search for something more exotic in the South African garden. Then settle all your senses while having a picnic and protecting your food from those always hungry seagulls.
The Larnach castle in the Otago peninsula is the only castle in the whole country and therefore the most beautiful. If you ever wondered if bankers made enough money go and check the castle’s premises and garden. We ended up in the Penguin Place, reserve for the very rare yellow eyed penguins who are so independent and anti-social that we had to hide in trenches in order to observe them in their natural habitat. While the older ones were in the see fishing we managed to see the chicks waiting for their meal. At the penguin hospital we saw an adult female penguin recovering from its rendezvous with a shark.
Starting from Canterbury, the Otago and Southland made no exception in terms of dryness. The fire alerts and a total fire ban were on. This was a whole new season/climate introduced for us in NZ. Especially if you compare with the lush green fields and forests in the north.
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