Saturday March 1st we drove up the magnificent coast to Kaikoura.
About 20km south of the town the scenery becomes dramatic: turquoise water,
surf pounding the rocks, mountains dropping down into the ocean - absolutely
stunning. We drove to Pt Kean, took a walk along the beach into a howling gale, making it over
the rocks just before the tide came in, and came across a colony of seals. Not
sure who was more surprised - them or us! Climbed the steep cliffs and walked
back along the cliff top just in time to watch a sheep-shearing demo at the
point Sheep Shearing Farm. We stayed one night (in the Kaikoura Top 10 Park!) then
on to Nelson for 2 nights, taking a cruise up the Abel Tasman National Park.
Dropped off at Tonga Quarry, we walked a couple of miles on the trail to Bank
Bay, and boarded another Sea Shuttle boat at Medland Beach.
On Tuesday 4th, we drove to Picton for the 2:00pm
InterIslander ferry to Wellington, the Capitol. Until now, everything had
worked out perfectly but that was soon to change. Thirty minutes into the
three and a half hour crossing, bad weather in the Cook Strait forced the boat
to return to Picton! It was doubtful that any ferries would sail the following
day so we were re-booked on the 9:00am ferry Thursday morning. With so many
people in town, accommodation was hard to find, but we finally booked into the Waikara Holiday Park for the night - not recommended!
After checking out on Wednesday morning, we spent the
morning wine-tasting in the Marlborough region near Picton. Had lunch in town
and managed to get a room at the Beachcomber Hotel with great views across the
Until now, the weather has been fantastic. Mostly sunny and warm, and spectacular scenery. We've taken lots of hikes ranging from 15 mins to 5 hours.
Lots and lots of sheep - everywhere. Hundreds, thousands of sheep. And occasionally a field of cows. Then more sheep. And trees, huge trees. Dark green pine and tall poplar. And sheep. 4.5 million people in NZ; 45 million sheep. 10 sheep per person!
Thursday March 6th. Finally we're in Wellington and what a
beautiful waterfront city! Arrived at Booklovers B&B around 3:00pm and set off
for a walking tour of the city,
all up and down! The weather is gorgeous, cloudless blue skies and sunshine.
Unlike Christchurch: four days after we left they experienced a "One-in-100-year
flood." We walked through the park, down to the harbour, had tea at the
Boat Cafe on the water, up in the cable car to the Botanical Gardens. On the way down we
stopped for dinner at the Little Indian restaurant in the Cuba Mall, then
walked home - probably about 8 miles in total!
We left Booklovers at 9:15am on Friday and drove to Mt
Victoria for fabulous views over the city. Then to the Weta Cave museum for a display of Lord of the
Rings artifacts and a tour of the workshop where props for many movies are
made. From there we drove to Kaitoke Regional Park, aka "Rivendell"
in Lord of the Rings, and
found the site where several scenes were filmed. Stopped for tea and
scones on our way to Napier and finally checked into a Holiday Park.
Napier was disappointing, apart
from the gigantic waves crashing on to the stony beach. So the next morning
we left for Taupo. Beautiful drive and found the cutest little cottage by
the beach: Cottage Mews Motel.
Everything about this place is gorgeous! We
drove to the Aratiatia Rapids where, every 2 hours, the flood gates are
raised and a torrent of water rages through the gorge. On to the Huka Falls
to watch the ice blue, snow white water channeling into a frothing aquamarine
frenzy. Next the Craters of the Moon to see the geothermal fumaroles and
steaming cauldrons. Next we had fun at the Spa Park Natural Hot Springs for
a hot soak before heading home for a cup of tea. After dinner we took a walk
along the beach.
On Sunday we drove around the
beautiful lake to Turangi and on to Whakapapa Ski Field, the largest ski
resort in New Zealand - not too impressive compared with Vail! This location
provided some of the stark settings for Mordor in Lord of the Rings.
Dark clouds soon obscured the top of the mountain but
we had fun watching part of a 3-day event featuring long boards and trikes
racing down the road. Continuing around the lake, we arrived back at our
motel and barbecued steaks for dinner.
On Monday we drove to Rotorua. A
strong smell of sulphur pervades this town so we didn't stay too long!
After cappuccinos by the lake, we drove on to two more of Scott Cook's
"not to be missed" sites: first the forest of massive redwoods, then the
waterfall where we saw three kayakers expertly come down the falls. We
arrived at our friends' beautiful home in Tauranga around
I met this delightful couple in a bar in Spain 7 years ago. We've had
little contact since but when I emailed them about our trip, they
immediately offered us accommodation - Kiwi hospitality at its best!
The following day Gael and Gary
took us hiking up the Mount, very steep but with spectacular views. In the
afternoon we went for a driving tour of the city. We enjoyed a wonderful
dinner together at Macau's, after which Mick and Gary enjoyed an excellent
replica of the whiskey found one year after Shackleton died in the
On Wednesday morning we drove to Matamata, aka Hobbiton, where the Hobbits lived (Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies). Fascinating! Saw 44 hobbit holes
and heard an interesting account of the making of the movies. It was another
glorious day so we spent the afternoon on the beach.
Yesterday (Thursday) we drove to
Auckland and took a walking tour of the city. We crossed to Devenport on the
ferry for a beautiful view of the city from the water. Finally found
accommodation in a Holiday Park overlooking the harbour.
Counting the days now. Weather is still a huge factor in our
plans as there's a cyclone heading south. Started the day with a short walk
along the beach path, then drove to Mt Victoria in Devonport and climbed the
hill for fabulous views over Auckland. We both prefer seeing cities from a
Continued north to Orewa, a very nice seaside town. Not raining
yet. Next stopped at the Honey Center of NZ with hundreds of bees buzzing
around the showcases; bought 3 jars of honey. Further north, we took a quick
look at the Kauri Museum with its history of Kauri logging and gum digging
(the Kauri is NZ's original indigenous tree).
We decided not to stay in Kaihu
on the west coast but drive to Whangarei on the east coast, partly due to the
weather and also because this Top 10 was recommended by the guy at the last
park. On arrival there was only one cabin left!! Nice way to finish our Top 10
stays. No heavy rain yet, just a few showers - let's see what tonight brings!
a very wet and windy night and still
raining in the morning - the effect of Cyclone Lusi storming down the west edge
of the island. Drove into Whangarei and ran through the rain into a
secondhand bookshop. Then to a waterfront cafe for brunch. Lovely view of the
harbour through the rain splattered awning! Rain eased off and we walked
around for a while then headed north to Russell to visit friends. Beautiful
scenery, especially Bland Bay and Elliott Bay with pounding surf - even when
Got to within half a mile of Terry and Cris's house to find the road
blocked by a fallen tree, ripped out of the ground by the storm. Finally
arrived around 4:00pm.
Lovely house with a fantastic view of the bay. A fun evening of music with
their friends: guitar, bongo drum, rhythm stick and castanets.
Sunday 16th: rain stopped and clouds lifted. After
showing us around their beautiful gallery, "Just Imagine", Cris and Terry took
us on a 5-mile hike around the area. Back in Russell around 2:00pm. After
lunch in the Wharf, Mick and I drove around the area, starting with the local
church, the oldest one in NZ.
We went down to see the car ferry from Paihia,
then Tapeka Beach with its rocks and pounding surf, and finally Flagstaff Hill
with fantastic views.
Back home for a glass of wine on the deck as the sun
set. Then an excellent dinner at the Thai Restaurant in town. Walked down to
the water, drove down to Long Beach and then home.
Monday 17th: a misty start to the day but it soon
lifted and turned into blue skies and sunshine. After breakfast we finished
packing and said goodbye to our friends. We drove the coast road again to see
it in sunshine. Stopped for a picnic lunch at Waipu, watching the surfers.
Continued south, returned the car, arriving at Auckland Airport at 4:30pm.
Enjoyed a cup of tea, (complete with tea pot and milk jug of course!) before
going through security and boarding the 7:30pm Air New Zealand flight for San
Francisco. Finally time to return home after 6 glorious weeks. We'll be back!
You can see "all" of our photos in our
and read Mick's blog about NZ.