Category 'New Zealand'

Mornings in Te Anau mean throwing open your curtains to panoramic views of a glassy lake and a strong desire to take a brief stroll or snap a few 100 photos, both perfect activities for working up an appetite. reflection, lake, te anau, panorama seaplane, te anau, lake, reflection   I have a little known obsession with deer, so much so that the few times we drove by a deer farm while in New Zealand I would squeal deeeeeeer at the top of my voice, which my mum certainly appreciated. So this morning we had breakfast at Wapiti Bakery & Café which was strewn with antlers and taxidermied deer much to my delight and disgust. Fiordland's epic natural beauty makes it a supposedly excellent area for hunting which breaks my animal loving heart, and locals will proudly regale you with tales of surprising animal cruelty all in the name of aiding their precious native bird population. (Pro tip New Zealand, your opinion on possums HORRIFIES tourists. You might want to tone it down.) Wanting to know what makes the precious native bird population so special we visited the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary (a small, free attraction) to view the endangered Takahe of which there are only 200 left in New Zealand. We managed to briefly spot one. There's also a tiny jetty nearby which is a prime spot for photos of the lake. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3679,3678"]   All morning I was trying to contain my excitement about the adventure ahead - an overnight cruise on Milford Sound! And I had every right to be because this trip is the stuff dreams are made of. Around midday we once again met with the Real Journeys crew where we joined our coach for the two hour journey into Milford. Our tour guide, Cameron, despite his blasé attitude, was the most informative and engaging guide I’ve ever come across and unlike most coach tours gave us plenty of opportunities to stop and check out the local attractions. Stops included Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, and Monkey Creek near the entrance to the incredible engineering feat, the Homer Tunnel. [caption id="attachment_3680" align="aligncenter" width="960"]snow capped mountains, milford sound Eglinton Valley[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3681" align="aligncenter" width="960"]lake, mountains, mirror lake Mirror Lakes[/caption] [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3682,3685,3684,3687"]   Despite being a rainy day there are no words for the immensity of the scenery on this road. Just go, just bloody go, without hesitation. And be sure to keep an eye out for the rubber eating Kea birds, so clever that they’re known to ride tour buses through the Homer Tunnel to save on flying, and Wekas, the day time version of Kiwis (see future posts for photos of both). Once in Milford we boarded the Milford Mariner where we were to spend the night amongst the Milford Sound scenery! And because it was raining – waterfalls EVERYWHERE. After settling in we chose the option of taking a tender craft (over kayaking or swimming) to get a closer look at the resident seals and penguins who apparently went into hiding when they heard we were coming. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3690,3696,3692,3693,3688,3689"]   When dry again we gaped at the excellent views before sharing an excellent meal with excellent fellow guests and watched an excellent presentation with the excellent nature guide Blair. The Real Journeys people sure know how to do five star and then some. And just when we thought everything was already excellent enough a baby seal boarded the back of the ship for a little sleep. OH MY. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3704,3691,3701,3697,3703,3699,3700,3695,3706,3705"]   We stayed at: Real Journeys Milford Mariner Overnight Cruise We stopped at: Te Anau Bird Sanctuary, Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, Monkey Creek, Milford Sound We wore (in spring): Snow boots, rainproof pants and jacket, thermal underwear, scarf and a puffer jacket with hood. Distance: Te Anau to Milford Sound is approximately 2 hours but it will definitely take you longer. We chose to go by tour bus rather than drive in case of potential road conditions but I think we would have been safe driving (it was late September).

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There's little to stick around for in Invercargill (although had I known about Demolition World I might have considered a visit) so instead we took the pretty, but not entirely memorable 2 hour drive straight to Te Anau. We didn’t know how to pronounce Te Anau and so the drive was filled with renditions of Laura Branigan’s ‘Ti Amo’ (that’s an 80s tune for you youngsters). It's 'T-R-no' for the record. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3575,3576,3577,3578"]   Te Anau’s claim to fame is that it’s the gateway to Milford Sound but being built around the South Island’s largest lake, Lake Te Anau, means it’s an entirely pretty town on its own. It actually stole my heart and if I had to choose a town to call home this one would likely be it. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3580,3581"]   The first place you’ll spot when you hit the main street, particularly when your stomach is grumbling after the drive, is ‘Miles Better Pies’ where the queue is often out the door for their renowned pies. Naturally we joined the queue to fuel up for our next adventure - a trip to the Glow Worm Caves! Pro tip - when taking a tour it's fine to leave your car in the main street despite the signs warning of parking restrictions. Apparently Te Anau doesn't actually have a parking inspector but just double check with one of the friendly shop assistants in case this has changed. We boarded the glow worm tour boat at the Real Journeys office across the street and sailed Lake Te Anau for the half hour journey to the nearby underground caves. After a short briefing we walked through darkness accompanied by the roar of flowing water to board another much smaller boat and glide about the underground lake while oohing and aahing (silently so as not to disturb) at the glow worms. A total sensory experience; and a much more pleasant one than on the larger boat where a group of Brazilian teens insisted on blasting their truly hideous music. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3582,3583,3585,3584"]   Back on land we checked into our hotel (I booked it because it specifically said they faced the lake but we found that most of the town’s hotels do) and at the recommendation of the hotel manager we went to the local cinema to watch ‘Fiordland on Film’, a stunning 30 minute visual documentary of the Fiordland region (complete with cocktails from the cinema bar). Afterwards we legged it back to the lake in the hopes of a decent sunset and boy, we were not disappointed when the sky turned an otherworldly mauve colour. Bliss. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3589,3592,3590,3591,3593,3594"]   We stayed at: Radfords on the Lake We stopped at: Miles Better Pies, Real Journeys Glowworm Caves Tour, Fiordland Cinema, Lake Te Anau Distance: From Invercargill to Te Anau via the "scenic route" is approximately 2 hours drive not including stops.

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The best part about staying at Larnach Castle was waking up in a goddamn castle and for a very brief moment this morning the dense fog cleared and we were able to see the breathtaking view that surrounded the property ... before it were gone just as quickly. After a lovely breakfast in the stables we took the audiovisual self-guided tour and learnt about the castle’s origins and tragic history followed by a wander through the gardens enjoying the little tributes to Alice in Wonderland. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3506,3507,3508,3510,3511,3512"] [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3505,3513"]   Our destination today was Invercargill but the journey was more about meandering through the Catlins to get there. The Catlins is an area of “rugged coastlines” “overlooked by tourists” which I can vouch for because I counted on one hand the cars we passed along the way. It’s one of those places where there’s no specific itinerary except to drive through and pull over at anything that takes your fancy. But I should have known by how hard the marketing tries to get you there that it would actually be disappointing. (Mind you a tour guide suggested we may have visited at the wrong time of year, so who knows? Seriously though - just skip it.)   [caption id="attachment_3528" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Farmland on the way to the Catlins[/caption]   The maps suggest a number of notable stops but from our experience most of them require lengthy drives along loose gravel roads with no guarantee of what you want at the end (I’m looking at you seals). These conditions made our drive more stressful than relaxed and I’d suggest if the Catlins truly wants to be a prime tourist destination they’ll need to pave their roads and maybe throw in a couple of cafes and servos. The stops we chose to visit were:

  • The oft photographed Nugget Point Lighthouse with its rocky outcrops that are supposedly teeming with wildlife (we didn’t see any but still a beautiful and worthy stop nonetheless). It's a ten minute walk from the car park to the Lighthouse.
[gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3515,3516"] [caption id="attachment_3517" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The view from the Lighthouse[/caption]  
  • Cannibal Bay, home of sea lions although we didn’t see a single one, and the long and winding gravel road to reach it was one of our most harrowing drives in all of NZ.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3518,3519"]  
  • Purakaunui Falls, a pretty waterfall down a short track. We had a couple of minutes to ourselves (just enough time to set up a tripod) before it was inundated with tourists, the only other people we saw all day. Asian tourists have this uncanny ability to sense when someone is setting up a shot and go out of their way to ruin it.
[gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3521,3522"]  
  • Cathedral Caves, I was really looking forward to this because it looks incredible in photos but being totally dependent on tide times it was closed for the day.
  • Curio Bay, which is an interesting fossilised beach where you can actually see fallen trees in the rocks. Good for a wander but also dependent on tides.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3523,3524,3525,3526"]  
  • We really wanted to reach Slope Point but by then it was getting dark and we had grown weary of sketchy roads so we headed to Invercargill.
Invercargill seems to have a weird obsession with fast vehicles and not much more. If you are following along with this itinerary I would suggest skipping the Catlins and Invercargill altogether and use the extra night either in Wanaka to explore Mt Aspiring, or in Lake Tekapo for some star viewing with the extra day in Mt Cook doing another walk. We stayed at: ASURE Townsman Motor Lodge We stopped at: Larnach Castle, Nugget Point Lighthouse, Cannibal Bay, Purakaunui Falls, Whistling Frog Cafe, Curio Bay, Invercargill Distance: From Dunedin via the Catlins to Invercargill is approx 3 hours 50 mins drive not including scenic stops. It takes 2.5 hours if you take the direct road (ie. not through the Catlins).

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The benefit of staying in Oamaru, besides its steampunk fascination and its penguin playground, is that it’s quite near the Moeraki Boulders. These oversized and otherworldy boulders scattered along a beach are usually pictured in guidebooks bathed in glorious sunrise light surrounded by silky smooth water. To capture this same shot I plotted out sunrise, checked the tide times and dragged poor Mum out of bed at ridiculous o’clock for the 30 minute drive to the boulders. But because the weather gods hate me it was raining, windy and far too bitterly cold to be out at 6.30am (or 3.30am according to our body clocks). And if you do a Google image search of 'Moeraki Boulders' this weather seems more the norm than those sunrise shots would have you believe. Still, who can complain when you’re surrounded by 1 metre spherical boulders, believed to be 60 MILLION YEARS OLD. [caption id="attachment_3380" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Shitty weather, Koekohe Beach[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3377" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Moeraki Boulders[/caption] [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3374,3381,3375,3376,3378,3379"]   It’s hard to be cranky for long when nature is being so impressive so we hammed it up for the camera for as long as our bodies could handle and then bundled back into the car for the hour long journey to Dunedin. Dunedin is chock full of delights and your itinerary should include:

  • The Old Railway Station which is worth a wander for its grand architecture and if you time it right, you might even be able to snap a photo without bus-loads of Asian tourists.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3385,3384"]  
  • Cadbury World. I’ve wanted to visit here for YEARS only to arrive and find out that, due to school holidays, all the tours were booked out for the day. DO NOT make this mistake and DO NOT then try to relieve your misery by stuffing yourself full of sugar in the café.
[gallery size="large" ids="3387,3388,3386"]  
  • St Clair Beach. Lovely for a stroll and some snaps of the wooden poles. You may even spot a seal.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3389,3392"]  
  • Baldwin Street. The world’s steepest street! Much fun for selfies with a difference and if you’re really keen (and stupid) you can even attempt to drive it, but personally I prefer roller coasters when they’re under someone else’s control.
[gallery size="full" ids="3393,3394,3395"]  
  • Signal Hill for sublime city views
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3401,3398,3399,3400"] [caption id="attachment_3396" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Stunning panoramic views of Dunedin from Signal Hill[/caption]  
  • A drive around Portobello Road where the water’s edge is almost at your car tyres. This will take you to Otago Peninsula and the Royal Albatross Centre.
[gallery size="large" ids="3402,3403,3404"]  
  • The Royal Albatross Centre. If you’ve made the journey here, definitely take a tour (although it is pricey). We took a brief tour with a sweet Maori woman to do some incognito Albatross spotting (only one in residence at the time, but still cool). I mention that our guide was Maori because she was one of only a handful of Maori people we saw. Where are your Maori people, South Island?
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3405,3406,3407,3410"]   To top off your perfect Dunedin day, if your budget allows, I highly recommend a stay at Larnach Castle! A castle, you guys! If the weather is good, take the scenic Highcliff Road there, and if it’s not, don’t or you’ll find yourself on windy roads steeped in fog with not much scenery to be seen, let alone much road. Not super fun. However, arriving at a castle steeped in fog is another story altogether because that’s exactly as castles should be. [gallery size="large" ids="3411,3412,3413"]   Our evening at Larnach involved dressing in our finery (cleanest pair of jeans) and attending a three course meal in the Castle Dining Room where we mingled with fellow guests and learnt about the castle’s history, before eagerly falling into our fancy pants beds. See how much you can fit into a day when you’re up at the crack of dawn? [caption id="attachment_3414" align="alignleft" width="432"] Lodge Room[/caption]                   We stayed at: Larnach Lodge, Larnach Castle. We stopped at: Moeraki Boulders, Dunedin Railway Station, Cadbury World, St Clair Beach, Baldwin Street, Signal Hill, The Royal Albatross Centre, Larnach Castle. Distance: Oamaru to Moeraki is approx 30 minutes. Moeraki to Dunedin is approx 1 hour. Dunedin to the Royal Albatross Centre is approx 40 minutes. Larnach Castle is approx 20 minutes from Dunedin and 30 minutes from the Royal Albatross Centre. * Not including scenic stops.

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It’s not often you get excited about a drive but I was relishing the opportunity to travel the scenic Mount Cook Road once again as we made our way out of Aoraki / Mount Cook and down the east coast. But as usual low lying clouds insisted on hampering my plans, though Lake Pukaki was looking particularly stunning and the sky was an insane colour. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3317,3320,3318,3319,3562,3322"]   We travelled through Twizel, which didn’t seem worth a stop, to Omarama (if you’re headed to Queenstown turn off here via the reportedly beautiful Lindis Pass) and toyed with but decided against visiting the Clay Cliffs. The road travels on through the Waitaki Valley which is particularly pretty. [caption id="attachment_3323" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Lake Benmore near Otematata[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_3335" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Fields of yellow, everywhere[/caption]   We lunched in Duntroon where we discovered the delight that is New Zealand bakeries and their delicious range of interesting treats before exploring nearby Elephant Rocks, a collection of large limestone rocks in the middle of nowhere where not another soul was to be seen (well, except for some curious cows and skittish lambs). I love to photograph surreal landscapes and so these kinds of stops are always a must for me, although Castle Hill along Arthur’s Pass provides a similar experience if you can’t manage both. The rocks themselves were created because this whole area was once under the sea and now they act as a nesting place for local birds. You may recognise the area as Aslan’s camp from the Chronicles of Narnia films. The rocks are housed on private land but are free to visit and have basic toilet facilities if required. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3324,3327,3325,3326,3331,3330,3332,3329"] [gallery columns="1" size="large" ids="3328,3333"]   Afterwards we made our first petrol stop and nearly had a heart attack over the price of petrol at $1.87 per litre, about .60c more expensive than Australia! And this is apparently cheap. What the hell New Zealand?! Our stop for the evening was Oamaru which is a little like stepping back in time and then travelling to the future because this town has a bizarre obsession with all things Steampunk! Take a wander through the ye olde Victorian district with its fabulous old buildings and then visit the massive Steampunk HQ, full of rusty treasures, where you’ll delight in the infinity room. [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="3337,3338,3339,3350,3340,3341,3342,3343,3344,3347,3346,3345,3349,3348"]   Oamaru is also famous for its colonies of blue and yellow eyed penguins but due to the wild, windy weather (the worst the town had seen in weeks apparently – just my luck!) we decided to forgo a night out in the elements for a quick glimpse as they waddled home from the sea. You can take day tours of the blue penguin colony (put Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony into your GPS or follow the signs) but for some inexplicable reason this wasn't offered to us when we visited. Maybe next time penguins. We stayed at: ASURE Ambassador Motor Lodge, Oamaru, totally worth it just for their excellent drier which ACTUALLY dried our clothes within 30 mins (gasp) and was free! Also, free muffins (yay). We stopped at: Elephant Rocks, Duntroon and Oamaru including the Victorian District, Steampunk HQ and the Blue Penguin Colony We wore in Spring: Being a windy day a puffer jacket with hood was ideal plus layers including thermals. We were told it was unseasonably cold and overcast though. Distance: Between Aoraki / Mount Cook Village and Oamaru is approx. 2.5 hours, not including scenic stops.

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Today was drizzly and foggy, and what perfect weather to take a four hour 10k hike? Rugged up in our best weatherproofs we walked Mount Cook's Hooker Valley Track through scenery so out of this world that I coined the phrase ‘that’s some Lord of the Rings shit right there’ which was then repeated ad nauseam for the rest of the trip. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3293,3296,3294,3295"]   If you’re only in the Mount Cook area for a short time this is the one walk out of the numerous on offer that the locals say is a must-do and once you see the utterly gorgeous views you’ll understand why. Bright yellow tussock grass, surrounded by snow-capped mountains with the aquamarine Hooker River bubbling by, this was quite possibly the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen.   [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3297,3299"]   [gallery columns="1" size="large" ids="3298,3310"]   The walk is flat and not difficult but I still found it a touch strenuous towards the end, likely from the 8kg of camera gear I was carting and the light rain that plagued us the entire way. I definitely recommend driving to the start of the track and walking from there rather than adding an extra hour to the journey by walking from the village as some of the guidebooks suggest and if you’re only here for a REALLY short time, at least walk the 15-20 mins to the first swing bridge for the immense view.   [caption id="attachment_3300" align="aligncenter" width="960"] The look-out over Hooker Valley[/caption]   Speaking of swing bridges, there are three along the track which you’ll either find fantastically fun or a crime against nature, depending on how you feel about heights and the sensation of the ground moving as you walk. If you need a rest there’s a small hut, approximately 2/3rds of the way in that acts as a rest stop and toilet break. For us it was a much needed reprieve from the constant rain and a chance to refuel with some snacks. [gallery size="large" ids="3301,3303,3302"]   About ten minutes after you’ve started clawing at strangers screaming ‘is it much longer?!’ you'll reach the farthest point of the walk, a spectacular glacial lake, featuring the remains of rapidly melting icebergs. The lake is flanked by Aoraki / Mount Cook, NZ’s tallest mountain, which was sadly in hiding while we were there but the view didn’t suffer for it.   Once you’ve drunk in the scenery the return journey follows the same path back and my tip for serious photographers is to use a wide angle lens on the way in and a zoom lens on the way out so you can capture the stunning vistas in their entirety and some close up details for interest. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3312,3306,3308,3311"]   Unfortunately we were so exhausted and wet by our return that we guzzled a pack of choccy biscuits and fell into bed without dinner and in my greatest regret of the trip I missed out on doing the walk to Tasman Lake, but I guess you have to save something for next time!

  • We wore (in spring): Snow boots (we loved our snow boots because they kept our feet dry but sneakers will do fine otherwise), rainproof pants and jackets, thermal underwear, gloves, scarf and beanie. The scarf turned out to be really handy for wiping water off my camera.
  • Take on the walk: Camera, sunscreen (for sunny days), rainproof gear (for wet days), snacks and at least one bottle of water (get from the village before you leave and expect to pay a fortune).

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When I received an invitation to a wedding in New Zealand I thought to myself, why not? New Zealand has never been high on my bucket list of destinations which I suspect is due to the “friendly” but actually somewhat damaging rivalry that Australians have with New Zealanders. Unfortunately this meant that I had NO IDEA that New Zealand is the world’s best kept secret and is actually the most stunning and friendly country on earth! Move it to the top of your destinations list STAT and for tips on where to go and what to do make sure to refer to this blog series. We arrived in Christchurch around the start of spring and after pursuing cherry blossoms in Japan earlier in the year I was delighted to discover that Christchurch was chock full of cherry blossoms in peak bloom and without all the pesky crowds that Japan draws. [caption id="attachment_3237" align="aligncenter" width="600"]A cherry blossom in Christchurch Botanic Gardens A cherry blossom in Christchurch Botanic Gardens[/caption]   In a strange juxtaposition Christchurch is still very much suffering the effects of the 2011 earthquake as evidenced by the multitude of beautiful ruins. But if you’re like me and are fascinated by abandoned buildings a slow drive around the city centre is like stumbling into a bittersweet dystopia. Christchurch contains so many utterly gorgeous heritage buildings, both intact and otherwise, that I was disappointed to have scheduled so little time here. Had I known I would have forgone that trip to the Re:START shipping container mall with its tourist fodder and ludicrous parking prices and spent my time strolling the streets admiring the buildings. (No photos to show because not enough time obvs.) NB. You'll hear a lot of people say they wish they'd spent LESS time in Christchurch but I think that's because there's just so much to see on the South Island, not that Christchurch is necessarily a crap place to be. [gallery columns="2" link="none" size="large" ids="3238,3239"]   When the Botanic Gardens take up roughly a third of the entire city centre you know it’ll be worth a visit and Christchurch’s gardens naturally did not disappoint. We spent an all too brief morning here after breakfasting at the gardens’ Ilex Café where the waffles are so damn good we came back for them again at the end of our trip and wandered among the gorgeous spring blooms where I had visions of Alice stumbling into Wonderland. In fact I’m planning an Alice inspired art series using pictures I snapped here.   [gallery size="large" link="file" columns="2" ids="3243,3244,3241,3242,3240,3245"]   That afternoon we pointed our hire car towards Mount Cook and at the first sighting of snow-capped mountains pulled over and took roughly 100 photos completely unaware of just how many snow-capped mountains our future held.   [caption id="attachment_3248" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Snow! Snow![/caption]   I recommend you make your first major stop on this drive at Lake Tekapo, 27km worth of brilliant blue glacial waters of which the main road passes only the very tip. This is where you’ll find the Church of the Good Shepherd, which has become almost a rite of passage for astrophotographers due to its location in a dark sky reserve (meaning there’s no artificial light pollution). Unfortunately what we found was bus-loads of tourist and a church far tinier than expected, but as I quickly learned from New Zealand, even when conditions are disappointing the views are still so mind-blowingly stunning that you come away feeling like you’ve experienced something magnificent regardless. If you’re all about star chasing be sure to spend a night here but from what I’ve heard it’ll be a far less solitary experience than you’re probably imagining. Also, summer is a recommended time to visit when the picturesque lupin flowers are in bloom. [caption id="attachment_3249" align="alignleft" width="960"]lake-tekapo-mountains Views of Lake Tekapo[/caption]                     [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3250,3251,3247,3252"]   Further on is NZ’s largest lake, Lake Pukaki and its Information Centre where we stopped for an ice cream with a side of views. [caption id="attachment_3253" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Lake Pukaki Lake Pukaki[/caption]   This lake then accompanies you almost all the way to Aoraki / Mount Cook. The road to Mount Cook is 40 minutes of pure bliss. With an icy blue lake on one side and snow covered mountains in every other direction it’s hard to know where to look but do keep an eye on the road in case freshly shorn sheep are wandering across because this is New Zealand after all!   [caption id="attachment_3261" align="aligncenter" width="960"]the-road Photo stop on the way to Mt Cook[/caption] [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="large" ids="3260,3256,3257,3258"]   We arrived at Mount Cook just on dusk to see the surrounding mountains quickly swallowed by fog (mountains? what mountains?) which dashed my plans for photographing the stars but meant I could get comfortably cosy in the South Island’s snow covered heart. Be aware that due to its remote vicinity Mount Cook’s food choices are expensive and mediocre at best so self-catering is highly recommended. [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="3262,3254"]   [caption id="attachment_3259" align="alignright" width="300"]You can't be driving and doing this at the same time Skip driving for selfies with mountains[/caption] We stayed at: Azena Motel, Christchurch (terrible, suggest trying Merivale area instead) and Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Lodge (good for budget and self-catering but most people stay at the more costly Hermitage). Recommended photo stops: Christchurch City Centre (many roads closed to public), Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Pukaki, and every roadside pullover on the way to Mount Cook (or get your non-photographer friend to drive and use a high shutter speed to freeze the moving scenery). We wore: In spring it was mainly foggy and overcast, cold, but not freezing. Suggest layers and a puffer jacket with hood. Distance: Between Christchurch and Mount Cook Village is approx. 4 hours, not including scenic stops. Please note, although Fox Glacier / Franz Josef is close to Mount Cook on a map, you can only get there by helicopter so you'll need to drive to the West Coast to access it. This confuses TripAdvisor so make sure you're staying in the right township.

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20
May

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 8 : Milford Sound

Mornings in Te Anau mean throwing open your curtains to panoramic views of a glassy lake and a strong desire to take a brief stroll or snap a few 100 photos, both perfect activities for working up an appetite.   I have a little known obsession with deer, so much so that the few times we drove […]

6
May

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 7 : Invercargill to Te Anau

There’s little to stick around for in Invercargill (although had I known about Demolition World I might have considered a visit) so instead we took the pretty, but not entirely memorable 2 hour drive straight to Te Anau. We didn’t know how to pronounce Te Anau and so the drive was filled with renditions of Laura Branigan’s […]

22
Apr

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 6 : Dunedin to Invercargill

The best part about staying at Larnach Castle was waking up in a goddamn castle and for a very brief moment this morning the dense fog cleared and we were able to see the breathtaking view that surrounded the property … before it were gone just as quickly. After a lovely breakfast in the stables we took […]

8
Apr

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 5 : Oamaru to Dunedin

The benefit of staying in Oamaru, besides its steampunk fascination and its penguin playground, is that it’s quite near the Moeraki Boulders. These oversized and otherworldy boulders scattered along a beach are usually pictured in guidebooks bathed in glorious sunrise light surrounded by silky smooth water. To capture this same shot I plotted out sunrise, […]

25
Mar

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 4 : Mount Cook to Oamaru

It’s not often you get excited about a drive but I was relishing the opportunity to travel the scenic Mount Cook Road once again as we made our way out of Aoraki / Mount Cook and down the east coast. But as usual low lying clouds insisted on hampering my plans, though Lake Pukaki was looking […]

11
Mar

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 3 : Aoraki/Mount Cook, Hooker Valley

Today was drizzly and foggy, and what perfect weather to take a four hour 10k hike? Rugged up in our best weatherproofs we walked Mount Cook’s Hooker Valley Track through scenery so out of this world that I coined the phrase ‘that’s some Lord of the Rings shit right there’ which was then repeated ad […]

25
Feb

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Days 1-2: Christchurch to Aoraki / Mount Cook

When I received an invitation to a wedding in New Zealand I thought to myself, why not? New Zealand has never been high on my bucket list of destinations which I suspect is due to the “friendly” but actually somewhat damaging rivalry that Australians have with New Zealanders. Unfortunately this meant that I had NO […]