Category 'New Zealand'

Today we wave goodbye to Queenstown and head off to the west coast to visit Fox Glacier. This involves a long day of driving through some of the most gorgeous scenery but also some of the most dull, but never fear, there's plenty of interesting places to stop along the way! There's a couple of ways out of town - the safe road or the stunning road - so if the roads aren't icy and you're not towing a vehicle take the Crown Range Road which, if it’s possible to fall in love with a drive, this would be the one. It takes you up, up and through the mountains until you're almost as high as the peak. There's a pullover at the top that makes an ideal spot for a selfie or 50 if the weather is being kind. Afterwards you'll travel through Cardrona and over to Wanaka. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3893,3894,3895,3897,3898,3899"]   We were on a tight schedule so our visit to Wanaka was short but on a longer itinerary I'd have chosen to stay here a night or two to explore Mount Aspiring. Naturally you can't pass through Wanaka without stopping by it's most visited and most photographed attraction, "THAT WANAKA TREE", a solitary tree in Lake Wanaka that some clever marketing tactics have made one of the most famous trees in the world. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3900,3901,3903,3904,3905,3906"]     Past Wanaka you'll hit Lake Hawea followed by view after view after view. No words can really describe what these photos do. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3908,3909,3910,3911,3912,3913,3914,3915"]   The road eventually becomes the Haast Pass where there are plenty of short walks right off the highway to break up the trip. We were conscious of time so only stopped at Fantail Falls, followed by Thunder Creek Falls. If I were to do the trip again I'd also make time for the Blue Pools. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3916,3917,3918,3919,3920,3923,3921,3922"]   Once you hit the West Coast the scenery turns Jurassic and you'll expect a dinosaur to come thundering out of the scrub at any moment. But as soon as the appeal of this wears off, you'll find yourself going stir crazy with the lack of things to look at after being blessed by the first half of the drive. This stretch of the drive is long and tedious and not one I’d want to repeat in a hurry. They must cop some crazy weather on the west coast because there’s plenty of dilapidated buildings littering the landscape and if you blink you’ll miss the tiny townships. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3924,3925,3926,3927"]   We arrived in Fox Glacier near sundown and checked into our delightful little swiss styled chalet where we encountered our friendliest host yet, which is saying something because everyone on the South Island is super friendly and accommodating. You'll sleep well tonight! [caption id="attachment_3928" align="alignright" width="300"] Fox Glacier Lodge[/caption] We stayed atFox Glacier Lodge We stopped at: Arrowtown, Crown Range Road, Wanaka, Fantail Falls, Thunder Creek Falls, Fox Glacier We wore (in spring): Long sleeve shirt with thermal layers and jeans and puffer jacket with hood for the really cold spots. Distance: Queenstown to Fox Glacier is approximately 4 hours 15 minutes without stopping.

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A great spot to photograph sunrise in Queenstown is at Frankton Arm Jetty where there's a number of picturesque jetties in close proximity with views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. This morning I'd staked out a particular jetty for no other reason than that it was closest to my car and set up my tripod and camera. Along came a couple of tourists who, noticing my tripod, decided that they must also photograph from this exact jetty and proceeded to intimidate me for 15 minutes including nearly breaking my gear until I left, despite there being another jetty 15 metres away. Unfortunately this kind of bizarre, inconsiderate behaviour is somewhat typical of a certain subset of tourist in New Zealand so be warned. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3831,3832,3835,3833"]   Today we started with a drive up Coronet Peak Road where there’s spectacular views about halfway up (before the road turns into one of the world’s worst and your hire cars are no longer insured) but our petrol tank was running on empty and there might have been some tears so we turned back before we got stuck there forever. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3836,3837"]   With a tank full of petrol we next drove 20 minutes to picturesque ex-gold mining Arrowtown where everything seems frozen in history. There's no hurry here so take your time poking through the stores in the quaint little township (but try and avoid the fabric shop if your mother is anything like mine), followed by a stroll through the old Chinese settlement where history and pretty foliage meet. You can even try your hand at gold panning. We ended our visit with an ice cream from renowned Patagonia Chocolates that was as big as my head and I never want to see ice cream again.   [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3840,3841,3842,3843,3838,3839,3844,3845"]   On the way back to Queenstown swing by peaceful Lake Hayes for pretty scenery and photos with friendly ducks. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3846,3847,3849,3850,3851,3852"]   It's almost a sin to have been in Queenstown for 48 hours without getting our heart rates racing so we rectified that with an impromptu ride on the Shotover Jet! A ride on these jet boats as they race around Shotover Canyon doing 360 degree spins is a Queenstown rite of passage, and exactly what you need with a stomach full of ice cream. It's a lot of fun and not at all scary and if I could manage it without losing my stomach contents then you'll be fine too. Our ride had the added hilarity of being mooned by some random on the beach. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3854,3855,3856,3853"]   As sunset rolls around take a ride on the Skyline Gondola for the devastatingly beautiful views (with a luge ride thrown in if you're keen to keep that heart rate up). Up the top there's a restaurant and bar to whet your appetite or you can catch a Maori culture performance. We were thrilled to spot some friends through the window riding the gondola and spent the rest of the night catching up over beers. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3857,3859,3861,3864"] We stayed atAlexis Motel & Apartments We stopped at: Arrowtown, Lake Hayes,  Shotover Jet, Skyline Queenstown Gondola, Queenstown We wore (in spring): Long sleeve shirt with thermal layers and jeans. Distance: Queenstown to Arrowtown is approximately 20 minutes drive without stopping.

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When I was a child the neighbourhood kids and I would spend our free time riding bikes among the surrounding bushland. Although our street was a branded a dead end if you ventured beyond the road signs you’d find yourself in wild terrain full of life where brumbies roamed and snakes slithered across your path. Inspired by the features of the landscape I used to make up stories for the other kids about how the land came to be. I wouldn’t say I was a natural storyteller but something about that place worked its way under my skin. Ever since I’ve wanted to travel around Australia with a dream of creating stories in our iconic landscapes to give the landscape a voice and inspire others to share and build their own stories in these natural settings. Australians have a long history of storytelling whether it be Dreamtime or “spinning a yarn”. It’s a framework we create to feel a sense of connection, both to the land and to other people, to the past and the present. Our Indigenous ancestors felt a deep spiritual connection with country fostered through the sharing of stories yet people of the present day experience a disconnect between themselves and the land; it’s merely something to plunder and urbanise. ‘The Land and I’ project is a photographic series that brings stories inspired by local history and Indigenous culture to life using iconic Australian landscapes as a backdrop with the intention of highlighting places of natural beauty to instil a sense of community pride that ensures these spaces will be protected and treasured. We need to be educated about and reminded of the histories, memories and stories our landscapes contain and keep a record of not just people but also place. I intend the works to become talking points for the community, inspiring others to visit these locations and make or share their own stories, photos and artworks, ultimately encouraging a sense of belonging and promoting reverence for our natural environment. These will be collected in an online cultural repository that attempts to capture the sights, sounds, smell and feel of these natural environments throughout time from a variety of viewpoints for the benefit of future generations. Initially I will flesh out the concept using locations within the Moreton Bay Region, experimenting with lighting, framing and set design, working with amateur models and costumes created myself to establish the look and feel for the series. In the long term I plan to expand this project all over Australia, working with locally sourced talent in partnership with sponsors, government funds, and tourism boards to raise awareness.

Queenstown is surely one of the world's prettiest cities but the beauty doesn't stop at the city limits so I highly recommend a day trip or two to escape the adrenaline rush seeking tourists. This post covers the area to the north taking in Glenorchy and surrounds. [caption id="attachment_3770" align="aligncenter" width="960"]girl overlooking lake at sunrise, queenstown Sunrise in Queenstown[/caption]   After a couple of sunrise photos in QT sample the breakfast at Fergbaker and then head west out of town along Lake Wakatipu. You'll lose Internet access the second you cross city limits, but who cares when the views are this good. The drive to Glenorchy should take 45 minutes but if you're not stopping at every pullover for photographs then you're missing the best part of the trip. Particularly look out for Wilson Bay, Bennetts Bluff Lookout and Meiklejohns Bay.

The road to Glenorchy

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Wilson Bay

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Bennetts Bluff Lookout

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Meiklejohns Bay

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Glenorchy

Glenorchy is quaint and lovely but there's not a whole lot to do. Stop for lunch somewhere and then take a stroll to Glenorchy Wharf with its picturesque red boathouse. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3790,3791,3792,3793"]  

Paradise

If the weather is good there's supposed to be some excellent walks around Glenorchy but it had started to rain as we arrived. Instead we decided to drive to Paradise (actually called that) which isn't a popular tourist attraction but was the setting for many Lord of the Rings scenes so it was guaranteed to be interesting. You're back in unsealed road territory and while beautiful it was a little too rural for us with icy rain pelting down so we turned back halfway but not before Mum made me withstand blasting rain through the car window while she photographed some picturesque sheep. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3794,3795,3796,3797,3798,3799"]  

Moke Lake

On the way back to town we thought we’d check out Moke Lake which entailed a gravel road, a herd of menacing cows, wind, rain, cold and fog, and not the picturesque, serene experience you see in all the pictures. Still, I'd be keen to visit again on a clear day and I hear it's a great spot to photograph the stars. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3800,3801,3802,3803,3804,3805"]  

Queenstown

Back in Queenstown we chose to forgo Queenstown's most quintessential experience of eating at Fergberger and, on the recommendation of a friend, ate round the corner at Devil Burger instead with their chips and golden curry sauce. Yum. End the day with a stroll round the quaint little township and a spot of souvenir shopping. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3810,3812,3813,3814"]   We stayed atAlexis Motel & Apartments We stopped at: Wilson Bay, Bennetts Bluff Lookout, Meiklejohns Bay, Glenorchy, Paradise, Moke Lake, Queenstown We wore (in spring): Long pants, tee, scarf and jacket. It was a freezing evening so a full length puffer jacket helped. Distance: Queenstown to Glenorchy is approximately 45 minutes drive without all the scenic stops.

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There are no words powerful enough to describe what it's like to wake up in one of earth’s most beautiful places, Milford Sound, so here's some photos of why an overnight stay on Milford Mariner is an experience you can't live without. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3720,3725,3721,3722,3723,3724,3726,3729,3727,3728,3733,3732,3730,3731,3735,3736,3737,3734,3739,3740"] milford sound Argh my eyes! All the pretty! Once they prised me off the boat we boarded the bus back to Te Anau for the two hour return journey broken up by a rainforest walk to the gorgeous Chasm. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3741,3742,3743,3745,3746,3747"]   As if the overnight cruise isn't incredible enough, another highlight of the overnight stay is that the bus travels in the middle of the day so you miss all the crowds on day trips. The bus arrived back in Te Anau early but instead of dropping us at our hotels the driver used the extra time to take us to Te Anau Bird Sanctuary for another look around. The Real Journey's overnight Milford Sound tour was amazing from start to end and I genuinely believe it was the most incredible tour I've ever been on. Next time I'll have to choose the option of taking a helicopter back to Queenstown just to improve on the experience. Collecting our hire car, we then headed to adventure capital Queenstown surrounded by lakes and mountains that stole my heart. We chose to spend the afternoon in low gear with a wander around Queenstown Gardens (which is an adventure in itself trying to avoid being smacked in the head with a Frisbee - they have a Frisbee golf course which is actually a thing), and later stumbled across some Night Noodle Markets at the waterfront where we had our fill of yum. Queenstown, you rule! [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3749,3750,3751,3752,3753,3754,3755,3756,3757,3758,3759,3760,3762,3763,3764,3765"] [caption id="attachment_3761" align="alignright" width="300"]hotel Alexis Motel[/caption]   We stayed atAlexis Motel & Apartments We stopped atMilford Sound via Real Journeys, The Chasm, Te Anau Bird Sanctuary, Queenstown Gardens We wore (in spring): Except for the morning where a puffer jacket with hood was a necessity this was our warmest day so long sleeve tee, jeans and scarf. Distance: Milford Sound to Te Anau is approximately 2 hours without stopping and Te Anau to Queenstown is just over 2 hours, although quicker by helicopter!

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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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • St Clair Beach. Lovely for a stroll and some snaps of the wooden poles. You may even spot a seal.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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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19
Jul

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 12 : Queenstown to Fox Glacier (via Wanaka)

Today we wave goodbye to Queenstown and head off to the west coast to visit Fox Glacier. This involves a long day of driving through some of the most gorgeous scenery but also some of the most dull, but never fear, there’s plenty of interesting places to stop along the way! There’s a couple of […]

2
Jul

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 11 : Queenstown (Day 3) – Arrowtown

A great spot to photograph sunrise in Queenstown is at Frankton Arm Jetty where there’s a number of picturesque jetties in close proximity with views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. This morning I’d staked out a particular jetty for no other reason than that it was closest to my car and set up […]

26
Jun

‘The Land and I’ project

When I was a child the neighbourhood kids and I would spend our free time riding bikes among the surrounding bushland. Although our street was a branded a dead end if you ventured beyond the road signs you’d find yourself in wild terrain full of life where brumbies roamed and snakes slithered across your path. […]

21
Jun

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 10 : Queenstown (Day 2) – Glenorchy

Queenstown is surely one of the world’s prettiest cities but the beauty doesn’t stop at the city limits so I highly recommend a day trip or two to escape the adrenaline rush seeking tourists. This post covers the area to the north taking in Glenorchy and surrounds.   After a couple of sunrise photos in […]

6
Jun

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 9 : Milford Sound & Queenstown (Day 1)

There are no words powerful enough to describe what it’s like to wake up in one of earth’s most beautiful places, Milford Sound, so here’s some photos of why an overnight stay on Milford Mariner is an experience you can’t live without. Argh my eyes! All the pretty! Once they prised me off the boat we […]

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 […]