Monthly Archives: May 2013

A relaxing return to Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura

Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs

Days 38-42: Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura

Relaxing in the hot pools

Relaxing in the hot pools

We awoke in our brilliant campsite at Waihi gorge and as I said on the last post enjoyed a nice breakfast beside the river. We were soon on the road again listening to one of my many Spaceship mixes and were heading for Hanmer Springs. We stopped for a picnic on the way and after a pretty long drive we arrived in Hanmer Springs. We had decided to treat ourselves here (we are in the spaceship for 9 weeks after all!!) and stay in a cheapie holiday house – as they had a special deal 3 nights for the price of 2 so it worked out close to a powered site at some camp sites! Crazy really!

Hanmer

Hanmer

So we had a couple of days to relax here which was lovely. We bought a 2 day pass at the Thermal hot pools, which we had visited back in September when we arrived in NZ. We loved relaxing last time we were here so decided to visit again. We went in the morning on both Monday and Tuesday and both days were pretty quiet as it is very much off-peak (Tuesday was almost deserted and we had most pools all to ourselves!). We were also blessed with beautiful weather on these two days so the pools looked even more inviting. They have 15 outdoor pools to choose from – including 3 sulphur pools. Our favourite were the adult-only aromatherapy ones that had a variety of jets and massagers – very relaxing. We also enjoyed spending time in the town exploring during our few days here.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura

We left here on Wednesday and drove over to Kaikoura. We actually decided to take the inland scenic route (the 70) from Hanmer, and it was a pretty interesting road! We had definitely driven our fair share of crazy roads and this would probably be included!

Seal at Kaikoura

Seal at Kaikoura

It wasn’t so much a bad surface or that dangerous but just so so windy! I sometimes suffer from travel sickness and this really tested me! But it was scenic and part of the adventure 🙂 Kaikoura was another place we loved when visiting back in September so we decided to spend a couple of days here again. We enjoyed walking along the beach and seeing the seals. We also walked up to Point Kean and took in the coastal views. One of our favourite ever pizza restaurants is here too – Black Rabbit pizza. Their pizza is just sooo delicious so we treated ourselves while we were there! We really enjoyed going back here and loved taking in the fresh coastal air and wonderful views!

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Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Back on the road and a fantastic campsite!

At Lake Tekapo

At Lake Tekapo

Day 37 – Leaving Queenstown (via Lake Tekapo) and staying at Waihi gorge campsite

On the road

On the road

On Day 37 of our Spaceship adventure we sadly departed beautiful Queenstown (after making a quick stop in the town centre before we left). We were back on the road today with quite a few kilometres to cover – but were in good hands with Draco who was as reliable as ever. We were planning to arrive in Hanmer Springs tomorrow so had planned a stop off tonight at a DOC campsite near Geraldine called Waihi gorge. The drive up is quite a scenic one, and there had been snowfall on the mountains the night before so we saw lots of snow-capped mountains along the way.

Mount Cook lookout

Mount Cook lookout

We passed through Lindis pass which actually had snow at ground level. It had been cleared from the road which was lucky as we hadn’t been given snow chains! It looked really pretty in the snow. We took a stop at Twizel at a great place to eat called Shawtys – who do really delicious ham and pineapple pizza (my favourite!). They are always really busy too which is a good sign of a great place to eat. We have used trip advisor a fair bit to find good places to eat and so far we have found loads of good places this way. Next stop was a lookout with views towards Mount Cook.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Even though the place of the sun at that time made photos a little difficult it still looked beautiful. We also stopped at one of our favourites – the ever-beautiful Lake Tekapo. They actually were experiencing a power-cut when we arrived so everywhere was shut! This waylaid our plans to pick up a coffee for John as it was a long drive! Crazy. We took some photos here though and enjoyed the sunsine. We stopped a bit further down the road at Fairlie for John to get a coffee and finished our journey on a gravel road up to the DOC campsite at Waihi gorge.

Waihi gorge DOC

Waihi gorge DOC

We loved camping here! It was a really peaceful and pretty campsite. We chose a great spot right down by the river with our own picnic table and not too far from the loos. We enjoyed a nice picnic here before settling down for the night to watch a dvd in our spaceship. It was also our first night camping in Draco since the swap. We actually found him more comfortable than Ron (sorry Ron!). This was mostly due to the fact that the bed was lower down in the back (he is a slightly newer model) and as such there is a little more headroom. So you can actually sit on the mattress and your head can fit as you sit upright.

Camping in Draco

Camping in Draco

We also found the shape of the bed was different and worked better and the slightly different configuration in the back worked better too (our water was in a different place so we had a bit more space). Of course we were still sleeping in a car so of course it was small! But the little things can make all the difference and we actually had quite a good night’s sleep. We did take one early morning trip to the loo in the dark and managed to step in quite a few sheep droppings on the way back! But it all adds to the adventure and it certainly was a memorable time there. We enjoyed a nice breakie by the river in the sun before getting back on the road and heading for Hanmer.

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spaceship swap – goodbye Mysteron, hello Draco!

Mysteron meet Draco

Mysteron meet Draco

It was a difficult day, but also an exciting one! So now well into our Spaceship – what we call our camper-car – adventure, I will take you back to May 5th (yes I am posting retrospectively again!) we headed to Qbox in Queenstown (their spaceship depot) to swap one spaceship for another – both are photographed above. Due to the fact that we had covered so many kilometres Mysteron just needed a good old service so we were trading him in for a different spaceship – this one called Draco! I’m sure everyone reading this knows Draco is named after Draco Malfoy – Harry Potter’s nemesis 🙂 We were very sad to see Mysteron go – for anyone that doesn’t know Mysteron is named after a race of aliens from Captain Scarlett and as his namesake is rather random we affectionately named him ‘Ron’ instead! We had some wonderful memories in Ron and he had taken us to some amazing places. With just over 3800 kilometres on him in just over a month he had served us well. So I am posting one of our favourite photos of Ron on the way up to Mount Cook as we wish him goodbye:

Goodbye Ron

Goodbye Ron

And say hello to Draco – who we are sure will also take us on many more amazing adventures!

Hello Draco!

Hello Draco!

Categories: New Zealand, Photographs, South Island, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An incredible Queenstown 30th birthday!

Our snow landing in Queenstown

Our snow landing in Queenstown

Days 28-37: Queenstown for my 30th birthday – a Queenstown birthday week!

Queenstown

Queenstown

What an amazing amazing birthday week I have had! We made the decision to return to Queenstown after our trip up the west coast because it was our favourite place in NZ and where we wanted to spend my birthday. We spent the week here doing all our favourite things – including the peninsula walkway, walking along Frankton arm and playing mini golf. It was also a chance to relax after spending so long travelling around in the spaceship. We gave the spaceship a bit of a rest this week and just used him to drive around – which was quite nice!

Me in the helicopter

Me in the helicopter

The real highlight of the week had to be on Tuesday (a few days before my birthday) when we decided to take a helicopter trip with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters. We have been lucky enough to have been up in a helicopter a couple of times before and have always loved the trips so decided it would be perfect to go up in one for my birthday. We chose Tuesday rather than my actual birthday as the weather was unbelievably perfect and the forecast wasn’t great for my actual birthday. We also used http://www.bookme.co.nz so got an awesome deal. We chose the 40 minute flight that including a snow landing on a mountain – and it was perfect! We headed over to check in before our flight time of 3.30pm and were soon on board the helicopter and taking off. Immediately we were rewarded with awesome views over Queenstown.

Snow landing

Snow landing

We headed for the mountains passing over Arrowtown and the Shotover river towards our snow landing atop Mount Hyde. Here we got out amidst a few feet of snow and the views were just stunning! We had amazing panoramic views all around and were pretty speechless! We took some photos here and the pilot kindly took a few of us too – so we could capture such wonderful memories. Soon it was time to return and this time I sat in the front for the return journey and was just so lucky! We headed towards Lake Wakatipu and the views of the lake and Queenstown were out of this world! I snapped away on my camera and enjoyed the trip as we came in to land. Overall – we think the best thing we have ever done in New Zealand! And the perfect way to celebrate my 30th birthday.

Views from the helicopter

Views from the helicopter

Birthday hot pool

Birthday hot pool

On my actual birthday (May 9th) I had a simply perfect day! I awoke in our apartment at Oaks Shores  – which we had treated ourselves to for my birthday and had cards and pressies – with an awesome lake view. I spoke to my parents on skype which was lovely as I miss them a lot – and they sang Happy Birthday to me as they always do! I also spoke to my sister who called and sang to me as well – and it was great speaking to her. We then headed out to my main treat of the day – to Onsen Hot Pools, where we had hired a private hot pool for an hour overlooking the mountains and Shotover River. It was so relaxing and wonderful and I loved every second.

Enjoying the hot pool

Enjoying the hot pool

We had also bought the accompanying pamper pack, so had juice, chocolate and a nice aromatherapy burner, along with fluffy towels. The views from the hot pool were great and we enjoyed watching the Shotover jet fly up and down outside. We didn’t hear anyone else in their hot pool and felt all alone – with the peace and quiet of the mountains for company. After reluctantly leaving we headed for my favourite place to eat in Queenstown – Winnies, where we enjoyed a delicious pizza.

 

Us at Winnies

Us at Winnies

Birthday cake!

Birthday cake!

An afternoon of mini golf followed with a relaxing evening at the apartment watching the sun set and enjoying a film together – as well as yummy birthday cake! It was lovely to speak to my parents again to tell them all about my day. I won’t ever forget my 30th birthday in Queenstown and I felt truly lucky to have had such wonderful experiences.

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As we spent the whole week in Queenstown we also took some images of the area which I have included in a slideshow below. One of my favourite is of me climbing some steps in Queenstown with the beautiful autumnal colours in the background as seen here:

Autumnal Queenstown

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The hidden delights of Hokitika

Hokitika Gorge

Hokitika Gorge

I have got quite behind with my blog (please forgive me!) as we have been really busy on the road in our Spaceship, but I will slowly be updating it as and when we get good wifi.

This post focuses on the wonderful hidden gem of Hokitika on NZ’s West Coast. Understandably the two glaciers get lots of attention – however I believe that Hokitika is well worth a visit and let me explain why!

We spent one night here, as a brief stop whilst spending time on the West Coast and found it a lovely stay! Things we did whilst here we loved included:

  • On Hokitika Gorge walk

    On Hokitika Gorge walk

    Hokitika gorge walk – this is a beautiful walk which starts about a 30 minute drive south of Hokitika. It is signposted relatively well and the drive crosses farmland with views around. Once parked it takes 10-15 minutes to walk through to the gorge – including crossing a 6-person swing bridge. When we were there we didn’t see anyone else and had it all to ourselves! On reaching the end of the walk we were greeted with the beautiful views through the gorge. Despite the fact the weather wasn’t perfect and the water wasn’t the colour it could be it still looked beautiful. We really enjoyed the peace and tranquility of this area.

  • Pizza at Fat Pipis – this truly is delicious pizza! A very popular cafe in Hokitika it is well worth a stop. They do a whole variety of toppings (including the famous white-bait) and as a self titled pizza connoisseur (I eat it a lot) this is up there with the best.
  • Hokitika Museum – entrance costs $5 and we were greeted by a lovely man working there who gave us a very informative introduction. We spent a good hour looking round the excellent exhibits and watching the movie giving information about the history of the local area. An excellent hidden gem of a museum and well worth a visit.
  • Hokitika Beach

    Hokitika Beach

    Hokitika Beach – spending time in the town it is easy not to realise you are right beside the beach, and just a few minutes walk takes you to the beach. It was wet and wild when we were there but still scenic. We had to be careful as erosion was clearly wearing the path away as we witnessed large chunks falling into the sea! Definitely worth a few minutes walk to reach the coast here.

  • Dorothy Falls – a real hidden gem of a waterfall. Access was a little scary at times, as is along a very narrow gravel road and we met the odd local lunatic, but John was ever-the-amazing driver and we made it there in one piece. Again, no one was around when we visited, and a minute walk from the car park brought us to this gorgeous waterfall. We took some snaps here, as well as getting wet sitting on a rock to pose (that was me). There is also a stream walk that brings you alongside Dorothy stream to Lake Kaniere.
  • By Lake Kaniere

    By Lake Kaniere

    Lunch at Lake Kaniere – this rounded off our wonderful trip to Hokitika, as we parked up our lovely Spaceship beside the lake on our way back from Dorothy Falls. We were joined by paradise decks and some lovely pukeko (the first we had seen in NZ!). The views of the lake were wonderful and it was a nice spot for some lunch – which was made even easier by our convenient fridge and food prep gear in our spaceship.

Hokitika is a real gem of a place and certainly somewhere worth visiting and making a bit of an effort to go off-the-beaten-track!

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Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A wonderful West Coast road trip

Days 23 – 27: West Coast (Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Hokitika, Lake Mathieson)

Lake Mathieson

Lake Mathieson

The West Coast is one of our favourite areas of New Zealand, and having taken a wet and wild trip there back in October we decided it was definitely somewhere we wanted to go back to in the Spaceship. Last time we visited the weather wasn’t the best and so we had some unfinished business!

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

On Day 23 we drove up to the glaciers from Wanaka – which is a really beautiful drive. There are wonderful views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea on the way up. We also stopped at Boundary Creek for great views of the lake. The weather was really kind, and the views were amazing.

Ship Creek

Ship Creek

We made a few stops along the way, including Thunder Falls which looked pretty impressive because of the rain the previous day (there was a storm the previous night) and the gorgeous off-the-beaten-track beach at Ship Creek. We hadn’t found this gem on our previous trip but were delighted to walk just a few minutes from the car park to find such a beautiful place. We also stopped at one of our favourites – the wild and windswept Bruce Bay, where we took some photos of the awesome trees and waves. We soon arrived at Franz Josef after a pretty long drive and set about making our plans for the days ahead.

Us at Franz Josef glacier

Us at Franz Josef glacier

Over the next few days we had a wonderful time exploring the West Coast. We took a walk up to the Franz Josef glacier – another activity we had never done before. The weather wasn’t too bad as it was fairly cloudy but not raining and we still had good views of the glacier.

Glacier close up

Glacier close up

The walk starts at the car park, taking you through rainforest for about 10 minutes, and it opens out to the most wonderful view of the valley floor ahead of you. We were then able to cross the valley floor and walk all the way up to the glacier and get within 300m (the last part of the walk being pretty steep!). The views from there were brilliant. There are also some beautiful waterfalls just before you reach the last part of the walk. I only had my small older camera (due to the unpredictable weather) but still managed to get some good shots. We also enjoyed a nice hot chocolate at Full of Beans cafe in Franz later that day.

Dorothy Falls

Dorothy Falls

Another place we visited on our trip was Hokitika, and we really enjoyed the day and night we spent there so much I have decided to do a separate blog post about it – which I have added. Highlights included the Hokitika museum, Hokitika gorge walk, Pizza at Fat Pipis, Hokitika beach, Dorothy Falls and lunch by Lake Kaniere.

Following our trip up to Hokitika we then headed back down to Fox Glacier. This is quite unconventional I know as most people pass through either heading North or South (as we did last time), but we had made the decision a few days before that I would like to spend my 30th birthday (which is just a few days away!) in Queenstown so wanted to head back down there for that. So to Fox we headed and were rewarded with some wonderful weather there! The morning of Day 27 we awoke to stunning clear blue skies and quickly headed out to Lake Mathieson. After a short walk from the car park we came to the first viewpoint and we were completely awe-struck by the views here!

Reflection at Lake Mathieson

Reflection at Lake Mathieson

Last time we visited back in October the weather was quite poor so we hadn’t been able to photograph the amazing reflection. I have posted below two contrasting photos (not quite taken from the same spot) to show to the difference between our visit last year and this time around.

Lake Mathieson back in October

Lake Mathieson back in October 2012

Lake Mathieson in May

Lake Mathieson in May 2013

We then continued on the rest of the walk to take in more amazing views. It is a fairly long walk to complete the circuit – about 1 hour 30 mins but worth every second! This included taking the steps up to the ‘view of views’ and also walking down to see the views from Reflection island. This was honestly one of our favourite places we visited – with such amazing views and I was so happy to be able to take some great photographs. From here we then took the long drive back down to Wanaka. This is definitely one of our favoruite drives in NZ – as the views are gorgeous – heading both along the coast and inland through Haast pass and finally alongside the stunning lakes coming into Wanaka.

We ended a wonderful day with a walk along the shores of Lake Wanaka and a beautiful sunset.

Wanaka sunset

Wanaka sunset

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Relaxing time in Wanaka and Queenstown

Days 17 – 22: Wanaka and Queenstown

Beautiful Wanaka

Beautiful Wanaka

We have spent a relaxing time in Queenstown and Wanaka. Apologies for being behind with my blog, but I am updating as and when I get internet and when I can.

Autumn colours

Autumn colours

We left Omarama on Day 17 and headed briefly back up to Lake Ruantaniwha to look at the lake and some of the beautiful autumn trees. We had a drive around this area which was completely deserted and took some photos of the trees which looked really gorgeous – even in the rain! From here we headed back up to Twizel to have some more delicious pizza from Shawtys. Then we drove on to Wanaka and spent time in the area before settling at our camper van site for the night.

Stopped on Crown range road

Stopped on Crown range road

The next day we took a drive round to Glendhu Bay before setting off for Queenstown, travelling over the Crown range road (one of our favourite roads). We had lunch at our favourite place – Winnies and spent the afternoon in Queenstown before taking the beautiful drive round the lake to Kingston and our accommodation for the night at Hectors.

Glenorchy - one of our favourite places

Glenorchy – one of our favourite places

Over the next few days we did various things in Queenstown including: the wonderful peninsula walkway, taking another of our favourite drives up to Glenorchy – which looked especially beautiful with its autumn colours, enjoyed a nice hot chocolate at Chocolate Patagonias, spent time exploring the lakefront and Frankton arm in Queenstown and John finally had a famous Fergburger (those of you who know me know I am not a burger person, but John enjoyed it!).

Following yet another stay in the Queenstown area (which we loved) we headed back up to Wanaka for a further night at Aspiring Campervan park before our big trip up the West Coast.

Where we spent time: Lake Ruantaniwha, Twizel, Wanaka, Glendhu Bay, Queenstown, Kingston, Glenorchy

Aspiring Campervan park

Aspiring Campervan park

Where we stayed: Aspiring Campervan park (Wanaka) – we loved this campervan park! It was really well-run, with a beautiful view of the mountains just a few mins drive from Wanaka. Everything was really well thought-out, with great showers and bathrooms and all-round good facilities.

Hectors at Kingston – this was in a quiet location and was quite a quirky campsite. The showers were quite small but the bathrooms were ok. The camper van spaces weren’t too close together, and we saw the Kingston steam train pass in the morning!

Shotover Top 10 in Queenstown – unsurprisingly NOT recommended – just read my blog post here (mouse and all!) to see why.

Where we are headed next: The West Coast 🙂

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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