Posts Tagged With: catlins

Photo of the Day: Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

One of our favourite waterfalls in New Zealand is Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins region of New Zealand’s South Island. Incredibly photogenic, and definitely worth seeking out along its gravel road to reach it. We had the most wonderful time on both of our trips travelling through the Catlins region. Read more on my blog posts from October 2012 and April 2013, whilst travelling around in our Spaceship camper-car. This is a region often overlooked and easily missed on itineraries of travellers, but in my opinion contains some of the best widlife and scenery in the whole of New Zealand.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins region and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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Categories: New Zealand, Photo Of The Day, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Destination Feature: The off-the-beaten-track Catlins region of New Zealand

Catlins Collage

The Catlins region of New Zealand is one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets. It is one of the most beautiful and best places to visit in this amazing country. It has variety – stunning waterfalls, amazing wildlife and beautiful beaches. It is also ‘off-the-beaten-track’ and so much quieter than other parts of New Zealand (and given how quiet New Zealand is in general that is really saying something!).

Yellow-eyed penguin in the wild

Yellow-eyed penguin in the wild

One of the best things about this area is being able to see yellow-eyed penguins in the wild. At the petrified forest in Curio Bay the yellow-eyed penguins come ashore and waddle across the beach to nest. It takes a bit of patience, but if you get your timings right (ask at the local campground store for advice on the best time as this varies seasonally) then it is a really magical sight. Make sure not to disturb the penguins – keep your distance and a zoom lens on your camera comes in handy for getting photos of them (also do not use a flash).

The drive from Queenstown down to the Catlins follows the Southern Scenic route and is a very beautiful drive – this links all the way up to Dunedin on the east coast. It passes alongside the striking Lake Wakatipu via Kingston, on to Te Anau and the gateway to Milford Sound, Tuatapere (NZ’s sausage capital!), and passes hidden gems such as Gemstone Beach. Detour off the Southern Scenic to get deep into the heart of the Catlins to areas such as Curio Bay.

Check out this map for things to do in this area. Highlights of the region include:

Cathedral caves

Cathedral caves

★  Cathedral caves – only accessible at low tide these caves are a spectacular sight. The walk that takes you to the caves down through the forest and along the beach is beautiful – it is through private land so a $5 fee is payable.

★  Slope Point – this is the most southern point on mainland New Zealand and the scenery here is beautiful. You take a 20 minute walk from parking your car along a track through some fields, and can pose with the signpost indicating the distance to the equator and the south pole. Check out the famous windswept trees on the drive out here.

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

★  Purakaunui Falls – one of the most photogenic waterfalls in New Zealand this waterfall is a little hidden away down a gravel track but definitely worth the effort. Only a 10 minute walk from the car park this three-tiered waterfall is simply stunning.

Hector dolphin

Hector dolphin

★  Seeing hector dolphins at Porpoise Bay – summer and autumn are the best times of year to see the resident population of the world’s smallest and rarest of dolphins – the hector dolphins – playing in the surf in the Curio Bay area.

Florence Hill lookout

View from Florence Hill lookout

★  Florence Hill lookout – located along the southern scenic route near Papatowai, pull up and stop here for incredible views down to Tautuku Bay. The waves rolling into shore and the beautiful beach make for a picture postcard photograph.

Nugget Point lighthouse

Nugget Point lighthouse

★  Mclean Falls – another wonderful waterfall in this area. Take the narrow and windy gravel road not too far from the turnoff to Cathedral Caves. Falling 22 metres in total this waterfall is very picturesque and descends a number of terraces.

★  Nugget point lighthouse – pass Roaring Bay on the drive up and wait in the hide there to see yellow-eyed penguins from a distance. Carry on the road up to Nugget point, where a short walk takes you to the lighthouse, with great views all around.

Curio Bay Accommodation

Curio Bay Accommodation

The region also contains one of the most special accommodation places in the whole of New Zealand – Curio Bay Accommodation. It has recently been voted one of the top 25 places to stay in New Zealand and rightly so. The view of the beach from your boutique studio is simply stunning. Little blue penguins nest underneath the house too so you might be lucky enough to hear them in the night!

The Catlins feels like a really special unique place when you are there – it is such an incredibly varied and beautiful area and is sure to create such wonderful lasting memories.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting the Catlins and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: Activities, Blue Penguin, Destination Feature, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

An amazing return to the Catlins

Days 5-7: Catlins region of New Zealand

We were lucky enough to take our first trip to the Catlins area back in October – when we took our first holiday on arriving in New Zealand back in Sept last year. I wrote a couple of blog posts about the area – you can see them here and here. This time around we have had as an incredible – if not more incredible – time! We have been so lucky with both the weather and the wildlife we have seen (more about that later!).

Day 5: Te Anau to McLean Falls

Manapouri

Manapouri

Tuatapere

Tuatapere

I will go back to the start of Day 5 where we awoke nice and early to leave the holiday park. We headed off in our Spaceship on the Southern Scenic route – rather than the less scenic inland route – and stopped at Manapouri on the way. Again, like Te Anau we weren’t a huge fan of Manapouri last time around, but the sun shine for us this time and the lake looked beautiful. We made some stops along the way, including Tuatapere – New Zealand’s sausage capital! What a funny but cool notion! We stopped for lunch at McCracken’s rest stop with a gorgeous view overlooking the ocean.

Gemstone Beach

Gemstone Beach

Next stop was actually one of our favourite places and literally a hidden gem – Gemstone Beach! I had read about this previous on another wordpress blog and was keen to go and we are so glad we did! Firstly, the beach itself is stunning – and the waves were powerful and awesome to watch. Secondly, and its main appeal you can find little gems along the beach. It took a little bit of careful searching but we came across quite a few scattered across the sand, so collected a few small ones to take home as an amazing souvenir. We got back on the road – listening to one of our many spaceship mixes I had made prior to our trip – and were soon entering Catlins land. We arrived at our Holiday park – McLean Falls Holiday park – and checked in our Spaceship to a powered site (see more below about this park).

McLean Falls

McLean Falls

Last time we visited the Catlins area there were three main attractions we didn’t get to see – McLean Falls, Cathedral Caves and Slope Point (as all were closed for one reason or another), so our main intention this time around was to hopefully see them all. So our first stop was McLean Falls – a short gravel drive away from the holiday park down a narrow and twisty road. On arrival we took the short walk to the falls, climbed up the steps and were soon rewarded with a magnificent waterfall! It fell onto 3 main levels and was an awesome sight. We took some photos here and then headed back to the holiday park, having food at the Whistling cafe before settling in for the night. For this evening we actually plugged our portal heater in using the power to our site and fed this through our window, so we could really warm up the spaceship before we went to bed, and it helped quite a bit.

Day 6: Cathedral Caves, Florence Hill lookout, Curio Bay (and penguins!)

Cathedral Caves beach

Cathedral Caves beach

We made a really early start this morning to go to Cathedral Caves. These are notoriously quite tricky to see, as access is very limited and the gate that guards the road to the start of the walk is only open when it is safe to enter. The caves are only visible a few hours either side of low tide (which was at 8.10am this morning), so we were able to go through the gate and take the drive up to the car park. The gate can also be closed if it is dangerous to visit the caves (as it was when we visited back in october) or the sea is too rough. So we did feel quite privileged to be able to take the drive up there.

Cathedral Caves

Cathedral Caves

We parked up and headed out on the nice forest walk down to the beach. It is fairly steep down in places (which is more to note for coming back up which takes a little bit of fitness) and we met the attendant on the way up who looks after the area. We paid her the $5 each to be able to use the walk – it is on private land – and were soon down by the beach. We walked out from the trees to see the most beautiful site – the amazing expansive beach spread out in front of us. The sun not having long risen was creatiing such a wonderful light, and the sand and waves just looked heavenly. The caves were over to the left on arrival at the beach, so we headed in that direction and were soon at the caves. They were quite a sight! We went inside and had a look around. The caves are named as such as they resemble the shape of the cathedral. We took some photos from inside which looked cool, and had more of a walk around that area. It was such a great time to visit as it was pretty quiet, with just a few other people exploring too. We walked around on the sand taking in the amazing views in every direction. It was with a heavy heart we left, as it was one of the most beautiful places we have been to in New Zealand. We took the walk back up through the forest to the spaceship and were back on the road again.

Florence Hill lookout

Florence Hill lookout

We stopped at Florence Hill lookout on the way – where you can took down to Tautuku Bay which is an amazing sight and very photogenic! We camped out in the spaceship for a bit just taking in the view here. Next stopped was Owaka for a bit of internet and a picnic lunch. Then we headed back towards Curio Bay – where we went to the petrified forest. When we visited back in October we saw yellow-eyed penguins come ashore in the evening here, so just stopped by to check we could still get down to the beach (we had read a few things online saying they had cut off access due to safety reasons).

Yellow-eyed penguin walking

Yellow-eyed penguin walking

To our delight on realising we could still get down to the beach we actually noticed a yellow-eyed penguin on the beach there and then!! This was about 2pm and usually they only come ashore at dawn and dusk. We skipped down the steps and headed over to the penguin (keeping a safe distance of course) – noticing he was a baby one, with more down than usual.

Baby yellow-eyed

Baby yellow-eyed

We also spotted another adult penguin coming in from the sea. We spent time here just watching them and taking some photos. Again, we felt incredibly privileged to have seen them and just loved watching them – we could have stayed for hours! We then spent some time down on the beach at Curio Bay before turning in for the night. It really was an amazing end to a brilliant and memorable day!

Yellow-eyed penguin

Yellow-eyed penguin

Day 7: Slope Point, Tautuku Bay, Surat Bay

Hector dolphin

Hector dolphin

We fulfilled another wish of ours this morning – seeing hectors dolphins playing in the surf at Porpoise Bay – we took a few pics but they were hard to catch! Apparently they very rarely jump out of the water, but I just so happened to be in the right area on my zoom and caught them just as they were jumping back in. It was just great to see them. We again headed out early to Slope Point – keen to complete the trio of must-do things this time around.

Us at Slope Point

Us at Slope Point

The gravel road up there was a little rough in places, but we made it in one piece, parked up and – as the only people there –  headed out on the short walk over to the end of New Zealand!

Scenery at Slope Point

Scenery at Slope Point

Slope Point is the mostly southerly point of New Zealand (on the mainland) and was a great place to visit. We reached the famous signpost – and of course took the obligatory photos. Our camera timer came in handy to take a shot of both of us – the joys of being alone at the end of NZ! We spent time here just enjoying the scenery. It reminded us a little of Cornwall, and a quieter version of Lands End. We really loved it here. We took the walk back to the spaceship and planned a drive to Owaka for food.

Tautuku Bay

Tautuku Bay

On the way we made a magic stop – another place really off-the-beaten track – Tautuku Bay. Again with no one else around we took the forest walk down to the beach. On the way we were joined by an amazing little bird – we think he was a fantail – who was the friendliest wild bird we have ever come across! He was very nosy and kept very close to us! He must have liked us 🙂 He followed us the rest of the way to the beach – chirping and flying all around. I managed to capture one shot of him where he stayed still for a second, and have pasted it below. On arriving at the beach, we were pretty awe-struck! The beach was beautiful and completely deserted. We had seen the beach the previous day from the lookout but it was great being down on the beach with complete freedom. It was wonderful, and felt like our own secret private beach.

New Zealand fantail

New Zealand fantail

Next stop was Owaka for food in the lovely Catlins cafe. Despite it being after 11am they still cooked me up some pancakes (being a fussy eater there wasn’t much for me on the menu!) which were delicious. Then we took the short drive down to Surat Bay and our home for the night at Newhaven Holiday park. We are off towards Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula tomorrow and are looking forward to exploring more in the area!

Where we spent time: Southern Scenic Highway, Manapouri, Catlins – McLean Falls, Cathedral Caves, Curio Bay, Surat Bay.

Where we stayed in our Spaceship McLean Falls Holiday Park – the main appeal of this place is its location – right next to McLean Falls and a few hundred metres to the entrance to Cathedral Caves. It also has a cafe on site which is handy. The pitches here weren’t too close together and it was pretty quiet. The bathrooms had three showers and were clean, but a little cold! Overall we would stay here again because it is in an ideal location. NewHaven Holiday Park – our favourite place we have stayed yet! This is a really lovely thoughtful family-run holiday park. It was very quiet when we visited. With only two showers (one for men and one for women) it may get a little busy in peak season, but it was perfect for us. The giant chess board was also a magic touch! There is a short walk from the holiday park along to Surat Bay.

Where we are headed next: Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula. I have included two slideshows below which include my photos Catlins wildlife slideshow:

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General photos slideshow:

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

100 posts – My top 10 favourite photographs of New Zealand

This is my 100th blog post since I started my blog back in June last year to tell the story of mine and my husband’s amazing New Zealand adventure. So I decided to select 10 of my favourite photographs that I have taken since we arrived in New Zealand. These are of New Zealand landscapes and wildlife that we have come across during our adventures. It was incredibly difficult to select just 10, but I thought it would be a nice way to commemorate 100 blog posts. Also, I have just reached 100 followers as I post this – what great timing!

A beach in the wild and beautiful Catlins region

A beach in the wild and beautiful Catlins region

Lake Pukaki framed by the snow-covered Mount Cook

Lake Pukaki framed by the snow-covered Mount Cook

A jumping dolphin in Marlborough Sounds

A jumping dolphin in Marlborough Sounds

Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins region

Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins region

A yellow-eyed-penguin in the wild at the Petrified Forest - Curio Bay

A yellow-eyed-penguin in the wild at the Petrified Forest – Curio Bay

A stunning Great Barrier Island sunset

A stunning Great Barrier Island sunset

An amazing breaching humpback whale in Bay of Islands

An amazing breaching humpback whale in Bay of Islands

Little Kaiteriteri beach

The beautiful Little Kaiteriteri beach

View of Lake Hawea on the way to Queenstown

View of Lake Hawea on the way to Queenstown

The very beautiful Lake Tekapo

The very beautiful Lake Tekapo

Thanks for looking at my photographs. As I said on a previous post I am really grateful to everyone who has read, liked or followed my blog. I hope you have taken something from the posts I have shared and I have certainly taken something from being part of the blog community. To reiterate my previous comment – each and every one of you who had read, liked or commented truly has brightened my day with your contributions – so thank you so much! 🙂

Categories: Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

South Island Highlights – Top 5 best kept secrets on South Island, New Zealand

This is my last post in a ‘Top 5’ series I have been writing about – to document our 5 week holiday we took around the South island of New Zealand – as part of a year abroad here from the UK.

I decided to post about South Island’s ‘best kept secrets’ as we discovered a few gems on our travels that not many other seemed to know about, that I thought it would be good to share (and as I don’t get millions of visitors to my site I think they will remain pretty secret!) 🙂

For the last Top 5 then, here we go

Top 5 best kept secrets

1. Petrified forest at Curio Bay (Catlins) – yellow eyed penguins in the wild

Curio Bay yellow-eyed penguin

Catlins PenguinCertainly one of our most memorable experiences of the whole trip was seeing yellow-eyed penguins in the wild. I posted in detail about the experience here where you can also see a video we made of the amazing penguins we saw. The reason this is a well kept secret is that – as long as you obey the ‘keep your distance’ rule – you can get much closer to the pengiuns here than in other places to see them in NZ. You are allowed right down on to the beach – via proper steps (not via a self-made track at some other sites!). As a result you can wait right on the beach for the little guys to come ashore. We spent two different evenings there and were lucky enough to see one yellow-eyed penguin on the first night who took about 50 minutes to make his way up the beach, and two more penguins on the second night. We were joined by a maximum of about 5 people each time down at the petrified forest in Curio Bay. It is easily accessible with a car park here, right near the camping ground, and as far as I believe people tend to go to other places to see the yellow-eyed penguins instead (such as Oamaru or Nugget Point). We also checked out Nugget Point where you wait in a hide really high up and far away from the beach and decided to leave as our expereince in Curio Bay couldn’t be beaten. You must make sure you respect nature and the penguins’ need for space, but as long as you do this then it really is such an amazing sight!

I have also posted below a video we made of highlights of the amazing yellow-eyed penguin.

2. Elephant Rocks – between Oamaru and Omarama

Elephant Rocks

Enjoying our time at Elephant RocksThese amazing rock formations are definitely off the main tourist past but are a stunning sight! They are located on the road between Oamaru and Omarama, near a place called Duntroon. To find them you take the Livingston-Duntroon Road and then follow signposts which take you there. Parking is just by the side of the road. These rocks were made out of limestone and were originally limey sand on the sea floor (around 24 million years ago) but this was buried, turned into rock and then in the last million years was uplifted and weathered by water and wind into the amazing shapes they have formed today. They are located on private farmland (but open to the public), so may occasionally be closed. The site was also used in the Chronicles of Narnia film – as a location for Aslan’s camp. No one else was around when we visited (on route to Mount Cook) and we absolutely loved exploring and taking photos of these extraordinary shapes – at one of NZ’s best kept secrets!

3. Little Kaiteriteri – Abel Tasman National Park

View from lookout of Little Kaiteriteri beach

Our favourite - Little Kaiteriteri beachKaiteriteri is a little more well-known, and often spoken of as the ‘gateway’ to the Abel Tasman National Park. Just down the coast from Kaiteriteri is ‘Little Kaiterteri’, which is much less visited and a quieter and absolutely stunning stretch of beach. It was completely deserted when we walked along it and back on our route to get our boat from Kaiteriteri. This walk takes you along the beach as you then climb up to a wonderful lookout, and then down the other side to Kaiteriteri. I think this area is much nicer than nearby inland Motueka and a beautiful place to stay if planning some time in the park. We had gorgeous weather on the day we were there on our trip back in October and the beach was one of the most beautiful we have ever seen!

4. Governor’s Bay – off Queen Charlotte drive

Governor's Bay


Governor's Bay 2Queen Charlotte Drive itself is a highlight of any trip to the South island – as I wrote about this drive in more detail on my Top 5 drives. One of its hidden gems is definitely a lovely bay called ‘Governor’s Bay’ – it is signposted off the road, but like many of these places was completely empty when we arrived. It really is the most gorgeous setting, and has a lovely beach and wonderful scenery. You could easily spend a half day or even a day relaxing here, and perhaps go for a swim!

5. Baby seals playing at Ohau waterfall – near Kaikoura


Baby seals at Ohau waterfall

Baby sealThis is certainly becoming more well-known than some of the other things I have posted about (as there were other people at the waterfall when we arrived) – but after speaking to and conversing with a lot of people who have been to that area many still did not know about it – hence I thought I was worth letting a few more know. Just past the Ohau Point seal colony (which is on your right if heading north from Kaikoura) you drive slightly further down the road and on your left you can pull your car in by the side of the road and walk along a river to the waterfall. We were lucky enough to see a baby seal on the rock part-way along the river, making his way down – when we visited on our way up to Marlborough Sounds. When we arrived we were met by an amazing sight – lots of lovely baby seals playing in the beautiful waterfall! They were jumping in and out of the waterfall and seemed as happy as anything. There were also a couple of little ones lying on the rock rather obviously posing for photos! We took some video which we have pasted below in a short highlights film. I am sure this will become more well-known over time, as it is such a special sight. Make sure you visit when driving the coastal road either to/from Kaikoura.

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

South Island Highlights – Top 5 places to visit on South Island, New Zealand

Reflecting on our incredible New Zealand 2012 Holiday on the South island back in Sept/Oct (as part of our year long stay in New Zealand) I have decided to start a series of blog posts with a ‘Top 5’ theme – highlighting our favourite places, drives, activities etc. from our trip around South Island.

I am starting with the biggest one of all – top 5 places to visit on the South island. This was extremely difficult to actually narrow down to only 5 as we travelled round the whole of the South island (driving over 3,700 kilometeres in just over 3 weeks!) visting some truly stunning and amazing places. They aren’t in any order as it was difficult enough choosing just 5 let alone putting them in an order of priority!

So here we go. . .

Top 5 places we visited:

1. Queenstown

Queenstown has always been a place we love to visit. Having been here once before in 2006 if we are honest it stole our hearts. Coming back to Queenstown and spending longer on this trip was just brilliant. It does have a reputaion as being the ‘adventure capital’ of NZ but there is so much more to it! We love its breathtaking beauty and the stunning Lake Wakatipu and views of the Remarkables. Taking a walk along the Frankton Arm Walkway is so peaceful and idyllic, with amazing views of the lake and mountains all the way along. You can take a boat ride out on the lake, see kiwis and other native birds at the Kiwi Park, take a stroll in the beautiful gardens, take a ride up the Skyline Gondola to Bob’s Peak and complete the Skyline walkway. It does have so much to do, lots of shops and choices of places to eat, along with every adventure activity you could think of – but it has so much more than that. Its striking beauty and gorgeous neverending views make it a really special place and has to be a must-see on any tour of South Island.

2. Glenorchy

Sitting just 48 kilometres north of Queenstown it could be described as Queenstown’s quieter less well-known relative. In reality Glenorchy is an absolute hidden gem of a place to visit. We primarily went there for our LOTR 4WD tour, but ended up falling in love with the place! It is known primarily for its associations with the LOTR/The Hobbit films as many of the surrounding locations were used as sets in the films – the Misty Mountains, Isengard, Hobbiton (from The Hobbit), and the scene of Boromir’s death among many others  Glenorchy is a really peaceful little town, but still with lots to offer. We spent a lovely morning walking the Glenorchy Lagoon walkway which offers brilliant panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Glenorchy houses a quant information shed with a long history and short pier out into Lake Wakatipu again with a stunning views. It is also home to a small place aptly named ‘Paradise’ – which feels like just that! Should you wish to you can also do more adventure seeking activities such as a jet boat on the Dart River or Skydive through the clouds. The icing on the cake for Glenorchy has to be the drive up from Queenstown which is a strong contender for best drive in NZ! The famous Glenorchy to Queenstown road closely follows Lake Wakatipu and with lookout points along the way offering an excellent way of seeing the beauty all around.

3. Catlins Region

The real highlight of the Catlins region for us was seeing yellow-eyed penguins in the wild (see our video we made above, of our wonderful memories)! We had read a lot about the Catlins region before we came, and often people said they felt it was a somewhat well-kept secret of NZ and that many people wanted to visit but just didn’t get down this far south. It is a little out of the way, but for us, fitted perfectly into our complete loop of the island. I would highly recommend a visit into this remote part of the South island, and it is definitely worth the trip. It just has such variety to offer, with wonderful wildlife! The roads are much less travelled on and some are still gravel but do not let that put you off, our little Holden Barina Spark managed just fine and it added to the experience of getting there! You should set aside at least 3 days to explore the whole Catlins regions, as it lends itself to a ‘roadtrip’ type journey. We based ourselves in Curio Bay for 2 nights and Kaka Point for 1 night. It is definitely prone to pretty wild weather but it suits the landscape and creates a pretty special atmosphere. Just a few of the highlights for us were Waipapa Lighthouse, seeing penguins in the wild at the petrified forest at Curio Bay, the very photogenic Purakaunui Falls, and Nugget Point lighthouse. At other times of year you might also see blue penguins and dolphins playing in the surf along some of the beaches. We weren’t able to visit the more well-known Cathedral Caves as they were closed, but we hope to go back in future and see them, as we would love to go back to this beautiful area. Catlins, despite often being missed off many a South Itinerary, offer such a vast and varied range of wonderful landscapes – wild beaches, amazing wildlife, quaint lighthouses and stunning waterfalls – that they simply have to be visited!

4. Marlborough Sounds

Marlborough Sounds was a bit of a mystery to us before coming, as despite reading and researching a fair amount about it we still did not really know what to expect. Many people said it was absolutely fantastically beautiful and it really did not disappoint! We spent a really special time here as we celebrated my husband’s 30th birthday on board a privately chartered boat – where we saw gorgeous dolphins and wonderful views. The Queen Charlotte Drive – again which we had read much about – was a beautiful drive with views at every corner. It is quite a challenging drive, but definitely worthwhile. There were lots of little stops and bays along this road – with Governor’s Bay being our favourite – and this area offer such beauty. Picton forms the entry point for those getting the ferry from Wellington, and it and its surrounding area are really pretty. Marlborough Sounds offers tranquility, wildlife and beauty quite unrivalled!

5. Mount Cook

Mount Cook was a place we had longed to visit – it seemed so dominant and striking on the New Zealand landscape. So when we got the chance to spend 2 nights at Mount Cook village we made the most of every second. As my top 5 drives post (coming soon) will note the drive up to Mount Cook alongside the stunning Lake Pukaki is absolutely amazing! The view alongside the lake of Mount Cook are breathtaking. As you arrive in Mount Cook you do feel a little cut off, but it is a nice feeling. With only a small population and a focus very much on tourism and hospitality the village has a lovely warm and welcoming feel to it. As any local resident will tell you the weather is quite temperamental in this part of NZ. Being quite high above sea level the vlllage is prone to unpredictable weather, and I think the stats are 2 days out of 3 Mount Cook is covered with cloud. But do not be put off by these stats as when you do finally get to see it, it is such a wonderful sight! They also get snow and we had a nice sprinkling whilst we were staying there back in October. There are many lovely walks around the Mount Cook area – some shorter ones for those not keen on proper ‘hiking’ but also some longer half-day and day hikes for those more serious. Activities are also varied include 4WDing and a boat trip out on the glacier lagoon (which we did – and loved). Mount Cook provided us with some iconic images and iconic memories and will not soon be forgotten.

Places that could have made the list (but didn’t for quite specific reasons) are:

  • Abel Tasman National Park – we only took a flying visit here, and spent a half day exploring the coast via boat, but think if we spent longer here, this could make the list. The beaches are gorgeous (especially the starting point of Kaiteriteri) and walking the Abel Tasman Track seemed like it would be one of NZ’s easiest but most beautiful walks. It is very accessible and has lots of little hidden coves and stunning views. So definitely a place to come back to should we have time!
  • Doubtful Sound – one place we visited on this holiday that was a huge disappointment – but only because of the awful weather! See my blog posting of the time for more detail, but had the weather not consisted of almost complete lack of visibility and torrential rain we think this could also have made the list.
  • Milford Sound – we visited Milford Sound back in 2006 so haven’t included it on this 2012 list – but it was absolutely amazing and would make a top 5 of that trip. The drive down is scary but really worth it with stunning scenery and the boat trip out (we went with the smaller Mitre Peak cruises) was incredibly memorable.
  • Franz Josef Glacier – again a place we visited on our 2006 trip, but the heli hike we took up on the glacier is probably still our favourite all time thing we have done in NZ. We took our trip with Helicopter Line who were fantastic and loved every second of the helicopter ride and 2 hour hike on the glacier – with views out of this world!

I hope you have found this interesting – and those of you hoping to travel around NZ possibly even helpful! Please feel free to comment, ask questions and add any of your favourite places you visit in NZ. I will be following this post next with Top 5 drives, walks, and activities, so watch this space!

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Little blue penguins – about 200 of them!!

A highlight of the holiday so far alert!!:

[Note: the above picture is copyright of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, as we purchased this from them as were not able to take photos of the penguins ourselves when in the viewing area.]

It has been a busy few days with quite a bit of travelling, but we have continued to have an amazing adventure here in New Zealand – and we especially enjoyed seeing the most amazing little blue penguins – for more details see Tuesday 16th update.

Monday 15th October: Curio Bay to Kaka Point

The wonderful sound of the waves washing against the shore outside our gorgeous studio in Curio Bay awoke us this morning. It was with a heavy heart that we packed up to leave as this is probably our favourite place we have stayed. Despite not being visited at night by the lovely little blue penguins (other people in the visitor book mentioned this had happened to them – as they nest below the studio) we did hear them calling out last night on the beach which was still exciting. Back on the road we stopped at the humorous named ‘Niagara Falls’ – which is one of the smallest waterfalls in the world! Lake Wilkie was our next stop – to which we took a nice walk through the forest looking at all the lovely trees. We ate lunch in the Catlins cafe in Owaka which was again delicious, before completing our drive to Kaka Point (via a rather windy Cannibal Bay – reached by a very precarious narrow gravel road on the edge of the cliff!). After checking in to our room at Cardno’s Accommodation we headed to Nugget Point Lighthouse. We took the walk up to the lighthouse and noticed the weather was closing in – but also saw a nice rainbow. The lighthouse was quite a sight and we took some pictures here. We then drove back to Roaring Bay (after passing a camper van hanging over the edge of the cliff being rescued!) for a short walk to the hide but decided not to wait for the penguins here (because we were really high up on the cliff and they would have been tiny dots – and we had already seen them much closer up in Curio Bay – see previous post). Returning to Kaka Point we stopped for some chips and took them back to our room to eat to end a good day!

Tuesday 16th October: Kaka Point via Dunedin to Oamaru – and the little blue penguins!

We got on the road quite early this morning and were driving to Oamaru. We stopped at Dunedin (gaelic for Edinburgh!) on the way – and really enjoyed the few hours we spent here. The city is really quite pretty with lots of nice old buildings. We discovered a lovely food place (after a recommendation from a man in the information centre) called Ratbags and Innocent Bystanders. They played cool music (Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, Radiohead) and had delicious pizzas – we ended up with a ‘special’ half metre pizza as there was an offer on. After visiting the old train station (apparently the most photographed building in New Zealand!) we got back on the road. Stopping at Moeraki Boulders we were a little underwhelmed but only because it was high tide and we knew it was best visited at low tide and/or sunset/sunrise – plus there were tonnes of people there so it felt very touristy.

The highlight of the day was still to come though as we headed in to Oamaru. We checked into our nice room at Highfield Mews after stopping at Countdown for food. After a few hours relaxing here we drove over to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony to see little blue penguins come ashore. These penguins are amazing because they are only 40cms tall! As we had purchased Premium Seats for this we headed to the Premium viewing area to watch the penguins come ashore. The people working there gave a commentary explaining how the site is set up for conservation and how the penguin colony’s natural habitat is preserved and they are protected in their colony from predators and encouraged to breed (so their numbers increase 10% each year). They also gave extra details about how they use special lights which helps us to see them but which the penguins don’t recognise so they think it is dark etc. The details are important though as some people might think the place could be exploiting the penguins but it isn’t at all – it is really helping them. Anyway, on to the evening – once seated we waited for the various ‘rafts’ (groups of penguins) to arrive. You can hear each raft as they are in the sea from the little ‘quacking’ noises they make and then you see them slowly one by one come out of the ocean on to the beach and start to climb the cliff. On the evening we saw them a seal (luckily not a predator of the penguins!) was lying on their route to their nesting houses. This caused the little penguins to slowly creep up behind him before then running (and falling!) off to their houses. The way they run is so cute – they stoop onto their front and rise again, flapping their wings and waddling along. One of the three rafts we saw had  91 penguins all running together up the beach to their homes – which was the most the woman working there said she had ever seen in one go! It really was an incredible experience to see them. As I mentioned earlier we weren’t able to take photographs of them but I have posted one above which I was able to purchase from the shop. Before we left the colony we went outside and headed down the road to see a few more come in along the shore and managed to get a picture (without a flash which was allowed outside!) which ended a memorable evening!:

Categories: Accommodation, Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The beautiful Catlins region

Sat and Sun 13th and 14th October detail: Catlins region of New Zealand

Saturday 13th October: Manapouri to Catlins

Awaking to yet more pouring rain we packed up and left Manapouri heading south towards the Catlins National park. We took the Southern Scenic route and as there was no sign of snow the journey was quite a smooth one. We stopped at Invercargill (and whilst we are sure a very nice/functional place not one of our favourite of our trip) for shopping and a quick trip to McDonalds for free wi-fi.

At Fortrose – the entrance to the Catlins National Park – we took the rougher gravel road south heading for Waipapa Lighthouse. We arrived at the lighthouse and had a lovely walk around this area. Leaving here we took another longer gravel road towards Curio Bay – arriving late afternoon at our amazing studio at Curio Bay Accommodation.

The evening involved a penguin sighting which I have already posted about – amazing! 🙂

 

Sunday 14th October: Exploring the Catlins area

As I write the ferocious wind is whistling and howling around our lovely studio here in Curio Bay. Watching the waves from our studio is brilliant and they are so high and wild because of the weather. We have just come in from another evening of watching the penguins come ashore at the petrified forest (see my separate penguin sighting posting for more info and pictures for this). We have had a great day exploring the Catlins area and absolutely love the scenery here. We have visited a few different places on our drive up to Owaka and back. A couple of places we wanted to visit (McLean Falls and Cathedral Caves) were both closed – McLean Falls because of a huge rockslide so it was very dangerous, and Cathedral Caves because of extreme weather. We didn’t let this stop our adventure plans though! We headed for Owaka and stopped at Florence Hill lookout for fabulous views – coming across sheep and lambs being moved from one field to another which was fun!

Next stop was Purakauni Falls (along another interesting gravel road!) which was beautiful and very photogenic. I tried out a slower shutter speed on my camera here and got some good pictures. We ate a delicious lunch at Catlins Cafe in Owaka and visited the quaint visitor centre.

 

 

 

On our return journey to Curio Bay we visited Matai Falls (upper and lower) and again took some wonderful pictures. Arriving back at Curio Bay we headed to see our penguins and then for a quiet night in enjoying the absolutely stunning views. This is definitely a place we don’t want to leave!

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Penguins in the wild – in the Catlins region of New Zealand

Sat 13th and Sun 14th October: Penguin sightings 

This is just a very quick (but very amazing!) update while we have very limited internet in a tiny cafe in Owaka in the Catlins – to say we have seen yellow-eyed penguins (three in total!) in the wild here at the Petrified forest (in Curio Bay) in the Catlins. It is THE most incredible thing! Especially because my husband is a huge penguin fan and absolutely loves them. The penguins that we saw are amongst the rarest in the world and there are only about 5,000 of them left in the whole of New Zealand.

On Saturday night after local advice from the man who runs the camping ground shop we headed to the petrified forest and after waiting for about 25 minutes, at about 6pm, one amazing yellow-eyed penguin appeared out of the water. He seemed very aware of his surroundings and took his time sussing everything out. As the signs told us everyone kept at least 10 metres from him to give him space. He then took his time to slowly waddle up the beach and into the bushes behind – he was there for about 50 minutes which was amazing!

Then on Sunday night we headed back to the same spot and this time at about 6.20pm we saw two yellow-eyed penguins again almost in the same spot. The weather this time was INSANELY windy (we actually struggled to stand up/walk) so the penguins were much quicker at coming ashore and heading up into the bushes.

It really was an incredible sight and one we will never forget.

As I am sure you can imagine we took loads of photos – see a few more below in my gallery. John also did some amazing videoing so we have edited a few highlights together of the first yellow-eyed penguin we saw on Saturday night and posted the video below. Take a look!

I will post separately about the Catlins area – as it is really incredible and full of such amazing and varied scenery (and weather!).

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Penguins (yes more penguins!) in the wild

We are going to visit Catlins National Park whilst on our holiday in New Zealand. This is a lesser known beautiful part of New Zealand and not as often visited by tourists. Having read many forums and done lots of research interestingly many people say it was actually their favourite part of their whole trip to New Zealand. The Catlins tourist website states: “The Catlins – the name that conjures up images of a corner of New Zealand untainted by the modern world – a place where time has stood still and a visitor may enjoy forest, wildlife and the life-style of a bygone era. This image is a true reflection.” It simply sounds amazing!

And continuing our penguin theme, we are hoping to see lots of lovely wildlife whilst staying there – including the blue and yellow-eyed penguins in the wild! Apparently they are commonly spotted in Curio Bay (where we are staying for 2 nights) and Porpoise Bay.

 

 

 

Our accommodation in Curio Bay will be a wonderful Boutique Studio with Curio Bay Accommodation. The studio is right on the beach with wonderful views, and the reviews are brilliant – including mentions of night visits by penguins on their decking! It should be a part of the holiday to remember!

 

 

Categories: Accommodation | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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