Blenheim

Our ferry got cancelled, so we ended up with a couple of nights in Blenheim. Although the town itself is nothing special, the surrounding area is FULL of vineyards. If you are into wine, I expect you could spend a lot of time wine tasting around this region.

Yealands Estate

We chose to go to the Yealands Estate vineyard, apparently the most coastal of vineyards and the first to try growing grapes on sloping ground around here. You can do a self drive tour around and meet the over friendly chickens and ducks as well as listen to the classical music played to the vines (they believe it helps them grow better!).

Of course tasting the wine….. and buying some to enjoy later!

Rarangi – Whites Bay and Monkey Bay

Turn off between Blenheim and Picton and you pass through Rarangi. Apart from a cherry orchard shop, there is no other shops or cafes so take a picnic with you.

You can drive to Whites Bay, or you can walk a one hour path from Rarangi over the top. Whites Bay is one of those beaches with such beautiful water, that you just want to run straight into the sea. Which we pretty much did. It also has a fab rock hole at the far end of the beach, a great addition to the beauty of the place.

Evie had her deepest paddle yet. She is not sure about waves but loved ‘walking ‘ around in the shallows, whilst we took it in turns for a swim. Another definite plus here wash a beach shower to have a rinse off once done with the sea.

The next day we returned to go to Monkey Bay. A much smaller beach and you have to walk up and down some steps to get to it (less than 10 mins).

Fun for the big kids, to the left of the beach you can walk up along the rocks and then jump in. This little beach had some good shade, if you do want time out of the sun.

Another joy of the two beaches above is we didn’t see or experience any sandflies….. a bonus in NZ!

Kaikōura – a flying visit

Meeting up with Evie’s cousins for the last time on this trip we had a couple of hours in Kaikōura, as they were coming down the coast to fly home and we are headed northbound to Blenheim.

Kaikōura town itself very touristy based on whale, seal and dolphin watching, sits on a beautiful peninsula in a stunning location.

Grabbing a late picnic lunch we headed away from the town to Point Kean Viewpoint, with plenty of space for the boys to run around. With high tide we were unable to walk out to the point to see the Fur Seals, but it did means that there were great safe areas of the sea to jump into that felt like an enclosed pool even though it wasn’t. Refreshing on a hot day.

With the day coming to a close, we headed back to Kaikōura and had an amazingly fresh fish and chips together, would recommend the Blue Cod. It was then time to continue on our separate journeys and back in the car up to Blenheim, stopping briefly at the seal colony on route.

Timaru botanical gardens

This was another good stopping point between Dunedin and Christchurch heading north up the coast. We had planned to go to the beach, but passed the gardens and stopped there instead.

Was a lovely place for a picnic, really pretty gardens, a nice place for a leg stretch from driving and for Evie to have a good crawl.

Sadly time to leave without time for the beach as well (it looked nice as we glimpsed it driving past) to get up to Christchurch in time for some dinner.

Moeraki boulders

Driving north from Dunedin, the Moeraki boulders make a good stopping point. And these are very unique large spherical boulders.

The beach is also very nice, with a good cafe and excellent chocolate ice-cream located above the beach!! We enjoyed a swim and paddle there before moving on.

The most important thing here is to time your visit with low tide – they do a disappearing act in high tide and loose their impressive impact. Also not a beach suited to buggies – we saw a couple of people struggling with them.

Te Anau and the sounds

Te Anau feels like a place I could come and spend considerably longer, as it seems like outdoor heaven. We were however blessed with very nice weather, which always helps.

There is a lovely track that was nice for short outings, which goes through Te Anau bird garden and along the head of the lake, good for walks, runs and gentle biking. It leads to the Kepler track with the cycle path continuing down the river bank for a while.

The Kepler Track

Starting from Te Anau, we only wandered down the Kepler Track for an hour. But within minutes you feel very deep into the Fjordland forest, enough to give you a feel of the forest. At this early stage there are pretty pebble beaches that you can drop down to, for a swim in the lake.

Lake Te Anau

Again we hit this place in the summer holidays in hot weather, but there were many people bringing their boats down to the jetty for some fun on the lake. The jetty at the head of the lake was deep enough to jump in from. So we big kids joined the local kids splashing around!

We boated across it on our glow worm cave trip and it is a place where you would definitely own a boat to go and explore all the little beaches and inlets.

Milford Sound

An early start for the drive to Milford, which takes about 1hr 45mins. We allowed good time incase of queues at the Homer Tunnel and so that we could feed and change Evie at Milford before getting on the boat. What we didn’t account for was the rain in Milford, the kind that doesn’t look that heavy but absolutely soaks you. Staying dry was not 100% achievable without waterproof trousers.

With rain we missed out on seeing the classic Milford view. However the rain did provide impressive waterfalls, and lots of them. And once we had resigned ourselves to being wet then getting more wet became part of the fun! Most importantly was that we had the right kit for Evie so she stayed warm and dry (on the inside!).

We had some food at the visitors centre, which I’d recommend the pizza! Then headed back, seeing Kea once again at the Homer Tunnel.

Out the other side and back to sunny Te Anau, where they had the sprinklers on to keep the grass green – what a contrast!! So down to the lake for a sunny evening stroll!

The glow worm caves

Wear insect repellent and cover up!!

A gorgeous boat trip from Te Anau over to the caves but the moment we stepped ashore we got bitten by sandflies and regretted our clothing choice!

You can’t take babies into the caves, but their trips work so that you can tag team and one sit or do the nature walk with the baby whilst the other goes into the caves and swap, so long as you do 1st and last groups between you.

Once in the caves, which are in themselves nicely done and impressive, the boat trip inside the cave and seeing the glow worms is like nothing else you will ever do. Imagine the best nights sky, the stars within your reach, but you can only enjoy looking…. it is amazing. Too amazing to explain really, best to experience.

Doubtful sound

Unlike Milford, this was a trip where you were taken care of from beginning to end.

We set off on the 8am trip, with a beautiful cruise across Lake Manapouri. It was nice as we got on board to be told where the nappy change facilities were without even asking. Evie and me had our breakfast on this first boat and we still had time to enjoy the view.

From the first boat to a coach, our driver was full of interesting information on our way over Wilmot Pass, which passed through gorgeous mossy ancient beech forest.

The pass peaked at 671m and cost and amazing $2/cm2 to build!!

Less planned was Evie’s ‘singing’ through his whole talk with it being very difficult to keep her voice down in an excited 9month old! And then the urgent nappy change required, which had to wait till we got onto the next boat.

We were very lucky with the weather and got stunning views down into Doubtful Sound.

On to the second boat and just as we set off there was a pod of dolphins that joined us and rode the bow of the boat for a while – magical.

Cruising the 40km we went along the length of the sound and had the good fortune of weather that allowed us to watch a fur seal colony just where the sound became the sea, and then venture out for a period into the Tasman Sea and look down the untouched coastline.

Time to turn around, via a bit of engine off quiet time in one of the arms of the sound. Another magical moment when no one on board spoke for a few minutes and a single dolphin played in the water nearby.

In all this time Evie had a good sleep and then a good romp around the boat. The nice thing is there is lots of safe crawling space!

Time to return back to Manapouri via the coach and boat return and then drive on to Dunedin for tonight in hope of seeing the penguins.

Queenstown and around – Christmas week 2018

Arriving in Queenstown on a wet and wild evening, for Christmas week in the New Zealand summer, we were then exceptionally lucky and blessed with a week of sunshine.

Queenstown

Queenstown itself doesn’t have a huge waterfront, but it’s bustling with plenty do to, including a fantastic play area. To me, it is like the New Zealand Windermere of the Lake District – everything a tourist could possibly want, from shops to cafes & restaurants to fun galore.

Mini golf

For a bit of fun we had gone to play the indoor mini golf as it is awesome – a must if you have a couple of spare hours. Sadly it was closed so instead we played the outdoor mini golf. Still fun but standard. I discovered it is hard to play with a mini in a front sling!

So in the end we let Evie romp and she made the course even more difficult!

These are both located at the bottom of the gondola.

The Gondola

Easily walkable from the centre of town, this takes you up the mountain for a great view, and if you choose, paragliding, bungi jumping and riding the luge. For us though, it knocked an hours walk off each end of our bigger walk up Ben Lomond.

Ben Lomond

You may think this mountain is in Scotland, but it also exists in Queenstown! This must be one of the most popular walks given the number of people doing it. But it is obvious why once on it.

From the top of the gondola the path winds through the woods a short way before starting an unremitting ascent to the top.

It was a 1&1/2 hrs walk to the saddle. It’s unusual that we take as long as walking signs suggest, but on this walk we did! The saddle is a good place to stop at for turkey sandwiches round 1, for it has great views of the next mountain range across.

From here it got more rocky underfoot and was a harder steeper ascent, and Evie started to few super heavy! I have to admit (and this is unusual for me), that I nearly suggested that our view was good enough and we could turn back. However, so long as you can see the summit, it’s worth it.

The view from the top was nothing short of remarkable.

It is definitely Evie’s highest peak at 1,748m and we therefore woke her up to appreciate the view! She told us later how much she loved it.

Taking special care on the first part of the descent, and stopping for Turkey sandwiches round 2 back on the saddle, we then made our way back down. Although expensive, I was by this point super pleased of the lift down as both our feet were super painful.

At the gondola cafe we treated ourselves to smoothies and fries before heading back down for the evening.

Glenorchy

Again, the New Zealand version of this Scottish sounding place. It was about a 40 minute drive from Queenstown and a beautiful spot. We liked the sound of the lagoons and thought they would be a great place to hang out and swim. Reality was that although they had their own prettiness, they were very shallow and silty.

Despite Finley repeatedly asking if we were going in, after I watched Tim wade and get not deeper than his shins, kicking up silt with every step, even as someone who swims whenever possible, here did not inspire me to get wet!

So after a hot picnic on a small jetty, we headed back to the head of the Lake Wakatipu and there we did swim. Jumping off the jetty and in and off the swimming platform, into the gorgeous blue water. Evie had a little paddle but was not hugely amused at the cold temperature of the water! So she hung out with Granny & Granded.

The Remarkables walks

Just out of Queenstown past the airport, you can drive up the steep hairpin road to The Remarkables ski area.

From this car park two walks are signposted.

Tim, Evie, Granny & Grandad went to the lake, which took about an hour to walk to. It looks a pretty special place.

Nick, Cath, Joseph, Finley and myself went on a slightly longer walk to the Lookout, as the terrain wasn’t suitable for all. We even managed a snowball fight and some bum sledging in the patches of snow left still in December. From here was a spectacular view over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

Kelvin Heights Peninsula

This is a nice sheltered bay that looks across to Queenstown but is very easy to get to by car. With a golf course in the middle but woods around the outside, you can walk or cycle around the peninsula, walking for about an hour. The water is a beautiful blue which just makes you want to jump in. It’s also where the locals seem to hangout with all their water toys.

Queenstown trail

Back on the bike, the Kelvin Heights Peninsula is a section of the Queenstown Trail that is nice to cycle. When you have biked around the peninsula and through a small housing estate you can then continue along the Queenstown trail to Jacks point. This is a gorgeous section of trail looking down on Lake Wakatipu. However, still being new to having Evie on the back of my bike rather than in a trailer, and with the path a bit loose under wheel, I pushed up the steeper hills but we enjoyed whizzing down. From previous experience you can continue doing a bit of mountain biking around Jacks Point. Not for us on this day though.

Swimming in the lake

We were incredibly lucky to be staying in a family house that looked onto and had access to Lake Wakatipu.

Although super cold (far too cold for Evie), it was great fun to jump into and enjoy a refreshing cool off after a hot summers day.

Even Grandad couldn’t resist the tempting waters and braved the cold for a swim.

A warm Christmas Day

Christmas doesn’t seem to be a big thing in New Zealand, but Santa and his reindeer still got left their drink, mince pie and carrot to ensure that we were not forgotten out here.

He thoughtfully left some very small gifts that Joseph and Finley helped Evie to open.

A nice walk around the Kelvin Peninsula, a turkey dinner and then (apparently) a New Zealand style pudding, a pavlova.

Merry Christmas one and all – time to move on in our trip.

Long haul travel and sleep with a baby

So we got to New Zealand with an unsuccessful stopover, but what then?

Was Evie going to adapt quickly or slowly to the time change, without having the adult rationale of making yourself stay awake in the evening to try and force sleep in the night.

The quick answer is it has taken a good two weeks to find a decent sleep pattern again. And then we wreck it with some long drives!

To begin with she woke in the night and just wanted to play, jumping and clambering on us at 3am. Then by the time she finally falls back to sleep at gone 5am you are then incapable or returning to sleep as an adult (good for early morning runs as someone who doesn’t normally ‘do mornings’!).

Then the playing stopped but waking three times a night for milk, slowly down to two, one…. and after three weeks she finally slept through the night.

So our advice is to allow for the fact that you will be even more tired than normal, and more again from your own jet lag and more again from your babies!! As parents we both got a bit ill I think just from total lack of sleep.

Fingers crossed Evie sleeps through again tonight!