Otago, New Zealand
Trail leaves from Mount Cook Village Campsite. Appx. 60-90 minutes walk up to Hooker Lake. Fantastic view of Mount Cook and the Hooker Glacier.
Stay the night at the campsite, then get up early to beat the crowds!
I've driven the road and did the Rob Roy Glacier Hike twice. I think it's a perfect day hike if you're in the Wanaka area. I had a small campervan both times (in November) and had no problems on the road to the parking area. It is a bit dodgy though. Just watch the weather a few days ahead (not raining, then fords may be smaller) and check with the tourist center (located at the waterfront). The drive is spectacular! The valley is absolutely gorgeous and the wildlife - sheep and cows - are entertaining.
From the parking area, walk through the gates and follow the dirt trail through the sheep field. This is about a 20 minute walk to the bridge. After the bridge the hike is mild, meaning not overly strenuous or steep, and takes about 2-3hours from the bridge to the Glacier viewing area. The Rob Roy is a hanging glacier and if you've never seen one - it is definitely a sight to see! Watch out for the cheeky Keas! The birds will nab your snacks if your not watching - but they're mostly just fun to watch. At the end, the trail opens up to a valley in which you're on one side sitting on large boulders taking in the afternoon sun and you look across to the other side at the massive glacier. Every so often a ice fall will occur - typically you'll hear it before you see it. It's eerie and spectacular. Again, I would highly recommend the hike. I would do it a 3rd time if I find myself in Wanaka again. After the hike, visit one of the bar terraces and enjoy a nice beer while watching the sunset over Lake Wanaka. Enjoy!
If you take the Cardrona Road from Wanaka, south to the skifield of Cardrona, Check out the fence in front of the airfield. It is covered in castoff women's bras. I guess one person started and the wonderful young travellers have added. Quite amusing really.
This Cardrona Road is NZ's highest altitude main road, at 1121m high point.
During winter it may not be possible to travel right through to Queenstown from Wanaka on this road. The steep part at the Qtown end can be too dangerous in the icey conditions. Summer months, however, the road is often easily travelled.
**Newsbreak** - The Bra Fence has been removed for various reasons including beaurocratic requirements as well as some locals' disapproval.
This geographic phenomenon is located on the Otago coast just out of Palmerston. In Maori legend they are the foodbaskets of the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru. To historian Gavin Menzies, they are the ballast from one of four wrecked Chinese Junks captained by Zheng in the 1420's.
The boulders are classed as septarian concretions being formed within ancient sea floor sediments. They were created by a process similar to the formation of oyster pearls where layers of material cover a central nucleus or core. They are estimated at 60 million years of age and are slowly being eroded by the sea as new ones are uncovered. They range in size with some up to four metres in circumference.
If nothing else, the boulders are a nice item to stand on, at low tide, and get your picture taken. A good rest point before pressing on for Dunedin.
Arrowtown is a nice and cute little village close to the hustle and bustle of (famous) Queenstown. Its main street has a lot of old wooden buildings, some shops and off course cafes and restaurants.
After visiting the town we decided to go for a walk in the surrounding mountains. We choose the 'Sawpit Gully Track': a loop walk with start and finish in the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement. In the beginning we walked through dense native bush over and along a small river. Afterwards the track is VERY steep till we reached the tree line with some views over the mountains and Lake Wakatipu.
Due to recent flooding we had to descend more or less through a little stream and over a lot of tree-stumps.
The walk did take about three hours and you need proper footwear.
Ask the Information Centre in Arrowtown if the track is passable.
The Otago peninsula is situated east of the city of Dunedin and is a good destination for a (half) day trip. We followed the Otago Harbour - with a visit to the lush Glenfalloch Woodland Garden - till Company Bay. Here we turned off to the right and took the winding and narrow Castlewood Road to Larnach Castle.
Larnach Castle isn't a real castle but more a strapping country house, but quite nice to walk around the rooms; specially the view from the tower over the surrounding landscape is spectacular.
In Portobello is the 'happy hen' factory and 'off course' we bought ours for home.
At the end of the peninsula are a couple of tourist areas to view New Zealand's wildlife. We did choose the Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve (there are also a shag and albatross colony). We went with a guided tour to a beach, where the penguins come on land and did sea some penguin chicks in their nests. On the beach were also sea lions and fur seals.
We went back to Dunedin along Papanui and Hoopers Inlet and over the small and winding Highcliff Road, with views over the great scenery of Otago Peninsula.
Looking down on the beach from the 'Moeraki Boulders Cafe' we thought there we a lot of big turtles on the beach. But coming closer and closer it was obviously these giants were just 'normal' stones. But what is 'normal' if they have an almost perfect round shape and are 65 million years of age !!! The biggest boulders do have a diameter of more than 2 metres.
In a matter of fact these boulders are not real stones but a kind of crystals (calcium and carbonates) around a small charged core. That explains also why these boulders are hardly eroded by the wind and sea.
The Moeraki Boulders are easy accessible from SH 1, between Oamaru and Dunedin.
Best time to visit the boulders is during low tide. To be sure better make a phone call with the cafe about the tide ((03) 439 4827).
If you are going to Queenstown, try to get over to Arrowtown, off the main road, but just 20 mins drive. Here you can see an old gold miners town, including the relics of an old Chinese village from that era as well.
Small town and easy to move around, most of it is walking distance. Plenty of parking. Go to the Museum and read more on the history.
You can see more photos on my Arrowtown page, and be sure to view the "travelogue".
Arrowtown is particularly beautiful in April when the leaves are all golden for the autumn season.