Otago, South Island
Dunedin wears its Scottish heritage proudly. Founded by Scots settlers who found sufficient similarity between their new home and the old to name the new settlement with the old Gaelic name for Edinburgh, they brought with them not only their sheep, but their Scottish high regard for the importance of education - the country's first university was established here along with one of the world's first public girls' High Schools. They also brought their strict Presbyterian faith - something that was to cause more than a few problems when the town found itself the centre of the Southern Otago goldrush in the 1860s - an event that saw the town grow so rapidly that by 1870 it was the biggest and richest city in the colony. You'll find plenty of tartan here still, along with excellent golf courses, a statue of Robbie Burns in the city centre, pipe bands and a whole week in the year given over to a Scottish festivities.
The mix here of grand Victorian buildings, a lively student population, proximity to the beautiful Otago peninsula with its many attractions - both natural and man-made, and its position as the gateway to the scenic south-east corner of the country make the city a great place to visit and spend a few days.
A s well as spending time in the city itself, do make the trip out to the Otago Peninsula to visit quaint little Lanarch Castle, the Royal Albatross Centre (visit historic Fort Taiaroa whilst you're out there)and perhaps catch a glimpse of the world's rarest penguin -the hoi-hoi - at the privately-run Penguin Place. If you have more time up your sleeve, the Taieri Gorge Railway will take you on a journey into some wonderfully wild and remote countryside.
We didn't tour the castle (don't regret not doing the tour) so I have just taken the info below off the website.
Castle, Gardens & Grounds Access (self-guided)
Entry to the Castle including the tower, ballroom cafe, gift shop, Castle gardens, grounds, historic stables and outbuildings. Informative brochure provided, in several languages, for self-guided tour of castle, gardens and grounds. Pre-bookings not required.
Child (5-14) $10.00
Child (0-4) Free
Exclusive one hour guided tours providing greater detail of either the Castle and its history, or the development and creation of the gardens. Advanced booking required.
Add $125 per guide to the above prices.
Castle Open: 9am daily, last admission 5pm
(Closed Christmas Day)
Maori tradition tells that the huge and perfectly spherical boulders lying along the beach at Moeraki are the gourds and calabashes used as food baskets by their ancestors in the giant war canoe that first brought them on their great journey of discovery to these southern shores. They were washed ashore when the canoe sank on a nearby rock.
They're actually accretions of carbonates and calcium that began to gather around particles (oysters form pearls in much the same way) 65 million years ago in the muddy sea bottom. Formed over millions of years, they lay buried until the seabead was pushed up to form the mudstone cliffs that range along the beach here. Erosion has exposed them, apparently allowing them to roll out of the cliffs though in fact it is the cliffs that are receding so that the boulders can be seen in the cliff face and along the shore. Lying exposed to the atmosphere, the surface shows the network of cracks and veins that follow the pattern of the original accretions. As these continue to erode the boulders break up, revealing their hollow interior.
Old photos show much larger numbers of the boulders than can be seen today - erosion and natural forces have seen many of the larger ones break up, souvenir hunters have removed many of the smaller ones. They're still a sight that attracts many visitors and are certainly worth the small detour from the main highway.
Warbirds Over Wanaka is a terrific airshow that takes over the little town of Wanaka at Easter every two years (we've just come home from Warbirds2008 ). The whole town buzzes and accommodation is booked out months and months ahead.
Set on the shores of Lake Wanaka, surrounded by mountains, it really is a little piece of paradise. It's beautiful at any time of the year - autumn is my favourite though when the reflections in the lake glow golden with the changing leaves. We stay at Te Wanaka each time, where hosts Andy and Graeme have created a blissfully comfortable and welcoming home from home.
... than Wanaka. With its glorious lakeside setting, proximity to the peaks and valleys of Mt Aspiring National Park and wide range of accommodation, restaurants and activities, it's a serious rival to nearby Queenstown, especially for anyone who is not enamoured of the glitz and bustle of New Zealand's main playground.
From jetboating on the Clutha River to a full day canyoning on the Niger Stream, Rock-climbing, horse-trekking, heli-biking, para-gliding - it's all on offer in Wanaka along with quieter pursuits such as fishing, walking and golf. The lake is a magnet for all sorts of boatie activities and, as you'd expect, winter offers great skiing. There's plenty here to attract the adventurous all year round and, when outdoor activities pall or night falls, there's the extraordinary Puzzling World and the quirky charm of the town's Cinema Paradiso to provide extra diversions.
The town is also a great base from which to explore the surrounding countryside - Arrowtown, Queenstown, the wineries of the Kawarau River valley, the historic towns of the Central Otago goldrush era are all within easy daytrip travel.
Wanaka is rated as the best town of my South Island trip. Love the Puzzling World that kept me puzzled for half a day :)
Very beautiful secneries here. There are mountains, lakes and clear blue sky and nice weather. What else could I ask for?
In winter, you could go for skiing as there are many good skiing slopes around here.
It has a unique cinema Paradiso located at Ardmore Street near the Caltex Station. Go there early and select your favourite seat.
I didnt get a chance to visit the Warbirds Museum at the Lake Wanaka Airport. Do so if you have the time.
Take a scenic helicopter ride and see the awesome Mt Aspiring, Wanaka and also the Fiordland.
Cardrona Bras - You will come across a fence with all the bras hanging under the bright sunshine.
I think it started with one traveller who donated her bras on the fences and every other travller alos did likewise.
This amazing sight is not far from Wanaka and very near Cardrona.
Queenstown is the capital of adrenaline rush. There are so many activities to choose from according to your comfort level of adrenaline you can take.
A gondola ride up to Skyline is considered the mild one. You could have a bird eyes view of the whole Queenstown. Bring your camera along and take lots of photos.
We took the gondola, luge and chairlift while on top of the Skyline. Didnt have the guts for the ledge bungy but we book ourselves on the thrilling jetboat ride and it was an awesome trip.
Cromwell is located on the edge of Lake Dunstan at Central Otago.
Central Otago is the Wine Region in South Island. You could take a tour of the Central Otago Wine Trail to visit vineyards and have some wine tasting.
Cromwell is also known as the "Fruit Bowl" of the south. You can visit the fruit orchards and purchase some fresh fruits, preserved fruits and honey as souveniers.
The towns surrounding Cromwell are:
Kawaru (bungy jump) 20 mins
Clyde 20 mins
Arrowtown 25 mins
Alexandra 30 mins
Wanaka 45 mins
Queestown 50 mins
Arrowtown is a quaint historic gold-mining town situated in the Central Otago region of South Island, New Zealand.
Arrowtown first caught my eyes on a travel guide and I have to include this scenic town into my itinerary. We have another mission which was to search for one of the best venison pie sold at a local bakery.
There is a lookout point on your way from Wanaka/Cardrona to Arrowtown along Highway 6 around Lake Hayes.
Arrowtown is a very small quaint town and takes only a few hours for you to walk around. It is worth a day trip and it takes about an hour from the nearby towns.
The travelling times are:
Arrowtown - Queenstown 25mins
Arrowtown - Cromwell 40mins
Arrowtown - Wanaka (via Cardrona) 50mins
Arrowtown - Wanaka (via Cromwell) 1hr10mins.
Visit www.arrowtown.com for more information of this little town.
The gracious whitestone buildings of Oamaru come as quite a surprise - that such a little town should have so many fine buildings seems a bit of a puzzle until you find out how wealthy this town was in Victorian times - and it owed it all to frozen lamb!
It was here that the frozen meat trade that was to be so important to the New Zealand econmoy began. The wealth that came from that, and the wonderful whitestone that was available locally combined with civic pride in a spate of building that has left Oamaru with a unique townscape.
Totara Estate is where it all began - pay a visit to this historic homestead. Other attractions in the area are the extraordinary Moeraki Boulders, the Heritage Precinct around the Harbour, and, of course Oamaru's famous Little Penguin Colony, where every night these great little fellows put on a terrific penguin parade for visitors.
Before you leave check out the delicious cheeses made here by the Whitestone Cheese Company
It's not for nothing that New Zealand is known as the "Home of Terror Tourism". You could go home from your holiday here with permanently whitened knuckes there are so many extreme activities on offer.
This is the land that gave bungy jumping to the world. Jet boat drivers here are past masters at spinning their craft in a turn away from a sheer rock face just as you think there's absolutely no turning back -and have you made your will? Canyoning, heliskiing, para-sailing, tandem hang-gliding, zorbing, canyon swinging, sky wiring - it's all on offer here. There's only your wallet to put a brake on the amount of thrill you can take.
Queenstown is undoubtedly the most popular holiday spot in all New Zealand. Like so many of the towns in Otago, it was gold that first brought people here - now it is the promise of adventure of a different kind that lures the visitors, bringing wealth to the region rather than removing it. Sitting beside beautiful Lake Wakatipu and with the stunning mountain backdrop of the Remarkables, this is a truly beautiful place.
Whether you are simply passing through, staying for enough time to sample as many of the thrills and spills as you can possibly fit in or opting for a more leisurely visit, there is something for everyone on offer here. There are restaurants, cafes and bars galore; accommodation options to suit every pocket from backpacker hostels to the incredibly luxurious (and expensive) Eichardt's Hotel and shoppers will think they've died and gone to heaven.
Every sort of adventure tourism is available -rafting, hiking, jet boats, hot air ballooning, hang gliding, skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, the list goes on and on, changing with the seasons but the activity never stops.
For those who take their pleasures more quietly there's activities such as an historic steamer, the TSS Earnslaw, to take you cruising on the lake and across to Walter Peak High Country Farm; a gondola to take you up to Bob's Peak for wonderful scenic views over the surrounding countryside and the kiwi house where, once your eyes have accustomed themselves to the deep nocturnal darkness inside, you will find this unique little bird.
No matter how long you stay, the chances are you won't have time (or the budget) to fit in all that you might want to do. You'll just have to come again some time.
Although the Otago goldrush of the 1860s was short-lived it was fabulously rich and many little towns in the region owe their existence to the flood of people who came here from all over the world following the lure of gold. Arrowtown is certainly the best-preserved of all these small towns, perhaps a little too-self-conciously so but it does have charm and is well worth a visit. With an excellent small museum, streets of attractive historic buildings, pleasant walks by the Arrow River, good cafes and restaurants and plenty of shops full of goodies of the sort to tempt the tourists, there is more than enough here to fill a day's outing from Queenstown or wherever else you may be staying.
If you really want to get a feel for the little town though, you should stay a night or two and go out walking early in the morning or in the evening when the day-trippers have gone back to their hotels and you can walk down the now-empty main street, make your way along to the tiny stone dwellings of the Chinese settlement and around the rest of the town under the avenues of trees planted by the first settlers. It is especially lovely in Autumn when the whole town is a blaze of colour with the changing leaves.
For those who would like to stay here there is a wide variety of accommodation available. Booking ahead is advisable.
There are several opportunities for penguin watching in New Zealand.
Simplest, and most organized, is the nightly penguin parade at Oamaru where there is a well- managed and informative visitor's centre at the place where fairy (or little blue) penguins come ashore each evening to head for their nests in the limestone cliffs just on the edge of town.
The extremely rare yellow-eyed (Hoiho) penguin is best observed at the centre on the Otago Peninsula, though it is possble to observe the birds elsewhere (there is a small colony near Oamaru). If you do look for them in the wild, be very aware of the need for staying well back from the birds and very, very quiet.
The Fiordland penguin can be found all around the south-west coastline. As this is very difficult country to access, you will probably find your best opportunities are on cruises out to the entrance of Doubtful and Milford Sounds where there are usually plenty of penguins to be seen on the small islands there.
....and anyone who likes wild and rugged scenery, the Taieri Gorge Railway runs a daily trip through some of the most remote and spectacular scenery of Central Otago. Part of the once-vital Central Otago Line that served the area for over 100 years, the line and trains are now run by a trust that has preserved some 70kms of the line that runs across high viaducts and through tunnels from Dunedin station to the tiny hamlet of Pukerangi with an extension some days to Middlemarch.
The Dunedin-Pukerangi journey is a 4 hour trip return or you may do the trip one-way with an option of an onward coach connection to Queenstown.
A commentary is given, telling the story of the building of the railway, stops are made for photos and refreshments are available on board.