Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park

Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park

New Zealand South Island Slide Show 2014/15 – Google Photos

New Zealand’s South Island certainly has the ‘Wow’ factor. The beauty of the island is spectacular – lakes, mountains, rolling green hills and the coast.  It’s the kind of scenic landscape you see on calendars.

New Zealand is the perfect place for a road trip holiday with relatively short distances, plenty of good accommodation, excellent camping facilities and last, but not least, good food and wine.


Lucky Rentals – Camping

Lucky Rental Van

Lucky Rental Van

We have just returned from a 17-day, self-drive trip around the South Island.

Our van was a Toyota 2-berth ‘Lucky Crib’ from Lucky Rentals. It was an old vehicle (had done over 300,000kms) however it was in very good condition and never let us down.

The back of the van had been converted to a bed for two and at the very back was a one-burner cooker, a small basin with water bottle underneath and an Esky with plates, utensils, kettle, saucepan and frypan – all the basics. It was a simple set up and that’s what we loved.

The camping facilities in New Zealand are some of the best we have encountered so sleeping in the van and having access to excellent kitchen and bathroom facilities made for a wonderful trip.


Sydney – Christchurch

Sidima Hotel Christchurch Airport

Sudima Hotel Christchurch Airport

We left Sydney on Boxing Day, flying Qantas on the 7pm flight, arriving in Christchurch at around midnight (NZ is 2 hours ahead of Sydney time). We stayed at the Sudima Airport Hotel, as it was a quick and easy transfer from the airport at that time of night.

The hotel is undergoing a major renovation however it was very comfortable. If you are going to spend time at the hotel during the day, just be aware that there will be construction noise.




Re:Start Shopping Mall

Re:Start Shopping Mall

We collected our van the next morning – a 15-minute taxi ride from the hotel. Although the office was busy, the staff was friendly and efficient.

When we drove into the city centre we were shocked to see the scale of devastation caused by the 2011 earthquake. Empty blocks, damaged buildings fenced off, the white chair memorial to the victims of the quake – we’d seen the footage on TV but nothing prepared us for the desolation we saw first hand. The shining light in the city centre is Re:Start – a shopping area built using shipping containers. It is colourful and lively – an innovative idea to bring life back to the city centre.

After just a couple hours in Christchurch we headed north to Kaikoura via Hanmer Springs.


Hanmer Springs

Ferry Bridge Hanmer Springs

Ferry Bridge Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs is just under 2 hours drive from Christchurch. You know you’re there when you see Thrillseekers Canyon Adventure Centre on your right and cross the Waiau Ferry Bridge – the view is fabulous. Be sure to stop at the lookout point to enjoy the view and take photographs.

Entering the town along oak-lined Amuri Avenue we soon realised that Hanmer Springs is a special place. The tourist brochures describe it as an ‘alpine resort’ and it certainly has plenty to offer. Most people come for the thermal pools and spa, but there are also wonderful walks, jet boating, bungy jumping, horse riding, interesting shops and great cafes.

We spent a couple of hours there but wished we were staying the night however we had already booked a camping spot in Kaikoura.



Kaikoura Peninsula Walk

Kaikoura Peninsula Walk

It is a very pretty drive through rural scenery from Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura on the coast.

Kaikoura is a small town on a beautiful bay. It is known for its marine life, a place where you can swim with dolphins, go whale watching and swim with seals. A highlight of our visit was walking the cliff top section of the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway – magnificent views.

We spent the night in Kaikoura at the Alpine Pacific Holiday Park. It had good facilities and views of the mountains. Just near the Park are two good restaurants – Hislops Café (organic food) and Tutis Restaurant & Bar. We ate at the latter and the meal was delicious. Opposite the Park is a pretty blue van called “The Coffee Owl” – a good place for morning coffee.


Kaikoura – Blenheim

Marlborough Wine Region

Marlborough Wine Region

The road north of Kaikoura is very scenic as it follows the coast.  Look out for Nin’s Bin, about 20 minutes north of Kaikoura, where you can buy fresh crayfish. Stop at Ohau Point Seal Colony to see New Zealand fur seals – they were very active and there were lots of pups. If time, there is a 10-minute walk to where baby seals are often seen in the fresh water pool under the waterfall.

Shortly after Ohau Point is a great lunch stop – The Store Café at Kekerengu. This café has delicious food and views of the sea.

We arrived in Blenheim just before 4pm. Blenheim was our base for exploring the Marlborough region wineries so our first stop was the Tourist Office opposite the historic railway station to pick up a map and get advice on the local vineyards. Because the sun didn’t go down until around 9pm, we had plenty of time for a drive around the wineries.

We spent the night at the Top 10 Holiday Park, a pretty spot – our campsite was near a little stream. Facilities were once again very good.


Blenheim – Picton – Queen Charlotte Drive – Nelson

Queen Charlotte Drive

Queen Charlotte Drive

The next morning we spent visiting more wineries. Our favourites were Allan Scott, Hans Herzog and Rock Ferry.

At about noon we headed for Picton, a one-hour drive. Picton has a pretty harbour and waterfront park. Picton Harbour is where the ferries from the North Island dock, so it’s a busy little place.

A good lunch stop is the Picton Village Bakkerij – delicious pies, salad rolls, cakes and slices including NZ specialities – wonderful! We bought pies and cake and stopped at the Waikana Marina for a picnic away from the crowds.

From Picton we began the drive on the Queen Charlotte Drive (between Picton and Havelock). The drive follows the shores of the Queen Charlotte Sound and the Pelorus Sound and the views are fabulous.

After Havelock we crossed the Pelorus River Bridge (a popular walking, swimming and picnic spot), then it’s about 30kms to Nelson.


Nelson – Gateway to Abel Tasman National Park



Nelson is a pretty town with some lovely old buildings and streets lined with hanging flower baskets.

It was late in the day, and after a quick stop at the Visitor Information Centre, we drove out of the city centre to the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park – the most enormous holiday park we had ever encountered. We were told it is the biggest in the southern hemisphere. At this time of year, there are attendants at the gate giving directions and boys on bicycles to take us to our campsite. We were lucky to get a site on a rise overlooking the city lights. Given the crowds, it was amazingly orderly and quiet. We booked for two nights, as we wanted to spend a day in the Abel Tasman National Park.


Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

We left Nelson at 8.30am headed to Kaiteriteri where we hoped to take a boat into the National Park.  It is about a one-hour drive through wineries and orchards and lovely mountain views. We passed through the pretty town of Motueka.

Arriving in Kaiteriteri was a bit of a shock – it was so busy. A local tour operator said it had been the busiest year ever.

Kaiteriteri is the place to pick up a tour into Abel Tasman National Park. There are 4 main operators: Wilsons, Abel Tasman AquaTaxi, Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures, and Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles.

We had read good reviews on Wilsons however by the time we arrived to buy tickets for the 9.30 am boat – it was full.  We were directed to Aqua Taxi as the next best and were able to get onto their 10.30 boat. This turned out to be a blessing as the Aqua Taxi boat only took 18 people – the Wilsons boat took 140! We much preferred the smaller numbers however the trade off was that the little boat was quite rough in choppy seas and you do have to wade ashore and get a bit wet (the big Wilsons boats have a walkway!).

There are many choices of activities in the Park including walking and kayaking. We chose to be dropped at Ohetahuti Beach and then do the one-hour walk to Awaroa Lodge for lunch. From there the boat would pick us up for the return trip to Kaiteriteri.

The walk was very easy (should have opted for a longer walk!). There was a long wait for lunch at the Lodge and we were directed down to the pizza shack – a good choice. We shared a delicious, thin crust pizza and met some interesting people.

Late in the afternoon the Aqua Taxi met us down on the beach for the trip back to Kaiteriteri, picking up people at various spots along the way.


Nelson – Franz Josef

West Coast at Pancake Rocks

West Coast at Pancake Rocks

We had a long drive from Nelson to Franz Josef and left around 9am. It was a rainy day, which was a shame as we were crossing the Buller Gorge to Westport and driving down one of the most scenic roads in New Zealand – along the west coast from Westport to Franz Josef. Highlights of the trip:

  • Hope Saddle Lookout
  • Buller Gorge Swing Bridge
  • Kilkenny Lookout – Hawks Crag, Lower Buller Gorge
  • Pancake Rocks: Blowholes Walk, a 20 minute loop walk
  • Spectacular scenery along the Great Coast Road (Hwy 6)

We arrived in Franz Josef village about 6.45pm and checked into a campsite at the Top 10 Holiday Park. It had lovely views of snow capped mountains and excellent facilities. We enjoyed a buffet dinner at Kingtiger Eastern Eating House & Bar – quick, easy.


Franz Josef

Franz Josef Glacier Walk

Franz Josef Glacier Walk

It is a short drive from the village out to the start of the Franz Josef Glacier walk. The first section of the walk is the Forest Walk and after 15 minutes you come to the first viewpoint of the glacier. From there you can continue on to reach the viewpoint closest to the glacier (around 1 hour 30 minutes return walk). At this time of year it is very hot but we loved the walk.


Fox Glacier

Next stop was Fox Glacier, 22kms away. We stopped at the lovely Café Neve in Fox Glacier village for a quick lunch then drove out to Peak Viewpoint, down Cook Flat Road, for a fabulous view back to Fox Glacier and the Southern Alps.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Back through the village we reached the beginning of the Fox Glacier walk. It is about a 1 hour walk, following the river, to the viewpoint of the glacier. It’s a fairly flat walk until the last short stretch which is quite steep. We also loved this walk.


Fox Glacier – Haast

We left Fox Glacier about 4pm, headed down the West Coast towards Haast. It is a pretty trip along the coast – about a one hour 30 minute drive. Highlights include:

  • South Westland Salmon Farm & Shop
  • Lake Paringa
  • Knights Point Lookout

We decided to camp in Haast as we were too late in the day to cross Haast Pass to Wanaka. We wanted to take our time over Haast Pass to stop at the many points of interest, walks and waterfalls along the way.

The Haast Top 10 Holiday Park is a great place to stay. Options for dinner were limited as Haast is a tiny village – we ate at the Frontier Café & Bar – good pub food.


Haast – Wanaka

Blue Pools

Blue Pools

Next morning we popped into the Haast Visitor Centre. It is worth buying the brochure Walks along the Haast Highway (NZ$2) as it shows the points of interest to see and gives details of walking times, etc. Stops include:

  • Roaring Billy Falls – a 25 minute return walk
  • Pleasant Flat
  • Thunder Creek Falls Forest Walk – 5 minute return walk
  • Fantail Falls – 5 minute return walk
  • Blue Pools – 30 minutes return walk
  • Cameron Flat

The next section of the road was one of the most scenic drives we did in the South Island – from Makarora to Wanaka – with views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Be sure to stop at the Lake Hawea Lookouts. This stretch of road through to Wanaka is beautiful.



Rippon Vineyard, Lake Wanaka

Rippon Vineyard, Lake Wanaka

Wanaka was a busy little place in early January. We were told it is the time of year for schoolies in Wanaka and Queenstown so there are lots of students about. Wanaka has a beautiful location on the lake.

After a quick lunch from Doughbin Bakery we booked into the Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park on the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Rd, a couple kilometres out of town. The kitchen and bathroom facilities for the unpowered sites were the worst we had come across on our trip however the top of the park (powered sites) had a new kitchen and bathrooms. We suspect that renovations were not too far off.

A couple of attractive areas in and around Wanaka:

  • A very pretty drive is on the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring road to Treble Cone turn off. The views of the lake, mountains, Wanaka town, Rippon Vineyard and the countryside are beautiful.
  • Along Lakeside Road to Eely Point Reserve


Wanaka – Cromwell – Clyde – Alexandra – Queenstown

There are two ways to drive from Wanaka to Queenstown – over the mountains on the Crown Range Road, or via Highway 6 through Cromwell, along Lake Dunstan, through the Kawarau Gorge and the Gibbston Valley. We decided to drive to Queenstown via Cromwell with a side trip to Clyde and Alexandra (in the Central Otago region). It was a big day.


Cromwell Old Town

Cromwell Old Town


The road to Cromwell passes through wide-open spaces – agricultural land with mountain views, vineyards and orchards – cherries in particular that you can buy at roadside stalls. Cromwell is a very pleasant little town.

A significant portion of Cromwell was flooded when the controversial Clyde Dam was built and there are now two parts to the town – the pretty pedestrian-only mall area and the Heritage Precinct on man-made Lake Dunstan. We headed for the heritage area and enjoyed a stroll around there before heading off to Alexandra.



The road to Alexandra follows Lake Dunstan, past Clyde Dam where there is a lookout point over the dam and towards Clyde. We took the side road into Clyde and were so glad we did – it’s a lovely little town with historic buildings, cafes and a museum. We continued onto Alexandra where we were looking forward to lunch.


Court House Cafe Alexandra

Courthouse Cafe Alexandra


Alexandra is also an attractive town and there was a market of local craft and produce in the park. After a delicious lunch at the beautiful Courthouse Café we visited the Shaky Bridge and saw the clock on the hill.


Kawarau Gorge

From Alexandria we backtracked to Cromwell and then headed towards Queenstown via the beautiful Kawarau Gorge, stopping at the Roaring Meg lookout point. There was a group ‘boogie boarding’ down the river through rapids and it looked wonderful.


Gibbston Valley

Next stop was the Gibbston Valley Winery & Cheesery. It’s worthwhile stopping for a delicious cheese platter and the courtyard is a pretty place to enjoy a break from driving.


Kawarau Bridge

Kawarau Gorge Bridge

Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge Bungy

About 10 minutes down the road is the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, where Bungy pioneers AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch launched the first commercial bungy jumps in 1988. These days it’s very big business with a large concrete ‘bunker’ type building that you walk down into via a spiral ramp to where the action is. There are souvenirs, postcards, merchandise, giant screens, booking desks and a café. Business is brisk with a seemingly endless queue of people of all ages ready to bungy.



Historic Arrowtown is about a 25-minute drive from the Kawarau Gorge Bridge. This charming village was the centre of a gold rush in the early 1860’s and many of the buildings date back to that time. There are numerous shops, restaurants, art galleries, a museum, gold panning tours and many natural attractions. It is certainly worth a visit. We would have liked to stay longer.





Just 20 minutes from Arrowtown, Queenstown is one of the most popular destinations in New Zealand’s South Island. It has become the adventure capital of New Zealand with adrenalin pumping activities including bungy jumping, white water rafting, jet boating, river rafting, etc. In winter there are four ski fields within a 30 to 90 minute drive from Queenstown.

Queenstown is also a party town with lots of bars, pubs and restaurants. In January we found there were crowds of young people and families on summer holiday.

Queenstown is one of the most beautiful towns in New Zealand due to its location on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and amazing views across to The Remarkables.

We stayed at the Top 10 Holiday Park Creeksyde that was a short, easy stroll to the centre of town. It is a very pretty holiday park with plenty of trees, a little creek, works of art throughout and amazing trompe l’oeil in the bathrooms. Sites are close together but it’s great for getting to know your neighbours. The park is conveniently close to a supermarket.

Scenic drive to Glenorchy

Scenic drive to Glenorchy

The things we enjoyed about Queenstown:

  • The scenic drive to Glenorchy
  • Gibbston Valley wineries
  • Arrowtown
  • The walk in Queenstown Gardens
  • The burgers at Devil Burger (we didn’t want to queue for 45 minutes for a Fergburger but hear it is worth the wait!)
  • Vesta New Zealand Design & Gift Store
  • Patagonia Ice Cream by the lake
  • The gorgeous scenery and location of Queenstown


Te Anau & Milford Sound

Mirror Lakes, Milford Road

Mirror Lakes, Milford Road

It’s a long drive from Queenstown to Milford so we left early as we aimed to be in Milford for a lunch time cruise of the Sound.

The drive took us through beautiful rural scenery and points of interest along the way include:

  • The ‘Around the Mountain Cycle Trail’ at Kingston
  • The ‘Hunny Shop’ at Garston
  • The Fishing Shop and Lazy Bones Café at Athol
  • Red Tussock Conservation Area

At Te Anau we stopped at the Visitors Centre and booked tickets for the 1.30pm Milford Sound Scenic Cruise and picked up a map/brochure of The Milford Road – essential for making the most of sites along the way. After a quick lunch at Miles Better Pies we set off on the 2.5 hour drive to Milford.

Our highlights along the Milford Road:

  • Eglinton Valley Viewpoint
  • Mirror Lakes
  • Field of Lupin at Cascade Creek
  • The Chasm
  • Milford Sound
  • The scenery along the Milford Road is beautiful
Milford Sound on cloudy day

Milford Sound on a cloudy day

The weather deteriorated along the Milford Road and by the time we reached Milford it was raining heavily and there was low cloud. The cruise was on a large, 34 metre boat – Pride of Milford – with a capacity for 400 passengers. Visibility was poor and most of our time was spent inside due to the wet weather and it felt very crowded. We suspect that the 1.30pm cruise is one of the busiest as it caters for day trips from Queenstown.

Despite the weather and limited visibility, we found Milford Sound to be a beautiful place and the positive was that because of the rain, there were scores of waterfalls. If you aren’t big on crowds, there are smaller cruise boats to choose from.


Te Anau

Te Anau

Te Anau

Back in Te Anau, we had booked a campsite at the Top 10 Holiday Park just opposite the lake. The facilities are excellent with new unisex bathrooms and a large kitchen/dining area plus BBQ. It was busy but we had a lovely campsite in an enclosed, grassy area at the back of the park.

The town of Te Anau is picturesque with gardens and trees down the centre of the main street. There are lots of restaurants and we chose to eat at Ristorante Pizzeria da Toni for dinner. The service was friendly and the pizza/pasta delicious.

There is a pretty walkway along the shores of the lake in front of the town.


Te Anau to Invercargill

View from McCracken's Rest

View from McCracken’s Rest

We set off from Te Anau at 10.20am and took the Southern Scenic Route. We drove through Manapouri – a pretty village where the boats leave to tour Doubtful Sound.

A trip to Doubtful Sound is relatively expensive and involves a boat trip across Lake Manapouri, then a bus over Wilmot Pass. Day trips start from $245 and take about 8 hours. There are also overnight cruises. If you have the time and the money, Doubtful Sound is a pristine wilderness area well worth exploring.

That day we travelled through beautiful rural scenery with some pretty stops along the way. Places of interest along this section of the Southern Scenic Route include:

  • Clifden Suspension Bridge, NZs longest wooden suspension bridge.
  • Yesteryear Museum & Café, Tuatapere.
  • McCrackens Rest Lookout – gorgeous views over Te Wae Wae Bay.
  • Gemstone Beach
  • Orepuki Beach Café
  • Monkey Island
  • Te Hikoi Southern Journey Heritage Museum, Riverton



Civic Theatre Invercargill

Civic Theatre Invercargill

We arrived in Invercargill around 3pm and loved the grandness of the city – the wide streets, the Edwardian, Victorian and Art Deco buildings. We still had several daylight hours to look about and points of interest were:

  • Queens Park (next to Southland Museum & Art Gallery).
  • Invercargill Heritage Trail (download from
  • Anderson Park House & Art Gallery (next to Top 10 Holiday Park).
  • Classic cars and motorbikes exhibition at hardware store E. Hayes & Sons Ltd.
  • Invercargill Brewery

We drove out to the Bluff however there was not much to see and it looked a bit neglected.

For lunch in Invercargill, we can recommend the Three Bean Café for good wholesome food. Seated beside us was a local couple, originally from Scotland, who recommended the lemon cake – delicious! Another excellent eatery is The Batch – more modern and sophisticated – quality food.

That night we stayed at the Invercargill Top 10 Holiday Park – it’s a couple of kilometres out of town and has excellent amenities.


Invercargill – Catlins – Dunedin

Walk to Nugget Point Lighthouse

Walk to Nugget Point Lighthouse

The next day we left early to explore the Catlins Coast ( on the way to Dunedin, however we took a wrong turn and it was 11am before we were back on track. The Catlins Coast is a scenic drive between Fortrose and Kaka Point. It is a beautiful area and a little off the beaten track. Pick up a Catlins Visitors Guide and accompanying map to make the most of your trip through the area.

Highlights were:

  • Waipapa Point and Lighthouse
  • Curio Bay to see petrified forest
  • Porpoise Bay to see Hector’s Dolphins, endemic to NZ
  • Niagara Falls Café for lunch
  • McLean Falls, a 40 minute return walk
  • Cathedral Caves – if you can time your visit with low tide
  • Purakaunui Falls – 10 minute walk
  • Nugget Point & Roaring Bay



Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin is a small city with some very fine Victorian and Edwardian buildings. It is a university town and has a beautiful setting near the Octago Peninsula and Harbour.

Highlights include:

  • A drive or tour around the Octago Peninsula for stunning scenery, and wildlife including the Royal Albatross Centre.
  • A tour of Olveston Historic Home
  • Cadbury chocolate factory for tours and tastings
  • The Taieri Gorge Railway to see spectacular scenery
  • A tour or self drive to see some of Dunedin’s fine buildings including Dunedin Railway Station, Otago University, St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin Town Hall. The Octagon (a small open plaza) is the centre of town.

In Dunedin, we stayed the night at the Leith Valley Touring Park, a small but comfortable holiday park. We got one of the last unpowered sites, so in peak season it would be a good idea to book ahead.


Dunedin to Mount Cook

We left Dunedin around 1.30pm for the drive to Mount Cook which should take about 4 hours.  There are a couple of places to stop along the way:

  • Moeraki Boulders on Moeraki Beach – much photographed
  • Oamaru – for the Victorian precinct and Oamaru Gardens



Shortly after Oamaru we turned off Hwy 1 and followed the signs to Twizel. Twizel is about 70kms from Mt Cook and is a good place to fill up with petrol and do a supermarket shop, as services are limited in Mt Cook Village.


Peters Lookout Mount Cook

Peters Lookout Mount Cook

Peter’s Lookout

On the road to Mt Cook, Peter’s Lookout is certainly worth a stop. The views over Lake Pukaki and the mountains are wonderful. From Peter’s Lookout, it’s a very scenic road towards the National Park and because there was still plenty of daylight, we drove past Glentanner Holiday Park and continued on into Aoraki Mt Cook National Park – one of our favourite drives of the trip.


Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

This alpine area is World Heritage Listed and has New Zealand’s highest mountains – Mt Cook being the highest. The scenery is magnificent.

Hermitage Hotel

Hermitage Hotel

We drove as far as The Hermitage Hotel, which is larger and more modern than we imagined. The other buildings of the village are well hidden amongst the vegetation and include an excellent Visitors Centre, a youth hostel, Mt Cook Backpackers, The Mountaineer Café.

The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is located within the Hermitage Hotel building. There is also a DOC campsite a couple of kilometres from the Village (no electricity or cooking facilities), however we planned to stay at Glentanner as there are better facilities, so made our way back there – about 24kms from Mt Cook Village.


Glentanner Holiday Park

View from Glentanner

View from Glentanner

From Glentanner Holiday Park there are wonderful views of Mt Cook. The large kitchen/dining area has large windows to take in the view, and it also includes a cosy TV area with sofas. The BBQ area is opposite the kitchen/dining area and is also well placed to see the mountains. We were able to choose our own camp site and we found a good spot in an open area so we could see the mountains. It must get very windy as there are many sheltered campsites amongst the pine trees.

While we cooked our own meals, there is a small restaurant at Glentanner that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The views are also fabulous from there.


Hooker Valley Walk, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Hooker Valley Walk

Hooker Valley Walk

After a comfortable night at Glentanner, we drove back into the National Park (about 20 minutes) to do the Hooker Valley Walk. This is one of the most popular walks and takes about 3 hours (return) from the White Horse Hill Campground Carpark. The track follows the valley, crosses the Hooker River three times (via swing bridges), and ends at Hooker Glacier and the glacier lake. The views are sensational along the track and at the glacier. We did this walk in the summer so started out early in the morning to avoid the heat. The sun is fierce so good idea to wear a hat and sunscreen.


Old Mountaineers Café

After the walk we’d built up a good appetite and enjoyed a delicious meal at the Old Mountaineers Café ( in Mt Cook Village. It has a lovely atmosphere, big windows to take advantage of the view and an outdoor eating area. We enjoyed the old photographs on display.


Aorokai Mt Cook National Park

Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Aoraki Mt Cook National Park Activities

We only had one day in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and chose to do a walk to appreciate our surroundings. However, there are many ways to experience the Park including scenic flights, kayaking and boating. Visit the excellent Department of Conservation Visitors Centre in Mt Cook Village for details. There are also numerous walks to take – we found the brochure ‘Walking and Cycling Tracks in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park’ useful – it’s NZ$1 from the Visitors Centre.


Mt Cook to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

From Mt Cook we planned to drive to Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula. It was about a 4-½ hour drive from Mt Cook.

The first part of the drive was very interesting. Along the way:

  • Stop for the views at Mt Cook Lookout at the Information Centre, top of Lake Pukaki
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Farm Barn Café, just beyond Fairlie
  • Geraldine – attractive town with some interesting galleries, craft and some good eateries.

Just beyond Geraldine there is a T-junction where you can either take the Inland Scenic Route (Hwy 72 via Methven and Mt Hutt) or the quicker route to Christchurch via Ashburton. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to take the Scenic Route so continued on via Ashburton on Hwy 79 then Hwy 1, which is not very scenic at all. At Burnham we turned off towards the Banks Peninsula (via Lincoln) and the scenery started to improve.


The Banks Peninsula

Banks Peninsula - Akaroa Harbour

Banks Peninsula – Akaroa Harbour

The Banks Peninsula is an area of spectacular beauty, just 1.5 hours south of Christchurch. The views as you travel the top of the peninsula are outstanding.

Once on the peninsula, we drove past Lake Ellesmere then onto Little River. Little River has a fantastic Café and Gallery that is well worth stopping for. There is interesting accommodation there too – SiloStay ( – it’s what it sounds like – and very innovative.

We continued on through the orchards of Cooptown and just before the descent to Barrys Bay, Duvauchelle and Akaroa, there is a place called The Hilltop – with good food and wonderful views. It’s worth a stop.

Eventually we arrived at the Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park. We were allocated a great site with a view over Akaroa. The Park is located above the village and has very good facilities.



Outdoor Cafe Akaroa

Outdoor Cafe Akaroa

Akaroa has a gorgeous setting on the shores of Akaroa Harbour. It was New Zealand’s first French settlement and has retained a little of that French feel today. There are restaurants, gift shops, historic buildings – it’s a pleasant walk along Rue Lavaud, the main street, and along the harbour promenade.

There are a number of activities in and around Akaroa including nature cruises, dolphin cruises, kayaking and boat hire, swimming with dolphins and walking trails.

Since the 2011 Christchurch earthquake cruise ships now anchor in Akaroa Harbour instead of Lyttleton Harbour, as Lyttleton was badly affected by the quake.

For the drive back to Christchurch, we took the spectacular Summit Road (tourist drive), which has wonderful views. We stopped at the Little River Café & Gallery for lunch, and then continued on around past Lyttleton back to Christchurch.


Christchurch – Sudima Airport Hotel

On arrival in Christchurch we checked into the Sudima Airport Hotel for the night as our flight back to Sydney left at 8.00 the following morning. After dropping the rental van back to Lucky Rentals, we had dinner that evening in the Hotel’s dining room and it was delicious.

The next morning it was a quick and easy taxi ride to the airport for our Qantas flight back to Sydney.

Accommodation Guru

December 2014/January 2015