Hawke’s Bay is a sunny wine producing region on the west coast of the North Island. We spent a few days in Napier, a town which is well known for both its 1930’s Art Deco architecture and for being home to New Zealand’s oldest winery (Mission Estate Winery). There are tons of wineries in Napier, you could easily spend a day cycling around and sampling the free tastings. We’d heard good reviews of Church Road’s Wine Tour & Tasting session, so we decided to book it up for the following day.
Mission Estate Winery
Church Road Winery Tour
The tour was really informative; they took us behind the scenes and explained the key factors that influence the wine’s flavour. The best part of the tour was, of course, the wine tasting. We sampled a mixture of red and white wines and decided to treat ourselves to a few bottles of our favourite wines – the Pinot Gris and the Cabernet Sauvignon. Delicious!
Next stop: Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers both descend from the Southern Alps and stretch for around 12km out to the coast (only 300m above sea level). After a brief stop off at the blue pools, we arrived in Fox Glacier town to a day of torrential rain. As the forecast was looking more promising for the following day, we decided to sit it out and wait for the rains to subside.
Thunder Creek Falls
We awoke early the next morning and started off with the terminal face walks to both Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers. For safety reasons you can only get within 200m and 750m of the terminal faces, unless you pay for a helicopter tour that is! Our next walk was the 1.5 hour circuit around Lake Matheson. This was a beautiful walk and we were really lucky to see the near perfect reflection of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the lake.
Franz Joseph Glacier
We finished the day off with a tough 5 hour trek to Robert’s viewpoint. The path took us over 4 long suspension bridges, crossed waterfalls and streams and involved lots of scrambling over slippery rock faces. It was our most challenging walk so far and probably the most fun too. From Robert’s viewpoint we had a great lookout over Franz Joseph Glacier. We walked for around 8 hours in total, it was a great day and our legs were certainly ready for a good rest afterwards!
Next stop: Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand
The Catlins Coast stretches from Invercargill to Balclutha. The rugged coastline and deserted beaches are home to a variety of marine life including the endangered yellow-eyed penguins, Hector dolphins and Hooker’s sea lions. We spent 4 days exploring the area and witnessing some of its wildlife.
Yellow Eyed Penguins
Nugget Point Lighthouse
Hooker’s Sea Lion
My favourite sighting was spotting the adorable yellow-eyed penguins (the rarest breed of penguin) waddling ashore to their nests, whereas James preferred getting up close to the Hooker’s sea lions at Cannibal Bay.
We also visited the quirky Lost Gypsy Gallery which is filled with interactive (wind up and button pushing) creations. For example, there was a piano that was hooked up to various objects around the room, so playing a key would trigger anything from a whirring fan to chattering teeth. It was really good fun looking around and playing with all the amazing inventions!
The Lost Gypsy Gallery
The Quardagurgle – this makes the strangest sound!
An elaborate water wheel
Our last stop on the south east coast was at the Moeraki Boulders. These unusual but supposedly naturally formed boulders are almost perfectly spherical and range from 0.5 to whopping 2.2 meters high!
Next stop: Wanaka, New Zealand
Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in New Zealand with a staggering 6,813mm annual rainfall (compared to a mere 594mm in London). After checking the weather forecast in Queenstown and realising we had a one day window of sunshine, we decided to push on and head for Milford Sound that afternoon.
We awoke the next morning to perfectly clear blue skies and thankfully managed to squeeze on to the early morning boat trip. We cruised through the fiord, passing several huge waterfalls and the majestic Mitre Peak, before reaching the Tasman sea. The fiord was carved by glaciers during the ice ages and is now home to an abundance of wildlife including seals, penguins, dolphins and even whales occasionally cruise the waters. Despite keeping our eyes pealed we didn’t spot any sea life, but the views more than made up for it!
The drive to Milford Sound
In the afternoon we walked the 3 hour track to Key Summit. The path took us up through the forest to a picturesque little tarn that reflects the surrounding mountains. We also had a great view of Lake Marian, which we had hoped to walk to the next day, but true to the weather forecast the rains came and we decided to move on. We were very lucky to have seen Milford Sound on a beautifully clear day!
Next stop: The Catlins, New Zealand