Day 69: Christchurch
Today was the day that we (mostly Roisin) had been looking forward to for months; The day that Roisin’s Mam and Dad came to visit and travel around New Zealand with us for a few weeks. We got up early and scrubbed the van in preparation and eagerly watched flight radar as the got closer. After lunch we made the journey to the airport and anxiously waited at the gate for their arrival. After 20 minutes they appeared through the arrivals gate, looking surprisingly fresh for a pair just after flying to the other side of the world. After a warm welcome we headed towards their hotel where they would spend the next few nights.
We had nothing planned for today as we thought that Mam and Dad would be wrecked, but they were rearing to go. We spent the afternoon catching up and planning the next couple of weeks of sight seeing in New Zealand. Unfortunately the route we had planned down the west coast was no longer an option as the roads were still closed following the terrible weather at the end of November. We went through all the other options and planned a new route.
Also, can we just acknowledge what a legend Mary Brennan is. She managed to not only bring 120 Barry’s teabags to the other side of the world, but also an entire homemade Christmas cake and Christmas pudding weighing an impressive 5 kg’s. There really is no one in the world like Irish mammy’s.
Mam and Dad stayed in the Garden Hotel and Restaurant. It was only 10 minutes from the city centre and really quite, clean and comfortable. The restaurant also had an all you can eat buffet every evening which we ate at twice and it was delicious!
We stayed in the Christchurch Kiwi Holiday Park, which we had stayed at the week previous.
Day 70: Christchurch
We had spent so much time around Christchurch but we hadn’t really explored the city centre much at all so we were looking forward to finally seeing what it had to offer today with Mary and Michael.
We decided the best way to fit everything in was to get the hop on hop off vintage tram around the city. There are 17 stops in total including all the main tourist attractions like cathedral square, the Avon River, Canterbury museum and Hagley park. The driver gives you lots of information about all the different stops as you drive along. You can hop on and off as many times as you like for just NZ $25 per person for the day. We spent the day hopping on and off and seeing as much of Christchurch as possible. The devastation caused by the most recent earthquakes is still very much apparent throughout the city. We spent a lot of time wandering through the beautiful botanical gardens followed by the Canterbury museum.
It is worth noting that the museum is free entry and has everything you need to know about the history of New Zealand starting from the first Mauri settlers to modern day New Zealand. We ended up running out of time while looking around. You could literally spend a full day in here. There was a few spots that we didn’t have time to see today, but we will be back in a few weeks for a full day before Mam and Dad fly home so we plan on squeezing them in then.
Day 71: Christchurch to Kaikoura
Today was our first road trip adventure as a group of 4. We hit the road early to our first destination of Kaikoura. The scenery on this drive is really gorgeous, with beautiful green rolling hills and vineyards for miles, followed by the breath-taking Kaikoura coast. The drive is a straight forward 2 and half hour journey, not including stops for pictures.
Before we stopped in Kaikoura, we brought Mary and Michael to the Ohau seal colony so that they could get their first look at the wildlife that New Zealand has to offer. This colony is just a 30 minute drive north of Kaikoura and is well worth the detour.
The small town of Kaikoura is very touristy, with lots of souvenir shops and cafe’s and restaurants. We spent about an hour looking around before relaxing in Mary and Michael’s b&b for a couple of hours. The view from the back of the house was amazing. The sun had also decided to come out so we just relaxed in the garden before dinner.
We couldn’t believe how busy Kaikoura town was when we went in for food at around 6pm. The sleepy tourist town that we had experienced earlier was transformed to a bustling, busy town where we struggled to find a table for dinner. We eventually got a table in ‘The Whaler‘ and the food was gorgeous. If you are planning on visiting Kaikoura, definitely book a table for dinner in advance to avoid going hungry.
Mary and Michael stayed in the Te Mahuru Retreat b&b which was possibly the nicest accommodation that they had for the entire trip. They had beautiful views of snow capped mountains from the garden and were surrounded by green fields and rolling hills. Breakfast was included which included fresh homemade bread and jam and the host was lovely. There was also a little goat beside the house that thought he was a dog and was the cutest. The only problem was, because we had to book last minute, there was only one room available so we had to stay at the Alpine-Pacific holiday park in town.
Day 72: Kaikoura
We had an early start this morning as we had planned to finally see what Kaikoura is famous for and go whale watching. We booked our whale watching tour on bookme.co.nz about 4 days in advance. Kaikoura is the number one place in New Zealand to spot sperm whales in the wild. The chance of you seeing at least one is so high that the tour company will refund 80% of the cost if you don’t see any whales.
After a quick safety briefing we hopped aboard the boat that would bring us out into the Tasman sea. As we waited for the boat to arrive at the first whale watching spot, we were told lots of different facts about sperm whales, orca’s and humpback whales, the three most commonly spotted whales off the Kaikoura coast. After about 45 minutes on board, a burst of water was spotted in the distance and the boat sped towards it. We pulled up along side the sperm whale and watched in amazement as this beautiful creature spurted water out of it’s blowhole and re-oxygenated. Sperm whales can hold their breath for up to 90 minutes under water and then come up to the surface for about 15 minutes at a time to breath and get ready to dive down again. When it was diving down we got an unbelievable view of his tail.
We were lucky enough to see one more sperm whale on the surface for a few minutes and then dive under water before our time was up and we had to go back to shore. The tour lasted for about 2 hours and was well worth every penny.
After a walk along the beach and some lunch we went back to the b&b to chill for a couple of hours. As Mary and Michael relaxed, we ventured across the road to the Donegal House pub as we had noticed that there was a few campervans parked up outside the previous night. We went in to ask if we could camp there for the night and we were greeted with open arms by the owner Murray. As soon as he heard the Irish accent he said we could stay for free and invited us for a pint. Of course we obliged and sat chatting to the owner for about an hour. Before we left we were treated to a free shot of whiskey and the promise of another pint later.
We learned from yesterdays mistake and booked The Pier Hotel for dinner, on recommendation from the host of Mary and Michaels b&b. Although this is about a 10 minute drive from the town centre, it is worth the journey as the food was delicious.
Day 73: Kaikoura to Timaru
This was one of the longest drives of the two weeks with Mary and Michael. Without stopping, it would take about 4 and a half hours, but we stopped on numerous occasions to break up the journey and to take pictures and have numerous cups of tea. By the time we got to Timaru we were all wrecked so we just relaxed before going out for dinner.
We went to the Bullock restaurant & Bar for dinner which was quite nice and the portions were huge. We were also joined by Gerard who was making his way back to Christchurch after his 2 weeks in New Zealand. After dinner we had planned on going to the beach to spot some penguins, but we honestly just totally forgot. If you are in Timaru this is a must do. Bernard and I went back here when Mam and Dad had gone home and it was amazing.
We all stayed at the Timaru Top 10 Holiday Park. Mary and Michael stayed in one of the self-contained cabins and we parked up the van outside. It was really close to town and was ideal for the one night stop over.
Day 74: Timaru to Dunedin
After saying goodbye to Gerard we continued down the east coast towards Dunedin. This is just a 2 and a half hour drive, but with lots of stops along the way we gave ourselves plenty of time. First stop was the coastal town of Oamaru. We strolled up and down Harbour street admiring all the Victorian architecture before grabbing a cup of coffee and continuing down the road.
Next stop on our east coast road trip was the Moeraki Boulders. These are a group of large spherical “stones” on Koekohe Beach. They originally started forming on the sea floor around 60 million years ago. Nowadays they are one of the most popular attractions on New Zealand’s south island. They are pretty incredible to see and definitely worth the stop over, even if it’s just to watch the Chinese tourist’s pull some crazy poses!
After lunch and cup of tea at the Moeraki Boulders we continued down the road to our air b&b for the night on the Otago Peninsula. We had initially planned on going into Dunedin city centre for the evening, but after a couple of days of long drives we just chilled in our air b&b and enjoyed the views from the house.
We stayed in an air b&b on the Otago Peninsula. We had the whole house to ourselves, there was a stove that we could light in the evenings when it got cold and the views from the front were incredible. We spent two nights here and it was lovely to have us all under the same roof.
Day 75: Dunedin
We had a well deserved sleep in after a jam packed week of exploring before we headed in to Dunedin city centre for a look around. Dunedin is famous for being a University city of Scottish heritage and is known as the ‘New Zealand Edinburgh’. The city was originally founded by Scottish settlers and their presence is eminent, especially in the architecture.
Dunedin is the second largest city in the South Island, but there isn’t a lot to see and do as a tourist in the city centre, but is a really great atmosphere around the city that makes it a nice to wander around. In addition, there are plenty of great cafes and in the evenings, there is often a lot going on, especially around the Octagon. One thing we had to see was ‘The Bog’, the furthest Irish bar in the world away from Ireland (apparently). We made sure to visit here for a well deserved Irish coffee and a pint.
As mentioned previously we were staying on the Otago Peninsula, a 20 km Peninsula East of Dunedin that hosts some of New Zealand’s most fascinating wildlife including seals, sea lions, penguins and albatrosses. After dinner this evening we decided to head to Sandfly Bay to check out some of this wildlife for ourselves. Sandfly Bay is home to a colony of yellow-eyed penguins which you can spot coming in from their day of fishing at sunset. They are a very shy species of penguin so we had to keep our distance but we were lucky enough to spot 3 little fellows waddling in to shore. We also seen a few sea lions lazing about on the sand. To get to the beach there is a 1.5 km walk so make sure to give yourself enough time before sunset to get down. It is worth mentioning that at the end of the Peninsula is the worlds only mainland Albatross colony. We didn’t manage to make it here but we have heard that it is worth the effort.
And thus ends our first week with Roisin’s parents. It was a busy but fun one, and we manged to fit in lots of sight seeing along with a lot of necessary relaxing and catching up. Next week we will make our way inland for some Christmas celebrations!
Thanks for reading,
Roisin & Bernard