Dunedin: Part 2

Thursday February 23 – Friday February 24th | Dunedin πŸ°πŸ«πŸš‚πŸ§ | 195km πŸš™ + 116km πŸš‚

My final days in Dunedin! Bittersweet. I obviously want to go home to see Mike but I have LOVED my time in this beautiful country.  

On Thursday morning we went out to New Zealand’s only castle: Larnach Castle.  If you’re expecting a grandiose Scottish-style castle you will be disappointed but it is one of the few buildings of this scale in New Zealand and is stunning in its own right.  The story of the Larnach family is very interesting and also extremely sad.

The entrance to Larnach Castle

William Larnach purchased the land in 1870 and construction of the castle began the following year. He and his wife Eliza moved in to their home a few years later. They had six children before Eliza died at the age of 38.

Larnach then married his deceased wife’s half-sister Mary Alleyne. The children didn’t approve of this – they thought Mary was a drunk, which apparently was true. It looked like his business was going to fail so William put the family property into Mary’s name. They were only married for 5 years before she also passed away. Her will gave everything to the children so William was left with nothing. He then made his kids sign papers giving him “his” property back (they didn’t know what they were signing). William’s favourite daughter, Kate, also died which caused him great heartache. 

William then married Constance de Bathe Brandon who was much younger than him. The children never accepted her. It was rumoured that his son, Douglas, was having an affair with Constance. That, coupled with more financial strain, was the undoing of William. He purchased a pistol and shot himself in parliament on October 12th 1898. 

William Larnach sounds like a very colourful character who never really stood a chance. The Larnach family sold the castle in 1906. It passed through many hands before the Barkers purchases it, derelict and in need of much TLC, in 1967. They worked hard to restore the castle to it’s original glory and have purchased or borrowed much of the furniture and artifacts you can find inside. Some of the castle is kept private as the Barker family still resides there but you can visit a lot of the rooms as well as enjoy a bite to eat in the ballroom. I enjoyed a scone with whipped cream and jam. How posh. 

The inside of Larnach Castle

A morning snack in Larnach Castle Ballroom Cafe

After the castle we went to Cadbury World where we participated in a guided tour of the factory. Along the way we were given different chocolate bars to take home with us. They may never get eaten though as I still don’t understand why kiwis love to eat chocolate covered marshmallow so much!  (The Jaffas they gave me are long gone πŸ™Š). There’s a “tasting train” where you’re given an empty plastic shot glass to fill with melted chocolate (white, milk or dark) and can add toppings of your choice. You then eat it with a cardboard spoon – kind of like those old school ice cream treats you got as kids. So much chocolate. So much fun. I kind of felt like the kids in Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory – specifically the girl who eats all the blueberries and turns into one.

Cadbury World
Our afternoon was spent on a train! We found a really good deal on Book Me (a discount/deal website) for the Taiere Gorge Railway Journey (it was around 50% off). The train winds its way slowly to Pukerangi where the engine switches ends and returns you to Dunedin. We were seated in an old fashioned, heritage, wooden carriage with sliding windows and netted baggage storage above us: it felt almost like something out of Harry Potter. The scenery on the trip is spectacular and you can also purchase food and drinks from the dining car.


Crossing the viaduct

The evening activity was penguin watching! The Otago Peninsula is home to the Royal Albatross Centre and is the only mainland breeding colony of the massive birds.  It is also where you will find the worlds smallest penguin: the little blue penguin.  Around 9pm we all walked down to the viewing platform and fifteen minutes later the first raft came ashore. (Raft is the term given to a group of penguins). It was really cool to see and definitely worth your time.

A raft of penguins
Dunedin: Part 2

Dunedin: Part 1

Wednesday February 22nd | Tekapo 😎 – Dunedin 🍻 | 325km πŸš™

We left Tekapo on Wednesday morning and made our way south. Around 75km before you reach Dunedin you’ll find the Moeraki Boulders. These are large, spherical rock concretions that were formed 60 million years ago. They’re pretty interesting to look at and definitely worth the stop. Some of them are up to 3 meters tall and estimated to weight several tonnes. 

Moeraki Boulders
A Moeraki Boulder

Don’t be fooled by the Dunedin city limits sign – you’ve still got half an hour before you actually reach the city!  Have no fear, though, as you will pass the Evansdale Cheese Factory where you can stop for some tasty samples. Cheese in New Zealand is a thousand times better than Canadian cheese (sorry dairy farmers but the shelf cheese in the store is bland compared to that in NZ). Evansdale is a small factory that was started in 1977 making it the oldest artisan cheese maker in New Zealand. 

We finally reached our hostel late afternoon, checked in then drove down to the Octagon (this is the high street/city centre area).  Dunedin is a beautiful city with lots of history. It was named after DΓΉn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, and is known as Little Edinburgh.  It was New Zealand’s first city and can lay claim to many other “firsts” including: first telephone call made in New Zealand, first gas streetlight ever burnt, first medical and dental school in New Zealand as well as the first newspaper published in the country. There are a lot of really stunning old buildings in Dunedin ncluding St Joseph’s Cathedral, Otago Girls High School, Dunedin Railway Station and Larnach Castle.  Full list of historic buildings here.  There is also a statue of Robert Burns (Famous Scottish poet. He wrote Auld Lang Syne.  You’re welcome) at the head of the Octagon.  His nephew, Thomas Burns, was one of the original founders of Dunedin. 

St Joseph’s Cathedral
Robert Burns Statue
One of the things I miss most from Scotland is fish & chips. Not the crap they serve at North American seafood restaurants. The fresh-from-the-ocean, good old fashioned, chippy supper. I have been waiting all three weeks for a blue-cod supper and my time arrived. I checked out Trip Advisor and discovered that the best fish supper could be found at a restaurant called The Best Cafe. How fitting. It’s a short walk down Stuart Street near the Railway Station. 

Best Cafe, Dunedin

When we walked in I was instantly reminded of the old fish and chip shops we used to eat at in Scotland. The old-school decor, the deep-fryer smell and the plate of bread and butter brought immediately to your table. Val and I each ordered the two piece fish & chip dinner: one piece famous blue cod, one piece elephant fish (a type of shark). The elephant fish was a more firm white type and the blue cod was flaky. Both were good but I definitely would recommend the blue cod: it’s worth the money. 

Fish & Chips at The Best Cafe
After supper we parked the car at the hostel and walked down to Speights Brewery. We literally walked down – everything is on a hill in Dunedin. The brewery tour started at 7pm and lasted around an hour. We learned about the history of beer, the brewery, how it was made then versus how it is made now, and finished off the tour with an unlimited sampling of their one cider and five on-tap beers. Hell yeah. 

On tap sample options at Speights
Helping myself to a beer

Dunedin: Part 1

Lavender, whiskey & glaciers

Thursday Feb 9th | Alexandra πŸ’ – Wanaka πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ | 188 km 🚘

Friday February 10th | Wanaka β˜€οΈ – Frank Josef πŸ” | 328 km πŸš™

Sarah fed us croissants for breakfast and off we went to Wanaka. We couldn’t leave stone-fruit country without stopping at a roadside stand for some cherries and peaches!  Next we stopped to see the Clyde hydro damn. It’s the biggest concrete gravity damn in New Zealand. Although it is important for supplying power to the central Otago region it is very controversial. In 1992, 13 years after construction began, Lake Dunstan was created behind the damn and flooded much of the neighbouring town Cromwell. The town saved some of the old buildings and created a heritage street right on the waterfront which was interesting to see.  

Clyde Damn

Just before you get to Wanaka there is a beautiful lavender farm. There are rows and rows of the sweet-smelling flower as well as a colourful garden to visit. It wasn’t lunchtime yet so we didn’t eat in the cafe but we did browse the gift shop and I sampled their delicious honey.

Wanaka Lavender Farm

The town of Wanaka is situated on Lake Wanaka. We browsed the shops and I found a pair of thick merino-possum slipper-socks to keep my feet warm during the rest of the cold nights on our camping trip. After lunch we headed out to the family-run Cardrona Distillery that is the only distillery in New Zealand. It began production last year and now has single malt vodka (The Reid), gin (The Source) and orange liqueur (Rose Rabbit) for sale. They’re all delicious … ask me how I know. Their single malt whiskey (The Cardrona) was put into oak casks in 2015 and will be ready in just over eight years – that seems like a good time for a return visit! 
Cardrona Distillery
 

Beside the Distillery is “Bradrona”: a fence covered with bras and a donation box for breast cancer.  Random but interesting.  No, we didn’t contribute to the fence.

Bradrona Fence
The last thing on our must-do list for Wanaka was Puzzleworld. They have a very difficult and frustrating maze (tip: always keep left in a maze and you’ll get out eventually … saw that tidbit on TV once), an optical illusion room, and a room of games. The best part was the sloping room but I really enjoyed the whole place. 
The Great Maze
The Leaning Tower of Wanaka
My new merino-possum socks are so warm I woke up halfway through the night and had to take them off!  We left Wanaka early and headed North stopping at a couple waterfalls on our way.  There are so many Falls with crystal clear water everywhere here.

Thunder Creek Falls

The west coast of New Zealand is a temperate rainforest and it rained off and on the whole way to Fox Glacier.  Luckily for us it cleared once we reached the car park and began the hour return walk to the glacier.  It was amazing to see what such a large mass of ice can create and how much it has retreated over the last century (there are signs indicating where it’s face was during specific years).  The only safe way to get onto the glacier is via helicopter so we just admired it from afar.

Fox Glacier

We wanted to stop at Lake Matheson as it is a mirror Lake and on a clear day you can see Mt Cook reflected perfectly in the water but the weather wasn’t cooperating and we decided it was too cloudy.  We did, however, see a pukeko! Pukekos are blue birds with a red beak and legs that prefer to run rather than fly.

A pukeko

Finally we ended our day in Franz Josef at the Franz Josef Montrose Hostel with a chicken stir fry for supper and a trip to the hot springs pools.

Franz Josef Montrose Hostel
Lavender, whiskey & glaciers

Fit for a Queen

Wednesday February 8th | Queenstown 🚠 – Alexandra 🍷 | 139 km πŸš™ + 8 km 🏎 + 1.5 km β›°

You have two options when you are rudely awoken by the cold: stay in your sleeping bag and hope that your body heat is contained and you warm up or get out of bed and venture into the five degree Celsius morning and have a hot shower.  I chose the latter.  I thought summer in New Zealand would be warmer than this! 

On our way up the gondola
View from the top of the gondola
We ate breakfast then struck camp and headed to the Skyline Gondola. The view of Queenstown and The Remarkables mountain range was great!  There is a restaurant, a bar, a Jelly Belly art gallery & store, walking paths, bungee jumping and paragliding at the top as well as the luge.  We decided it was too early for booze or any extreme sports so did the luge: a 1.6km downhill track to a chairlift that takes you back to the start so you can do it all over again.  It was invented in New Zealand in 1985.  The luge was a lot of fun and I’m pretty sure I beat Val down three out of five times. After taking the gondola back down the mountain we had a quick look around the shops.  The Remarkable Sweet Shop was my favourite for a few reasons: it’s name is a fun play on words, it is a “sweet shop” and not a “candy store”, it sold fudge and jaffas – my new favourite treat.


It had warmed up substantially since our brisk start so we drove down to Lake Wakatipu to eat our picnic lunch and I changed into shorts before my afternoon hike up Queenstown Hill.  Actually that’s not totally true – we typed Queenstown Hill in to our map app and it took us out here … so if you plan to do the Queenstown Hill Walk I suggest you type that full sentence in to your GPS. 

The hill is not an easy climb as there’s lots of steep sections.  It took me about half an hour to walk to the Basket of Dreams which was erected to signify the millennium.  The view from this point is beautiful so if you don’t feel like going any further you can still say you climbed the hill. Since I wasn’t raised a quitter I decided to hike the extra 15 minutes to the peak where I was rewarded with the most spectacular panorama of Queenstown and surrounding area.  It was absolutely stunning.  I stood in awe admiring the view for a few minutes (or was I catching my breath?) and then trekked back down to the car.  If you’re ever in Queenstown and are physically able (moderate to high level of fitness) you should really plan to hike the hill.  I did it in 90 minutes but I was really pushing myself. 

Excited to hike Queenstown Hill

Panoramic view from the peak of Queenstown Hill

On the way down, some guys offered me a beer.  In hindsight I should’ve accepted it but I was really looking forward to going for an infamous Ferg Burger.  The lineup was surprisingly short so we each ordered a Tropical Swine Burger … whomever came up with the idea of putting pineapple on a burger is a friggen genius.  The picture doesn’t do it justice – bacon, pineapple, cheese, tomato relish and aioli on a mouthwatering beef burger: perfection.

Tropical Swine Ferg Burger
The drive to Clyde was beautiful.  Clare’s sister Sarah and her partner Marc own and operate a boutique vineyard and winery here.  Check out Dunstan Road Wines or find them on a Facebook. Not only were they nice enough to let us pitch our tent in their yard, they shared three delicious bottles of wine with us that night so I can tell you firsthand that it is delicious.  I bought a bottle of rosΓ© to take home with me (if it makes it that far!)

Apparently an old gold miner looked upon Queenstown and stated that it would be fit for Queen Victoria but if you ask me, a day filled with hiking, burgers and wine is fit for this queen

Fit for a Queen