Museums & Wine

Friday February 17th – Sunday February 19th | Palmerston North ๐Ÿ‰ – Porirua ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿธ๐Ÿธ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿฆ  – Picton โš“๏ธ – Blenheim ๐Ÿท| … Km ๐Ÿš™ + 90km ๐Ÿ›ณ

Palmerston North is home to the New Zealand Rugby Museum.  We spent an hour here learning about the history of the game from the early 1800’s to present day.  Charles Monro of Palmerston North is the man who brought rugby to New Zealand in 1870.  You are welcomed by a statue of him outside the building. 

Charles Monro, founder of rugby in New Zealand

The museum is set up so that each section represents a decade in the history of the sport. There’s lots of interesting information and artifacts in the museum including uniforms, literature and photographs. Did you know a pigs bladder was the first “ball” used?  

A pigs bladder “ball”

“The Originals” refers to the New Zealand team that toured the Northern Hemisphere in 1905-06.  They won 34 out of 35 games and set the standard that every All Black team has tried to emulate since. 

We could’ve spent a lot longer here but decided to continue on to our ark for the night: Camp Elsdon in Porirua near Wellington. The most exciting stop on the way was a bird and wildlife park in Shannon called Owlcatraz. Unfortunately for us the rainy weather prevented any tours from taking place but we did get to see the stuffed and preserved head of Big Red, one of the worlds largest cattle beasts.  At 1.83 metres tall Big Red tipped the scales at 2060kg which is apparently the equivalent of 18,162 quarter-pounder burgers. 

Big Red

Camp Elsdon is probably as close to an ark as we will get on this trip. It is a Christian youth camp that rents rooms and campsites to community groups and tourists. We booked here for two reasons.  1. we are cheap. 2. nowhere else in Wellington had any rooms available and we didn’t want to tent in the rain.  We arrived around supper time and the place soon filled up with people who had missed the ferry to Picton (we think possibly due to an accident on the motorway).  The group was a mixture of adults, children and babies and was very loud. Due to being a Christian facility, no alcohol was permitted on site so, obviously, we ventured off to find a bar. 

Google maps suggested The Roundabout Bar which created a prime opportunity for Val to pull out another dad joke. I asked where where exactly it was and she replied “around about”.  Jesus Christ. In all reality we did have to navigate six or seven roundabouts before reaching the bar which, you guessed it, was located right beside another one. Since we’d already eaten supper we ordered wine and dessert: because we’re on holiday and can do whatever we want to. I chose the rhubarb and apple crumble and a glass of Roaring Meg wine. The waitress brought an extra-full glass for me because she just finished the bottle right into it. Excellent. 

Rhubarb apple crumble
There’s a really cool museum in Wellington called Te Papa.  It’s free to visit and there are many different exhibits spread out over six floors including Mฤori history and culture, the flora and fauna of New Zealand and, my favourite, Blood, Earth and Fire: The Transformation of Aotearoa New Zealand.  

I also found out that kiwifruit came from China and were originally called Chinese gooseberries. In 1959 they were renamed. One suggestion was “melonettes” but kiwifruit won.  Those grown in New Zealand were branded as Zespri in 1996 to distinguish them from the same fruit produced elsewhere. 


We killed time in Wellington until the ferry took us back to Picton that evening. Our hostel for Saturday night, Sequoia Lodge and Backpackers, was really neat. It was very clean with a large kitchen and common area and comfortable beds. 

Sunday morning was relaxed as we slowly made our way down to Blenheim and our next accommodation: Spring Creek Holiday Park.  The weather was perfect: beautiful blue skies, fluffy white clouds and a slight breeze to move the hot 25 degree air. After lunch we were picked up and escorted to the first winery in our afternoon tour arranged by Sounds Connection.  For $69 each we got to visit five cellar doors and a chocolate boutique. 

  • Allan Scott
  • Huia
  • Framingham
  • Nautilus
  • Makana Confections Chocolate Factory

In the Marlborough region, 80% of the wine produced is sauvignon blanc and 15% is pinot noir.  There are 170 winery’s but only 35 tasting rooms.  Despite the number of vineyards, winemakers can’t produce enough Sauvignon blanc to meet world demand.  We were able to taste four or five different wines at each stop and it was a great way to spend an afternoon.  

Allan Scott Wines. Stop #1

The winery with the most interesting name was Huia.  It is named after the huia bird which, now extinct, was native to New Zealand. The male birds has short, strong bills perfect for boring into trees for insects and bugs. The female bird has long, slender beaks which were able to extract the food that the male found. Because of this unique reliance on one another the huia birds partnered for life. 

Make and female huia birds

The most beautiful location was Framingham. The garden has many beautiful rose bushes and arbors as well as some cute sayings painted on tiles throughout the walkway. It’s not surprise that this place is a favourite wedding venue. 


The winery with the most expensive wine we tried was Nautilus Estate.  The Four Barriques Pinot Noir is $75 a bottle due to the fact that only four barrels are made each year. It was good but a cheaper $20 bottle will suffice for me. 

Sampling some $75 wine
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Museums & Wine

Black Water Rafting

Sunday February 12th – Monday February 14th | Greymouth ๐Ÿฅž – Picton โ›ด – Ohakune ๐Ÿ’ค |  753 km ๐Ÿš™ + 90 km โ›ด

The last few days have been pretty uneventful.  The most interesting thing we saw on the way to Greymouth was a one-lane car bridge with a railway track on it. Most bridges in New Zealand are one-lane only with a sign indicating whether you have the right of way or not. This train/car bridge was the first of its kind we have seen and tops the roundabout with a train track running through the middle of it which I thought was going to win the prize for weirdest road sighting. 

On Sunday we left Greymouth and drove to Picton.  Just north of Greymouth is Punakaiki Marine Reserve and the Pancake Rocks.  These are really cool limestone rock formations that, as the name suggests, look like a stack of pancakes piled on top of one another.  Scientists know that they formed under the sea 35 million years ago but are unable to explain exactly how they came to be in layers.  

Pancake Rocks

We carried on our drive to Picton and arrived at Waikawa Bay Holiday Park around 5:30pm. Supper was my long, lost favourite meal from Scotland: mince pie with Heinz beans … the can with the little sausages in them! It was a beautiful evening so I changed into shorts (first opportunity in a while), we set up our tent and played cards until bedtime while enjoying a bottle of New Zealand wine.  There was a lot of rocks with cute little sayings on them dotted throughout the campsite but my favourite has to be:

The bad news is time flies. 

The good news is you’re the pilot. 

Wine ๐Ÿท

Monday morning was wet! It started to rain halfway through the night, began pouring in the morning and didn’t seem to want to quit so we browsed through the shops on the high street until the sun came our around 11am and we could take the tent down.  Oh! I almost forgot about the pantless breakfast dude. Some guy came in to the kitchen to retrieve his food from the fridge.  He had a jacket on, since it was raining, but no trousers!  Val thought that he didn’t have any undies on either as you could see his white ass but from my viewpoint I could see them wedged up there … lovely breakfast sight…

The Interislander

We boarded the Interislander ferry around 1:45pm, departed the South Island at 2:15pm and relaxed until we reached Wellington three and a half hours later.  The ferry was quite nice.  There were a couple different cafes, a bar, live music, two movie theatres, a kids play area and two lounges you could pay a small fee to upgrade in to.  The first movie option was Why Him.  I’d already seen it (hilarious, by the way) so went with Assassins Creed instead.  The cinema was basically a big-ish TV on the wall in front of ten rows of six theatre-style chair but it was a good way to kill time (and brain cells… it was a dumb movie).

Windy Wellington sure lived up to its name. It might been worse than Lethbridge.  While trying to decide what to pick up for a quick supper Val made the ultimate dad-joke and suggested we stop at “Wendy’s in Windy Wellington”; pronouncing Wendy like Windy.  The apple really doesn’t fall too farm from the tree.  Instead we made a quick pit stop at New World Supermarket for some eats.

Three hours later we arrived in Ohakune.  We stayed at LKNZ.  This is the nicest hostel I’ve ever been in.  It was modern with what looked like brand new kitchens, a large private bathroom that housed a shower with a door (that’s luxury right now … most hostels have small showers with curtains), and a very comfortable bed.  Okahune is a big ski town so it was very quiet at this time of year but apparently it is hopping in winter. 

Tuesday February 14th | Ohakune ๐Ÿšฟ – Waitomo ๐ŸŒŒ – Rotorua ๐ŸŒ‹ | 369 km

We aren’t haven’t very good luck with weather on this trip.  It rained almost all morning on Tuesday as we made the drive to the Waitomo Caves.  The restaurants there are very expensive (tourism at its finest!) so, since we’re cheap Scots and had a tonne of time to kill, we made our way back to Te Kuiti for lunch.  There was a little cafe called Tiffany’s (yes you could have breakfast there) where we each had a curry and then shared a delicious cookie.  I can’t remember the name of it but I have to find the recipe! I think it was Cornflakes, nuts, cherries and honey mixed together and baked then dipped in chocolate.  


At three o’clock we checked in to Cave World. We donned our wetsuits (it is REALLY difficult to put on an already-wet wetsuit and I felt like I was wearing a soiled diaper… really gross but it’s my blog and I can write whatever I want …), a wetsuit jacket, and boots and hopped in the van to take us to the beginning of our adventure.  The caves are made of limestone that was pushed up out of the sea bed around 30 million years ago during a massive earthquake that raised the ocean floor up approximately 40 meters.  Over time water eroded through the limestone creating nearly 350 caves within a 50km radius of Waitomo.  The tour involved some walking, a (slightly scary) story (one of those ones where you know something is going to happen but even the anticipation of the outcome doesn’t stop you from screaming), floating in our tube, and a sweet water slide at the end.  It was amazing to see the glowworm dotted all over the ceiling of the cave.  They’re such a magnificent shade of turquoise it really is quite a magical experience.   

The Glowworms

After a quick shower and hot chocolate to warm up we headed off to stay with some friends relatives, the Tews.  They own Off Road NZ, an adventure experience company near Rotorua.  They were so welcoming and invited us in to their home with supper, drinks and a warm bed for two nights.  They were also being visited by a couple of Kingdons from Minnedosa – small world!

Black Water Rafting