An autumn escape – Arrowtown to the Catlins

Last year I won a camper van trip in a photo competition organised by Bluebridge. We planned an Autumn escape down south and seeing as we were given a 6 berth campervan we invited Keryn’s parents along as well. We flew to Queenstown and picked up our vehicle then headed to a supermarket to get supplies. Finally we drove to Arrowtown to spend the night at the Arrowtown Holiday Park.

Our first evening and night was all about getting to know our new mobile accommodation and figuring out thing like who would sleep where and where to put all our stuff. One thing decided fairly early was that we wouldn’t be moving Alayna’s car seat from where we had installed it and it was a right pain to get in securely. The car seat was fitted to a seat that was in an area that converted to a bed. Thankfully Alayna still fitted in the bed with the seat in place. The beds were not the most comfortable given the mattresses were mostly seat cushions but it was good enough. We also discovered that we wouldn’t be easily getting Alayna asleep during the day (she normally has a midday siesta) and that meant she slept longer at night. The knock-on effect was we all ended up sleeping in each day, not the worst thing to happen on holiday.

The morning was largely overcast and the visible hillsides were to the east so there was no chance of a dazzling sunrise and then sunlight lighting up the autumnal colours of the trees. Still, the foliage and hills were still worth a photo or two.

Morning light on the hills

Morning light on the hills

Colour in shadow

Colour in shadow

Leaving the camp site we found a place to park nearer the town centre and went for a walk in the Arrowtown Recreational Reserve alongside the Arrow River. There were plenty of trees showing nice colours and the walk was very pleasant but Alayna wasn’t overly pleased to be walking and probably hadn’t had the best nights sleep either (everything being new and different). We didn’t get very far before the weather started turning and we walked back in a light rain. I ended up walking Alayna around town in her pram to give her some quiet time and we had some fun wandering through a few shops while dodging heavier bouts of rain.

Crossing the bridge

Crossing the bridge

Remains of a tree hut

Remains of a tree hut seen on the walk

Eventually it was back to the campervan and we left Arrowtown and started our journey south to the Catlins. Unfortunately we had a little mix-up with some over-reliance on the satnav that came as part of our hire package and we took a rather roundabout and longer than necessary route to our next destination. We had dinner in Gore and drove though the wet night to get to the Catlins Kiwi Holiday Park.

Part of the prize had been vouchers for Kiwi Holiday Parks but I’d accidentally left them at home. A quick conversation with my sister Catherine had the vouchers picked up and sent by courier down to the Catlins but they were going to take a few days to arrive. The staff at the Catlins Kiwi Holiday Park were very understanding and trusting in allowing us to sort out the costs of the stay once the vouchers arrived.

Our home for the next week

Our home for the next week

A big boat, driving and a forest walk

Our December family holiday saw us take an early morning ferry from Wellington heading to the South Island. Earlier in the year I had won a return sailing with Bluebridge and our first journey across Cook Strait was taken on the Strait Feronia. We spent a lot of time in the family room which we had nearly to ourselves and Alayna enjoyed climbing over the ride on toys and the furniture.

Climbing into a window

Climbing into a window

Once we entered the Marlborough Sounds it was outside to soak up some sun and wander the many decks. On the top deck there was a large open area that was perfect for running around and jumping. We also had a look around at the different sights and sounds both on the ship and in the Sounds.

Jump!

Jump!

Run around

Run around

Trucks

Trucks

No Entry

No Entry

Marlborough Sounds skyline

Marlborough Sounds skyline

Arriving at Picton we were going to stop to get some supplies but Alayna quickly fell asleep so we just drive onward to Blenheim and did our shopping there instead, Alayna continuing to snooze. Then we were back on the road and heading inland towards the Nelson Lakes region and our destination for the next few nights St Arnaud.

We stayed at Travers-Sabine Lodge which is a tidy hostel. There were not many other people staying which helped keep the place quiet as well. This also meant we could take up a decent amount of shared fridge space without upsetting anyone. We had a private room containing three bunk beds and Alayna had a great time climbing ladders and mucking around on the top bunks. SO while Alayna played we unpacked the car and got ready for a walk.

Heading out the back of the lodge we had direct access to the Black Valley walkway which ran alongside the Black Valley stream towards its source at Lake Rotoiti. Our first wildlife encounter happened soon after we started walking upstream and watched an adult weka walk across the stream closely followed by three juveniles. All four weka seemed none too concerned by us as we watched them wander by.

Lake Rotoiti views

Lake Rotoiti views

After taking in the view down the lake we chose to walk the Honeydew Walk which took us from the lake shore into Rotoiti Nature Recovery Area. A pleasant time was had slowly walking through verdant beech forest listening to the constant chime of bellbirds and marveling at Alayna’s singing from her perch in the backpack.

Lancewood

Lancewood

Out for a walk

Out for a walk

Inspecting the path

Inspecting the path

Trees and sky

Trees and sky

Alayna was walking a lot of the time and enjoying her cruskits and other snacks. We’ve been encouraging her to listen to the sounds of the forest, touch the trees and plants and look at any wildlife we find. One insect that made its presence felt, especially near the lake, was the sandfly. We soon remembered that insect repellent is a must in this area.

Alayna portrait

Alayna portrait

Looking down the path

Looking down the path

Ridgeline

Ridgeline

The rusty gate

The rusty gate

As the evening came one we were on our way back to the lodge, stopping a few times for photos and to check out interesting things like the wee orchids growing next to the track or the lovely old gate that guarded a path leading into a dark grove of trees. Then it was the normal routine of dinner and the “put Alayna to bed” game (I’m sure Alayna thinks its a game anyway).

The Strait Feronia

Recently the Wellington ferry company Bluebridge announced that they had purchased a new ferry and it was sailing its way from Sweden to arrive on the 1st June. There was an associated photo competition to capture the best photo of the Strait Feronia’s Wellington arrival so I figured we’d get out and see if we could get some good shots. With a bit of pre-planning and the help of an app on my phone that tracked ships (MarineTraffic) we set out on the Monday morning towards Seatoun to capture the Strait Feronia as it entered Wellington harbour.

We parked near the start of the Benoit Trail above Breaker Bay and then walked up through the Oruaiti Reserve to the gun emplacements that were part of Fort Dorset. With panoramic views over the harbour mouth this was a fantastic viewpoint for watching the Strait Feronia arrive. The ferry was a dot in the distance as we arrived but soon enough she was cutting past Baring Head following a pilot boat. It was a still and overcast morning and we were surprised by a bit of rain which had us heading back to the car. There was time for a quick few photos of the Strait Feronia nearing Matiu/Somes Island and then we were driving towards Mt Victoria to see if we could catch the ferry reach its new home.

Watching the arriving Strait Feronia

Watching the arriving Strait Feronia

Entering the harbour past Baring Head

Entering the harbour past Baring Head

Sailing past Matiu/Somes Island

The Mt Victoria lookout only had a few people in attendance and we got there in plenty of time to watch the Strait Feronia be introduced to Wellington. There was a tug boat in attendance spraying a fountain of water and two helicopters circled around as well. The cloud was starting to break up and then the sun came out to shine on the harbour. I got a few more photos and then we enjoyed some sun at the summit while Alayna played around.

A proud display

A proud display, my competition entry

This morning I got a phone call on the way to work from Priscilla at Bluebridge telling me that I’d won the photo competition with my entry above! Keryn and I now have some planning to do as we’re won a Britz campervan for 5 nights plus accommodation and petrol costs and of course return ferry fares as well. Goes to show that a little preparation can pay off :).

Family Christmas

We travelled down to Timaru by car, taking the Blue Bridge ferry across Cook Stait. We had Patricia and Sam with us and Patricia has inside knowledge for the first ferry, running off to find us a cabin upstairs. It was nice to have an area we could relax and have our own space.

IMG 7016Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Peeking in to our cabin

Heading south from Picton we stopped just out of Blenheim to eat lunch at the viewpoint looking over the old single lane Awatere Bridge.

Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking over the rail bridge

We had another stop before Kaikoura to have a look at a seal colony, smelly fur seals relaxing on the rocky shoreline.

IMG 7078Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Discussing who gets to sit on the rock

The day after arriving in Timaru Keryn and I drove back to Christchurch to pick up Catherine and Paul who had taken the train. We also caught up with my old flatmate Karen, the last time we’d talked was way back at our leaving drinks before we headed over to the UK.

Our late Christmas was good. We did the normal family things; Christmas lunch, presents, lawn cricket and mini golf (I was joint winner with Dean).

IMG 7087Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Adam with Richard and Keira being read a story by Bridget

IMG 7128Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Presents

IMG 7139Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Cricket

IMG 7174Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Catherine and Patricia on the Caroline Bay Carnival Ferris Wheel

While in Timaru Keryn and I took an early morning trip further South to the boulders at Moeraki. We were joined by my Uncle Michael and we had a cold half hour walking down the beach and looking at the boulders, warming up at the Bolder Cafe (the much more famous Fleur’s Cafe in the Moeraki township was closed for the holiday season which was a pity).

IMG 7141Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Dried seaweed on a boulder

IMG 7162Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Beach boulders

IMG 7165Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The small harbour of the town of Moeraki

When it came time to head back towards Wellington we had a nights stop over in Marlborough to break up the journey. Staying at the Korohi Vineyard B&B near Renwick we were right in the middle of the wine region, so we visited a few vineyards for some tastings. The afternoon we arrived we visited Drylands, the Moa beer brewery and the Makana chocolate shop. Good wine, fine beer and delicious chocolates made for a good afternoon.

After dinner I went for a walk through the local vines, and later on was joined by Patricia and Keryn to head down to the Wairau River for another walk. It was cloudy and windy, so it was moody rather than pretty photos that came out of the short exploring.

IMG 7219Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Wind in the vines

IMG 7226Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Slowly rusting away

IMG 7231Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Clouds hide the evening light

The next morning we visited three more vineyards before we had to head to Picton for our ferry. First up we went to Spy Valley Wines and were there for the first tasting of the day. It was good to be the only people being servered and the hostess was friendly, informative and not holding back with the wine, letting us (well, not me, I was driving) taste eight different wines.

We got a recomendation from Spy Valley for a couple of nearby smaller vineyards. Next we visited the Seresin Estate, an organic vineyard. There were more people here when we arrived but the welcome was just as friendly and the wine good as well. The final winery had the most interesting Cellar Door; a small shack integrated with a lovely little outdoor garden area. Bladen Wines were one of the first vineyards in the area and we had a nice talk with the one of the owners, Christine Macdonald. All too soon we were having to head away so we could get to Picton in time for our ferry crossing.

We had a different ferry on the return journey and it didn’t have the same cabins available, but we found a table in one of the cafe areas and claimed it as our space. It was a colder and windier crossing but the swell was low and the journey smooth.

IMG 7247Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Grey skies in Cook Strait