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

South Island: Hokitika to Arthur’s Pass

Our last few hours on the West Coast started by heading north from Hokitika towards Kumara Junction where we turned eastward. At Kumara we stopped to have a look at a photo gallery. The work was very good and I bought a print, I’ll have to have a look at it later to get the photographers name as I can’t find it on the Internet right now (found, it was Carey Dillon and the print purchased is called “Totara, Te Kinga, Lake Brunner“).

From Kumara we took a diversion from SH73 towards Lake Brunner where we had a couple of walks planned. We had been warned at the gallery that the first walk we were doing, the Bain Bay walk, might be truncated and this turned out to be the case. Recent bad weather in the previous weeks had washed away some of the track or boardwalk. It was hard to tell where the track was meant to go, it just ended at a lagoon. Before reaching the premature end we had walked over boardwalk and lakeside track amongst tall Kahikatea and large flax in the bright sunlight. It was another beautiful day and we could see clear across to the lake to distant townships. The print I had bought showed silhouetted trees against morning mist, we’d have to come back on a colder day much earlier to get a similar sight.

MG 8109Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Walking the boardwalk at Bain Bay.

MG 8118Photo by Brendon & Keryn


MG 8129Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The lagoon at the end of the walk.

Our next little adventure was just down the road, the start of the Carew Falls Walk. We had a weka welcome us as we got ready and were soon hiking the gently rising track. It was only a quarter hour or so to the Carew Falls and while I took photos others relaxed and had more of the West Coast slice. The waterfall was fairly impressive and did its best to defy the unphotogenic nature it had been given at our gallery visit earlier.

MG 8150Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Carew Falls.

Getting quite hot in the sun while sitting on rocks we didn’t hang around for too long and heading back on the track, arriving at the car fairly quickly. It was now nearing lunchtime so we get off on the road looking for a nice spot to have lunch. This we found at a little bay on the lake side and we sat on the stone beach eating lunch, keeping an eye out for a couple of curious weka and enjoying the continued good weather. Being a stone beach with flat water I tried my hand at skimming a few likely looking stones. I started well and then quickly faded away, I should have quit while I was ahead.

Not far down the road we stopped again near the point a stream left the southern end of the lake and I took a few more photos. Again some nice morning light with mist would have been wonderful, the afternoon shots not so great.

MG 8173Photo by Brendon & Keryn

More Kahikatea on Lake Brunner.

MG 8184Photo by Brendon & Keryn

You’ll never guess what type of tree this is.

MG 8186Photo by Brendon & Keryn

High water.

The road left the lake and we were soon back on SH73 following a wide braided river through valleys with snow covered peaks surrounding us. We had a few more stops, checking out a bridge leading to Deception Valley and the river flowing below.

MG 8196Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Deception Valley Bridge.

MG 8202Photo by Brendon & Keryn

River and mountains.

As the road climbed towards the Arthur’s Pass township there was the possibility of seeing some unique New Zealand wildlife and sure enough just around the bend from Reid Falls we interrupted four kea feeding on scraps on the road. Someone had either thrown out or accidentally dropped a polystyrene container of fast food and the kea were munching away, grudgingly flying off whenever a car came by. Not much further along the road we passed over a bridge through the valley and then stopped at a lookout above the bridge where there was another kea happily checking out all the vehicles as they came by. The kea seemed happiest with a campervan piloted by a single man why had a blow-up companion in the passenger seat, and another visible through the campervans side door. Taking his friends for a holiday?

MG 8207Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Reid Falls.

MG 8217Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Not what you really want to see a kea feeding on.

MG 8238Photo by Brendon & Keryn

About to launch.

MG 8264Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The road through the valley.

From here it wasn’t long to Arthur’s Pass and our accommodation at Arthur’s Hotel & Chalets which were actually rooms attached to a pub. It was obviously a quiet time of year as there didn’t seem to be many people staying and the complimentary jug of milk we received joined another jug of very past due date milk already in the small fridge – this was quickly returned to the staff. I don’t think we would have lasted more than a couple of days in our self catering family room, the beds were uncomfortable and it all looked a little dated. The cooking facilities were minimal, matched by the minimal cutlery. One of the drawers next to the fridge was falling off. Many people on trip advisor don’t have much good to say either (though others had a good stay). We cooked our own dinner and had desert in the restaurant area of the bar and while the service wasn’t great the food desert was good (though some of the menu options weren’t available because the regular chef wasn’t there that night which was a little strange).

Anyway, we weren’t staying to spend time in the accommodation. Before dinner we took a walk from the Chalets to the nearby Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall, accessed from a carpark a few hundred meters from the pub. There were kea in the carpark happy to pose for a few photos before we crossed the river and started uphill to the falls.

MG 8312Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Carpark kea.

MG 8397Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The top of the falls from across the river.

The track was quite steep with plenty of stairs, thankfully it wasn’t that long. At the end there was a wooden viewing platform with good views of the main fall of water and also the stream dropping away down the valley.

MG 8441Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Closer to the falling water.

MG 8485Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Zooming in.

MG 8495Photo by Brendon & Keryn

close up to the top.

It was almost busy at the viewing platform with more people coming an d going than we’d seen on a track in a while. Once I’d taken plenty of photos we started back and I hung at the back to keep an eye out for bird-life and any other photo opportunities. There were excellent views to snow covered peaks and there were some interesting atmospheric effects occurring with lines of clouds in the sky. I had heard the high pitched peeping of birds on several occasions and finally looked in the right place at the right time and spotted a rifleman looking for food on a tree, staying still long enough for me to fire off a few photos.

MG 8517Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking to the snow covered peak.

MG 8532Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Lines in the sky.

MG 8548Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A rifleman stops long enough to be seen and photographed.

Back river side looking back at the falls the afternoon sun was creating rainbow colours in the falling spray so more photographs were taken, the last of the day.

MG 8565Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A hint of rainbow.

South Island: The Hokitika Gorge and Lake Kaniere

The forecast today wasn’t that great as as we drove towards the Hokitika Gorge in the morning the mist and low cloud turned to drizzle and mist. There were a few cars at the gorge walk car park and more than a few large sandflies as well, maybe the bites distracted me as I set off up the service road rather than along the path to the gorge. It didn’t make a lot of difference in the end, we just didn’t get the gorge views until the return.

We walked to the end of the track, passing over the swing bridge over the gorge and taking a good look at the milky aqua coloured water. At the end of the track a few photos were taken as the rain fell, I tried not to take too long.

Crossing the bridge, Hokitika GorgePhoto by Brendon & Keryn

A family returns across the swing bridge.

MG 8025Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Glacial water, rock and forest.

MG 8029Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Water drops on moss.

We walked back up the correct path and stopped to watch a few more people crossing the bridge below. One couple had a bright pink umbrella which looked like it’s be a nice focal point so I sat for ages waiting for them to get onto the center of the bridge.

MG 8059Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Pink umbrella.

Rather than return the same way we took a different route which went around the eastern shore of Lake Kaniere. We stopped to take a couple of very short walks, first to see the Dorothy Falls and then following the steam to the shore of the lake.

MG 8063Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Dorothy Falls.

MG 8075Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Lake Kaniere shoreline.

MG 8083Photo by Brendon & Keryn

There we are.

That was about it for the touring for the day. Given we were in Hokitika we spent some of the afternoon wandering around the various shops, specifically the Pounamu (New Zealand Greenstone or nephrite jade) stores. We didn’t buy much, just a few off cut lumps rather than any nice sculpted pieces. There was a photo gallery called the Wilderness Gallery that I wanted to visit in Hokitika but unfortunately it was being refurbished.

After shopping and relaxing we had dinner at Stumpers, a strong recommendation from many people who had written in the cottage guest book. The food was very good and the portions were large, I can see why many people went back multiple times during their stay in Hokitika.

After dinner I got Phil to do me a favour and drive the car around the Hokitika clock tower a few times to help with a photo. No one seemed to bat an eyelid at the photographer and the car going around and around. Mind you there was another car that seemed to be spending a lot more time going back and forth around the tower which seemed a little strange as they didn’t have the photography excuse. Maybe they were just lost.

MG 8098Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The Hokitika clock tower and war memorial

This was our last night on the West Coast, the next destination Arthur’s Pass.

When it’s good…

Such a beautiful sunset last night, who would want to be anywhere else? The Plimmerton beach on a calm, warm spring night is the place to be.

MG 5204Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Sunset over Mana Island.

MG 5216Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Russet tones over the top of the South Island (it looks like an island, it might just be the perspective).

MG 5243Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A seagull taking a turn before flying north.

MG 5262Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Heading out to Mana Island.

Makara Walkway

I’m on my eight day break from work and I’ve been figuring out what I should do with my time for a while now. The weather forecast for the coming week is poor but there was a chance of clear skies today and Tuesday morning so I figured I had better get out for some photos. I’ve been meaning to check out some of the wind farms in the region and one of the biggest, the West Wind farm owned by Meridian, looked like a good bet.

The wind farm is situated west of Wellington on the hills south of Makara Beach and I figured that if there was a sunset Monday evening then there was a chance the farm would catch some nice light. The walk itself didn’t look to tough and seemed to get fairly close to the farm so the Makara Walkway was my destination.

The satnav took me from Lower Hutt out through Johnsonville and then along a winding road through hilly farmland. There were a few one way bridges and single lane sections adding to the interesting drive thoiugh I had to remember to watch the road rather than the scenery.

The road ended at the beach, a wide area flattened off on the stoney foreshore. I got my stuff together and headed south down the beach to where a sign advertised the start of the walkway.

IMG 0951Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The beginning of the Makara Walkway

The walkway heads around Ohariu Bay and then heads uphill towards some old gun emplacements which are remnants of a WWII fort. The path up was easily seen and was obviously also used regularly by sheep. The recent rain left it a bit slippery and it was steep so I had frequent stops on my way to the top. The track followed a fence though the sheep seemed to be on both sides of the divide.

IMG 0971Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking back to Ohariu Bay

There was one wind turbine close to the track but no sign of any of the others until I reached the gun emplacements. There will be 62 turbines once the farm is finished at the end of the year. The sun was getting much lower and while I was looking at the concrete buildings that once housed the guns the light began to get golden. I had a pleasurable twenty minutes or so trying to get shots of golden hills, wind turbines and Opau Bay.

IMG 0983Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking out to the setting sun and the South Island

IMG 0994Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Your photographer

IMG 1007Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Wind Turbines over Opau Bay

I continued on the path, stopping to take some shots before the sun disappeared. The track turned down a valley following an old road, the tarmac beginning to break up and now pretty rough. By the time I got to the end of the road the sun had set but there was still some light in the sky.

IMG 1021Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The setting sun and the South Island

This part of the Opau Bay beach was jammed up with driftwood which looked quite nice so I took a few photos before heading down over the piled wood and stones to the black sand nearer the water. I was able to get a couple more photos before deciding that the fading light meant I should be heading back.

IMG 1032Photo by Brendon & Keryn


IMG 1038Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The nice after-sun glow

The walk back took longer than I had imagined, the disappearing light making me slow down to ensure I wasn’t twisting an ankle or worse. I passed another figure down the beach also taking photos and was later caught up by this man whose name was Lance. He told me I had chosen my day well, there hadn’t been a decent sunset here in about a month. It took about an hour to walk from the driftwood at Opau Bay back to the car. I’ll have to come back here again, next time Keryn can come along for the walk as well and there is a cafe at Makara Beach that looks worth checking out as well.

There are more photos on our Flickr photo stream which can be seen here: The photos can also be seen a lot larger on Flickr.