| An Autumn Holiday |

We took the boys on a mini holiday over ANZAC weekend.

We spent a day in Queenstown, watching boats, climbing trees, and buying wine.

We did our first whole-family walk up Mt Iron (the littlest one made it all the way to the top; the biggest faceplanted onto a rock and is now sporting an impressive black eye), scootered alongside Lake Wanaka, and climbed things we thought we couldn’t climb.

We recharged our batteries, ignored much of the outside world, enjoyed the autumn sunshine, and returned home feeling rather relaxed.

It was blissful.

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Easter 2016

Autumn in Central Otago is one of my most favourite times of the year. The Clutha River winds its way through the region, accompanied by lines of tall poplar trees that are slowly shedding their cloaks of green for capes of red and orange. It’s a stunning time of year to visit, and we are so very lucky to have a place to stay that is just over three hour’s drive from Dunedin.

We spent Easter in Wanaka, and it was unseasonably warm (hot, even), but predictably beautiful. We went with no plans, and spending a relaxed few days with my boys and my parents was just what my soul required. I didn’t check the internet once, we paid little heed to the clock, and we had a blast.

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My parents very kindly looked after the boys one morning when the hubs and I decided to climb Roy’s Peak, a 16km round trip just out of Wanaka. We started our climb around 7.30am, claimed the peak before 10am, and enjoyed a morning tea of fruit and cold sausages looking out over a bed of thick clouds. Sadly, this meant the views were obscured from three-quarters of the way up, but under the cloud bank, the views were breathtaking. As we descended, we met hundreds of others beginning their climbs, and even though we’d missed the views, we had to admit that having the peak to ourselves for a while was a good trade-off.

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We celebrated Tiny’s 6th birthday on Easter Monday, with playground visits, a fish-and-chip dinner, and a chocolate sponge made by my mum. He thought it was pretty special having a holiday on his birthday, and my parents thought it was pretty special spending the whole day with their grandson on his birthday.

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Tales of {NZ} Travel: the journey so far

Tales of NZ TravelAs I’ve been writing about the various places in New Zealand that we’ve visited, it suddenly occurred to me that some of you may not be able to visualise where this this journey is taking you. As I picture our country and map out a route that makes perfect sense to me, you might be left scratching your head.

Well, dear reader, wonder no more! Here is a very badly edited* map of New Zealand for your viewing pleasure.

NZ MapSo far, we’ve gone bush in The Catlins, eaten delicious seafood in Invercargill & Bluff, admired stunning landscapes in Fiordland, been adventuring in Queenstown, journeyed through Central Otago, relaxed in Wanaka, explored the rugged The West Coast, and enjoyed wine and sunshine in Nelson-Marlborough.

Now that we’re at the top of the South Island, we’re going to jump islands and tiki tour around the North Island, before heading back over the strait to visit the east coast of the south.

*I usually use PicMonkey to edit images, but it seems to be having a wee barney with the laptop at the moment. Sigh. Paint it is then.

Tales of {NZ} Travel: Wanaka

Tales of NZ TravelMy love affair with Wanaka began when I was just a nipper. Long ago, my grandfather bought two plots of land for his daughters, in a small settlement called Albert Town, located 10km outside of Wanaka. My aunt and her family built a permanent home on one plot of land and we spent many school holidays and Christmases staying with them until my parents built a small holiday home on the other plot when I was eight years old.

I feel, therefore, that I know Wanaka quite well, even though it has changed drastically since I was a child. It still has a slow-paced holiday resort feel to it, which neighbouring Queenstown has lost a little, and I think retained a bit of its charm. I never grow tired of holidaying there, and love it now that we can take our boys to the little house I spent so much time in as a child. We stayed there for a few days on our recent holiday, and it was lovely.

Lunching in WanakaLake Wanaka
The town is settled by this picturesque lake, with many bays and sheltered inlets that are popular swimming spots; when the wind blows up the lakefront and into the township, it is inevitably more sheltered in the bays. It’s a great spot for swimming in the summer, and you can go boating, jet skiing, parasailing and pedal-boating as well.

Lake Wanaka

Summer of 2012: Tiny was a wee blondie, and Pickle was about 12 weeks grown in my tummy

Lake WanakaWalking Adventures
There are many fantastic walking tracks in and around Wanaka; a trip to the Information Centre on the lakefront, or the Department of Conservation office at the entrance to the town, is essential if you are planning on doing a bit of walking. Walking the Outlet Track is spectacular, and takes you alongside the Clutha River; the steady climb up Mt Iron is a bit more taxing, but the views from the top are stunning and well worth the feeling of breathlessness.

Mt Iron

The view from Mt Iron

Albert Town

Autumn colours along the Outlet Track

Puzzling World
This is always a bit of a favourite, with young and old. The maze is tricky, and the various illusion rooms inside are always fun. It’s probably more appealing for slightly older kids who will appreciate the illusions; Tiny is still a little bit young to really get it.

Warbirds & Wheels
Whereas Tiny is a bit too young for Puzzling World, the Warbirds & Wheels museum is right up his vehicle-loving alley. Based near the airport, on the way into Wanaka from the Cromwell turn-off, there are loads of old cars, as well as a collection of old planes, all lovingly restored. The 1950s-American-style diner serves a very good coffee and the cheese and bacon scones are pretty good too.

IMG_3726 IMG_3714Winter Fun
You can’t really visit Wanaka in the winter without visiting Cardrona, Treble Cone or Snow Farm (for cross country skiing). I’ve been to all three, and they all have their good points – dependent on the snow, of course! And aprés ski, if you’re coming home through the Cardrona Valley, make sure you stop at Cardrona Hotel, for a warming glass of something in a quaint setting.

Rippon Festival
Every two years, at the beginning of February, there is a music festival at Rippon Vineyard. Showcasing the very best of New Zealand music, this is an awesome day-and-night out. Just remember to take loads of sunscreen, wet wipes and your own food, as buying there is pricey. The port-a-loos are a bit gross, but that’s part of the music festival experience, right??!

Rippon Festival '06

Shihad playing at Rippon06

Tales of {NZ} Travel: the journey through Central Otago

Tales of NZ TravelThe journey from Dunedin to Wanaka or Queenstown takes you through a variety of little towns and landscapes. By car, it takes between three and three-and-a-half hours, unless you decide to stop along the way. It’s a journey I have been on countless number of times, but one I never tire of.

From Dunedin, the first little town is Waihola, a sleepy lake town that has a holiday-feel all year round. It’s a popular place for boaties, and during the summer months, the lake teems with people, jet skis and boats. There’s a small fish shop where you can buy fresh salmon and blue cod, or freshly-battered-and-cooked fish and chips (best eaten on the shore of the lake, as long as it isn’t windy!).

Teeny tiny Tiny - aged 19 months

Teeny tiny Tiny – aged 19 months

Past Waihola, the next place you could stop is Milton. Most people don’t stop here, but if you feel like Subway, by all means do. Of note is the big kink in the road, which is apparently from roadworkers’ planning to meet in the middle, from either end, and each working to their own right side. Otherwise, poor Milton gets a bit of a bad wrap from Dunedinites, mocked for its slogan, “Town of Opportunities”. Because it’s not, sadly.

Lawrence is a pretty little town along the way; stop for giant ice creams at the first dairy you come to, or for delicious teas and cakes at The Wild Walnut Café. Legend has it that a pair of circus lions were once on the loose in Lawrence, plus it lays claim to being New Zealand’s first free Wi-Fi spot – phoar!

After Lawrence, you’ll drive for about an hour before hitting Roxburgh, the next most-likely place to stop (aside from Ettrick in the autumn, for deliciously sweet pumpkins). Unless you’re travelling through on a Sunday, you should really stop for a world-famous Jimmy’s pie, although there are a few other takeaway joints further down the main street. Roxburgh is also a good place to stop and let the kids stretch their legs in the playground (conveniently located opposite Jimmy’s).

Not far past Roxburgh is Alexandra; you’ll know when you’re approaching as the hillsides suddenly become full of schisty rock formations and wild thyme. Known affectionately as ‘Alex’ (and why not?), there are loads of nice cafes and bakeries along the main drag, as well as a few in the town centre. Look out for Jack Frost lurking in the corner of the playground. During September, there’s the annual Blossom Festival, and the summer months see local tourists flocking to holiday homes and camping grounds in this dry, hot paradise.

Merely ten minutes from Alex lies Clyde, a sleepy township that is slowly growing and gaining in popularity. The old township was flooded when the Clyde Dam was built, and lies deep below Lake Dunstan. The Post Office Café has a great reputation and is a good spot for taking children, and there are a number of gorgeous old buildings to be seen.

Lake Dunstan

Teenier tinier Tiny – aged 4 months

The drive from Clyde to Cromwell is breathtaking, and never fails to take my breath away. As you wind along beside the vividly-coloured lake, the mountains open up before you, and the hills to your right become parched and dry. The lake is a popular spot for water skiing and boating, and there are sheltered bays for swimming in. We often stop at a bakery or the supermarket in Alex, and have a picnic lunch in one of the viewpoints above the lake.

Cromwell is landmarked by the giant fruit (and one year, when there was an infestation, with a giant wasp), and is known for it’s beautiful stone fruit during summer. However, if you do stop for fruit, don’t go for the biggest, busiest stalls – the best fruit is to be found in the little stalls (some still with honesty boxes), or on the back roads (the best cherries are on the back road to Bannockburn!). Cromwell is home to a new speedway, and is a good halfway point between Wanaka and Queenstown.

At the main T-junction, turn left to head towards Queenstown and Bannockburn, or right for Wanaka and Hawea.

Bannockburn is home to some of the country’s best (in my opinion, anyway!) wineries, along with stunning vistas. You’re spoiled for choice here, but we always stop at Carrick (they also have a divine restaurant with an awesome kids’ menu), Mt Difficulty, Amisfield, and Desert Heart.

Mt Difficulty WineryA new cafe has recently opened in Bannockburn – The Kitchen Bannockburn – and while Tall found the menu a bit confusing, I liked that they were open to making virtually anything for kids (except for deep-fried anything).

From Bannockburn, it’s roughly an hour to Queenstown, depending on how many stops you make along the way – for wine, cheese, bungy jumping, sightseeing, jet boating… My personal recommendations for wineries are Peregrine and Chard Farm; Gibbston Valley is by far the busiest at any given moment, popular with tour groups and big buses, but apart from the wine cave, I don’t think it’s worth the stop (although they do make a mighty fine – but very expensive – Masadam cheese which you can buy from the Cheesery).

BannockburnIf you choose to go right at that T-junction, you’ll be in Wanaka in roughly 45 minutes. There are wineries to stop at on the way (Aurum does a lovely dessert wine; The Lazy Dog has a nice cafe), as well as various other sights; you’ll also pass through Luggate which is a quiet (very quiet!) little spot with a camping ground that gets packed over the summer months.

Tales of {NZ} Travel: a family holiday

We’ve just been on a little family holiday.
A week away from work, internet, kindy, the humdrum of everyday life.
A week of four-in-the-bed lie-ins, frosty mornings, lazy afternoons, relaxed bedtimes.
A week of reading, playing, wine drinking, too much eating.
It was just what we needed, after a hectic winter, and I feel like my soul has been refreshed a little.

Frost in Wanaka Warbirds & Wheels Museum Warbirds & Wheels Museum Warbirds & Wheels Museum Lake Hawea Playtime Upper Clutha River Gibbston Valley Masadam Cheese Sandpit Fun Queenstown Lake Hayes Springtime at Lake HayesBeanbag Perch Giant Hand in Wanaka Pairs on Wheels Card Game Autumn in Wanaka