June 27th, 2016

Tasman Village near Mapua

If you walk through the Tasman Village near Mapua, you can’t help but notice the friendliness of the kids. They smile and say “hello”. Here’s a photo of a really big friendly kid.

Tasman Village Bike Trail

The Tasman Village is a small part of the large area at the top of the South Island that makes up the Tasman Region. It’s semi-rural location with apple orchards, boutique wineries, art studios, bike trails and curious sheep.

Tasman Village sheep2

This gorgeous pastoral scene is within walking distance from where I stayed recently. The refurbished and very cute Tasman Village Cottage is a true couples retreat. The window seat was my favourite place for a book-read.

Tasman Cottage window seat

Come Springtime, when the wisteria appears, it’s pure enchantment.

Tasman Village Cottage pam and wine

There’s a gentle hum about the Tasman Village that lasts all year round. Nearby, is the Mapua wharf, where the shops and cafes add a great vibe.

Mapua wharf small

Recent refurbishment of the wharf area has given a greater choice of cafes, and specialty shops. When evening comes, visitors can pop down for a wine and pizza at the Rimu Wine Bar and listen to the ‘blues’.

Mapua wharf refurb2

The Tasman Village and Mapua is a mere 45 mins from the Abel Tasman National Park. And its been fabulous having a lovely cottage to back to after a day’s explore. Saying goodbye to this special place is always hard for me – bring on summer!

Tasman Village cottage front

 

View other travel blogs on the Abel Tasman region:

 

Happy travelling!

 

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June 15th, 2016

Milford Track Day Walk from Te Anau

New Zealand’s Milford Track is one of the most famous walks on the planet! This Fiordland National Park walk can be done as a 3-4 night guided walk or self-guided option. You can also do a Milford Track day walk from Lake Te Anau or directly from Milford Sound.

Milford Track Michael

Travellers are often time-short. If you choose to spend only two nights in the Fiordland region, you’ll miss out on some beautiful sites.

Milford Track Michael2

Milford Track Walk and Nature Cruise combo

Thankfully, guiding operator, Trips and Tramps, now offer a combo – 4 hour guided day walk. The tour departs from Milford Sound in the morning and includes a Milford Sound Nature Cruise in the afternoon.

Trips & Tramps small

Trips and Tramps Milford Guided Day Walk

For day tours, most travellers stay in Te Anau and head to Milford Sound. You can either be collected from Te Anau or self-drive to Milford Sound and join the tour from there. The 2-hour drive one-way is incredibly scenic with walks, waterfalls and lookouts along the way.

Milford Track waterfall

At 8.45 am a water taxi drops off walkers from Milford Sound harbour to Sandfly Point, the usual end point for those doing the entire 4 days hike. So between 9am – 12noon there will be no other walkers on that stretch of the walk and you can enjoy your guided tour in blissful peace!

Nature Cruise with Real Journeys in Milford Sound

The water taxi returns the walkers back to the Milford Sound Wharf  at 1.15pm. This is perfect timing to connect with the Real Journeys Nature Cruise at 1.35.pm. The 2.5 hour Milford Sound cruise goes right into the fjord and to the Tasman Sea (subject to weather and sea conditions). It’s a major highlight in any New Zealand itinerary.

Milford Track Blog2

If you’re really time-short, consider a scenic flight from Queenstown with either Air Milford or one of the local helicopter companies. Note: all flights are subject to weather conditions on the day of travel. If the weather prevents the flight, full refunds are generally provided.

Photo by Air Milford

Photo by Air Milford

Summary of Milford Sound options:

  1. Te Anau – self-drive or coach + Milford Guided Walk + Milford Sound Nature Cruise + self-drive or coach
  2. Te Anau – fly with Water Wings + Milford Guided Walk + Milford Sound Nature Cruise + coach
  3. Queenstown – flight with plane or heli (return) + Milford Guided Walk + Milford Sound Nature Cruise + flight back

Travel tip: when travelling during the peak summer months between November and March, it is essential to pre-book all accommodation and tours in the Fiordland region as options are limited.

Happy travelling!

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May 19th, 2016

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

When choosing the overnight option for a Kepler Track Te Anau walk, the anti-clockwise route is recommended. For day-walkers, walking either way is fine. We began a 2-hour morning walk from the Lake Te Anau Lake Control Gates to Rainbow Reach, heading south (direction Manapouri).

Kepler Track Pam small

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

The part of the track which runs along the Waiau River, is extremely beautiful. Fewer people walk this way so you’ll get most of the track to yourself. The area is rich with moss that springs back when touched.

Kepler Track Moss

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

The lush native bush is not the only plant life to thrive here. These mushrooms add beautiful pops of colour. Pretty to look at, but not to eat.

Kepler Track mushroom small

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

After half an hour, the track winds it’s way pass the powerful Wairau River. The sun throws fairy lights across its fast-flowing waters, the effects of which are very soothing.

Kepler Track Waiau River

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

According to Ray Willett, a legendary local we met on the way, the birdlife has trebled in the past 2 years. There is now an abundance of fantails, bellbirds, the shy little rifleman and South Island Robins. Recent photos of the rare Blue Duck (whio) sighted near the Iris Burn Hut, is great news for bird lovers!

Kepler track ferns

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

The Wairau River was a feature in the Lord of the Rings movie as the opening aerial shot of The Fellowship of the Ring, showing the forested banks of the Anduin River. How cool to walk in the footsteps of the ‘Hobbits’ from Rainbow Ridge bridge towards Lake Manapouri!

These walks are just a tiny option on what the area offers for hiking options. Heli-Hiking walks up to Mt. Luxmore have become popular, as has floatplane flights to remoter parts of the Lake Te Anau and the Fiordland region.

Southern Lakes Helicopters Mt Luxmore

Kepler Track Te Anau Heli-hike

Those trips open up the region which is so rich in history and pristine natural beauty. And unlike the Milford or Doubtful Sounds, you’ll get a sense of having an entire valley to yourself. How’s that for an enticing option?

Happy travelling

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May 10th, 2016

Central Otago Lodge accommodation

Recently, we treated ourselves to a Central Otago Lodge accommodation at Olivers Lodge and Stables in Clyde. Only an hour’s drive from Queenstown, and away from the masses, we enjoyed a special level of comfort after riding the Central Otago Rail Trail.

Central Otago biking

Central Otago Rail Trail

Olivers Central Otago Lodge accommodation

The new owners of Olivers have totally refurbished the lodge and have added a high-end restaurant, cafe, bar and brewery plus a bakery where fresh bread is baked daily.

Olivers Exterior Clyde2

Central Otago Lodge accommodation

We chose the Stable room located in the courtyard. Spending good money on a converted stable may sound strange, but if it’s furnished in a luxurious rustic style with underfloor bathroom heating, who’s complaining? Believe me, after riding the Rail Trail all day, that super-king bed looked pretty darn good.

Olivers Clyde Stable suite

Central Otago Lodge accommodation

The stable rooms are located in the courtyard of Olivers and seemed quieter and more intimate.  Our room was huge!

Olivers stable Suite3

Central Otago Lodge accommodation

For a softer, plusher style, the lodge rooms are an excellent alternative to the stables and have a different type of wow factor.

Olivers Lodge room4

Central Otago Lodge accommodation

Olivers dining, Central Otago Lodge accommodation

We shared this beautiful big breakfast table with happy travellers all keen to get out onto the cycle trails. The camaraderie was great. This type of communal dining works only works if you’re prepared to converse with other seasoned travellers. And believe me, it has it’s rewards. Many years ago, we formed a lifetime friendship with a great couple we met here.

Olivers Clyde Breakfast

It’s not hard to produce home-made cereals and at a certain price level, you should expect it. Michael wolfed down homemade muesli and my gluten-free muesli was delicious. Don’t you just love it when people take a bit of trouble with presentation (yes, that fruit is all real).

Olivers Clyde Breakfast food

Throughout our Southland journey, we were often served by French or German wait staff and their service was excellent. The Olivers restaurant was no exception.

Olivers Restaurant Clyde

Although the chefs seemed rather tense, this did not detract from their culinary skill. The lamb was excellent.

Olivers Lamb dish

I think Olivers could best be summed up as a lifestyle experience in which the beautiful little historic town of Clyde should be proud. It’s a unique oasis unlike any other in New Zealand.

Happy Travelling

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May 2nd, 2016

Central Otago Rail Trail

Most people staying in the historical town of Clyde have one thing on their minds – cycling the 4-day Central Otago Rail Trail. And most of us start Clyde and finish in Middlemarch.

Otago Rail Trail Map

For a satisfying ‘taster’ we did the one-day cycle ride from Auripo to Chatto Creek (30kms). We had the Autumn sun on our backs for the whole way. I have to say, Autumn is the ideal time to visit a lot of New Zealand regions. Central Otago is one of them – the colours are awesome.

Central Otago cycling begins

Big thumbs up to the boys at Bike it Now in Clyde. Duncan and his team operate a fantastic bike hire service and leave nothing to chance. Pete, one of the team, drove us 50kms to Auripo. We stopped on the way to take photos. Built in 1886, this building is the oldest operating Post Office in New Zealand. And I call tell you, this region is full of heritage buildings like this.

Central Otage Post Office

Pete dropped us off at Auripo and arranged to collect us at Chatto Creek. With Michael leading the way, we set off at a blistering pace. The scenery of the Central Otago Rail Trail demanded constant attention and it was impossile to resist taking photos. You’ll really have to discipline yourself not to stop every 5 minutes.

Cycle Trail Michael

March, April and May are perfect months for cycling the Central Otago Rail Trail. (Clyde can be very hot in the summer!) The bridges on the trail may be old, but they’re incredibly sturdy. Bit bumpy going over, but that’s half the fun.

Central Otago bridge

There are a few tunnels to go through.  Once you’re third of the way in to these tunnels, you’ll be pretty much plunged into total darkness. Cyclists on the Central Otago Rail Trail are advised to walk their bikes through the tunnels and to carry a torch. Luckily our bikes were equipped with torches. Problem solved.

Central Otago tunnel

At this stage of the journey, I was having an absolute blast. Even though I hadn’t biked for months, the seat was so comfy I didn’t notice. The pure oxygen gives you energy to spare. Meanwhile, try to look up once in a while.  Your fellow companions can very quickly disappear over the horizon.  They’re easy to find again – yet another stop to drink in the view.

Central railtrail silence

These are times and places where travellers can seek out a quiet moment.  The absence of people can be such a luxury. Makes you forget the advancing years.

Central Otago Rail Trail

The trails are wide and pretty easy but in a couple of parts the gradient does become steeper and slightly more challenging. Having forgotten the golden rule about hydrating, I became very thirsty.  Keep hydrated folks. Take plenty of water with you. However there are a few cafe stops in sight if you get desperate. These are a great way to touch base with other like-minded cyclists.

Stationside cafe

Beautiful scones, muffins and slices are sold at the Stationside Cafe. You really have to rest stop here for a while. As I said, there is a great camaraderie with other cyclists, strongly represented by the fit 50+ generation. Here’s one of them.

Stationside Cafe2

Now fully revived after the cafe stop, I scoffed at the very idea of being originally offered an E-bike. These are very handy for the less fit and so easy to operate.

Central Otago Rail Trail

It’s not just scenery you see on the way. Farmers and their working dogs are out tending to their stock. This is such a great way to see the real New Zealand ‘heartland’.

Central Otago cycle trail

Can you believe this? –  a random apple tree growing on the trail. Back in the day, people would throw their apple cores out of the train as it was going through. Guess what, one took seed. Another refreshment stop. How good is my life getting!

Otago Cycle Trail apples

One newly made apple core later, I was back on the bike and peddling furiously onward to Chatto Creek. This is a great place to have a sit-down lunch or simply relax with a well earned drink.

Chatto Creek Cafe

Duncan is right on time to collect us. It’s over too soon but on the upside we’ll be back for the full trail experience next year! In the short term, it’s back to Clyde for our 2-night stay at the unique Olivers Lodge, a destination in itself. More on that later.

Central Otago railtrail sign

Happy travelling

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