New Zealand, week three: blue skies & sunshine

When scrolling through the photos from this part of our trip, all I saw was blue. Blue skies and sunshine. We finally left behind the clouds and rain and concluded our time in New Zealand on the most wonderful adventure.

When planning this portion of our trip, Ruby, a very frugal and practical woman, insisted we sign up for an off ship excursion they offered through the cruise line. It was very very expensive and Blue Eyes and I just could not see our way to paying even more money than we had already doled out, but Ruby was insistent. And then Paula chimed in (another very practical person) and said, yep, she would want to do that excursion as well. So I bit the bullet and signed up for an overnight excursion off the ship that would take us from the Port of Dunedin to the Milford Sound, with an overnight in Queenstown. It was glorious.

We packed our overnight bags the night before and woke up to this technicolor sunrise as we docked in Dunedin, pronounced Dun (like done)-ee-din (rhymes with tin). We had a quick bite before heading out by bus. Lucky we ate a petite breakfast, because this would be the most amazing food day we would experience the entire trip.

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Since we wouldn’t be spending any time in Dunedin really, the bus tour included a quick drive around the city with a short stop at the beautiful Dunedin Train Station.

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Blue Eyes and his panorama again. It actually is one long straight building.

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Another excursion option included taking a ride on this old train to the Taieri Gorge.

Our morning bus ride was a pretty long one. We drove past vineyards and fruit orchards and sheep and cattle farms as well as deer farms on our way from Dunedin to Queenstown. Some of the little towns were really cute, as were the farms. The orchards were beautiful, the trees brimming with fruit since it was Fall at this point in New Zealand. I would have loved to stop and take pictures of everything. As it was, we were on a tight schedule and the only stops were for bathroom breaks. At one point they did encourage us to stop in to the dairy (convenience store) next to the public toilets and purchase a Hokey Pokey Ice Cream. Hokey Pokey is kind of the national New Zealand ice cream flavor consisting of vanilla ice cream with little round pieces of honeycomb toffee. Hokey Pokey is the NZ term for honeycomb toffee.

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We had tried Hokey Pokey Ice Cream at Ruby’s house and it is super sweet, tasty but sweet. If I am going to splurge on a sweet treat, I usually go for plain old chocolate.

Late morning we arrived at our lunch destination: Wild Earth Winery, Central Otago area, Cromwell, New Zealand. And what a glorious place it was. Of course we don’t drink wine, but our travel companions were thrilled with the samples and the complimentary glass that came with lunch.

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Our lunch view of Kawarau River Gorge

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Wild Earth Winery (wildearthwines.co.nz)

wine barrel bbq

They cook the meats in wine barrel smokers.

appetizers

The food was amazing.

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There were numerous salads, and sides plus chicken, beef, lamb & fish. Really, it was an amazing lunch in a gorgeous setting.

After lunch we were off to check into our hotel before heading out to enjoy Queenstown. They gave us about an hour to settle in. We sorta just wanted to stay at the hotel and relax, it was a lovely place, but we were glad we didn’t. The afternoon and evening events were a lot of fun.

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View of Lake Wakatipu from our hotel room at the Queenstown Hilton.

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Our tour included a skyrail ride in a Gondola up Bob’s Peak. Lake Wakatipu down below.

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The view is spectacular. You can paraglide from the top if you are so inclined. A small bit of the Remarkables Mountain Range is in the background here. They filmed parts of Lord of The Rings on those mountains. We were there at the end of summer/beginning of autumn, so no snow, but they are gorgeous with snow. I’ve seen pictures…

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Photo Credit: trover.com

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Once back down in town, we checked out this candy store. It says they have Kiwi Favourites, but it doesn’t look like they have Pineapple Lumps. HA. I never did try the famous Pineapple Lumps but I hear some people love them.

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Pineapple marshmallow type thingys covered in chocolate.

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We did share a Ferg Burger though. There was a huge line at this place and great reviews so we thought, why not? We’re American, we love burgers. In our opinion, it was an okay burger… a little too much bun and the sauces were a little sweet for our taste. It did help get us through, however, between our early lunch and our late dinner.

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The Queenstown Hilton at dusk. (photo credit: tripadvisor.com)

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Just before sunset we boarded an old steamer ship named the Earnslaw, bound for Walter Peak High Country Farm.

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Unfortunately it was really dark by the time we arrived at the lovely Walter Peak Farm. I would love to go back in the daytime. (photo credit: newzealand.com)

The dinner buffet at the Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant was outstanding and included every New Zealand bite imaginable. It was all simply delicious. Best restaurant meal of the trip.

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This pork tenderloin is one of the meat choices. Of course there was a scrumptious rack of lamb, beef, and fresh fish. New Zealand staples.

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walter-peak-high-country-farm-and-gourmet-bbq-lunch---real-journeys

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Pavlova

I did not take a picture of the desserts and could not find a picture of their amazing Pavlova, but this looks similar. I did it again, threw caution to the wind and had a helping of New Zealand Pavlova. It was divine. I’m definitely making Pavlova for our next family get together. I think it is the prettiest dessert in the world.

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After dinner there was a working sheep dog demonstration. I was excited to see these gals do their thing. Their focus is intense. The working dogs don’t look much like our spoiled herder, but it was super fun to watch them do their job.

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Yeah, this guy doesn’t do much herding, but he sure is pretty! And he loves himself a Starbucks Puppuccino!

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There was also a sheep shearing demo. Doesn’t she look uncomfortable. To say she was not happy is a bit of an understatement.

The sheep shearing and a late evening boat ride back to Queenstown, and then a bus ride back to our hotel rounded out a very long and very wonderful day. We were already thrilled we had listened to friends and chosen this excursion. And yet… we had very little idea the actual beauty that was to come.

Our last official day in New Zealand started out in the Otago Region’s historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. Everything about Arrowtown is adorable. It reminds me a bit of a tiny version of St. Helena in the California wine country. Cute cafes, cute coffee shops, cute (and expensive) souvenir shops, handcrafted gifts, handmade chocolates….

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photo credit: theknot.com

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Cute cafe, Arrowtown, New Zealand

We spent about an hour in Arrowtown, just hanging out and then headed off to the Fiordland National Park.

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If you have ever heard of or read anything about tramping (backpacking) in New Zealand, you have probably heard of the Milford Track. I believe it is the most famous walk in New Zealand and is supposed to be one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. In this photo, at the tip of Lake Te Anau (Te Anau Downs), is the start of the Milford Track, which takes about four days to walk. It starts with a 1 hour, 15 minute boat cruise, right here.

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Leaving behind the sheep farms and entering the Fiordland National Park.

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Mirror Lakes, Fiordland National Park. Although it was a sunny, totally blue sky day, I have heard that the park as well as the Milford Sound area is actually best viewed on a rainy/cloudy/misty day, or right after a heavy rain when water just streams down the mountains. I guess we will have to return for that because we saw nothin’ but blue skies. How ironic.

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Mirror Lakes, Fiordland National Park.

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Fiordland National Park.

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Ice cold glacial waterfall and aqua colored pool of glacial water. Fiordland National Park.

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I was so fascinated by the shapes the glacier water has made in the rocks at The Chasm in Fiordland National Park.

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Well, Blue Eyes is publicly appearing officially for the first time on this blog. He has been in other vacation photos, but I didn’t technically point him out. I had to post this photo. I think it is my favorite photo of the trip (spoiler alert: next to me holding a koala in Australia, that is). Our tour guide had just informed us that the water in this creek is as fresh as it gets. She encouraged us to fill our water bottles, and we did. Unfortunately, an American lady standing just outside this shot is begging Blue Eyes not to drink the water. She is convinced he will get “beaver fever.” Considering we are from Oregon, The Beaver State, we found this quite hilarious. And then annoying. There are no beavers in New Zealand, or anything else in this area of the park that would contaminate this water with Giardia. We drank every last sip of that water and lived to tell about it!!! Americans! Geez.

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Isn’t this just the most beautiful place. Love. ❤

We ended our tour of Fiordland National Park at Milford Sound where our cruise ship was anchored and waiting for us. We took a ferry out to the ship. The sun was so bright, it was difficult to get a decent photo.

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Milford Sound, Azamara Journey to the left.

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Milford Sound.

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Back on the cruise ship. We really did not want our New Zealand portion of this trip to end. It was a melancholy farewell, for now.

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Waterfall in Milford Sound.

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Leaving Milford Sound.

Good-bye New Zealand, until we meet again. ❤

13 thoughts on “New Zealand, week three: blue skies & sunshine

        • Whoops! I hit send too early. The Routeburn is a track I would like to conquer soon. But there are plenty all over, mostly in the South Island, and alpine. We also have a really great cycle trail through Otago that follows the now unused and re-purposed railway route (so fairly gentle as no hard inclines!) Also need to do that. Bucket list activities for post thesis activities!

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            • There are some great international walks! My friend – the one whose husband upped and left a few years ago, meaning her return and rebuild in NZ, is doing an organised 35km today near Waitomo. And here I was moaning about that shorter Takaka Hill walk. (But that was ALL uphill, with no respite!)

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        • Ha, I looked it up on Wikipedia. Since it takes four days, which would require a pack, I assumed they knew what they were talking about. In America we do call hiking with a pack, backpacking. They were probably dumbing it down for us. 😊🎒 Regardless, it’s gorgeous there!!! 😁

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