South Island: Mini Adventures En Route
Will and I have forged our own flight plan when mapping our route for the South Island. There's plenty of advice that recommends starting in Christchurch, then head west through Arthur's Pass and make your way down hitting major tourist destinations: Hokitika Gorge, Franz Josef, Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo, and so on. Finally ending in Queenstown. Once you're in New Zealand, such destinations among travelers become buzz words as they are "must-see" and "must-do." We took a different approach, largely caused by Cyclone Gita, by heading down to the end of the island via the East Coast. Thus far, we've made home bases in Christchurch, Timaru, Dunedin, and Invarcargill.
We've taken some wonderful day trips and have been continuously surprised by villages and treks that aren't as prominently featured in guidebooks. Here are a few recent highlights:
ADVENTURE 1: Oamaru
When left Timaru to head down to Dunedin, on the way we stopped in Oamaru. It's a quaint provincial town with a picturesque harbor, roughly an hour and a half drive to Dunedin
In the late 19th century there was a boom of wealth, due to an influx of the timber and coal mining industries. Investments were made on beautiful Victorian-style stone buildings.
As a port city, the Oamaru Harbor closed it's seaport to shipping in 1974 and is now more widely recognized as a historic site. We walked around the seemingly ancient streets and stopped in shops such as Adventure Books.
We got coffees and a freshly made blueberry scone at Harbour Street Collective Cafe. The town felt so charming, as if you stepped back in time in a small port city in Europe.
That is, until you actually walk down to the harbor and you see signs for penguin crossings.
Then you're quickly reminded you're in New Zealand. At sunset, Oamaru is known for blue and yellow-eyed penguins to waddle along the shore line
ADVENTURE 2: Moeraki Boulders
Not far from Oamaru are the Moeraki Boulders, clusters of large spherical stones on Koekohe Beach along the Otago coast.
Honestly, Will and I had not done prior research to visiting the rocks and were slightly underwhelmed. Sure, they seemed incredible, but a little background would have helped our level of appreciation tremendously.
After, we learned that the boulders are concretions that have been exposed through shoreline erosion from coastal cliffs. If we were more geologically inclined, perhaps we would have been more impressed. But at the time, to us they appeared to be a sizeable rock collection on a beautiful beach.
ADVENTURE 3: Sandfly Bay
On one of the few clear days we had in Dunedin, we took a short trek along Sandfly Bay. Now, when I think of New Zealand, I think of the masses of sheep on farmland, but also the dramatic coastlines.
Sandfly Bay is less than ten miles from Dunedin along the Otago Peninsula. Heaps of dunes line the bay.
Sandfly Bay was named from the coast's windy nature, with sand flying from the dunes.
We climbed down the mounds of sand to the shoreline.
We took our time walking through the shallow water.
We came across a large amount of Durvillaea, a brown algae, that we later learned is common along Sandfly Bay and washes up from Antartica.
Forever surprising to me will be the presence of sheep, even along the coast.
ADVENTURE 4: Mount Cargill
On our way from Dunedin to Invercargill we did a short hike up Mount Cargill.
It was perhaps my favorite of these mini adventures.
Compared to other treks, the path was more polished through the pine forest.
We were teased with brief peaks of the vista, but once the path opened, we got a better idea of the view from the top.
At the top of the summit is a transmitting station that provides television and radio to the surrounding regions.
Mount Cargill is located along the northern skyline looking over Dunedin, and thus offers incredible panoramic views. At over 2,000 ft, the scenes from Mount Cargill were awe-inspiring.
Will and I sat down at the summit to really appreciate such an unique perspective. I'm actively trying to not feel rushed. In the past, my mind is always racing as to what's next. However, with few plans or agendas, there's suddenly no rush. The summit of Mount Cargill was a meaningful place to slow down and take it in.