I have to admit that I am pretty bummed that we are only doing the South Island of New Zealand because I really wanted to go to Hobbiton, which is on the North Island. But that just means I will have to come back for another trip! I wanted to come to NZ even before the epic trilogy was made, but seeing all the amazing scenery in the movie just added fuel to the fire.
Our first day yesterday was filled with rain, and last night we stayed in Kaikoura. We walked into town (in the rain) and ate dinner at the local Thai place. Pretty good food, however I fell in love with our waitress because she actually told a girl to get off her phone, and pointed to the sign that says no wifi, no phones. Gasp! We should actually talk to each other at dinner!
We woke up to everything covered in rain drops, and ducks and cats outside our little cabin. Franks original plan was to take the inland mountain route because he thought that it would be more interesting than just Hwy 1 up the coast. The forecast was looking like it would stay clear on the coast, and rain inland. I vetoed the all day in the rain route, and we headed out in search of breakfast. We found a place were I got my first order of pancakes and they put the syrup on for you, and don’t leave any syrup on the table. I should start doing this with my kids, since they pour half the bottle on theirs.
Back to the trip. To the North there was going to be road construction. In November of 2016, there was a 7.8 earthquake that hit this area of New Zealand and completely took out the coastal highway. The road had just recently been reopened, but only during daylight hours, so we would be able to make our way up to our next nighttime stop, Picton. We got some pictures of the landslides and rocks, it took them about a year to reopen the road. A local that we chatted with told us that the seabed rose 8 meters from the earthquake, and the land formation in that area was very different. If you have time checkout internet images of the earthquake.
After lunch in Blenheim, we saw a stream train and got to wave at the passengers. Then instead of continuing on Hwy 1, we did our first bit of “Adventure Riding”. We took the Port Underwood Road, which was a combination of paved and gravel road that took us on a steep and winding road through very lush vegetation and scenic views. This area reminded me a lot of Kauai in Hawaii. Very few cars would join us, but the ones that did really knew the road well, and were zipping along pretty fast.
The rest of the day was pretty easy and since the sun stays up till around 9pm, we made it to Picton with plenty of daylight to find our B&B, go to the marina for dinner, and take the scenic drive up the Queen Charlotte Drive. If you are ever in the area this road is a must do. It is a never-ending series of back and forth curves, and we would be doing it again tomorrow. My advice is to get up early to avoid the camper vans and slow cars. We stopped at the lookout point to watch the ferry load and unload cars and trucks, before calling it a day. This is where the ferry from Wellington on the North Island docks. We saw a lot of camper vans getting off that ferry!
Our basic route for the day: Kaikoura-Mangamaunu-Waipapa Bay-The Store-Ward-Seddon-Blenheim for lunch-Spring Creek-Tuamarina-Rarangi-Port Underwood Road (gravel)-Robin Hood Bay-Oyster Bay-Port Underwood-Whatamango Bay-Picton-Queen Charlotte Drive-Picton