Christmas in the South Island

New Zealand, the South

Diary by Robert Höerhann, Austria Europe

After visiting the North Island in 2011 we promised to come back to the country of our dreams New Zealand. This time it should just be the south island. After arriving in Christchurch after 25 hours in the air we (my wife Rosa, son Werner and his girlfriend Bernadette) immediately started our tour at Omega rental with the purchase of our vehicle for the next fortnight. As soon as we got into our Motel in the outskirts of Christchurch we fell sound asleep but woke at 5 in the morning the next day.

The tour went all around the Banks peninsula (Akaroa) with stunning views of the Bay and the first fish and chips in warm and sunny weather. This we really enjoyed because it was cold and raining in Austria back home when we left and in addition to that fish and chips are not known in Austria either. Our stop for tonight was a B&B in on Lake Tekapo. Of course we hiked to the Chapel of the good Shepard and after a stone grill in a nearby restaurant we again fell to into our beds like rocks.

The next morning took us on a long walk up to Mt. John with magnificent views of Lake Tekapo with different colours depending on the ankle of the sun. In the afternoon we headed via Twizel along Lake Pukaki to Aoraki village. There we wanted to spend “our” Christmas Eve (in Austria the evening of Dec. the 24th is the day to celebrate Christmas). This we did in pouring rain and not a hundred meters to see!

By next morning the rain and fog had mostly gone and we started the Kea Walk which we really enjoyed because all of a sudden we could see Mt. Cook with hardly any clouds. This was the reason why we took all the way to Aoraki, so we were really lucky this time. Our Christmas dinner was back on the coast in Oamaru, where we had battered sole in one of the few open restaurants.

The morning of Dec. 26th is full of fog and drizzling rain which followed us to Dunedin. Here the brewery (the biggest in the whole world as we were told) and the railway station were our first stops. Again we stayed in a wonderful B&B and with a cup of tea and biscuits we let the first few days pass and had lots of fun with all the stories we were told at the guided tour in the brewery. The late evening we spent on Otago peninsula to see the tiny Penguins. And again we were lucky and got lovely photos even with hardly any light left.

Te Anau is our destination for the next evening and along the way we did some hiking in the Catlines. This was a great tour, especially Nugget Point which we enjoyed so much in spite of all the high winds along the coast.

The next morning was to be our high light of the whole tour on the southern island. It is Milford sound. As soon as we arrived on site we boarded a vessel to go out the whole length of the fjord. Everything lay in full sunshine, the waterfalls fell on the fore deck of the boat and a huge cruise ship came in as well. This was far beyond all our imagination. Also next morning (we slept in the huts) the sun rose and I got the foto of my life time with mitre peak in the morning sun.

After Milford sound we celebrated New Year’s Eve in Queenstown and steamed the last trip of the year on the TSS Earnslaw, which was another highlight of our tour. Leaving Queenstown was hard but we still had lots to see in the country of our dreams, Arrowtown, Wanaka, Cadrona’s Hotel and then it was Fox Glacier.

This time we ran out of luck as it was pouring down and our flight was cancelled. So we simply went on to the east side of the island crossing via Arthurs pass right to Kaikoura to a warm and sunny beach. There we spent the last days of our trip and did some kayaking, got on a whale watch tour and hiked the cliffs in wonderful sunshine. 

Back home it was very hard for us to find our stride again after such a wonderful time in the country of our dreams, New Zealand. Haere Ra Aotearoa! 

This story and photos are courtesy of Robert Höerhann of Austria, who kindly shared his family's experience in New Zealand with us as part of our Summer Holiday Writing Competition 2014.

Robert is the recipient of a $50 spot prize. 

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McLean Falls in the Catlins3
Mitre Peak in Milford Sound3
Nice beach for the sheep