Onto part three of our South Island trip! This post will be all about what we did in Otago!
Where we stayed: We didn’t end up staying the night here, instead we used it as a stop off between Mount Cook and Cromwell.
What we did: We headed into the Waitaki Valley and stopped off at the Clay Cliffs. Like a lot of walks in this area this is on private farmland and asks for a $5 donation when entering the walk.
This is a really nice short 15 minute walk from the car park up around the cliffs. Here the ground is very steep with loose, uneven gravel so take care walking around. Luckily you can choose how far you want to go when walking around.
Where we stayed: We stayed in the Herbert Forest Holiday Park which was outside Oamaru near the Moeraki Boulders. This was a great site. It was absolutely massive, had free showers, $2 laundry and was only $12.50 each a night. Total gem of a find!
What we did: We couldn’t very well miss the Moeraki Boulders considering we were right beside them. From the carpark it’s a 10 minute walk along the beach to the famous round boulders which have been dropped in the sand.
I’m not sure what I was expecting but this wasn’t as impressive as I thought. The boulders are much smaller than anticipated, all the same it’s a nice stop if you have time. A few minutes drive down the road you can go into Katiki Point where you can view the famous little blue penguins coming in at night for free.
While in Oamaru be sure to take a walk through the Victorian Precinct. It’s a beautiful part of town and truly feels like you’ve stepped back in time. In the center here you’ll also find the Steampunk HQ. This was probably one of the most unusual museums I’ve ever been in. It’s filled with reclaimed items that are re-imagined into some incredible steampunk styled pieces. It’s $10 for an adult entry and is a fun way to pass an hour.
Where we stayed: The Lowburn Campsite was such a great free site that we ended up staying three nights. It has room for about 100 campers, clean toilets and beautiful views of the riverfront. It is however home to some of the most aggressive ducks I’ve ever met – no amount of shooing away will deter them!
What we did: GOLD! You can’t move in Cromwell, Alexandra or Clyde without seeing a gold museum, gold themed monuments etc. This was the heart of New Zealand’s gold rush so in true prospector spirit we headed to the Goldfields Experience. This wasn’t cheap at $25 each but it’s a cool site. First off we went on a 40 min self guided tour through the grounds where we got to see the mines, recreations of the houses etc.
From here we got a private tour with a great local guide who showed us how some of the equipment worked, some amazing pieces of gold found in the area and a history of the gold rush in New Zealand. After this tour we had a go at gold panning ourselves – turns out I’m a natural and managed to find two little pieces of gold which i then got to bottle and take home! Such a cool souvenir from our trip!
If gold panning isn’t your thing then there are plenty of walks to do. We did the Bannockburn Sluicings walk which was an hour walk through – you guessed it – another gold mining area.
We also did the Reservoir walk which was a 30 min walk uphill where we got some great views of the entire town.
Cromwell has a great heritage precinct recreated from the gold rush era. This is a really cute little street along the river which has shops, cafes, art galleries and museums.
Where we stayed: We stayed in the Champagne Gully Campsite which was a free DOC site by the water halfway between Alexandra and Cromwell.
What we did: In comparison to Cromwell there wasn’t as much to see or do in Alexandra. We took a walk through the town and stopped off at the Shakey Bridge and the Mountain Clock.
There are also some nice hikes in the area. We did the Flat Top Hill Walk which is a 10km walk up through the hills surrounding Alexandra. This walk took us about 3 hours and was nice however the path was really poorly marked and as the grass was so long it was hard to get through. The views were nice and the boulders at the summit were impressive but the walk itself was frustrating as we had to guess where we were going a lot of the time.
Where we stayed: As mentioned above we stayed in the Champagne Campsite which was halfway between Alexandra and Cromwell.
What we did: Clyde is a smaller town right beside Alexandra and while it’s a nice stop there isn’t much to see and do here. The only thing we really did was to stop off at the Clyde Dam lookout for a quick break.
Where we stayed: We stayed three nights here altogether. The first night we camped for free in the Thomas Burns street car park which is right in the city center. The location of this was second to none however it’s at the train station so between the trains and the city traffic one night was more than enough. We then booked into the Dunedin Holiday Park and Motel with some of our friends for $40 a night. This was such a nice park and brilliant facilities with the only downside being that it was a little far outside the city.
What we did: Dunedin was one of those places that really surprised me at how much I enjoyed it. I hadn’t heard much about it but it was one of the nicest cites I’ve been in in New Zealand and there was so much to see and do. I’m going to do a full post all about our trip here but some of the attractions included the Chinese Gardens which are a complete oasis in the centre of the city.
There is also no shortage of museums – we stopped off at the Sports Museum, the Otago Museum and the Settlers Museum all of which were incredible!
Being the complete tourists we are we stopped off at Baldwin Street which has the Guinness World Record for being the steepest street in the world. I climbed it and trust me it’s really bloody steep!
We also headed outside of the city towards the Peninsula where you can see Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle as well as some amazing beaches filled with native wildlife such as penguins, albatross’ and seals.
Where we stayed: Wanaka is expensive to stay in so we drove to the Albert Town Campsite which was a 5/10 minute drive away and was only $10 each a night. It’s a great big site, however as it was right by the water it got very cold at night.
What we did: I love a good illusion so we popped into Puzzling World. This has two parts – the illusion section and the giant maze. Tickets for both areas cost us $22.50 each which was good value considering we ended up spending about 3 hours here.
In the illusion section there are areas such as Ames Room, Sculpture illusions, holograms etc.
After this you can then head into the Giant Maze. I had previously gotten lost for an embarrassing amount of time in a children’s maze so I was looking to redeem myself here. There are 2 different challenges in the maze. The easy option is to make it to each of the four coloured towers and then find your way out. We decided to do the harder option which involved going taking a picture in each of the four coloured towers in order (Yellow, Green, Blue and Red) and then making your way out.
I ran about 4km around that maze and it took about an hour but I came out victorious! One of the big things we both wanted to do while here was hike up Roy’s Peak for sunrise. This was a tough hike as it’s a constant uphill hike for about 3 hours. It’s no easy feat getting up at 4am to start a hike in the pitch black however you do have the advantage that you’re not trying to hike under the blazing sun.
Also I think if I had actually seen how far away the summit was I would have cried at least at night I was none the wiser. Altogether the hike took us about 5 hours round trip and it was incredible to see the sunrise at the top!
Finally, you can’t leave Wanaka without stopping to see #ThatWanakaTree (yes, that is it’s actual name). It’s just a tree in a lake but for some reason it brings out the amateur photographer in all of us.
Where we stayed: We debated going to a free site a 15 min drive outside Queenstown but I figured we should just bite the bullet and pay to stay in the center, that way we could enjoy a drink in the evening. We decided to stay in the Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park and Motel which as expected was pretty pricey at $55 a night. It is a 5 min walk into the town center and the facilities are top notch though!
What we did: Everyone talks about Queenstown and hypes it up so in all honesty I expected to hate it. Thankfully, I loved it and had so much fun here! The town is so beautiful, situated on the lakefront and filled with incredible bars and restaurants. We, of course make the obligatory trip to Fergburger as well as Devil burger which, controversially, I preferred.
We headed to a couple of the bars including the Minus 5 Ice Bar, somehow ending up at a silent disco for about 4 hours!
Queenstown is known as the extreme sports capital of the world and its easy to see why – you can pretty much do anything you can imagine here. I am terrified of heights so none of this appealed to me, however I did go along and support Richie doing the Ledge Bungy which is a 47 meter jump from the top of the gondola.
Frankly watching him jump was more than enough adrenaline for me. As with Dunedin there is so much to talk about in Queenstown that I’m going to do a separate post all about our couple nights here!
That’s all for this week – be sure to check out the Part Four: Southland here next week!