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Stewart Island marks the mid-point of our land tour to the South Island

February 27, 2014

We last posted as we arrived in Dunedin on the southeast coast of the South Island. Dunedin was the largest city in NZ during the gold rush of the 19th century and its many grand buildings are indicators of the wealth that was once here. We devoted a day to a self-guided tour of the architectural highlights of the city including the train station which is the second most photographed item in NZ. Unfortunately it rained on-and-off-and-on again and we had to find safe haven in a pub.

The next day was dry and windy as we drove out to the end of the Otago Peninsula for a visit to the Albatross Center. We sat in the warmth of a blind as we watched adults roosting on eggs and chicks while juveniles sored over the cliffs. We also received a tour of the “disappearing gun” that was installed at the head of the peninsula in the late 1800’s when there was fear of a Russian invasion. The gun’s recoil pushed the gun below ground level so that it appeared to disappear.

On our last day in Dunedin we visited the Cadbury Chocolate Factory where we saw a gigantic chocolate bunny, a three-story chocolate fall (like a waterfall), and learned how all the Cadbury treats are created. No cameras or jewelry were allowed inside.

The next few days were spent in the Catlins, a scenic area just to the south. We hiked the beach to Cathedral Caves which can only be entered at low tide and we hiked to several waterfalls. Brian tried a little dry fly fishing but failed to land one of the monster brown trout.

We spent one night at the Whistling Frog camp ground that featured a jam session in the restaurant. We should probably explain what is meant by a “camp ground”. Most have modern kitchens, lounges, hot showers and some provide TV and Internet. So “camping” in our mini-van isn’t too much of a hardship. We have spent some nights in DOC campground that are much more primitive, but they also seem to come with the dreaded black sand fly.

We spent an entire day on gravel back roads that took us through gorgeous forests and pasture lands. We were totally lost when we finally came into a small town and got our bearings and some petrol.

The next several days were spent in the large city of Invercargill catching up on shopping and some projects while preparing for our trip to Stewart Island. We very much enjoyed walking through the Queen’s Gardens with its expansive grounds, aviary, and botanical gardens. We also had coffee at the World’s most southern Starbucks.

Next was Bluff on the south end of the South Island where we hike to the top of Bluff Hill which in many places was a near vertical staircase. We stood on the top and viewed Stewart Island across the Foveaux Strait.

The next day we left our mini-camper behind and boarded the ferry for a one-hour trip to Stewart Island. We arrive in a drizzle that explained why the Maori refer to this as “the place of weeping trees”. Our accommodations were excellent with our room looking out onto Half Moon Bay and Stewart Island’s only town of Oban.

We did a boat tour along part of the coast and a quick tour in the rain of Ulva Island that is known for its bird life. We took a bus tour of 91% of the island’s 29 km of roads and saw beautiful beaches. We took walks and saw the small blue penguins return from their day of feeding, yellow eyed penguins swimming in the harbor, and albatross feeding over the bay. One rainy morning we just stayed at the lodge with its expansive view and read. All of our dinners were in the town pub where we cheered with the locals for the favorite rugby team. On the third day we boarded the ferry and headed back to Bluff just ahead of a storm with predicted gale force winds.

Next we head to Fiordlands!

Train station in Dunedin

Train station in Dunedin

Train station gardens in Dunedin

Train station gardens in Dunedin

Cathedral in Dunedin on our architecture tour

Cathedral in Dunedin on our architecture tour

Visiting the Cadbury chocolate factory in Dunedin

Visiting the Cadbury chocolate factory in Dunedin

Dunedin viewed from the Otago Peninsula

Dunedin viewed from the Otago Peninsula

Roosting albatross viewed from a blind at the Albatross Center

Roosting albatross viewed from a blind at the Albatross Center

Juvenile albatross soaring at the center

Juvenile albatross soaring at the center

The "disappearing gun" at Taiaroa Head; fear of invading Russians in the late 1800's

The “disappearing gun” at Taiaroa Head; fear of invading Russians in the late 1800’s

Jam session at the Whistling Frog camp ground

Jam session at the Whistling Frog camp ground

Walking the shoreline to Cathedral Caves

Walking the shoreline to Cathedral Caves

Cathedral Caves can be entered only at low tide

Cathedral Caves can be entered only at low tide

Beautiful coastline in the Catlins

Beautiful coastline in the Catlins

Waterfall hike in the Catlins

Waterfall hike in the Catlins

Curio Bay where the rare hector dolphins are playing with swimmers that brave the cold

Curio Bay where the rare hector dolphins are playing with swimmers that brave the cold

Hot house in the Queen's Garden; Invercargill

Hot house in the Queen’s Garden; Invercargill

Enjoying the southern-most Starbucks in the world

Enjoying the southern-most Starbucks in the world

Southern end of the south island; Bluff

Southern end of the south island; Bluff

The chain that depicts the mythical anchor between the South Island and Stewart Island

The chain that depicts the mythical anchor between the South Island and Stewart Island

Descending Bluff Hill after a vigorous hike to the top

Descending Bluff Hill after a vigorous hike to the top

View of Stewart Island across the Foveaux Strait; Bluff Hill

View of Stewart Island across the Foveaux Strait; Bluff Hill

Arriving by ferry at Stewart Island

Arriving by ferry at Stewart Island

View from our room on Stewart Island

View from our room on Stewart Island

Yellow Eyed penguin on a rainy day; Stewart Island

Yellow Eyed penguin on a rainy day; Stewart Island

Nature tour on Ulva Island; Stewart Island

Nature tour on Ulva Island; Stewart Island

Rainbow over Half Moon Bay; Stewart Island

Rainbow over Half Moon Bay; Stewart Island

Rainy day spent enjoying the view from our lodge

Rainy day spent enjoying the view from our lodge

Tidal basin on Stewart Island

Tidal basin on Stewart Island

Watching rugby at the pub

Watching rugby at the pub

Feeding a wild Kaka

Feeding a wild Kaka

Kakas love cachews

Kakas love cachews

Approaching storm on Stewart Island

Approaching storm on Stewart Island

Albatross as we are leaving Stewart Island

Albatross as we are leaving Stewart Island

From → Travel

One Comment
  1. Carolyn McDonald permalink

    Absolutely lovely – what a wonder each and every day must be! Hugs to you both!

    Carolyn

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