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Our week was quite intense as we wanted to cover as much of the South Island as possible to maximize our time on site, and so we drove about 3 to 5 hours a day.
Of course we made choices, as we couldn’t possibly seen everything. Apart from the island beauties, we went to many play parks, in order to reward the children to the maximum.
The children kept up the pace and surprised us a lot, I’ll tell you all about it in pictures, if you want details, ask me!
Visiting the South Island of New Zealand
Christchurch City and its surroundings
At the beginning of the week, we ended our visit to Christchurch with a stroll down Regent Street, a street cited as one of the prettiest in New Zealand, with a lunch break at the Casa Publica restaurant.
Finally, the children had a great time at the Margaret Mahy Family Playground. It must be said that this park is quite exceptional!
We took the road to discover the coast around Sumner. A wide beach where surfers also meet. A simple local market is set up every weekend and seemed very friendly.
At the end of the beach there is a big children’s park.
I must say that the parks are excellent in New Zealand if I compare them to Canada or France. Multiple games are available. They all have zip lines, water areas or in some cases a swimming pool and toilets.
We continued on to Littleton, and caught a glimpse of a splendid view from the scenic route!
Clear blue water with golden mountains. Littleton was cute but small, a simple shopping street.
We didn’t have time to go down to Akaroa, we chose to move forward to find something to eat on the way.
Once again we found something for the children to enjoy in terms of games, in the sun and in a garden.
Along the way, the landscapes are simple, varied and beautiful. We saw many golden fields, sheep, cliffs and beaches.
Our arrival point being Blenheim and in order to limit the kilometers with the children, we skipped Hanmer Springs where several natural hot springs were located but made several stops before Kaikoura.
Kaikoura is a small, transient town that is famous for its dolphin and whale watching boat trips.
No boat for us. We enjoyed observing several dolphins along the coast as well as sea lions; we went higher to benefit from the marvellous panorama on the heights of the centre.
A smaller city with a significantly older population than Christchurch.
It’s easy to see why. The North gets a lot of sunshine all year round and the Marlborough region has about 30 vineyards, so there’s plenty to enjoy!
The town is relaxing, very flowery and has a small, lively centre.
We visited Pollak Park, which is very pleasant and relaxing and offers activities for all ages: a golf course, a playground, tennis courts and croquet lawns!
Its flower gardens are beautiful and you can walk along a stream where the ducks come.
We tested wines from two vineyards. First of all, those of Cloudy Bay. Settled in the garden, we enjoyed glasses of sauvignon blanc. This domain feels less authentic, and very modern (it is the most famous domain owned by LVMH).
We continued our tasting with a tray of 7 wines for two (which was enough, considering the road ahead of us), at Forrest ‘s family vineyard ($10!) from which we left with a small bottle, since we liked the place and our hostess’ warm welcome.
Ferries pick up passengers in Wellington and drop them off in Picton, a peaceful harbour town with mountainous scenery in the background.
The children once again enjoyed the beautiful park to stretch their legs and refresh themselves. Dairy farms punctuated the landscape. It’s hard to resist the urge to photograph some cows.
The winding road to Nelson wasn’t the easiest. However, we passed by beautiful green forests, to the sound of cicadas.
Upon arrival in Nelson, we made a small detour to the lively and friendly center before reaching our Airbnb. Unfortunately, I didn’t think of taking pictures of the center thinking that we would come back there but Jean-Maximilien and I had a lot of work the following days so we couldn’t go back. Too bad. Some pictures of the main beach, Tahunanui and its playground:
Abel Tasman Park
Abel Tasman National Park is not accessible by car. So we chose to take a taxi boat cruise with Wilsons ($67/person; children under 5 years free) which makes stops all along the coast.
After a few tourist stops, the boat stopped at Anchorage Beach. From there we wanted to trek to Te Pukatea beach and, if possible, to the viewpoint of Pitt Head.
That’s when we realized once again what our limit was with the children, Alexandra refusing to walk when she got off the boat.
After a good moment of negotiation, we succeeded in finally deciding to walk to the beach of Te Pukatea.
Our walk helped us realize we should have stayed on the main beach, which was prettier and more in line with our taste. But this little hike had the merit of testing the children and training them for the next ones.
A little aside. During the trip, we always move at the pace of our children, using playgrounds as carrots. We
must mention that our children are quick to balk at the idea of going for a little walk (sometimes they barely put their foot down, but it’s a different story when they know that a playground is waiting for them).
It can be frustrating to miss out on great walks, or to do them while enduring screams and tears. We know they are still young.
In the end, they will have seen and participated in other activities, which is comforting in spite of everything. We try to open their eyes, to help them to be more attentive, to feel, or to listen to nature.
On the way, we saw amazing landscapes which pleased us from the start: these mountains and golden fields gradually turn into an immense green forest.
Few possible stops; we made one in Murchison, the only town we saw, for a lunch break. Not much choice of restaurants on the few streets, especially since several establishments were closed.
We used the WiFi and went to a small park before getting back in the car and making a short stop on the historic route.
Greymouth is a stopover town and you can feel it. Lots of rentals, a few restaurants, but the center really feels like a ghost town. Maybe we went there at the wrong time? Even so, we were regularly alone during our walks except at the supermarket (phew!).
This is a road that seduced us with its mountains, some misty, others snowy, or lakes where the mountains are reflected, rocky formations, before finding the plains and fields of farmers where cows and sheep wander.
We had very good weather, which really allowed us to see the beautiful scenery and have a nice family picnic.
Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki
Before arriving on the lakes, we crossed several small towns, including the rather cute town of Fairlie.
It’s quite amazing when you arrive at Lake Tekapo, especially with the good weather (we had our doubts as we had a lot of clouds and some rain during the climb).
The lake is indeed a nice turquoise colour. We found a nice place around the lake to enjoy with our family and eat our snacks.
The most beautiful place to look at the lake as a whole was from the observatory on Mount John, the view is splendid!
Pukaki Lake was a 30-minute drive away. Here again, we were dazzled by its beautiful blue. The place was much quieter than the previous one, making it more pleasant, less popular and touristy. We savoured the moment!
We wanted to do some hiking but actually had some doubts with the children. This time, they surprised us and Alexandra asked for more! We went to Mount Cook.
From there, you can do several hikes, including easy ones. We did two short hikes, one of which gave us a view of Lake Tasman. Unfortunately, the sun was not out that day and the colour of the lake did not stand out as much as the day before.
Afterwards, we walked along the Hooker track to have a magnificent view of Mueller Lake. It was a nice day, even though it was cloudy.
Hotels being rare for a family like us (there is much more choice for backpackers or rooms for 2 people), we opted for Airbnb or sometimes motel and were not disappointed.
I won’t detail all of them but here are some pictures of the 3 we liked.
Notre rythme était assez intense cette semaine. Next stop: Queenstown!
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