Flying 3 hours from Sydney, our trip to New Zealand started in Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island.
It’s NZ’s second largest city with a population of under 400,000, set within the region of Canterbury.
The city has a very English feel, with the river Avon providing punting opportunities, it was named after Christ Church in Oxford, England.
The city has endured a number of earthquakes over the years with the worst ones happening between 2010 to 2012 leading to wide-scale destruction of the city and the loss of 185 lives.
The city’s Quake museum provides lots of information, artefacts and personal records of the events from that day. Well worth a visit even if you may not sleep so easy that night!
Above is the remains of the cathedral steeple top. The cathedral was fatally damaged in the earthquake and is still being rebuilt over 10 years later.
About 90mins away from Christchurch is Banks Peninsula, initially thought to be an island when first sighted by Captain James Cook in 1770.
Its a beautiful drive to the small town of Akaroa on the peninsula.
The area is the eroded remnants of two volcanos and it’s stunningly blue waters a product of fine silt particles.
The township of Akaroa has an interesting history and it still shows its French influences in its road names and eateries!
It is said that a French Whaler had purchased the rights to the land from the local Maori chief. He then returned to France to bring back settlers to the land.
However, on his return two years later, he found that the British had signed the Waitangi Treaty and their rights no longer held water.
An agreement was eventually made to resell some of the land to the French settlers under the auspices of British sovereignty!
We visited a Little Penguin sanctuary in Pohatu near Akaroa. This penguin colony is helped to persist by the provision of nesting boxes, keeping them safe from predators as well as the feeding of orphan penguins.
To support the sanctuary’s work, run by a local family for over 30 years, you can name and ‘adopt’ a penguin.
The baby little penguins stay in these nest boxes during the moulting period which takes 3-4 weeks as their feathers are completely replaced.
These white flippered penguins are an adaptation of the Australasian Little Penguin. The adaptation has altered their feather colour from Black to Blue in order to be better concealed in the bright blue waters of the peninsula!
Christchurch to Hokitika
To continue our trip around the South Island we hired a car as its the best way to see what this landscape has to offer.
Our first drive was from Christchurch on the east coast to Hokitika on the west coast, a distance of 250km.
The route takes you through Arthur’s Pass National Park and was our initiation into the wonderfully scenic landscapes we were to encounter in New Zealand.
Note there is a train route through the mountains too from Christchurch to Greymouth.
Our journey started out with some wet and cloudy weather, not uncommon in mountainous regions!
The first stop was Castle Hill, a striking area of large rocks set on a hillside.
There is a walkway up to and through the limestone rocks which are 30-40million years old.
From this point onwards the weather started to improve and the landscape become more and more stunning!
We realised the benefits of having a car and being able to stop to capture such beautiful vistas was a double edged sword, would we ever make it to our destination having to stop at every new corner?
Driving these roads was a pleasure, not too much traffic and such glorious views, it was hard to keep focused on driving!
We tried to capture some of the journey in a GOPro video but have not included it here as it just does not reflect the pure scale and beauty of this rich landscape.
So we eventually arrived in Hokitika and finished the day watching the sun set over the sea with some excellent local fish and chips along with a couple of beers, such an excellent day!