New Zealand, Part I, ended with us leaving Milford Sound. We were headed for Dunedin, but it is a long drive, and we thought we’d end up stopping somewhere along the way. Nick fell asleep, the rest of us were ok, so we drove on through. I was glad to get to Dunedin and to not have to get up and drive another 2-3 hours the next day. We found a hotel across from the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, as that was what we planned to do the next morning before heading to Larnach Castle, just outside of Dunedin, down the Otago Peninsular.
Let’s be honest. No one does the Cadbury Tour to actually SEE chocolate being made. We do it for the free handouts along the way, and the chocolate shop at the end! That is one place I could NOT work. Mum and I agreed if we were packing, it would be one for the box, one for us!
L over at My Journey – Am I There Yet? had requested some Luxury Flakes. I have to admit, Flake is definitely in my top 3, if not my very favouritest Cadbury Chocolate. When I tried one of these luxury ones…oh.my.god. I’m only slightly ashamed to admit we just bought a whole box of 24. I figure L can have 10, I’ll give my sisters and my boss a couple each, that leaves a few for the house (a couple of which have already been eaten). They are so good!
We had a few hours before we could check in at Larnach Castle so we went for a drive to see if we could see some penguins or albatrosses or sea lions. The only place we found all the way out at the end of the peninsular was a place that did tours and couldn’t guarantee you’d see anything. We skipped that and went for a drive to find the most photographed beach of the area – St. Claire Beach.
From there we headed in search of Tunnel Beach, however upon arrival, the walk down to the beach was closed off because it goes through private property, and it was “closed due to lambing.” What can you do, you can’t interfere with Kiwis and their sheep!
We headed on up to Larnach Castle to check in for our night in the stables. Once there, we ran into a family we had done the chocolate factory tour with. They, too, were staying in the stables. They also happened to be from Queensland, just 2 hours away from us. And to make the world even smaller, the woman taught at a school with my mum’s-former-colleague’s-daughter. Follow all that?!
Anyway, Larnach Castle to visit for a couple of hours would probably not impress you much. But we did the overnight stay with dinner in the castle, dinner-party style in the music room, and it was such an amazing experience!
The castle, the history, the story of William Larnach and his family was all very interesting, if not somewhat tragic. The gardens and the views were magical. To think when it was built, Dunedin was a full day’s travel away. They were isolated out there. Two of his wives died young, each aged 38, his favourite daughter died at 28. He later took his own life, as did one of his son’s. The Castle was restored by a young couple on their honeymoon who came across it and bought it. The gardens are just as magical, if not more so, than the actual castle.
After our castle experience it was time to get back on the road for yet another long drive. We weren’t sure how far we’d get, but knew it was about 5 hours to Christchurch. We wanted to stop in Oamaru on the way to look for wildlife and also to stop at the Moeraki Boulders. But Oamaru was still about 3 hours out of Christchurch. To cut a long story short, we ended up driving the whole way again. That was ok, because it meant we weren’t having another long drive the last day of our trip before flying home.
The flight home was significantly bumpier than the flight over. We were on Air New Zealand this time instead of Virgin. Not that that should make a difference, but the flight attendants on this flight were amazing. One saw me quite visibly upset (even after 2 valium – spaced a few hours apart of course) and asked if I was alright. I explained I was a really nervous flier and she told the flight attendants looking after our section of the plane. One of the flight attendants, Bonnie, was fantastic, frequently checking on me, letting me know the pilots were climbing a bit higher to get a smoother ride, assuring me that the pilots were 2 of the best, and that all crew on board were well trained to handle any situation that may arise. Best of all, she didn’t make me feel stupid for being so damn scared. That crew was so kind and caring, and it made things a little bit easier, even though I was still a bit of a wreck!
A few quick things/facts/tips about our trip:
– 8 nights/9 days (not NEARLY enough time)
– 6 towns (way too many for such a short trip)
– 2000kms (again, way too many for a short trip)
– If given the option to do over, would do it in reverse and end with Milford Sound/Queenstown (seriously, NOTHING compares!)
– We kept to a relatively cheap budget. 4 of us (my mum and the 3 of us) would have done the trip in just less than $6000. (Roughly in $AU: $800 airfare, car + petrol $1000, accommodation $1900, cash for food/spending $1700, bungy $175). This budget could have been blown out of the water if we had done more, but really we didn’t have the time, and the weather was FREEZING! Rafting and a helicopter flight were on the list of possibilities, but too cold/windy/expensive and as I said, not enough time!
If you are interested in planning a trip to NZ I’m more than happy to answer any questions you have. Not that I’m an expert by any means, but I can share our experiences and what we learned. I am always getting emails from Virgin Australia about New Zealand being on sale so it pays to keep an eye out and subscribe to their notices.
I’m so thankful we did this trip. The Mechanic and I have talked about doing it since we moved back to Australia from the US almost 5 years ago. Finally we did it, and it was really breath taking. I wondered why kiwis move here when their country is so beautiful. I decided it must be the weather. I didn’t see one sunset all trip, and I froze almost the entire time. And really, at the end of the day, New Zealand might be The Beautiful Country, but Australia really is The Lucky Country. And once it was all said and done, I was so glad to be back in Australia, in my own bed, with my own pillow. Holidays are great, but like Dorothy said, There’s No Place Like Home.