We arrived into Christchurch around lunchtime, after a rather wet and dreary visit to the town of Geraldine, known for it's 'English-style' gardens however, our trip resulted in no more than a coffee due to the inclement weather. Our pitch for the evening was in the Christchurch Top10 Holiday Park, it definitely had the best facilities of the trip, and after parking up we headed for lunch at Cobb & Co. The afternoon was spent between the laundry room and tidying up the campervan, a bigger job than we anticipated! Some chill out time followed, including yet another table tennis game, before heading to bed for our last night ("Hurray!" said Craig's back!) The next morning, we returned Tiffany to Britz, and so, for posterity, here is one last photo!
We left our Airbnb in Dunedin behind and hopped back into Tiffany for the final stretch of #vanlife. Our first stop of the day was Tunnel Beach, recommended by Lonely Planet as being a beautiful, dramatic stretch of coastline, it did come with one catch - the trail was extremely steep meaning we would race down in 15 minutes however coming back up was likely to take us over 30 minutes! The beach however was amazing and definitely worth it, and the glorious weather made it even more picturesque (we weren't the only ones enjoying the beach).
With a sense of unfinished business, we left the mountains behind and drove south to Invercargill. The city felt tired (although that was possibly a projection by us) with lots of empty shop units and a general feeling of disrepair. We pitched up at Central City Camping Park and headed back into town via Dee Street (the main drag) taking in some of the better looking older buildings but overall leaving with a sense of disappointment. We looped back around along the estuary walkway to the Stead Street wharf when we decided we needed a coffee! We arrived at the always open, free wi-fi giving Starbucks and were greeted by the Christmas menu, and cups, on the 29th of October!
After our early morning air raid alarm practice, we were delighted to have a bit of a long lie before setting off on our journey to Wanaka. We had a quick coffee pitstop midway in Haast (Craig kept singing Du Hast while driving for ages...) and we arrived in Wanaka for lunchtime. With neither of us hungry we wandered around the lake to #thatwanakatree - New Zealand's most photographed tree which grows near the shore. It is such a popular Instagram spot that it is now named with a hashtag!
With some R&R behind us, we hit the road again on a cloudy Sunday morning after a stop in Westport for some shopping and a coffee. Stocked up, we arrived into the town of Punakaiki, home of the pancake rocks and blowholes, and stopped at the visitor centre to explore. The Paparoa National Park was beautiful in itself and thus a lovely spot to wander around and take in the beautiful rock formations and be taken quite by surprise when the ocean eventually exploded into the air. A quick trip to Punakaiki cavern yielded no glow worms as the cave didn't quite go deep enough to escape the sunlight that kept the nocturnal creatures in hiding.
After an early alarm, we got the van packed up and made our way to the Wellington Interislander Ferry for the 9am sailing across the Cook Strait and down to the South Island. We were looking forward to the views on the 3.5 hour journey as it is billed as one of the Great Journeys of New Zealand however the mist and rain stopped us from seeing very much on our crossing! So instead we bought a coffee and snuck into the business lounge and got comfy for the next few hours.
On Friday morning we woke to the sound of rain pounding the van and discovered, for the first time, the pain of walking to the shower block while the real shower is ongoing outside! We headed east with pretty poor driving conditions over the mountains, back to the much drier east coast. Docking in Napier around lunchtime we wandered around this fantastic town, that was rebuilt in the Art Deco style after a 1931 earthquake. We felt like we had been transported back to 1930's Hollywood, or maybe, more accurately for us, Hollywood Studios in Disneyworld! We both loved the style of signs and reckon they would look awesome at home!
After a leisurely start to our morning, we jumped back in the campervan and headed for Matamata - otherwise known as Hobbiton! This was the place on the trip that Craig was most excited to visit and he was like a kid at Christmas on the drive over!
On Thursday morning, we picked up the campervan from Mighty, near Auckland airport and set off in our home for the next 5 weeks. With a short drive planned for today, we headed for Thames at the bottom of the Coromandel Peninsula and checked into Dickson's holiday park.