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).
Leaving Tunnel Beach and Dunedin behind we made our way North to Oamaru, where we parked up at Harbour Tourist Park for the night. As well as having an absolutely stunning location right on the harbour front, we were also in with a chance of seeing some of the little blue penguins who nested on the property so we were super excited to spend the night!
The main reason for coming to Oamaru was the Blue Penguin Colony where they have viewing areas to allow humans to watch the penguins return at dusk from their day fishing at sea (having loved seeing the penguins 18 years previously in Philip Island, Australia, Katy was extremely excited to do it again and this was something that had been on her wishlist since before we left!) We booked the combo ticket which allowed us to tour the facility during the day where we were able to find out more about the research, conservation work and see some of the penguin chicks that the program carried out.
As it was such a glorious day we decided to take a wander into Oamaru city centre in hopes of finding a beer garden or coffee shop with outdoor seating to while away the afternoon until we headed back to the Penguin Colony. The city however, seemed to close at 13:00 on a Saturday so we settled for a wander around the beautiful streets (Oamaru is known for having the best-preserved collection of Victorian architecture in New Zealand) and a quick coffee at The Roost cafe.
After joining the locals in having a fairly chilled afternoon we made our way back to the Penguin Colony. It will come as a surprise to no one that Katy had us there an hour early to make sure we got the best possible seats! The penguins were due to come in around 20:15 and after only waiting a couple of minutes the first group appeared - as the Little Blue Penguins are the smallest in the world they travel in groups called rafts to make themselves look bigger to predators. We watched over 200 come ashore, preen themselves and make their way back to their huts where their partners and chicks were awaiting their return. Highlights of the night included one poor male penguin getting lost from the rest of his raft and coming up the wrong side of the shore right in front of the grandstand we were sitting and watching another penguin feeding it's chicks - Katy therefore felt completely justified in ensuring we were there so early!!
Another early start the next morning and we headed on the road to Twizel where we were planning on spending a night to allow us to make our way to Mt. Cook the next morning. We were mega tourists and stopped off at all the roadside attractions! First was the Maori rock drawings, however most were difficult to make out amongst the graffiti and others had been removed and taken to museums around the country. The next stops were at Lake Waitaki, Lake Aviemore and Lake Benmore, taking the scenic road over the dam at Lake Aviemore and back over the dam at Lake Benmore. We then stopped off at Omarama for a quick lunch before arriving into Twizel to find that the one and only holiday park in the area was fully booked! Given we still had the majority of the afternoon on our side we continued on the road up towards Mt. Cook and instead checked into Glentanner Park Centre. This turned out to be a blessing in two ways, the first was we got to stop off at the Pukaki Lake Lookout, which was due to be closed the following day, and it has truly spectacular views out over the most turquoise lake we've seen, it would certainly give Lake Louise a run for its money! The second, unlike the Twizel holiday park, Glentanner is located in the dark sky reserve and as we had such a clear night we were able to star gaze to our hearts content, seeing not just 1 but 3 shooting stars.
Both feeling absolutely shattered, we got back in the campervan and made our way to Lake Tekapo Holiday Park to park up for the night. It was a stunning location and so we wandered into town along the lake shore to the gorgeous Church of the Good Shepherd (which is known as one of New Zealand's most iconic photo locations) where we joined the hoards of crowds with our camera at the ready. Thanks to Katy's very amateur photography skills we managed to capture a couple of pictures which make it look like we were the only ones there - do not be fooled, there was many a muttering under the breath!!
After such an active day we were happy to let someone else do the cooking and grabbed dinner at the fantastically named, Our Dog Friday and wandered back to our campsite for a well needed early night.
The next morning we were once again on the move, this time back East to Timaru. We had a quick stop off in Fairlie to pick up some lunch from the famed bakehouse and arrived at Timaru Top 10 Holiday Park in the early afternoon. Timaru is not a large tourist town so there was not a lot do, which was just fine with us. After wandering down to the beach and back, we holed ourselves up for the rest of the night and relaxed!
Next stop Christchurch, our final stop in New Zealand and to return Tiffany!