We asked guest contributor Sarah Lavender Smith (aka FarFlungGal, who wrote a great piece on RV travel in kiwi-land) to share a post about New Zealand in honor of a worldwide travel bloggers’ initiative called #Blog4NZ. From March 21 to 23, travel bloggers are dedicating their posts to tourism in New Zealand, in the wake of the the February earthquake that occurred in Christchurch. Together, we hope to encourage travelers to visit the country, which is very much up and running and accepting tourists!
“It feels like we drove from Big Sur to the Rockies in less than two hours,” I told my husband as we cut across New Zealand’s South Island on the Great Alpine Highway.
We started our day on the wet and wild West Coast, marveling at blowholes and layered rock formations known as Pancake Rocks. By lunchtime, we found ourselves in the midst of Arthur’s Pass National Park, staring upward at the Southern Alps’ glacial peaks and slopes of scree. The dramatic change in landscape also dazzled our two school-age kids, who kept pointing and exclaiming, “Look!”
Crossing the South Island from the West Coast to Christchurch along Highway 73 takes just half a day, but I recommend taking at least three to explore the stretch between Westport and Greymouth and to hike or bike around Arthur’s Pass.
Starting in Westport, experience the gorgeous Buller Gorge river valley on horseback with Buller Adventure Tours. Then dine next to waves crashing against the coast at The Bay House in nearby Cape Foulwind (which smells fine in spite of its name), hands-down the best restaurant we found in the region.
The next day, head down to Punakaiki and take a short walk around Pancake Rocks, where wind and waves sculpt the layered limestone stacks into incredible formations that spout water like a whale. From there, drive south and then turn east to reach the woodsy Arthur’s Pass Village—but when you get out of your car, get ready for pretty but pesky alpine parrots called Keas to swarm in search of food.
Lots of family-friendly short hikes branch out from the village. We embarked on one that passed by a waterfall and clear pool that reflected light and color like gemstones.
Before heading to Christchurch, consider spending a night or two at Flock Hill Lodge, about 15 minutes east of the village (and about two hours from Christchurch). Settled on a working sheep station, Flock Hill Lodge is a collection of comfortable rooms and self-contained cottages that surround a lovely garden, pond and first-rate restaurant.
The area is so magical and visually arresting that it was chosen as a location to film The Chronicles of Narnia’s climactic battle scene. Many challenging tracks (what Kiwis call trails) lead trampers and mountain bikers to remote parts of Arthur’s Pass National Park and nearby Flock Hill, but to my kids the choice of a day hike seemed obvious: The Narnia Track!
FarFlung Gal Sarah Lavender Smith and her family spent two months living around New Zealand during a ten-month round-the-world journey, which she chronicled at Away Together. She now blogs about destinations and training advice for runners at The Runner’s Trip: Run Long, Travel Far, Discover More. Photos by Morgan C. Smith.