Cycling the Martinborough Vineyards Part 1

I love Martinborough. My cousins grew up here and I have so many wonderful memories of weekends and school holidays spent on the farm. There was always an adventure to be had and this place will always hold a special place in my heart.

Martinborough has changed quite a bit since my childhood days. It’s still a rural country town but it is now also a hot spot for Wellintonians who can just pop over the hill for a weekend escape. With it’s boutique shops, gourmet food and fresh country air, an indulgent weekend weekend away is easy to achieve.

Oh, and they also (according to my husband) make some of the best pinot noir in the country. So while great food and the outdoors is on the agenda, we are here for a weekend of wine.

Martinborough is in the south of the Wairarapa, about an hours drive from Wellington. Or you can take the train which connects with a bus in Featherston. It’s an easy day trip, but if you have the time, I highly recommend coming for a weekend.

It’s a wet dreary day in Wellington, but in less than an hour, we are heading into indigo sky and green pastures. I have booked us a villa at Margrain Vineyard. We have stayed here a couple of times before. The first time, Daniel surprised me with a weekend trip away….

He booked the Pinot Suite. The place was huge! But all I really remember was eating our $20 fish and chips at the 12 seater burl wood table. We decide that next time it would make more sense to book a cheaper room and have more money for spending on wine.

So that’s what we did. I now do all the travel planning and I am much less extravagant. (Although I write this now, smiling to myself, thinking about a post I will be publishing in a couple of weeks time!)

We stay in one of their villas. The place reminds me a bit of Noddy’s town with it’s brown and blue villas with chapel like towers on each of the rooms. It is certainly a distinct looking place. Our room is light, spacious and has a small balcony overlooking green fields. It is very comfortable and perfect for our weekend getaway.

The room rate also includes a daily continential breakfast as well as a selection of teas, coffee and hot chocolate. They have also placed a selection of their wines in our room.

The Pinot Noir is opened straight away!

With a glass of pinot in hand and a map, I settle in to plan out our wine tasting route for tomorrow. You can download the map, pick one up from the information center, or, in our case, there was one in the room. There are over 20 vineyards and it’s a hard choice. Reading through the little blurbs, they all sound great. Some are only open by appointment or in the summer, so that rules out a few, but I still have a good selection to choose from. I figure if we have a decent lunch, I can probably manage about 4 – 5 places before I can no long ride a bike in a straight line.

To be continued.

Queenstown in the Winter for non Skiers

Pretty much every time I told someone that I was heading to Queenstown in July, I got asked the same question.

‘Are you going skiing?’

‘No.’

The skill and coordination required for activities such as skiing, snowboarding and ice skating seems to have escaped me. And while Queenstown is a very popular place for snow seeking adventurers, there is still plenty to see and do in this spectacular region for those of you like me who aren’t keen on hitting the slopes.

Here are my top 6 things to do in Queesntown in the Winter for non skiiers.

Walks. There are plenty of walks you can do in Queenstown, varying in length and difficulty. The walk we did was a pleasant stroll through the Queenstown Gardens, located at the far end of the bay on a small peninsular jutting out into the lake. It is a pretty loop track that took us about half an hour. It passes through trees, over a stream, through a rose garden and around the lake, offering great views of the Remarkables and Queenstown township. We did this walk at dusk, lights were just stating to come on and the reflections across the lake were gorgeous. There is also a tyre swing for those who are keen.

Adrenaline. If you are looking to get the adrenaline pumping, there are plenty of activities to choose from. We did a jet boat tour on the iconic Shotover River. Stunning scenery and a thrilling ride. You can read about our experience here. Bungy Jumping your thing? (it’s not mine!) But if you fancy leaping off a bridge, Kawarau is the worlds home of bungy. Even if your just watching (like I did) it’s pretty spectacular scenery. Or you might like to go paragliding off Coronet peak. I don’t like heights, but this one is on my bucket list.

Lake Cruise. What better way to experience Lake Wakatipu than on a 108 year old twin screw steamer. The Edwardian styled TSS Earslaw still makes daily trips out on the lake. Step back in time on this grand old lady and enjoy the stunning views from the middle of the lake. We did a night time cruise which you can read about here.

There is also the million dollar boat cruise which we did on our first trip to Queenstown. The cruise wasn’t as nostalgic, but it was certainly interesting and I even got to have a go steering the boat.

Wine Tasting. If you are a lover of wine then Queesntown is the place to sample some of the best pinot noir in the country. There are a number of tour operators you can choose from, we did our tour with Queenstown Winery Tours. You can read about our experience here. It was such a fun and educational day, with great food and exceptional wine. We may have purchased quite a lot of wine to bring home with us!

Day Trip. While Queenstown is stunning, there are some equally stunning places not far from the town, so if your after a change of scenery, get in a car and head out on a day trip.

Why not check out Glenorchy. The journey there is half the fun. Its a gorgeous stretch of road that will have you wanting to stop every 5 minutes to take photos. Once there, soak up the peacefulness of the area, enjoy the views, read about the TSS Earnslaw in the boat shed and go for a walk around the lagoon. We had a great time there and you can read about it here.

If your in the mood for a bit of history, you should visit charming Arrowtown. It’s an old gold mining town with remnants of the past still visible and has a well preserved Chinese Settlers Village. Situated along side the Arrow River, there are walks, cafe’s and boutique shops to keep you entertained. Here is an account of our day trip to Arrowtown.

Or why not head over The Crown Range and spend some time relaxing on the shore of Lake Wanaka. Enjoy some lunch in one of the many Lake Front cafes, experience the lake from a Kayak and take your own photo of the iconic #That Wanaka Tree

Skyline Gondola and Luge. For spectacular views over Queenstown, you can’t go past the Skyline Gondola. Take a ride up to the top, check out the views and maybe enjoy a drink or two in the cafe. When your ready to make your way down, why not try The Luge. This was something we did on our first trip to Queenstown. I was quite nervous about it but it actually turned out to be so much fun, it even started lightly snowing on our way down. Magical.

And so you see, there are plenty of things to keep yourself entertained with in Queenstown during the winter. Even if you don’t ski.

Dining in Queenstown

Queenstown is a foodie’s delight.

In our week long stay we were able to try some delicious food so I thought it would be fun to do a post on some of the memorable (and not so memorable) places we tried during our stay.

One thing I noticed was how well vegetarians and vegans are catered for here. Don’t get me wrong, New Zealand certainly does cater to these dietary requirements, but the choice in Queenstown was far greater than what I am used to at home.

Mulled Wine. On a cool winter’s day, whats better than a hot, steaming wine to warm you up. I tried mulled wine from a couple of places but my favorite was hands down, the mulled wine from Pier Restaurant & Bar down by the lake front. Their mulled wine is beautifully spiced but it was the whole experience that made this so enjoyable. Sitting outside, next to the gas heater, people watching and taking in the view of the stunning Remarkable Ranges. It doesn’t get much better than this. Their Baileys hot chocolate is also great.

Craft Beer Bar. Now I am not a beer drinker, but Smith’s Craft Beer House was recommended to us by some friends. After an exhilarating but rather freezing afternoon spent jet boating, this was the perfect place to warm up, wait for the feelings to return to my toes and watch the world go by. Their mulled ginger beer and deep fried pickles were the perfect accompaniment to my defrosting. There is a great range of beers on tap and the place has a relaxed, chilled vibe.

A sweet treat. If you are feeling a little peckish after dinner (or have an hour to wait for the bus like we did) and wanting a little something sweet to finish off with, you can’t go wrong with the S’mores from the Cookie Time Cookiebar. I don’t think it is even on their menu but I spotted someone else having one and had to try it. Warm, gooey, sweet and sticky it’s the perfect little bite to warm you from the inside out.

Vineyard Lunch. If you get the opportunity to dine at Akarua Winery you wont be disappointed. The setting is beautiful, the food is scrumptious and you’re in a vineyard, with excellent wine on hand. Win win. We came here as part of a wine tasting tour and were served a selection of food to share among the table. Fresh bread, olives, salmon, super crispy potatoes, a freshly baked lamb pie and a gorgeous haloumi salad for me. This place seems to be well known amongst the locals which is always a good sign.

To Ferg or not to Ferg. That is the question. If you have even been to Queenstown or even just planning your visit, I am sure you have heard about the famous Ferg Burger. With it’s queues of people lining the streets, waiting to get their hands on one of these burgers, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical. Surely it can’t be THAT good. So, on every tour we went on, I asked the other tourists and the locals – have you had Ferg burger? Is it really that good? The tourists told me, call ahead to make your order so you don’t wait ages in the queue.

However, the word from the locals was that Devil Burger was just as good and didn’t have the long wait. So after doing my research, on our last night, we went to Devil Burger. And I have to say, we were wildly underwhelmed. There was nothing wrong with the burger, it was made with fresh ingredients, but there was no wow factor. So I still can’t tell you if Ferg Burger is really as good as everyone says, but if it really is like Devil Burger, then I have to say, our local burger joint, Dirty Burger in Petone is so much better. Next time I will try Ferg Burger & settle this debate!

Steak. So as you may already know, I am a vegetarian. My husband is a big meat eater. And somehow, on our 10 year wedding anniversary, I found myself having dinner at a Jervois Steak House. If you are a lover of fine dining and steak, you will love this place. Its busy, but the staff are attentive and friendly. Their steak menu is extensive and you could easily spend a small fortune here. If you have ever wondered what a $70 piece of steak looks like, here it is:

Daniel did say it was excellent and really enjoyed the experience. My meal was fine, I had a salad and a side of kumera. While there are some vegetarian options, this place really is for meat lovers.

Best dining experience. Not just in Queenstown. This has to be one of my favourite dining experiences.

Ever!

We are relatively new to the concept of ‘Trust the Chef’ dining but it is something we are really enjoying and No5 Church Lane was exceptional. Daniel of course insisted on the special ‘7 course option’ that wasn’t advertised on the menu but I am so glad he did. The presentation was beautiful and we tried so many new things; like deep fried banana flower that they called the vegetarian version of fried chicken, even Daniel was a fan and that’s saying something!

The most ‘out there’ dish though was Daniel’s main course. Lamb bacon, topped with a purple maori potato. On top of that was a scoop of black pudding ice cream, yes you read that correctly, garnished with a rosemary crisp. He described it as wild and out of his comfort zone, but in a really good way.

Our waiter then brought out a waffle cone with ice cream (not black pudding flavour), telling us that’s it’s the first dessert! I have never been anywhere before were you are served 2 desserts!

Every dish was outstanding, creative and left me excited to see what would follow next. If you get the chance to dine here, I can’t recommend this place enough.

Wherever your culinary journey in Queenstown takes you, I have no doubt that you will find plenty of flavours to delight your taste buds with.

Chillin’ in Wanaka

We still have the Mercedes, so we take it for a spin. Over The Crown Range to Wanaka.

Twisting, turning roads, hair pin bends, gorgeous scenery. It’s a road that’s definitely worth a drive. We stop at a lookout to check out the view and take some photos. We only last a couple of minutes. We are at pretty high altitude and it is freezing! Back into our warm car with it’s heated seats.

This view point is as far as we came back in summer, but today we are carrying on over to Wanaka. Along the way we pass through Cardrona township, past the iconic Cardrona hotel and a gorgeous little church. I’m regretting not insisting we stop to take some photos and have a look around, it was just gorgeous.

We then make it to Wanaka. I have done quite a bit of travel in New Zealand, but this is a place I have never been before. I am instantly wowed by how clear the water is. The South Island lakes are always stunning. They are brilliant jewel colours, quite often framed by snow capped mountains.

It’s a perfect winters day, bright blue sky, not a breath of wind and snow on the mountains. It’s the sort of place I could sit for hours, enjoying the scenery, watching the birds and thinking about life.

But then we spot some kayaks for hire and can’t resist.

I love kayaking.

Previously when we have been in kayaks, it has been on a tour and we always get put in a double kayak. I always get put in the front, (apparently it is good practice to have the lightest person in the front) I will be paddling away, thinking it’s a bit hard, only to look back and see that Daniel is busy taking photos, not doing any paddling! And Daniel thinks that I don’t now how to steer. I can see why double kayaks get called marriage breakers.

So we opt for 2 single kayaks. A much better idea! We can each go at our own pace. And yes, I do know how to steer a kayak! The lake is beautiful from above the water (it’s beautiful from the shore too) but being surrounded by the lake is very tranquil.

We paddle out, following the shore line, spotting birds and paddling past boats bobbing up and down. I think this is my favorite experience on this trip. There is just something so magical, so peaceful, about being out on the water. The sound the water makes against the paddle, the stillness, the scenery. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life. A chance to slow down and take it all in.

Back on shore, we grab some lunch before going to take that iconic photo. You know the one I am talking about. #Thatwanakatree. A twisted, lone willow growing out of the lake. It’s probably one of New Zealand’s most photographed trees. With the Southern Alps in the background, it’s certainly instagram worthy.

Stepping back in time to the Gold Rush days of Arrowtown

Nestled into the hills of Central Otago is Arrowtown, sitting along side the banks of the Arrow River. It’s a very peaceful and unassuming river. It’s hard to believe that once apon a time it was filled with gold. Today you will find the remains of life lived long ago in this historic little gold rush town.

In 1862, a local shearer named Jack Tawa found gold in the river. Before long, gold rush took over and the town was full of miners all seeking their fortune. At the height of the gold rush, the population of this little town swelled to 7,000, nearly 3 times it’s current population.

Today, you’re unlikely to find much more than ‘flour gold’ in the river, but the remains of gold fever are still present and ‘X’ still marks the spot where Jack Tawa made his discovery.

It has become a very popular town with the tourists, and I can see why. It’s very picturesque with it’s little wooden and stone shops, tall shady trees lining the streets and spectacular mountains forming the perfect backdrop. I can just imagine horse drawn carts travelling up and down the road in times long ago.

We spend some time walking along the river’s edge. It’s 10:30am and the sun is only just starting to make its appearance over the hills. It would have been an easy river for mining, very flat with easy access. I understand why it would have been so popular – nothing like Skippers Canyon.

We then head to Provisions – a funky little cafe with an organic, home grown feel. Its a very popular place. We are only here for a coffee as we are heading elsewhere for lunch, but I later regret not getting a sticky bun or brioche donut to keep for afternoon tea. They look absolutely scrumptious.

We then spend some time looking around the old Chinese settlement. The cottages (if you could call them that, they are so tiny!) are fairly well preserved and it gives a glimpse into the past. Being so small, they would have been easier to heat in the cold winters, but wow. It’s pretty hard to image living like that. These guys were tough!

A lot of the Chinese miners didn’t come as settlers, but for the opportunities to ‘strike it rich’ and make money to return home with.

There are quite a few little houses in this settlement, as well as a small shop. They are well signposted with information about them all and makes for a fascinating little wander through the area.

Arrowtown is only a 20 minute drive from Queenstown, but if you don’t have a car, it is also connected by bus or you could join a day tour. The place is rich in history, very cute and definitely worth adding to your itinerary.

I have heard it is gorgeous in Autumn when all the leave turn gold. I might just have to come back.

A Day Trip to Glenorchy

Glenorchy.

We have been here before. Only 5 months ago in fact, but we loved it so much, we just had to visit again. You can read about our last trip here.

This time, we are on 4 wheels. A Mercedes-Benz CLS 55 AMG which we have hired from Luxury Car Rentals in Queenstown. Daniel is normally pretty slow to get up and going in the mornings, but today it’s a different story. He can’t wait to take the Merc for a spin.

Its such a beautiful stretch of road to Glenorchy. It twists and turns, moving with the lakeside. Being winter, there are less cars on the road, but there is also grit and ice. Not quite the perfect place to open up the throttle! I have to say though, as much as I enjoyed the car, there are some roads that are just made for 2 wheels. This is one of them.

We only spend a little bit of time at the lake as we have been here before. I enjoyed being able to see it in a different season. (Surprisingly the place was quite flooded when we were here in Summer, but not now in Winter) The place is much quieter too, hardly any people and no hum from the jet boats.

We take a few photos, I ask Daniel to take a picture of me in front of the Glenorchy sign. I get ‘Norchy’ instead!

There are a few different walks you can do here and if you are into walking or hiking, I would suggest you check them out. However, walking isn’t really Daniel’s thing so we do the Glenorchy Lagoon Loop Track. A short, easy stroll around the lagoon. Some of it is along a boardwalk that goes over the lagoon which adds to the experience. It is meant to be a great place for bird spotting. We didn’t really see any, but maybe that’s more in the summer. We are here in the middle of Winter!

I am surprised at how little water there is in the lagoon at this time of year. The trees are bare, the mountains are dusted in snow. I love how distinct the seasons are here in the south. In Wellington it’s pretty common to have 4 seasons in one day. The landscape is gorgeous and yet again, I take soooo many photos!

I walk slowly around the track, breathing deeply, taking in the fresh, cool air. I am trying to take in as much as possible. I love the slower pace of life that South Islanders seem to have. The stillness, the quiet.

This is Glenorchy. Welcome to Paradise.

A Nostalgic Cruise on the TSS Earnslaw

1912.

The year the TSS Earnslaw set sail on her maiden voyage.

A twin screw steamer based on Lake Wakatipu, she is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Central Otago. It is also (according to Wikipedia) the only remaining commercial passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere.

When we were in Central Otago earlier this year, we made a trip up to Glenorchy. In the old boat shed, there are pictures and stories about The Earnslaw. I learnt that it used to travel between Queenstown and Glenorchy, transporting sheep, cattle and passengers to the surrounding high country stations. (The road to Glenorchy wasn’t built until the 60’s)

Today, she is still cruising Lake Wakatipu, showing off the beauty of Queenstown to local and international tourists.

And so we climb aboard for a nostalgic evening cruise on the lake with Real Journeys.

Instantly I am taken back to a bygone era. We are welcomed aboard with a glass of bubbles. The decor is what I would describe as ‘old elegance’ – timber floors and walls with art nouveau styled fixtures and pictures. A band is playing and we settle into our booth seats to enjoy the experience. There is a rhythmic banging coming from the engine, combined with the water lapping at the hull of the boat, it’s all very soothing.

It’s 6pm and the sun is going down.

Fast.

I head out onto the deck to enjoy the view of The Remarkables while I can. Lights are reflecting off the water. It’s dreamy and beautiful.

The Earnslaw is coal powered and I make a stop above the engine room. It’s an open floor with a walkway suspended above so you can look down. Watching the pistons move up and down and staff shoveling coal, for a moment, I feel like I could be on the Titanic. It’s a strange thought to think both ships made their maiden voyage in 1912.

It’s a cold evening, but I head outside again and take a few moments to myself, remembering my Granddad. Knowing that he too stood on this deck warms my heart.

It’s a clear sky tonight (no wonder it’s so cold) the stars and milky way are beautiful though. I remind myself that I should really start learning about astro photography.

I really enjoyed my trip on the Earnslaw and I would certainly recommend it, but perhaps not the evening cruise. Seeing the light slip away behind the mountains and the lights reflect off the lake is lovely, but there is so much beauty in this area. Most of this cruise was in the dark. I would have been able to enjoy a lot more of the scenery on a day cruise.

Wine tasting in Queenstown

What do Burgundy, Oregon and Otago have in common?

They all make outstanding Pinot Noir.

So when in Queenstown, no trip is complete with out visiting the vineyards and sampling some of the delicious wines produced in the area.

We are booked onto ‘The Wine Trail Tour’ with Queenstown Winery Tours. We are picked up from our hotel by our fun and knowledgeable host, Susana. There are 7 of us on this tour, plus Susana, and within minutes we are all chatting away like old friends.

Our first stop is not to a vineyard. Susana take us to Lake Hayes. A beautiful, picturesque lake just outside Queenstown’s center. While taking in the scenery (and Daniel is photographing ducks) we play a little game to help prepare us for what lies ahead.

You may recall in a previous post, I smelt a range of wine fragrances then tried to match them to their scent without much luck. You can read that post here. Even with my previous experience, the results were no different. I wont be giving up my day job!

We smelt many fragrances, from sweet smelling strawberry to pineapple to lychee to some less expected ones like mushroom and peat. We were also educated in the art of wine tasting (it is very technical) so we could all at least pretend that we knew what we are doing.

Sorted.

Our first vineyard is Akarua. With a beautiful outdoor dining area, set amongst mature trees, it is not only the perfect place to taste some wine, but also to enjoy an exquisite meal.

I love travel shows and on a Canadian travel vlog, I heard about something called ‘ice wine’. A dessert wine that has been made with grapes that have frozen on the vine.

I have wanted to try it ever since.

My lucky day – I was informed that Akarua is the only place in New Zealand that produces it. (The grapes are artificially frozen as they don’t get enough consecutive freezing cold days to produce it naturally) Deliciously sweet and sticky, needless to say a bottle of this came home with us.

After our wine tastings we delved into a scrumptious shared lunch which provided a great opportunity to chat with our fellow wine tasting tour buddies and get to know them more.

The food was amazing, as was the company.

We then headed to Chard Farm by way of a narrow winding road next to a very steep drop. (I feel like our 4 wheel drive trip to Skippers Canyon the day before prepared us well for this!) The scenery at Chard Farm is gorgeous!

Chard Farm produce another of my favourite wines, Gewurztraminer. It was not on the tasting list that day, so I purchased a bottle. I am still yet to try it.

Moving onto Gibbston Valley we go on a short tour around the vines, learning about the wine making process. We then head into their wine cave (The largest in New Zealand) for our wine tasting experience.

Our last stop for the day is Wet Jacket located in a beautifully done up wool shed. The wines we tasted were all exquisite. We tasted 6. I was about to suggest to Daniel that we buy one of each when he spotted another wine, not available for tasting, called ‘The Pirate’. An exclusive Pinot Noir in a leather bound bottle complete with a map of Dusky Sounds (Where Wet Jacket Arm is).

Instead of 6 bottles of wine, we walked away with The Pirate, number 893 of 929.

We purchased this on our 10 year wedding anniversary, I think we will be saving this for our 20th anniversary. (Or another level 4 lock down)

Speeding up the Shotover River

Queenstown, known as New Zealand’s ‘Adventure Capital’ has no shortage of activities for thrill seekers.

I don’t like heights and I am certainly not an adrenaline junkie but a jet boat ride on the iconic Shotover river is a thrill I was keen to experience.

There are several different tour companies offering jet boat rides in Queenstown, needless to say, I did my research.

We did our tour with Skippers Canyon Jet. It is one of the more expensive tours (I did manage to get it on sale) but I would consider it the best value for money. The other jet boat tours are just that, 20 – 30 minutes on the jet boat. With Skippers Canyon Jet, you are driven out to the Upper Shotover river though some absolutely stunning scenery. The whole tour lasts around 2.5-3 hours.

We are picked up from the center of town in a 4-wheel drive by our guide Willie. Willie has grown up in the area and during the 1 hour journey to the jet boat he shares his wealth of knowledge with us about the land, the people and the history.

In 1862, Thomas Arthur found the first gold at Arthurs Point on the Shotover River. 2 months later, 4000 gold miners had flocked to the area seeking their fortunes. The Shotover is one of the richest gold bearing rivers in the world and it was mined up until 1992.

At Skippers Road we make a quick stop so that Willie can put chains on the wheels.

Not a bad place to stop.

Uninterrupted views out over Queenstown.

Incredible.

There is plenty of snow to play in but I am regretting my footwear choice. Even with 2 pairs of socks, my canvas shoes let in all the cold.

I’m a snow rookie. But it doesn’t stop the child in me from reaching out and grabbing a handful of snow. I have never felt fresh snow before. I am so astonished at how powdery and soft it is, I insist that Daniel has to also pick some up.

Our 4 wheel drive adventure takes us past snow lined roads with winter bare trees. We weave our way along a narrow windy road with very steep drops. There are moments where my stomach churns. I find myself shifting my weight in my seat – as if I can counterbalance us rolling off the road should a wheel slip off the edge. Astonishingly, the speed limit here is 100kmh, although I am sure anything about 30kmh is asking for trouble.

We pass through Hell’s gate, a pathway through large rock that was made by hand drilling and explosives. Hand drilling! I can’t even imagine how painstakingly challenging that must have been. The rock face at Hell’s Gate is gorgeous though, covered in all its icy stalactites.

We arrive at the Upper Shotover River and get prepared for our jet boat ride. We are provided with life jackets, beanies and gloves. Kitted out and ready to go, we get into the boat. I am pleased to discover that the handrail in the boat is heated.

It’s pretty cold down here in the valley.

It’s even colder once we get moving, I mean teeth chattering cold! I am shrunk down into my scarf as far as I can go to stop my face from going numb. A word of advise, if you don’t wear glasses, make sure you bring sunglasses to wear. The combination of the cold and speed makes it virtually impossible to keep your eyes open without some form of protection!

We speed up the river through narrow canyons and beautiful scenery. Reaching speeds of 80kmh, the ride is thrilling. We approach many cliffs at great speed, you think you are going to collide and then the boat makes a quick turn. The jet boat twists and maneuvers so swiftly.

We even do a few 360’s.

Back on land, we start the journey home with a couple more scenic stops along the way.

It’s been a great afternoon.

A magical winter wonderland

24th July 2020

The day Daniel and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary.

It hasn’t been an easy 10 years, but we have stuck at it, continually learning about each other and growing as a couple. I have to say, I am pretty proud of us and it was really important to me that we celebrated this milestone.

To say that I love travel planning is an understatement. The research, the planning, the dreaming, it’s my happy place. I can spend HOURS absorbed in travel books, blogs and vlogs without even realising how much time has actually passed.

So it’s fair to say, that even long before Covid-19 raised it’s ugly head, I was well into the planning stages for our 10 year celebration trip. I had briefly looked into some overseas options but was quick to rule them out. Daniel is not a tropical island person, I really dislike long haul flights (aka fear of flying) and the East Coast of Australia just didn’t really appeal for this trip.

So I decided, since we were not going to be going anywhere warm, we may as well embrace the winter.

Its time for another adventure.

We leave the Wellington rain and grey behind. Above the clouds there is only sunshine. Our journey begins with the most scenic flight I have ever been on. Truly, it is spectacular. I have never taken so many photos from an aeroplane window before. I realise on the flight that this is the first time I have flown further south than Christchurch.

Our destination? You guessed it, Queenstown.

A pretty alpine town in the heart of Otago, built on the shores of lake Wakatipu and surrounded by The Remarkables mountain range. I have been here once before; in 2010 when we did a day trip on our Fireblade. I am looking forward to having time to explore Queenstown properly.

It’s a cool 3 degrees when we arrive, but honestly, it doesn’t feel that cold. It’s a very different cold to what we get in Wellington. You just layer up and you’re good to go.

No chilled, annoying wind.

We are staying at Nugget Point Hotel. It’s a little bit out of town but views make it worth it. Our room looks out over the Shotover river, a sight I could never get bored with.

The hotel has an unexpected and pretty cool spa room. Think modern Roman baths – mosaics and statues surround the plunge pool and hot tub. There is even a sauna and marble bath.

I quite often would make a trip here in the evenings to warm up after a day out exploring.

We wake up on the first morning to snow.

Oh my soul.

What an incredible experience. In a flash I am dressed and outside; delighting in the small, delicate flakes silently floating down. There is a beautiful silence that occurs when snow falls. Time stands still while a peacefulness settles on the land. The only sound is the noise of the pebbles beneath my shoes as I dance around in childlike excitement.

I had been dreaming of a magical winter wonderland and Queenstown, you have exceeded my expectations.