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.