A Nostalgic Cruise on the TSS Earnslaw


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.


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.

New Zealand, through the eyes of my Grandmother – Part 2

Continuing on from last week, if you haven’t read it yet, you can check out last week’s post here.

Tell me about some memorable holidays you have had in New Zealand

3 sons and 4 grandchildren later….

In 1989 your Granddad and I packed up the car and headed away on a trip around the South Island.

It was a trip that took us down The West Coast and back up The East Coast, visiting many beautiful New Zealand places; Picton, The Buller Gorge, Greymouth, The Glaciers at Franz and Fox, Punakaiki and Hokitika.

We stopped in Okarito to look for white herons but only found wasps!

Lake Matheson, a Mirror Lake, near Fox Glacier on the West Coast

We then headed onto Queenstown. There we took a ride on the gondola and had a meal at the top with million dollar views. We also took a cruise on The Earnslaw (which is notorious for its black smoke) to Walter Peak Station. We did a trip out to Arrowtown and Glenorchy and even did a day trip by bus to Milford Sound.

I have always thought this photo was so funny.  Taken on the Earnslaw, which is notorious for its black smoke.  It looks like Granddad has the smoke is coming out of his ears!

We then made our way back up the country travelling through Lake Tekapo and Fairlie with a side trip to Akaroa. We stayed a couple of nights in Christchurch. The night before we left there was quite a big storm. It turned very cold and we woke the next morning to see the Southern Alps covered in snow. 

A sight to behold! 

We headed back to Picton, spending a night in Kaikoura on the way. The Kaikoura Ranges were also covered in snow – a perfect finish to our South Island Odyssey.

I remembered thinking back to the trip we had done to Canada the year before when we went to Banff and I thought Queenstown and surroundings were much prettier.

In 2010 we did another trip around the South Island. This time on a group trip. It included a trip to Doubtful Sounds which was lovely – crossing Lake Manapouri then over a pass to the Sound – in the rain! When we got onto the boat though, the sun came out. We got right out to the Tasman in beautiful calm weather. On the way back they beached the boat on the shore, turned the engines off and told us not to talk.  Nothing to hear but the lapping of the water on the shore. 


That’s what they call the Sound of Silence. 

On the way back to Te Anau we stopped at the Manapouri Power Station and got on a bus that took us 2 kilometres under ground.  I HATED it and couldn’t wait to get back up into daylight. It was so dark and damp and surrounded by solid rock. The power station was impressive but I couldn’t imagine how people (some girls doing clerical work as well) could bear to spend their days under ground.  I remember my mum did a trip there in the 70’s and she loved it! Not for me. 

From Queenstown we went to Cromwell and the Clyde Dam and then crossed the Maniototo Plain. It’s unusual, scrubby, rocky country. The wind was so strong our poor lady driver had trouble keeping the little bus on the road and she had sore arms for days. 

One of the best things about that trip was we got very friendly with the couple running it and kept in touch with them for quite a long time after. 

You have now lived in Aotearoa for over 70 years. Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you would love to see?

I have just been listening to a chap being interviewed about Great Barrier Island. It sounds like somewhere really different and I would like to see it, though I guess I never will.  A half hour flight or a 4 1/2 hour ferry trip from Auckland. It’s a semi tropical place with a very laid back life style. 

Maybe you could do the trip on my behalf?

Do you have any travel tips or advise for kiwi’s or foreigners who are wanting to explore ‘The Long White Cloud?”

The best way to see the West Coast is in the rain! It makes the scenery mystical!

Next week I will begin my Queenstown Series. My husband and I have just recently returned from a 6 day trip in this stunning place where we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary.