When I first came to NZ in 2002, I remember loving the countryside and always wanting to come back. Visiting the South Island again in 2014 made me realise a few things…
Around 2 hours South of Christchurch on the East Coast of the South Island lies Oamaru. I had never been before and found a place that left a wonderful impression on me. It is a small town with a history of limestone quarrying. There are a large number of white limestone buildings clustered along the high street which really give Oamaru some character…and also the town houses a major tourist attraction which is the Blue Penguin colony.
At dusk, the penguins come back to shore in small groups or “rafts”, amble up the rocks and then form a group before running like mad across the open ground to their colony. It was a joy to watch and to listen to them back in their nests. 96 were counted in on the evening we visited. Rare yellow-eyed penguins also nest further down the coast on the beach shown below and I will share the joy of seeing them in the wild on a later post on the birds of NZ!
The public gardens are also beautiful and house a aviary of various birds – great to walk around.
I left a small piece of my heart in Oamaru. It is lovely.
My first visit to Fiordland and to Milford Sound (described in more detail in a future post) brought back fond memories in some ways and I found that piece of my heart that I left here in 2002 – a small part that made we want to come back to New Zealand ever since. Also, strangely, on my return, it was not quite as impressive as I recalled…even though I couldn’t remember much about it. Thankfully the weather was reasonably clear though as it is one of the wettest places on Earth with over 6m of rain per year. Here are a couple of photos from the journey there…a traffic jam (I kid you not) and a view from Mirror Lake.
Any trip to Milford Sound (2 hours away) takes you through a small town called Te Anau. Nestled on the edge of Lake Te Anau, with mountains surrounding it, this was simply stunning. So peaceful, not overly developed for tourists, a free wildlife park by the lake and with such a lovely feel to it. A number of hiking treks stem from here and you are free to amble off into the wilderness…if you have that sense of adventure (I am not there…yet). It is so great to find somewhere that brings a sense of peace and delight.