Wanaka in Photos

We’ve been spending the last week or so in Wanaka.  Where’s Wanaka?  Good question.

WanakaWanaka is represented by the “A” on that map.  If we were to drive from Auckland to Wanaka, it would take between 20 – 22 hours, involve a ferry ride, and cover just under 1,500km (~930 miles).  We decided to fly into Queenstown and drive from there to Wanaka, which is a much more reasonable distance and takes about an hour.

This trip was strictly about relaxing.  No big excursions.  No gondola rides.  No lake cruises.  Just relaxation.  Going to the beach.  Swimming in the pool.  Working out at the resort gym.  Taking Joe to the sand box and various playgrounds.  Feeding ducks.  Walking around the town and poking in and out of various shops.  The only “big” thing that we did was drive 1.5 hours to Lake Pukaki.  The lake is glacier fed and gorgeously blue (you’ll see it in the photos below).  It’s also a great spot for seeing Mt. Cook without having to drive all the way there.

Enough words.  On to photos.

The view from our resort…

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We stayed at the Grand Mercure Oakridge Resort in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit.  It was great.  I believe that the 2 bed/bath unit can actually sleep 5 – 6 people, as we noticed a pullout bed in one of the sofas.  The resort has great views of the mountains, has 3 large pools of varying depths, several hot tubs surrounding the pools, a sauna, on-site restaurant, bar, and spa, and a decent workout room.  It’s about a 30 minute walk into town with the stroller, less if you bicycle in.

Speaking of walking into town, here were some of the views that I was treated to while pushing Joe….

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Lovely Lake Wanaka in the background.

As stated earlier, we spent a lot of time on playgrounds.  Joe wasn’t complaining.

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Joe yelling “YAAAAH!”  It’s his new favourite word.

There was one sad moment on the playground when Joe fell off of a piece of equipment and landed partially on his face, partially on his shoulder, and partially on his arm.  Of course, it was a fall from about 1/2 a foot high (.15 metres) and onto cushiony woodchips, so I wasn’t too concerned.  I’ve found that playgrounds in New Zealand a are a bit more, shall we say, daring than US playgrounds?  There is a rationale behind this, or at least there’s one that’s been explained to me.  NZ playgrounds are designed to let children take safe, but realistic, risks in a controlled environment, always with the assumption that their care provider is with them and watching them.  Playgrounds in the US are designed with the thought in mind that someone may sue if an injury occurs.  As a result, they are ultra-safe, which actually makes them less safe (as it was explained to me).  Why?  Because they’re safe to the point of being boring.  There is little or almost no risk in them.  That sounds good, right?  Who wants their kids to play on risky equipment?  Except kids being kids, which means being curious and testing the limits, tend to take risks whether parents want them to or not.  And if the playground is too safe, then it’s likely that children will use the equipment in a way other than what was intended, such as deciding to jump from the top of the slide or something along those lines.  In New Zealand, who wants to jump from the top of the slide when you can just hurl yourself down the flying fox (or zip line, as we refer to it)?

Alright, that’s enough about playground safety.

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More of Lake Wanaka in the above photos.  It was a little chilly when we first arrived, but warmed up significantly by week’s end.

We made the 1.5 hour drive from Wanaka to Lake Pukaki, going past several large sheep stations and taking a pit stop in the bustling ‘burg of Twizel, population just over 1,000.

The lake is gorgeous.  Cold, clear, and with a beautiful view.

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That’s Mt. Cook, or Aoraki, in the last photo.  Mt. Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand at 12,316 feet.  Many famous mountaineers have scaled its peaks, including Sir Edmund Hillary.  And if you don’t know who Sir Edmund Hillary is, well, I don’t know what to say to that.  Just read his Wikipedia page.

I did have a very funny photo to post on here, but Chris wouldn’t let me, mainly because he was in it.  He wasn’t the funny bit – the funny bit was a person that I unwittingly caught in the background.  Nevertheless, Chris didn’t want me to post it because he didn’t like the shirt that he was wearing.  He thought it made him look silly.  When I asked him why he wore it if he didn’t like it, his reply was a simple one and probably made sense to him.

“I wore it because you bought it for me and it was in my suitcase.”

He then went on to explain that if he ever looks funny, silly, goofy, or out of style, then I’m to blame because we all know that he never buys clothing for himself.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  I’ll just say that I’m happy to be married to a guy who isn’t a fussy dresser.  He pretty much wears whatever I buy for him, even, apparently, if he thinks it looks weird on him :-)

There were 3 little birdies that kept hopping into our apartment.  I think that they were attracted to the crumbs under Joe’s seat.

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There’s a little cafe and store not far from the resort (Florence’s Foodstore & Cafe) with a sandbox out back.  We had fun visiting there, and Joe had fun digging in the sand.

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Here we are visiting yet another playground.  Chris is more daring with Joe than I am.

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The lake water was so clear.  You almost can’t tell that I’m standing in it.

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Naturally, Joe had to sit in it.  It’s what little kids do.

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Thanks, Wanaka, for such a great time!

Queenstown

We spent Wednesday – Friday in Queenstown last week.  Let me share a little bit about our trip with you…

Our “side” of fries at Pub on Wharf… more like a giant bucket ‘o chips!

Somebody was very happy about all those carbs…

Actually, I think he was just happy to see some food.  We were hungry.

The flight into Queenstown?  Ugh.  I’m not sure if it’s this pregnancy or what, but I have never come so close to throwing up mid-air.  There was some pretty nasty turbulence coming over those mountains.  You know it’s bad when one of the flight attendants cuts short their landing safety routine and nearly runs to their seat, all while yelling, “Seatbelts!  Seatbelts!”  We were so close to The Remarkables mountain range that the pilot warned us ahead of time and told us “not to worry”.  Ha!  I had to repeat to myself “You will not throw up, you will not throw up!”

Chris and Joe?  Cool as cucumbers.

See what I mean?  These guys are almost always happy.

Queenstown is lovely.  It reminded me of Colorado in some respects – lots of hiking gear stores, mountain bikers, climbers, and mountains.

We stayed at the Rydges Lakeland Resort, which was nicely situated with a lake aspect and within easy walking distance of most main attractions.  I recommend signing up for their free Priority Rewards program online – it gets you 10% off the best online rate, a complimentary drink on arrival (mine was consumed by Chris, naturally), 1pm checkout, 20% off dining in their restaurants, and 50% off the internet charges, not to mention points toward future stays.  I found a rate that included a buffet breakfast each morning of our stay.  Since Joe has turned into a human vacuum cleaner and eats everything in sight, we’ve learned to appreciate the bounty of buffet breakfasts.  Definitely worth it, and bonus of free entertainment when we watched not one, but two different people light their pastries on fire while attempting to toast them (despite the very LARGE sign positioned on the toaster oven warning people not to toast pastries, complete with a picture of a pastry going up in flames).

Another recommendation?  Wherever you’re traveling in New Zealand, look for a free Kidz Go booklet (or use their website).  We picked up one of these at the hotel and what a great resource it was.  It had listings for playgrounds, kid-friendly and pram-friendly walks, toilets with nappy changing facilities, was broken down by budget (free, $50 range, $75 range, etc.), and activity style.  We have referenced it several times, both in Q’town and Wanaka.

One of our first activities was the Kiwi Birdlife Park, located just outside the entry to Skyline Gondola.  We saved a few pennies by buying the park entry + gondola as a package.  The nice thing about this (aside from the financial savings) was that you don’t have to use them on the same day.  We ended up visiting the park one day and the gondola the next.

Joe loved the park.

Can you believe that it was built on what used to be the Q’town dump?  That’s right – what is now a well-known, successful wildlife rescue is situated on land that used to be filled with refuse and rusting cars.  It was certainly inspiring to see how work, dedication, belief, and time can bring about beauty from ashes.

We were able to see many different types of native (and some non-native) New Zealand birds, reptiles, and small furry mammals.  The highlight was definitely seeing the kiwi birds in the kiwi viewing houses.  We were a bit concerned as to how Joe would do while in the viewing house (they ask you to be very quiet – no talking – and to refrain from taking any photos or video, as kiwi birds are quite shy) but he managed just fine and we were able to stay for the feeding time and then the conservation talk afterward.

Dinner was pizza at Winnie’s

Yet another satisfied customer.

Next day: Skyline Gondola!

The views were gorgeous.

Joe was in a great mood.  We’ve found that the best way to get him to smile for the camera nowadays is to say, “Don’t smile!”  Cracks him up every time.

We ended our last day there with a cruise on Lake Wakatipu.  There are several different options for cruises, with one of the more obvious ones being the TSS Earnshaw steamer.  However, I did a quick look-up on TripAdvisor and saw that despite it’s high profile, it wasn’t the highest ranked.  In fact, Million Dollar Cruises had a higher rating (and was about half of the price).  Give you one guess which one we chose.

The beautiful lake.  Lake Wakatipu is 99% pure water which means that, like distilled water, it won’t conduct electricity.  When Queen Elizabeth visited Q’town several decades ago, she was reportedly quite impressed with the clarity of the water.  It truly is a beautiful lake.

For those who don’t know, Q’town was first settled by 14 Europeans (one of whom was William Gilbert Rees, generally regarded as the founder of Queenstown) and 8,000 merino sheep.  How they managed to get 8,000 sheep down there is something that I wonder about – it must have been quite a feat.

Joe loved the cruise, but then he seems to love all sorts of different types of travel.  He had a fabulous time steering the boat, but then he began to press the buttons and the captain had to take over.  Is anyone surprised that Joe went right for the buttons?

I love that boy!

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All good things must come to an end, and that included our time in Q’town.  We drove off to Wanaka, about an hour north of there but still in the Southern Lakes District of Otago.  We drove through the goldrush town of Arrowtown on the way.  We weren’t able to do any sight-seeing, but Chris did stop for coffee (for him) and a chocolate milk shake (for me).

“The Longest Drink in Town” – yet another Kiwi classic

A rainy day in Arrowtown.

We took the Crown Ridge Road to Wanaka.  Welcome to Middle Earth, my lovely readers.

We’re Back, and Now We’re Leaving Again!

We’re in Auckland again, but not for long!  After 5 days of being home, we’re about to set off for the South Island to explore Queenstown and Wanaka for 9 days.  I can’t wait!

image via

You might think that we’re slightly mental to head out on a trip to the South Island a mere 5 days after returning to New Zealand, but it makes sense.  We moved out of our apartment prior to leaving for the United Kingdom and agreed to house sit for friends upon our return.  However, the house sit won’t start till the 13th of December, leaving us with a 2 week interval between flying back to NZ and moving into our friends’ house.  We decided to make the most of our necessary hotel time by choosing to spend some of those hotel days in the South Island.  Why not?

So, we’re back, but we’re off again.  I hope that all of you, my lovely readers, are doing well and enjoying life in whatever part of the world you find yourself.

The South Island

I’d like to vacation here:

Queenstown (image via)

Fjordland National Park (image via)

Fox National Glacier (image via)

Arrowtown (image via)

Dunedin (image via)

Stewart Island (image via)

Marlborough Wine Region (image via)

Abel Tasman National Park (image via)

In other words, I want to visit the South Island (of New Zealand)!

Now, all I have to do is convince Chris… shouldn’t be too hard considering how close we are (living on the North Island) but we’ll see :-)

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