Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

South Island 2004

In 2004 we were able to fit in a 3-week trip to South Island, in between Richard's medical appointments in Auckland. This trip covered a lot of ground between the ferry arrival point in Picton all the way down to Slope point near Invercargill. 

South Island - Picton to Christchurch

Lake BrunnerWe drove to Wellington on a grey Sunday, intending to take the ferry on the Monday. However a violent storm hit the Wellington area on Sunday night, causing extensive flooding, landslips and general disruption. The ferries were cancelled and the next available sailing was on the Wednesday. Our friends therefore put us up for 2 extra days.

Once over the ferry the route took us to Blenheim and then to Greymouth on the west coast, where there was once again severe rain and the only accommodation available was overlooking Lake Brunner, some 30 km outside town.

Arthurs PassWith more bad weather forecast for the west we cut our losses and headed back over Arthur's pass to Christchurch.

Avon punting

Christchurch seemed very much modelled on Oxford and Cambridge, there is even punting on the river.

Christchurch Cathedral

Of course our visit was before the devastating earthquake. We went for an evening concert given by a Danish youth choir.

Time ball station

We hoped to take the cable car up the hill outside Christchurch for the view, but it is closed because of high winds. We go to the port of Lytleton instead, visiting the signal station where they still drop the time ball at noon.

Banks Peninsula

Okains Bay

We take a detour out onto the Banks Peninsula, visiting the town of Akaroa, with a decidedly French influence, before staying at a homestay at Okains Bay on the north coast. The road down from the top ridge is so steep that we are concerned whether our old car will make it back up.

In the village at Okains Bay there is one of the best museums of Maori artifacts in the whole of New Zealand. Well worth the visit

South Island - Oamaru and Timaru

Yellow eyed penguin

Then it's down to Timaru and Oamaru for penguin watching. At Oamaru the yellow eyed came ashore just before dusk and climb up quite a long way to their nests . There is a hide to watch them from and a volunteer takes a small group near to one of the nests for a (fairly) close up.

Watching the little blues at Timaru is rather more commercialised. This is done from a viewing centre, set up like a theatre and there is commentary. The nesting site is artificial and is closely monitored. They come ashore about an hour after dusk, but do not seem to mind the lights.


Tasman Glacier

The route to Wanaka takes us through Tekapo, where we spend three nights overlooking the lake.

This is a base for a trip up to the foot of Mount Cook and the terminus of the Tasman Glacier. From the viewing area you cannot actually see any ice, as it is all covered with rubble.

Flight over Mount Cook

Flight over Mount Cook

On the day we leave the highlight of our stay in Tekapo is a flight over Mount Cook and the glaciers, for which we have excellent weather

Clay cliffs

Clay cliffs

On the way from Tekapo to Wanaka it is a short diversion to the clay cliffs at Paritea, where the clay has been eroded into deep ravines and pinnacles.


Queenstown view

From Wanaka we take short trips up the river, on both sides and down to Queenstown. On the northern side of the River Dart from Wanaka, we pass through the village of Paradise and up to the campsite at the end of the road where there were ferocious

The road over the hills between Wanaka and Queenstown is one of the highest in New Zealand passing one of the smaller ski areas, Cardroba. A short diversion from this road takes in the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown, very touristy

We much prefer the smaller town of Wanaka to the more commercialised Queenstown

Wanaka to Manapouri

Lake Wakatipu

We leave Wanaka early as we need to be at Manapouri by noon. The route takes us over the hills to Queenstown, down the side of Lake Wakatipu and then over the plateau to Te Anau and on to Manapouri.

The scenery becomes increasingly bleak as we head over the plateau.

At Manapouri we check in for our cruise on Doubtful Sound, then move the car up to the long term car park.

Doubtful Sound

Manapouri hydro

The overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound commences with a boat ride across Lake Manapouri to the site of the hydroelectric power station, then a coach trip over the hills before we finally board the actual cruise boat.


The cruise takes us down to the mouth of the "sound" (it is not actually a sound - a sunken river - rather it is a fiord, carved out by a glacier). We see penguins and seals on islets near the mouth. It has not rained much so the waterfalls are not very impressive, but there are a lot of them.

The boat then turns round, past the site of a recent strength 7 earthquake on Spectacle Island, which caused a major landslip, and anchors in one of the sheltered arms of the fiord. There is a choice of a guided nature tour in the tenders, or kayaking. We opt for the guided trip.

An excelent dinner is followed by a nature talk and nightcaps.

The next morning the boat goes up one of the other arms, switching off all on-board noise so that passengers can experience the silence of the wilderness.

Doubtful Sound photos

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The road to Milford

The road to Milford

After the return trip to Manapouri we head north through Te Anau and up the road to Milford Sound. This is a most impressive route over the Fiordland mountains. Although it is summer there are still snow drifts beside the road, particularly at the entrance to the tunnel at the top of the pass.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound, although much more visited, is significantly smaller than Doubtful Sound.

By the time we get there it is fairly late in the afternoon, so we do not take a boat trip, satisfying ourselves with photos of Mitre Peak.

Later in the year when we were in the UK we saw an almost identical photo in the Daily Telegraph claiming to be near Rotorua.  We got no reply to our email pointing out the error.

Waterfall Milford

There is a path along the base of the cliffs leading to an impressive waterfall

Fiordland to The Catlins

Slope point

The route to The Catlins takes us down to the southern coast and through Invercargill.

The Catlins

Cathedral cave

The back road through this area passes some fairly undeveloped areas.

Cathedral Cave is a huge sea cave on a beautiful beach only accessible at low water through Maori land for a small fee.

Jacks Blowhole is a very large collapsed cave, 55 metres deep, 144 metres long and 68 metres wide, 200 metres from the present shoreline.

Up to Kaikora

Kaikora seal

Running short of time we drive direct from the Catlins to Christchurch, stopping only briefly in Dunedin.

The next day we move on again to Kaikora.

Kaikora has well-organised tourist attractions, based on marine wildlife. The deep trench close inshore produces ample nutirents.

Just outside the town is a large seal colony. It seems as if there is a "duty seal" acting as a subject for photographs.

Whale watch

Whale watch

The whale watching is very well organised and gurantees a sighting, or your money back.

The whales are sperm whales. They spend about 10 minutes on the surface then dive down into the trench, staying down for about 40 minutes.

In about and hour and a half we have four sightings of three different whales

Hectors dolphins

After the whales we move on to smaller marine mammals, a large group of Hectors dolphins.

Back to the ferry

Seal nursery

North of Kaikora we pass a seal nursery, where young male seals congregate. Close by there is a stall selling crayfish, which we buy for our hosts in Wellington.

Leaving South Island

Cook Strait

The ferry trip back to North Island is uneventful, with good views of the Queen Charlotte Sound and Cook Strait. As is typical the Cook Strait is windy.


Dragon boats

Our friends, Steve and Margaret Watson, who we worked with in the late 70s in Algeria, make us very welcome in Wellington.

There are dragon boat races in the harbour, with lots of supporting stalls and entertainment.

Back to Tauranga

With Richard having to be in Auckland for medical tests we drive stright back to Tauranga. The next morning Richard has to get a split tyre on the car fixed before driving to Auckland. He makes it in time for his appointment though.

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Updated from Henstridge, UK 18 December 2018Nongsa Point Marina, Batam,Indonesia on 23 November 2013

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