A small Brisbane family, travelling, homeschooling and doing it on a budget!
Broaden your horizons and your mind, and follow our journey!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Kaikoura to Oamaru

Kaikoura to Oamaru by Jason

This was a big day out. Six or so hours in the car which included a stopover in Quake city - Christchurch. We briefly stopped and deposited five suitcases and bags into my Auntie's Car, which left the car able to breathe again. 

It is a lovely trip down the coast road with lots of sea views and rolling green hills.  If you have the time, stopover at Timaru, Geraldine or any number of small towns or pubs on the way.  One exceptional example of Art Deco Architecture was the hotel at St Andrews which is about 10 minutes south of Timaru, on the main road. There is a story with that pub  and how it came to be, but I shall leave that for another day - maybe when we stop there on the way home. 

Old Town, Oamaru

I hate to say I told you so (Shona),  but Oamaru has enthralled me for many years now.  For starters its a book lovers paradise, with numerous second hand and rare booksellers at every corner. The town itself is ordinary enough, but as you enter the wharf area, you are transported back in time to the 1880s, where original buildings and trades and quirky shops vie for your attention.  No garish discount stores here,  just shops that will make you ooh and argh, and argh even more and make you wish you had more money to spend.  Hadley purchased a 1974 book on birds New Zealand, which incidentally was the same year the Queen last visited Oamaru ( she looked at the botanic gardens - yawn).

Also in the Victorian part of town, is a wonderful old building that was once five stories high, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.  Alas a fire destroyed the top two stories in the 1920s, so that leaves three stories behind.  Within these walls is something you simply have to see as it is unlike anything I have seen before. 

Lovely limestone Victorian buildings of the old town

Steampunk. I can only describe it as War of the Worlds mixed with the past.  It is a wonderful quirky place, it is almost like being in a time capsule or on another planet.  The website doesn't give too many clues away and neither shall I, as you simply must go, children will love it too. www.steampunkoamaru.co.nz  $20 a family is truly a bargain if you like the macabre, the bizarre, and the astounding. 

The Steampunk Workshop

Rugby. Rugby. Rugby. Yes its another thing to do in New Zealand.  Find a local match and cheer on like the locals do. We were lucky enough to see a match between North Otago and Wairarapa Bush. These are two of the lesser lights of New Zealand Rugby, but all the big hits and the atmosphere were there.  Sometimes its good to seek out the things the locals do,  like watch the rugby, as it gives one a feeling of being involved in the community, if only for a couple of hours. I cheered North Otago on in vain, alas they lost in a close encounter.

We cheered on North Otago today (in the yellow)

Whatever you do, when you come to the South Island, don't just hide in the big cities or the ski resorts, check out Oamaru, it will weave it's magic on you too.

But wait there's more - next blog post - The Blue Penguins of Oamaru!

PS by Shona 

We are staying in a gorgeous but tiny (and I do mean tiny) cottage high up on the high above Oamaru.  We found it on www.bookabach.co.nz.  Sometimes check out the local accommodation websites for something and quirky.   This is a great price at only $400 for 7 nights.  It has a tiny kitchen, tv, great deck, bathroom and wonderful views!  The beds are warm and cosy and it would be lovely for a romantic get away.  The nightly rate is only $80.  It is on the same property as the owner's house.  They are friendly but leave you in peace.  They hand-built this little cottage themselves so lots of love and attention has gone into it.  

Our Oamaru accommodation, perched high on the hill above the town, with town and ocean views.
You will find lots of amazing things to do with your family here.  Lovely ice-cream shops by the water and a wonderful magical park with creations from the talented Steampunk Folk. 

And Jason did tell me so - once again I have fallen in love with another part of the South Island of New Zealand.  I will be busy looking up rent prices and home school groups in the area.  I could easily lay my hat here!  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Kaikoura by Jason

Kaikoura - taken in May (lots more snow now)

The drive through from Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura was just a short couple of hours,  although if you have driven in the South Island you will know even a short drive is a long one (is there a straight road on the South Island?).  We took a small detour at Mt Lyford, a small ski village, in between both towns. They had a lot of snow in this area a couple of months ago and some still remains on the ground.  

Kaikoura Top 10 Park was our destination and we had found a good deal online with a stay 2 get the third night free. A tip here is to check out websites of individual parks, as they often offer deals that aren't available on the main Top 10 website. 

It is a nice clean park with great amenities and fantastic views.   We are in a small cabin with a tv , fridge, and some basic cutlery, pots, pans etc but no kitchen.   We use the camp kitchen.  Some campervans pull in late afternoon and a couple of people overnight in the ritzier motel units, but during the day it seems to just be us here. The views are quite spectacular, snowy peaks in the background and the beach next door.  

View from our cabin!

Kaikoura is a spectacular town, only 4000 residents, but has a lot more facilities due to tourism, however it still retains that sleepy feeling of 1970s beach holidays.  Nothing is rushed here and if you like wildlife then you will have arrived at your heaven.  Think baby Seals, Whales, Dolphins and more.  Whale watching is all year round, with the resident Sperm Whales as well as visitors such as Orca, Pilot Whales and Humpbacks.  

We walked around to the seal colony yesterday, and ate some fresh grilled fish and crayfish fritters at a roadside stall.  The stall is recommended by Lonely Planet and now by us as well!   Fresh fish on a bed of rice and salad only $7 and a view to kill for.  

Seafood by the Sea!

We also went geocaching, our success rate was 66.6% as we found 2/3 caches that we went searching for.  I'm still working out where the third one was hidden as we searched and searched.  For those on a budget, or with kids, then Geocaching is a great free family activity. Download the official app on your phone, its pricey at around $9, but will give you hours upon hours of free fun. 

Tomorrow we pack up our car and head to my Aunties place, where we drop off the contents of half the car, and then continue on to Oamaru. Oamaru is one of my favourite small towns, find out why tomorrow. 

Happy Travelling.

Seal pups playing in the salt water pond.

PS by Shona
If you cannot afford Whale Watching in Kaikoura (or the weather is too rough) there is still plenty of wildlife to see.  You can stroll by the ocean and see New Zealand Fur Seals frolicking in the salt water ponds, you can find them in the car park, and a short drive away, you will find a huge Seal colony and a freshwater water fall when the baby Seal play.  Unfortunately due to the melting snow the water wall was huge and so the pathway was covered and we could only get about 10 metres away from the pups.  When the water is not so high, you can virtually get within a metre of the playing seals which make for a great photo opportunity.

There is also an abundance of shore birds for the avid bird watcher.  

Alternatively, breath in the fresh sea air, sip a coffee, and take in the amazing snow capped mountain range dipping into the sea - a truly magic place.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Road Trip Day One!

Day 1 - Nelson to Hanmer Springs by Jason

Lewis Pass today! 

We woke at 7am and realised we had a house to clean before we departed. I did a fantastic man clean which basically involved cleaning the fireplace and washing floors, all the while content in the knowledge that today would be a great day - after all, the All Blacks had just cleaned up the Wallabies a mere 8 or so hours ago.

We had no time (or food) for breakfast so we would have to just grab something on the road. Shona talked about making biscuts or sandwiches but it was 10 am. We hit the road.  I was hungry already. 

We drove the first 90 minutes to Murchison, we had done this trip lots before!  At Murchison we generally headed right to the West Coast, but this time we went straight down through towards the magnificent Lewis Pass scenery.  I was hungry, did I mention that? 

It was now high noon, I didnt want a gunfight just a burger.  I awaited Springs Junction,  a roadhouse with bad food, but by now i was famished.  We passed a scarecrow - I wanted to eat it. We passed pine trees and flax bushes - I wondered which would taste better.  I was ready to eat gravel when Springs Junction appeared, just in time too, as I was considering cannabilism.  We went to order burgers, but thought why stay longer in a roadhouse than need be, so we changed to warm pies. Bad move, the pies were terrible, we drove on. 

The Lewis Pass, on a fine day is very scenic and amazing landscapes. Before long we were at the Hanmer Springs turnoff and 5 minutes later we checked into the Top 10 park in a kitchen cabin. It contained a small kitchen, a tv and bedding.  I turned on the tv and the Rugby test was being replayed. I bought a few items for dinner from the store and made a coffee. Life was good.

Ps from Shona!  

We are still keeping to our budget of $100 a day!  Thanks to a members card, our Top 10 cabin is only $72 per night!  Not bad!  Slightly stressed at no ensuite, but we are trying to think of it as camping without the canvas.  

Top 10s are reliably clean, have playgrounds, camp kitchens and warm showers - a great way to travel around New Zealand on a budget.  

So far I am quite impressed with the Top 10 in Hanmer Springs - clean, quiet, lovely mountain views - although it is almost 11 at night and these birds chirping loudly in the trees don't seem to notice that the sun has gone down! 

Tomorrow - Kaikoura! 

The cabins with lovely mountain views on a rainy day. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rabbit Island

Only 5 minutes from our Nelson home, Rabbit Island.
How blessed we have been to have had this opportunity.  It may have been short, but it was sweet.

The next blog post.......I am passing it over to Jason........enjoy the ride! 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

8 Weeks on the Road

We have decided to set ourselves a challenge.......8 weeks on the road in New Zealand, 3 people, $100 a day!  Our budget must include accommodation, food and attractions.......can we do it?

We have spent the last 10 years exploring the South Island so we have decided to concentrate most of the 8 weeks on the North Island.  We will be heading South for a few things we have missed in the past 10 years, but then is onward and northward!

The boys (hubby Jason and son Hadley) will be blogging on the trip, I will be doing the driving.  Our wheels - our 19 year old Big Horn!

Where to start?  Blogs, websites and a good map (and a pin) and a few travel guides.  If you are looking at doing any travel in NZ we recommend the following guides.

New Zealand (Lonely Planet Country Guides)

New Zealand's North Island (Lonely Planet Country & Regional Guides)

We hope you join us on our trip - including the good, the bad and the ugly, and of course, the amazingly beautiful!