We started off our journey in Queenstown where we met up with Gordy Watson one of our local fishing (and hunting) guides. Gordy is a passionate fly fisher and his family have been in the Glenorchy region since 4 generations. Gordy knows all the rivers, streams and creeks in this incredible fly fishing area. Gordy took us to the Routeburn River, which I have to say is one of the most beautiful rivers we have fished at. The water is crystal clear with a beautiful ice blue colour, the rocks and boulders are spectacular and the native forest makes you feel like you entered the land of the Elves in Lord of the Rings. Dave caught his biggest trout so far (a rainbow weighing approx. 6 pounds). We had a fantastic day out with Gordy!
In the afternoon we returned to Queenstown to relax at the incredible Eichardt's Private Hotel in front of the fire place overlooking the lake in our Suite. After a couple of delicious drinks in the Eichardt's Bar we made our way to Rata dining, Josh Emett's newest addition to the Queenstown dining scene. It has a very trendy modern style, very cool but still with a warm atmosphere. The cocktails are inventive and delicious, the food fresh, exciting and with a twist - a great twist. I especially enjoyed the goat’s cheese profiteroles and the cinnamon oysters!
Our next stop was Stewart Island and the adventure started with the ferry crossing over the Foveaux Strait. Most of our clients would fly however Dave and I thought we would try the Ferry option. On arrival we were greeted and transferred to Stewart Island Lodge. We got a sightseeing tour of the village enroute, which with a population of 400 people didn't take very long. Oban is a cute tiny village, set around Halfmoon Bay – it’s very picturesque and the views from Stewart Island Lodge are spectacular. It is only a short walk down to the only pub and the ferry terminal – so of course we headed straight to the local pub at the South sea hotel and enjoyed a hearty pub style dinner! Portions are big and the prices very reasonable. Don't expect fine dining and any sort of interior design – it’s basic but it's part of the experience!
They say the people of Stewart Island are very friendly and it’s so true - every single person on the island was extremely friendly and helpful and it felt like we left friends behind.
With so many things to do and see on Stewart Island, I would recommend a 3 night stay to fully experience the wildlife, the walking tracks around Oban and the activities. There are boat excursions, fishing, kiwi spotting, guided hikes, scenic flights, diving, or enjoy a visit to the museum or even the daily screening of the Stewart Island movie 'a dogs tail' at the movie theatre - you will not run out of things to do on this remote island! Unfortunately the weather wasn't the best so our kiwi twilight tour was cancelled. We then decided to enjoy a half day hike on the Rakitura Track in search of our own kiwi. The Rakitura Track is one of the Great walks of New Zealand and is a 37km (3 day/2 night) hike. We decided to shorten this, by taking a water taxi to the first hut and hiking back the 12km to Oban. The part between Port Williams and Lee Bay is considered as the most scenic part and it was absolutely stunning. The track goes through the native bush, across a swing bridge, along a beach and winds itself along the spectacular coast with amazing views along the way. And as for the kiwis, we will have to come back to find one of these special creatures...
Our next stop was Dunedin where we made our way to Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninula. Here we stayed at Camp Estate on the Castle grounds. Camp Estate is an immaculate Manor House with only 5 guest suites and definitely the place to stay in the Dunedin region. The hosts Roger and Nina are fantastic and their warm and open hospitality truly adds to the whole experience. The rooms are equipped with the finest of details incl. a laptop and guests are invited to spend their time and mingle in front of the roaring fire in the large lounge with a fully equipped bar. It’s like a home away from home.
In the late afternoon we made our way to the tip of the peninsula to meet up with Perry and his family at Natures Wonders to enjoy one of their Argo tours. The family own the land have put a lot into the conservation of the wildlife in this area and also run a working sheep farm. Tourists can enjoy both their excellent wildlife tours and the sheep farm tour. The 8 wheel Argos takes you over the property enjoying spectacular views and gets you very close to wildlife; fur seals and yellow eyed penguins.
Back at Camp Estate we got ready for our dinner at Larnach Castle. Roger drove us to the castle which is only 2minutes down the road and said he would collect us again once we were ready to come back. The castle was beautifully lit and looked very spectacular and one could have easily thought they were in Scotland in an old castle! We enjoyed drinks on the verandah which gave us the opportunity to mingle with the other guests before we were called to enter the music room where a banquet table had been set up. There was a mixture of people ranging from 5 to 85 years old. One of the German backpackers was a very talented piano player and when invited to play the piano impressed us all! The food was delicious and served in generous portions. Between the main course and the dessert Andy, the Maitre’d told us the story of the Castle and the Larnach family with all its tragedies and ghosts. It made for a very entertaining evening!
There is so much to see and do in this region that we will definitely have to come back for more!
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