A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Sunday, 20 January 2019

New Zealand 2019 Travel Diary // Christchurch, Tai Tapu, Sumner Beach, Akaroa, Arthur's Pass & Hanmer Springs

So this is going to be the first of probably quite a long series of New Zealand travel diaries - if you ever go hopefully these will be helpful and if not maybe it will just be a bit interesting (I hope!) to see what I've been up to. I haven't written a travel diary on here in ages so I'm super excited to share this first instalment today.

As mentioned in my last post, during the few weeks I was staying with my sister in Darfield we did quite a few day trips to nearby places and they were my favourite days I spent there. Today I thought I'd share my experiences from those day trips and my favourite parts of them. We always had a five and three year old in tow so all of these examples are child-friendly and hence not too crazy but nonetheless lovely places to visit if you're in New Zealand.

CHRISTCHURCH :: Christchurch was the airport I flew into and is the closest city to my sister so we had quite a few days in and out of Christchurch. As I'm sure you'll have read if you've looked up Christchurch in any travel guide, it's changed massively since the hugely destructive earthquakes of 2011. In fact, it's still being rebuilt after the earthquakes and lots of New Zealanders have moved out of the city centre as a result. Because of that, I would really recommend going to the museum Quake City, if you have a chance. It's about £10 entry but it's a really great museum and worth seeing if you're at all interested in the earthquakes and how they affected this area. We also went to the Air Force Museum which is amazingly free entry and quite interesting (not quite my thing but worth a visit if it's at all of interest to you, especially since it's free!). Apart from that, we mainly did kiddie things in the city like taking my nieces to the incredible Margaret Mahy playground (seriously if you have kids, go, it's amazing and I wish I'd had a park like it near me when I was growing up). I would have loved to have had a walk around the botanic gardens as well as I've heard they're great but maybe I'll have time if we stay at my sister's for a few days before we leave New Zealand.

TAI TAPU :: There are some lovely little towns surrounding Darfield where my sister lives and so we often took their dogs for walks and saw a little bit of them. My favourite of these outings is (shockingly) food-related. If you're anywhere in the nearby area you *have* to stop in Tai Tapu and go to The Raspberry Cafe. Firstly it's just a lovely place for lunch - they have tables in their beautiful gardens so if you get a sunny day it's just perfect. It's also dog-friendly, has fresh berries you can buy from their shop and a playground area for children. But most importantly, their cakes are incredible. I'm honestly salivating just thinking about them. My sister took me there within my first week of staying at hers and when Liam arrived I had to take him too and honestly two visits still doesn't feel like enough. Their cakes are so delicious that I can't even begin to describe them but on my first visit I had a chocolate and raspberry cake and on my second I had raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake and I'm still thinking about them now. The staff are lovely, it's a great location, just go if you can.

SUMNER BEACH :: Ok so moving away from cake before I write 1,000 words on it (which believe me I could do), there are lots of lovely beaches around Christchurch. The first one I went to was Sumner, on my sister's recommendation. The weather was beautiful and Sumner is a really stunning beach with great rock pools and coves to look in as well as swimming in the sea. There is also a real fruit ice cream stand which was delicious and Sumner pretty much has everything to offer that you'd want for a great beach day. We had a lovely day there.

AKAROA :: Akaroa completely stole my heart. So much so that again I went twice because I really wanted Liam to see it too. It's such a lovely little beach town and completely beautiful. The drive there from Darfield itself was stunning, especially going through a place called Duvauchelle, which gave us the most amazing views of mountains and lakes and if you go you should definitely stop along the way at Barry's Bay for incredible cheese and wine (and they do free samples which is always a win). In Akaroa itself you can do boat trips, swimming with dolphins and wildlife activities but we didn't really have a chance when we went there. We both times just had a great time on the beach and had amazing weather so nothing to complain about at all! If you're there for lunch I really recommend a little van which you can find towards the end of the pier which sells freshly grilled fish and chips called Murphy's Seafoods. Liam was disappointed because it wasn't your classic battered fish and chips but I personally love grilled fish and so it really hit the spot for me and was nice and inexpensive!

 ARTHUR'S PASS & CASTLE HILL :: As you do on Boxing Day, we were desperately wanting a walk to counteract the amount of food we had eaten on Christmas Day. This year, however, I did more of a Boxing Day climb rather than a walk. First we went to Castle Hill which is a 700m hill with loads of limestone rocks decorating it. It was a bit grey but the weather soon turned itself around and we had a great time climbing it with my nieces. We'd packed a picnic, ate it at the top and admired the really great view. It was just what the doctor ordered and not too difficult, but definitely not a walk in the park either. Afterwards we headed to Arthur's Pass National Park where there are quite a few walks varying in length. Because we had the two girls in tow (at least that's my excuse) we just did the Devil's Punchbowl track up to the waterfall which is a very manageable, lovely walk. It's a really nice area and definitely worth a visit if you ask me.

HANMER SPRINGS :: Finally, the weekend before Liam arrived we went away for a night to Hanmer. It's a really lovely little town which apparently only has a population of 900 people who live there year-round which I couldn't believe coming from London and all. We went for a walk in the lovely forest to stay cool (it was 30 degrees all weekend which was amazing but a bit of a killer trying to stop my nieces getting sunburnt) and stopped at Si Gelato which did amazing ice cream. The highlight of the weekend though was of course going to the thermal hot pools. I didn't really get any pictures in there because we were surrounded by pools and, knowing me, I'd have dropped my phone or camera in one of them but it's well worth a visit if you're anything like me and love sitting in hot pools. Most of the pools are natural thermal ones with minerals which is pretty cool and it was great to spend the day sunbathing and going from pool to pool as we felt like it. I'd quite like to take Liam there before we leave New Zealand so hopefully I'll be back at some point to try them again. We stayed in a motel called Forest Peak which was perfect for the four of us, had a great DVD selection and was pretty reasonable on price!

So those were the highlights from my first few weeks in New Zealand. Once Liam and I set off in the van we did a lot more walking than I managed with my sister and nieces and covered a lot more ground in a short space of time. I'll be back to write about my favourite places we've been to so far in a few days. I hope you enjoyed reading through my first travel diary entry from this trip!

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