Blenheim / Picton

Finally finishing the New Zealand story with our end destination, Blenheim.

Sprawling over a flat area, Blenheim’s best viewing point is from the Wither Hills walkway looking towards the Richmond Ranges. This popular area hosts a number of tracks through a local farm. Some steep gradients will have you at a good vantage point with 15 minutes.

Wineries, the Marlborough Sounds, mussels, where do I stop. . Marlborough is synonymous with all of these and more. Cafes, restaurants, if you’re looking for food you won’t go hungry. We were on a very limited time span, however did manage to fit in a couple of places.

A quick catch up, called for breakfast at Speights Ale House Springlands.

Service was nice and adequate with interesting surroundings, plus we had a room to ourselves. Nice when you want to have a catch up. Food was definitely good quality and generous serves. We never had the opportunity to return for other meals but can definitely recommend breakfast.

Take a drive to Picton, either directly from Blenheim or via the Queen Charlotte drive and Havelock. With limited time, we did manage a quick trip to Picton for lunch. Cafe Cortado was the recommended choice for another enjoyable catch up. Located on the waterfront with a South American infused menu, lunch was enjoyable. Choosing an outside table with a view across to the Waterfront, we settled in for a nice lunch . Plenty to see here, with the daily life of locals and tourists alike unfolding before your eyes, with a pleasant sea breeze keeping the suns rays at bay.

Loved the fresh herbs in pots!

Service was adequate and meals arrived in good time. Pizza was popular today, plus I chose a very appetising salad. Well to be fair the trip is coming to end, you start to feel like it’s time to pull back.

As I said, time was limited on this trip. However when you visit take the time to visit the many places this region has to offer. No wineries in this trip, but if you have the opportunity to take in a winetasting or lingering lunch there’s many to choose from. Or take a boat trip down the sounds. Take your time and relax, there’s a lot to see!

Fox Glacier to Blenheim via Westport

After seeing the icy Fox Glacier, we headed up to Franz Joseph.  By now the hunger pains were setting in so time for a lunch stop.  The idea being lunch then back to the Franz Joesph Glacier.   We had missed the turnoff to Lake Matheson where we had planned lunch at the cafe.   Instead, we stopped as soon as we arrived in Franz, having a look at a lovely place called Blue Ice.  Not only was the service personal and friendly, prices were very good and the food itself was superb!  Top is the Seafood Chowder which I enjoyed immensely, below a burger meal.  Highly recommend taking the time to stop at this restaurant and bar.  If you’re coming from Hokitika, you will find this restaurant on the Southside of town, after driving through the main Franz Joesph township.

This little lookout at Franz Joesph was a short sharp hill walk from the carpark.   Franz is further back than Fox Glacier, so you have to do a lot of walking here to see the Glacier itself.  As we did not have the time today, a short walk to this lookout was all we could fit in.  A nice way to wear off the calories from that superb Blue Ice lunch.

Back on the road, we made a couple of brief stops for fuel etc as we headed towards our next destination.  Below are a couple of shots along the way.  Firstly one of the many lakes we had seen today, secondly, the iconic road road bridge near Hokitika.   A new bridge is being built next to it, so in a couple of year s traffiic probably won’t use this singe lane bridge.

Hokitika was a fuel stop for us and Greymouth we drove through.   Our main aim this afternoon was to stop at the Pancake Roacks at Punakiki.  This meant heading to Westport when we left Greymouth instead of towards Blenheim.

Punakiki is short distance from Westport and well worth stopping for.  A circuit walkway has been set up throughout the area so you can view the rocks and blowholes from many angles.   Today the rough West Coast sea was fairly calm which meant we didn’t see the water rising up high through the blowholes.  However, the incredible power of nature was very evident here.  We even found the island where seagulls live!

The West Coast of New Zealand is a incredible experience.  Rugged, natural, remote, rough yet beautiful.We took the trip from Queenstown to Westport in a day.   To see everything properly, we should have taken at least two, if not three days, however we did not have the time on this occasion.

Our stop off in Westport for the night was brief, but comfortable in a roomy motel unit at Westport Motels on the Esplanade.  Very easy to find as it was the first road on the left over the bridge.  After a quick unpack, we took a brief drive through Westport before eventually settling on the The Quarry restaurant and bar for dinner.  Lovely big meals. in a nice relaxed setting. If you are in Westport check this place out. The great down to earth West Coast service made for a nice relaxed evening.

After a well deserved sleep, we set off early in the morning heading for Blenheim.  Passing through the Buller Gorge, we saw some interesting sights, below are a few photos to show what we saw.

On a cloudy day, the Buller Gorge was today very moody.The iconic Hawks Crag is an interesting piece of one way road.    

We stopped in Murchison for a. very hearty warming breakfast.  Now thats quite an omlette, full to the brim with goodness. Well worth stopping at Beechwoods Cafe  Murchison.

The landscape started to change again as we headed towards our last roadside stop before Blenheim.Last stop, Lake Rotoiti.  We could not have visited on a better day, with the lake mirroring the towering mountains in the background.  Beautiful clear waters enhanced by the clear rays of sunlight.

Enjoy the atmosphere of these photos, I hope they have given you an insight into the spectacular ever changing scenery of New Zeal Zea  South. Is Is.  Next week, I will complete the blog of Marlborough area before we leave NZ until the next visit.   Take the time, visit here, its well worth it.

Queenstown and surrounds = New Zealand

We have recently returned from a quick trip to NZ.   You cannot be anything less than impressed with stunning scenery as you fly into the tourist destination of Queenstown.  The rugged mountains, plunging into deep crevasses where clear rivers flow, smoothing the rough rocks to pebbles, lends itself well to the many film backdrops these breath taking landscapes have been used in.Everywhere you look something is happening. Jet boats  thrill their patrons with high powered fun on these crystal waters, skimming sideways over shallow gravel before speeding up the deeper water.  Ride the gondala, to the skyline for a birds eye view over Queenstown.  Up there you will more activities including the luge.  Take the time to drink in this amazing view, with viewing decks and so much to see you will wonder how one can ever describe this portrait. Photos never do it justice.

We had brief drive to Alexandra, stopping along the way to see the sights.  In Arrowtown, mere minutes from Queenstown we stopped in at local bakery for breakfast, eating our delicious purchases with this scenic backdrop, traces of snow still topping the mountains.

Arrowtown is quaint, retaining the look from yesteryear.   This was a quick look for us as time was of the essence, however take the time to look around.  There is much to see in this history soaked township.  

Next stop was the AJ Hackett bungy jump.  Wind your way down the spiralling ramp to the busy activities below.   Should you feel the need to jump off a bridge or whiz down the swing, all the while suspended high over the river, now is your chance.  Personally, I was happy to watch.

The iconic Clyde Dam, a most amazing feat of human engineering.   Here we stopped to marvel in this mass of concrete hydro dam, suspended above Clyde.  This huge dam supplies the north island of New Zealand with power.  Locals are supplied by the Roaring Meg.

Heading back to Queenstown our next stop was the most intriguing Motorsport Park at Cromwell. Here there are go carts, V8s and some very impressive vehicles on show, or take a ride, that option exists too.  You may prefer to take the Jurassic Park bus and look for dinosaurs!  Very cleverly designed, there is much to entertain here.

Stop at the Roaring Meg hydro power scheme.  Fabulous photo opportunity abounds as Meg obligingly roars in the background.

Enjoy your visit here, so much to see, so much do and scenery beyond belief.  Oh and don’t forget the food!  Here you will not go hungry with many eating establishments to cater for all.

You may even be lucky enough to enjoy some wonderful views with your meal. Enjoy!

I’m leaving with this this shot from underwater viewing, directly off the wharf at Queenstown. Yes this is real!  Keep an eye out for the next NZ road trip blog, a lot more to come yet.

Frankton Arms Tavern New Zealand

Stunning scenery is par for the course in Queenstown.  However you cannot deny the breathtaking scenery whilst visiting Frankton Arms Tavern.

A big complex located in Frankton, which is next to Queenstown on Lake Wakitipu.  Staff here were very friendly helpful and looked to enjoy their working environment.

Outside there are some very impressive wooden tables, and again, that view!

We loved the meals here, with all of us agreeing the presentation of the bangers and mash was outstanding.  Take a look at this:

This simple meal was turned into a work of art.  Very impressive.

Meal sizes are extra large.  Take a look at this pizza!   

Highly recommend a visit to this great value venue.  It’s worth a trip to Queenstown to enjoy the meals whilst you soak in this beautiful area.   Enjoy😋

A tribute to NZ’s South Island, pre-earthquake 2016

Time pushes on, never stopping, ticking away.  There are moments in time you wish you could capture, hold forever and never let go.  Memories of these moments live on, many times backed by our photos. When things change, we wish we could restore time to certain moments.

In the short three months since we visited the Marlborough region, taking the time to complete the drive to Kaikoura, so much of this area is now destroyed, moved metres not inches and unrecognisable as the beautiful rugged coastline it was.  Heartbreaking in itself.This drive has a constantly changing canvas.  From rolling hills topped with wind farm turbines, over bridges nestled between the ocean, railway tracks, farmland and hills.  Passing a coastline which became increasingly rugged.  Sandy smooth gravel stretching for miles before  morphing  to rough, sharp edged rocks.  A few twists and turns requiring low speed only as both grass covered hillsides and rocky outcrops line the highway opposite the ocean.  Here there is nowhere to go except follow the winding road.   There’s a moment I call the wow moment.  You round a sweeping bend, released from the ocean and rocks for a while, to a straight road where snow topped mountains rise majestically in the distance.It’s breathtaking.  Photos cannot do justice to the sheer magnificent beauty of this scene. Undeniably one of the biggest Wow moments on any drive.  

Having left the ocean for a while, you follow the easy road into Kaikoura.  A township which has retained the old, sprinkled with a smattering of the new.  A foreshore with amazing vistas out to endless ocean, and back up the coast where you recently passed through.The memories and photos we have will remain with us into the future.   Our heartfelt thoughts are with everyone this has affected, and still does.  Those who have had their lives and livelihoods destroyed in a mere few minutes, those who will be affected by the devestation for years to come, and those who have done even the smallest thing to assist these friendly people and their beautiful area.

We hope the mainstay of tourism does not suffer long term and tourists continue to visit.   In an area which has so much natural beauty to offer, it’s important tourists continue to support.   Let’s hope these seals return to restablish their colony in the area.

Kia Kaha.

Novotel Auckland Airport 

Upon entry and before we left New Zealand recently, our choice for overnight stopovers was the Novotel Auckland Airport.   As a Le Accor Club Member, access to special rates, meant I was able to score a couple of very good deals for the nights we required.  Not a bad view from the rooms either!

Located directly across from one of the main doors at the Auckland International Airport, there is no need to catch a cab, simply stroll across the crossing and enter the massive rotating door.

Accommodations are very comfortable here.  The rooms themselves are designed for short stays and certainly do meet this purpose.    Not ones I would recommend for a long stay, simply due to the space within the rooms themselves.  However, when you arrive in Auckland off an international midnight flight, before leaving again at mid morning, they were ideal.The Square Restaurant, pictured above, is expansive, with the super high ceilings, paired with high backed booths, giving you a luxurious feeling of space.

On our first overnight stay, we were impressed to come off the midnight flight, check into our room, and find the bar still open until 3am.    With no-one else in the bar area, it was a wonderfully relaxing place to sit and unwind with a nightcap.  Staff were superb, stopping to chat as they passed and engaging in light banter.   A nice welcome when you arrive into the country.Buffet breakfast was fresh, with plenty of choice.   Friendly chefs have no problem cooking you eggs or an omelette if you so desire.    

After breakfast, it was time repack and head off to the domestic air terminal.  Roughly a ten-fifteen minute walk from the hotel.  There is a bus which links the two terminals, however it really isn’t far, as long as the weather is nice.

Our final night in the county, we again stayed at the Novotel, this time with a few hours to enjoy a wonderful light dinner, before an early flight the next morning.   With more trips planned which will take us via Auckland, I have no doubt we will be returning to this venue.   Most certainly I will be keeping an eye out for the Le Accor Club deals as they certainly make the venue price reasonable.    We look forward to enteracting with the friendly,helpful staff in the not too distant future!

Air New Zealand

Our recent trip to Ne Zealand, was booked through Air New Zealand.  This is an airline we have never had any issues with.   And this trip, was no exception.

Brisbane ito Auckland leg was uneventful, with the two of us the only passengers flying Works Deluxe.   Seated directly behind Business Class, we were comfortable, with the guaranteed empty seat between us.    Plenty of elbow room for all.  Behind us were empty rows, with a handful of works passengers seated near the back of our section on the plane.   

We certainly felt Works Deluxe was worthwhile, meals drinks, movies, everything included.   Air NZ flight attendants, treated us to business class glasses for our drinks as they felt for us being the only Works Deluxe travellers, plus a row with screens that didn’t work. We were offered alternative seats but being an evening flight, we weren’t particularly concerned.  Arriving in Auckland around midnight, we headed across the tarmac  to The Novotel, for a brief stopover until our morning flight to Blenheim.

Domestic flights with NZ are different to the International.  Here you are offered water, tea coffee and given a biscuit package.  Now me personally, I’m not that fussed on the prop planes, so it was lucky that whilst snapping photos, I didn’t check them until we landed. The light retractions on this one were unbelievable, giving the illusion of the propeller bending.
Surprisingly, given the photo above, this flight was relatively smooth, with a bumpy descent into Blenheim the worst part.   From the air, you can see the majority of Blenheim.  After a week of wine tasting, touring and visiting, we  were off to Wellington on the Interisland Ferry.  More reviews are on this blog to keep you updated on the details of the places we visited.

Wellington turned on its best windy, wet weather for our flight to Auckland.  Very quickly though we ascended into what was a beautiful day.  It appeared the dark clouds were low and thin.  Some fabulous views were to be enjoyed as we quickly flew up the North Island.

Again we enjoyed a smooth flight, descending into Auckland in what seemed like no time at all.

To finish our holiday, we had managed to procure Premium Economy for the flight to Brisbane, have to love Air New Zealand’s sales!

A whole new world here, with big comfortable space seats.  Each seat had a pillow, headphones and bottle of water waiting.  Again all meals, drinks, and movies were included.  Service was to Air NZ’s typical high level, certainly there could be no complaints with friendly, professional flight attendants doing everything they could to make our flight comfortable. Food quality wasn’t too bad for airline food.  

Perhaps they even organised this lovely little rainbow for our flight!

Moreton Bay looked stunning as we headed into Brisbane.  Thank you Air New Sealand for contributing to making our trip comfortable and enjoyable.  If you haven’t travelled Air NZ, give them a try, and, if you want to try those upgrades, keep an eye out for the specials!


Wellington, New Zealand (including Burger Liquor & Mecure Wellington Abel Tasman)

Stepping off the Interislander, we had now arrived in the North Island of New Zealand.  Welcome to Wellington, Capital of New Zealand.

With the temperature dropping as rain clouds gathered, we had a quick drive through the city to the Le Accor hotel, Mecure Wellington Abel Tasman.   Here we had a suite booked for a very reasonable advance rate. Roomy with a nice sitting area, and access to two bathrooms, it certainly was a very good deal.Unfortunately the restaurant and bar were closed on Sunday nights, however a short stroll brought us to a food court, very close to the hotel.  The area is filled with a myriad of colourful food choices.

Not far below the food court, we came across Burger Liquor.  This was to be tonight’s choice as Hubby loved the menu.

The Double Smokey Burger pictured above was Hubbys final choice. Every morsel was savoured.  Not a burger fan, I was going to settle for fries until the friendly young wait staff pointed out there were ‘In the Buff’ burgers on the menu.  Here the bun is replaced with Lettuce Leaves , encasing all the normal burger ingredients.  Let’s try it!Great idea, loved this Baja Fish in the Buff Burger.  My main reason for not enjoying burgers is just too much bread in the buns, however this meal was filling, tasting and did not feel like you had overloaded on bread. Curlies and the House Poutine were a fitting accompaniment for our burgers.  Most delicious, although the three of us at our table were unable to finish.  Really enjoyed this venue, quite different from the mainstream, with a funky city feel, obviously popular, quick friendly service and great food quality.   Even the condiments were eye catchingly different!

What better way to walk off a meal than a wet evening walk through Wellinton.  We found plenty to look at, with the city putting on quite a show at night time.

Our comfortable sleep was followed with an included breakfast at the hotel restaurant.  Here the full buffet included hot & cold dishes, with juices, tea & coffee.  All the food was fresh and enjoyable.  

Even though this was a very brief overnight stopover with cold winter rain, we enjoyed our quick look at Wellington.  There was no time to visit any of the landmark attractions, however, we did enjoy getting taste of what this city could offer.  Check it out sometime!

Interislander Premium Lounge

Even these canines were to travel on the ferry on the same August day we did.  Both guarded Dads luggage whilst waiting on him to return outside.   Today we would travel from Picton to Wellington on the Interisland Ferry.    

As the trip was a bit over three hours, we had decided to trial the Premium Lounge.   Advertised as comfortable, over 18 only, with food and beverage supplied for the duration of the trip, the concept certainly appealed.Certainly comfortable, we were actually impressed with what the lounge provided.   Plenty of seating choice, from comfy lounge to dining suites, and booths next to the portholes.

Today we chose the porthole seating which looked so very inviting as well as allowing enough room to sprawl out a bit.  On top of that we at least had a view of the stunning Marlborough Sounds as we glided past.   Yes we were lucky on this trip as the infamous Cook Stait was not as rough as it has been know to be. This stretch of water divides the South & North Islands of New Zealand and has a reputation for being challenging to cross at times.

An added bonus of the Premium Lounge, is the location, towards the middle of ship.  The bow and stern tend to take most of the motion, whilst the middle stays more stable.

From the time we entered the lounge, to the time we disembarked, there was an endless supply of food on offer.   Firstly a buffet hot/cold breakfast, followed by scones, jam & cream, then an assortment which included sandwiches.  Help yourself to the bar fridges for water, soft drinks etc.   With coffee/tea on offer plus a stocked bar enabling you to enjoy a relaxing drink later in the day, there really was something for everyone’s tastes.All the food we sampled was fresh, hot or cold if were meant to be, and overall, quite nice.Leaving Picton as we headed down through the Marlborough Sounds for around an hour of scenery before hitting the open sea, photo opportunities abound.   The location of the Premiun Lounge, is very close to a door which takes you out to deck.  Whilst cruising the Sounds, it was no problem to pop out, enjoy the scenery and snap a few shots.A couple of times during the trip, we passed ferries heading in the opposite direction.  As we neared the last of the South Islands land mass, the brilliant blue clear waters merged into the the subdued hues of Cook Strait.   Surprisingly, there is actually a short distance between the tips of land on each island.  In fact for a while during the trip, you can see both islands.   Certainly the sea was more choppy through the Strait, however it did not affect us much in the lounge at all luckily.   Especially as we heard the staff commenting on the number of seasick travellers in the front viewing lounge.

The weather did deteriorate somewhat as we neared Wellington, and after battling the strong wind outside, I decided it might wise to continue the trip from the comfort of the lounge.   Good Choice!One interesting discovery upon booking these tickets a few months previously, was the online booking choice of laybying your tickets prior to the trip.  Not something I had come across before but certainly something which could well appeal to others, particularly those travelling on a budget.

A mention to the staff onboard and at the Picton Ferry Terminal.  All staff we encountered were friendly, helpful and professional.   Certainly no problems there at all.

A ferry trip between the islands is something you should try.    With any luck you too will be lucky enough to have a nice smooth sailing.   For that little bit extra why not add the Premium lounge.   We found it well worthwhile.   

Watch for the Wellington and North Island blogs still to come.   Thank you also to all the Dine Live Travel followers on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat!

Fox n Grapes, Upper Moutere

Hidden in the Upper Moutere is an awesome venue.  Located on the grounds of the Moutere Hills Vinneyard is the Fox n Grapes Wine Bar.   Open on Friday evenings, locals are loving this hidden delight.  We were lucky to be staying in the area, with a Friday night included in our stopover, therefore we were not going to argue with local knowledge recommending this as the venue for Friday Night dinner & drinks.

Loved how the family were your hosts for the evening and we were surprised at how busy this little venue was.   What a great idea to convert an old hops barn into an awesome venue!   With tables, lounge area and bar stools there’s something here for everyone.   Subtle lighting, highlights the wooden interior.   On a cold winters night, this venue was not only warmly inviting but very homely in its feel.   Those family members who were operating the venue tonight were simply awesome.  Personalised friendly helpful service.  Going out of their way to make your experience even more pleasurable, even if that meant sharing a drink with patrons at the bar.  Loved that touch!I chose the lamb salad which was absolutely devine.  I’m not a big beetroot fan, however, combined with the lamb and salad, plus not too much beetroot, I have to admit, it did partner well with the overall dish.

Hubby tried the Scotch Fillet and loved it…..

How delicious does this beef and fried potatoes look?   Like a roast vege salad – don’t tell Hubby he actually had a salad :).

We were lucky this worked into a Friday night, however it if doesn’t for you, make sure you visit the Moutere Hills Vineyard and Cafe.  Overall the whole venue has had a lot of thought and hard work put into it.   Their wines are certainly worth tasting, very nice.  Stop by for a visit, you won’t be disappointed.