Queenstown to Fox Glacier Via The Crown Range

After  partaking of the hospitality and activities on offer in Queenstown, it was time to make our way up the West Coast of the South Island.

Not far from Queenstown is the Crown Range, in fact just across  the road from The Roaring Meg. The highest road in New Zealand. Often closed to traffic through the winter, you will need to time your visit if you wish to enjoy the incredible views on offer throughout this drive. For tourists and visitors to the country, it is imperative to heed all the warnings which come with travelling this route.The first viewing bay, not long after a number of twists and turns, gives you an incredible view across the countryside to the Remarkables in the distance.  This ascent is quick, and this seemingly high view is small compared to what is on offer higher up.

As we continued to snake our way on to the top of the Crown Range, the sheer height of the road was illustrated by the traces of snow remaining on the mountains close to the road.  Once you reach the peak and begin the descent into Wanaka, the scenery continues to change.    Mountains, paddocks, and even the famous bra fence, provide a cinematic view as you near Wanaka.  

We drove through Wanaka today, as time was limited, but apart from the sensational lake views, Wanaka itself has a lot on offer.  Well worth taking the time to check it out, that is if you can tear yourself away from the driving and amazing lake views. Every corner provides a different perspective.

We stopped along the way to take photos and simply marvel in the stunning countryside.  today we were to see a lot of dramatic changes in the scenery.  Lake Hawea, pictured above, is another picturesque lake on this scenic drive.   Rugged mountains, reflective lakes and winding roads, meandering from flat to hill in no time.  And better still, this amazing view was reflected in the bonnet of our hire vehicle.

 Above are two shots taken from a viewing stop next to Lake Wanaka.  This first leads the eye back towards the lake township of Wanaka, the second is part of the view you will pass on your way through to Haast.

Our original plan was to stop in Wanaka for Breakfast, however as we drove through, I think we had just beaten the opening of the cafes for the day.    As we drove past the neck of Lake Wanaka, we came across Makarora Cafe.  The sign on the carpark was enticing, it looked like someone here had a sense of humour.   We are not sure why you check in after 6:02PM or why you cant take your Robot, however it certainly  provided for  interesting conversation as we restarted the road trip.

Given the outside temperature, it was pleasing to indulge in a hearty breakfast near an open fire.   Friendly service and big hot drinks and meal serves had us warmed and on our way in no time.  Little tip, one I should probably have shared earlier, but if you are doing this drive, load up on the insect repellant.  No matter where you stop from here on in, those Sandflies feel they are obliged to join you.

We played a number of road games but one we should have paid played was counting the one way bridges.  Oh and the road cones, seriously where is that factory, those road cones are millimetres apart every spot we drove past with road cones.   Never have we ever seen so many.

The second bridge is the Gates of Haast, here’s a view looking back across the bridge suspended by bush and rock with that dash of cool scenery in the background, and foreground.

There are a few stops along the way, some on the other side of the road, so we chose to stop at Thunder Creek Falls, a mere couple of minutes walk from the road.   25 metres high, this breathtaking waterfall thunders down onto the crystal clear waters below.  Beautifully clear blue waters rush past the waterfall, they are simply stunning.  Head down to the lookout and you can take advantage of very close up view.

Welcome to Mt Aspiring National Park, your viewing as you drive through is ever changing, lets hope you’re not the driver.

Mt Aspiring looms into view, throughout the road trip.   Hidden every now and then by native bush, the low lying cloud gives you an idea of the sheer height of this mountain.

There was no time to stop on this trip to stop at Haast.  However, should you be looking for local whitebait, there is a lovely little stop at the airfield.  Here you can buy the whitebait or taste the wares.

We now changed from the lakes and mountains behind to the wonderful rugged West Coast.  Unspoilt in many places, natural and just plain rugged, welcome to the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
Can you see how steep that little hill illustrated by it’s Mohawk of trees which struggle to stand up straight along the ridge.

Ok yes its another one way bridge,but can you see how different they all they all are?  Each bridge is individually engineered, in a way it breaks up the road trip.  And now, around 4 and a half hours since leaving Queenstown, we arrive in the first Glacier township, Fox Glacier.  We loved this, coming round a corner, and oh, here’s a random forklift.   Fox glacier itself is before you reach Fox Glacier township from this direction, so watch out for the signs.

This Glacier is the best viewing if you only want to see from the carpark, with a zoom lense.  We simply did not have the time ( a good couple of hours) to traverse the walk through to the Glacier.  However it is nice to be able to see the ice front from the carpark.

This first leg of the drive has been full on.  I’ll leave you now to catch your breathe and take in this simply stunning scenery.  From lakes to mountains to bush and beach.  Watch out for the next leg of our road trip.

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😋

Forty West Cafe – Ripley

Enticing comfortable couches overlook the even more enticing playground.   Sit back, chill and relax whilst the little ones release some of that seemingly endless supply of energy.

We recently stopped by here for breakfast and were impressed with the setting, food, plus very friendly staff.   If you’re not particularly child orientated, visit early in the morning, we were among the first for breakfast which gave us a very tranquil relaxed start to the day.

Its not a huge breakfast menu, but then I dont believe you need one if you can have something covering most tastes.  

Hubby was very keen on the bubble and squeak, adding a side of cheese kransky.  Hes still talking about this meal, so definitely this dish was a winner!   Food here was fresh and tasty.   Presentation of this dish had the bubble n squeak tucked underneath the juicy sausages and fresh eggs.

A reasonable selection of drinks too, the nice touch for me being the mint fusion tea which was tea leaves and not tea bags.    For later in the day, alcoholic drinks are on offer as well.

Avocado & feta smash with a side of deliciously juicy mushrooms made for a very pleasant start to the day.

Thank you to the friendly staff here,  Even a staff member coming in to start their shift, took the time to chat on the way past.    Turning on the outside heaters was no problem at all and offered to us as soon as we arrived.

Take the time to stop by, either with the children or just to kick back and relax.  Enjoy!

Darling Downs Zoo

A couple of hours drive from Brisbane will bring you to Darling Downs Zoo.  Scenery is ever changing on the drive.

Stop at some of the interesting little places along the way. We stopped at the quaint Me Ma store on the way, leaving us just a half hour short drive to the Zoo.

Family owned, this zoo is home to a diverse range of animals.  From Australian natives to big cats and giraffes.  Sure too be something here for everyone.   Friendly staff in the entrance shop, explain the zoo and the symbols showing animals you can feed, before sending you on your way with map in hand.Sleepy koalas peer out from their open enclosure.   Birds of all shapes sizes, some sporting a myriad of vivid colours, reside thoughout the zoo.

Nothing beats the pleasure, especially for the little visitors, of hand feeding animals.  Ostriches were more than happy to devour the food pellets offered.

Meerkats, and monkeys, can provide you with hours of entertainment.  Busy, on guard and curious, meerkats are a definite draw card.    One cannot help but smile as you loose yourself in the antics of these alert animals.

A number of monkey breeds are housed here.  Some dart around their enclosures with effortless ease, whilst their buddies, use their agile limbs to forage food or swing easily from rope to branch.Keeping an eye out fir the arrival f rod, this lionesswas quite content as she soaked up the sun.the tiger was a little shyer preferring to lurk in the greenery at the back of her enclosure.Llamas and zebras cohabitat in one enclosure.  Competing for those enticing pellets visitors offer for hand feeding, there is some pushing and shoving, as the heirachy is determined. All are happy to receive the feed, always on the lookout for the telltale white bucket dangled by patrons.

In between the giraffes, big cats monkeys, birds, crocodile, reptiles and meerkats, take a moment to soak in the pastel colours of the landscape canvas rolling off into the distance. It really is breathtaking. 

It’s an easy stroll around the animal enclosures, the furtherest being the giraffes up the back.

Informative talks are held at different times to give visitors the chance to interact with residents.  For an extra fee, you can take the opportunity to have a close up experience wth big cats or meerkats, to name just a couple.Brazilian Tapir proved popular with visitors.  Their long soft snouts, gratefully and politely accepted the feed offered.  A lot more gentle than the pushy zebras next door.

The zoo certainly makes a good day out destination from Brisbane.  Enjoy the drive and be sure to stop off here and to support the small businesses and townships on the route.  Take your time, it will be worth it!

Sake – Eagle Street Pier Brisbane (Subarashi!)

Time to sit back relax, enjoy this first class experience.  Lets take a flight!  How about a degustation experience combined with a sake flight.  To experience the Japanese menu with service that went above and beyond, whilst seated in a beautiful expansive restaurant overlooking Eagle Street Pier and Brisbane River, is not only heartwarming, but extremely memorable.

Sake anyone?   This incredible wall of sake kegs is awe inspiring.   Are there really this many sakes?  Well lets take a flight and trial some these babies.

Three sakes start on the right with a lighter sweeter style sake, then work your way down.  The ever attentive staff even suggest to you which sake goes with which meal or dish.    Take your time with this, it may look small doses, but sake packs a heafty punch.

Today was a special birthday treat.  To be fair I wasn’t entirely sure of the menu so left that choice to my birthday treat host.  What better way to experience the delights on offer, than with a set menu.   Now normally you need a few people at your table for any restaurant to offer you the opportunity of a set menu, this menu though, only two.  Chefs New Classic Set Menu that was today’s choice.  What a great way to trial a number of dishes on the menu in one go!  So relax, let those taste buds salivate as we take a flight through the menu.   

First up, Norri crisps.  Delightful crispy seaweed, pairing fantastically with that little soft touch of tuna and seasame on top.  Devine.

With fabulous, yet simplistic presentation, Hiramasa Kingfish drizzled with housemad lime & jalapeño kosho, followed.  The Kingfish had been replaced with another fish, as there not was enough stock on this particular day.  However, this dish was soft, delectable and enjoyable.

Now I hear a few of you, going hmm not much.  But, this to me is the epitome of a degustation style meal. A wonderful opportunity to experience flavours, understanding what you eat and quite simply savouring for enjoyment.   

Grass fed Beef tatakai.   Staff were right, this one matched perfectly with one of the Sakes!  With a little bit of crunch, mixed with a light salad type topping, this rare beef was an absolute treat.

Coated in an incredibly light batter and even lighter mayonnaise, thevpopcorn shrimp dish was superb to say the least.  Totally different to the previous dishes, it was an enlivening dish, which woke not only only your tastebuds, but your whole being with the simple flavours and the pop of shrimp.

And the dishes kept on coming.   Next up this fabulously presented Bass Grouper.  Yum!

House salad topped up the vege intake, providing a refreshingly different taste sensation to the previous fish and beef dishes.   Also an excellent cleanser before the Cape Grim short rib bo ssam which followed.Combing light, crispy and hot, this was an intriguing, very tasty treat!   The pickles confit garlic and ssam sauce paired wonderfully well with the short rib.

What better way to cleanse the palate before finishing with than with traditional miso soup.  Tofu, spring onion and wakame filled this delightful miso was a sensational cleanser.   

Only one dish left to go on this set menu, the Chefs choice of dessert.Oh WOW!   This colourful eye popping delight was a lovely surprise, added to which the combinations of desserts on the plate were enough to give you a sweet taste experience which finished off this meal beautifully.

I cannot recommend this venue highly enough.   Every now and then we do need to treat ourselves.   This $98 per person sensational taste journey was worth every cent.

Thank you Sake!  Kanpai!

Novotel Surfers Paradise – Hanlans Restaurant/Bar

Mini Breaks are a great way to give your mind and body a chance to take a breath before you launch back into the routine of life. This view of Surfers Paradise Main Beach area, could be all yours at Novotel Surfers Paradise.  As an Accor Plus member, the complimentary room for the year was still waiting to be utilised.  Hence a visit to Novotel Surfers Paradise.

Our view from the room, was mesmerising.  From here we could watch the activity on the streets below, check for whales passing out at sea, view the river and its boats, or simply chill out and enjoy the landscape canvas rolled out before us.   Sunset and Sunrise views, were nothing less than superb!

Day rolled into night, with outstanding orange hues as the sun dropped in behind the Western Ranges.  As the hunger pains set in, we visited the Novotel Restaurant, Hanlans.  Located on Level 1 of the complex, the expansive restaurant mainly operates as a buffet for both breakfast and dinner.   On the ground floor, Hanlans Bar is open through the day, with a breakfast and lunch mini menu to keep you going.Staff here are attentive.  Water is topped up throughout your meal, plates are cleared in a timely fashion and above all else, every staff member we came across, throughout the hotel, from reception, concierge through to bar, restaurant and cleaners, were professional yet friendly.  Its a rare venue to have all staff displaying good quality customer service.

From fresh seafood, to seafood salads and other salads or meats, through to a delectable dessert selection, along with many options in between, there is plenty to choose from.

Should you have the prilege of being an Accor Plus member, you will receive big discounts of your meals.  For two people with one membership, this results in a 50% meal discount, essentially one of you eats for free.

Rooms are comfortable, clean, with balconies plus the added bonus of being so close to a lot of options, where you will likely park the car and leave it there.  Shopping is below the hotel, or walk to the beach in 5 minutes.  Check out the Q1 tower for a birds eye view, barely 10 minutes walk or visit the many other attractions in the area.  

As night falls, life does not become quieter on the streets below. Patrons flock to the nightlife, bathing in the depth of colourful lights, twinkling around them from all angles.

A winter sunrise in Queensland is stunning.  Orange hues light up the fiery sky before fading through to the daylight blue.  Take a short walk to the beach and you may have the opportunity to see a surfer disappearing into the waves. 

Silhouettes outlined by. the rising sun provide not only fantastic photo opportunities, but also those moments where time stands still, momentarily.  Indulge yourself, take the walk and wonder at the colourful birth of a new day.

All the food we enjoyed at the Novotel was fresh, nicely presented, and enjoyable.  Below are some food images from our weekend stay.Caesar Salad with Chicken tenders at Hanlans Bar.

Love the presentation of the loose leaf tea.

Calamari & salad at Hanlans Bar.

Cheese plate at Hanlans Bar.Burger at Hanlans Bar.

Ice cream is made fresh on the premises.

I love this personal touch with what we think are staff handprints across the front window, making an interesting view from Hanlans Bar.   Sit down in the bar, enjoy a barista or bar drink whilst you watch the world go by.   There is always something happening in Surfers. This is a venue we will return to, look forward to seeing you there!

Bribe Island – South East Queensland

Brisbane winter weather can be absolutely stunning.  Beautiful clear warm days without the summer humidity, lend themselves to exploring the great outdoors.

On this particular recent winter day, a visit to this interesting piece of beauty, seeped in history, was a most enjoyable experience. Here you could feel the light breeze, soak up the stunning scenery and explore the different areas dotted across the island. Since 1963, when the bridge was built to connect Bribie with the mainland, accessing the island became an easy drive for Brisbane and surrounding area residents.

We found a meandering little walkway. siting between some lucky residences and a bird sanctuary.   A couple of hides had been built along the way to enable you to spend sometime viewing the different bird species as they mingled near the waters edge.

At the end of the track lies a waterway giving local residents access to the bay.  Sun rays danced across the glistening blue water,, highlighting the moving reflections stretched across the mirroring water.

Explore the different areas across the island, there is plenty to see and do.  A number of  cafes and other venues, leave you plenty of choice to enjoy a relaxing bite to eat.

On this occasion, we stopped by the Blue Anchorage, situated near the jetty, for a pleasant lunch.

With a choice of inside, outside dining and table service, the venue was a lovely place to wile away some time,

Enjoy your visit to Bribie Island, its an easy drive from Brisbane.  In fact from Northside you will do this in well under an hour.  Always nice to visit on on a weekday as weekends can be busy out here, with everyone trying to enjoy a slice of heaven on earth.

Carseldine Roadhouse

An impromptu visit to the Carseldine Roadhouse recently, was in no way disappointing.  Part of the Caltex complex on Gympie Road, the final Brisbane service station stop on the main road out of the city heading north, 

Enjoy the Roadhouse restaurant atmosphere here, whilst you maintain expectancy to indulge in a good hearty meal.

Dropping in for breakfast, the simple all day menu still gave enough choice for us both to enjoy a meal.  Staff were friendly and efficient, with not too much of a wait before meals were delivered to the solid wooden table.  

Bursting with flavour, the Italian omelette was my choice today.  Certainly a bigger meal than expected and not one that would leave you hungry afterwards.   

Hubby’s choice was the Grill breakfast with an added extra or two.  The only problem he had was making his way to the end! 

All food was fresh and nicely cooked, without being overdone or tough.   It was a pleasant start to the day,  partaking of the good quality food at the Roadhouse.

Open 7 days with other meal choices available, and some specials available, stop in before you leave Brisbane, or just drop by if you’re in the area looking for a reasonably priced hearty meal.  We were told Thursdays have good specials 👍.  We will have to check that out sometime.

And those large cups on the menu are exactly what they say!

Lakeview and Mandys on the Mountain Restaurants, Mecure Clear Mountain

Beautifully located on the side of Clear Mountain, with incredible vistas to the side and front, you will find the Mecure Clear Mountain Resort.   Two restaurants are onsite.  One being the general Lakeview restaurant boasting a wide wrap around verandah area giving you a choice of indoor or outdoor dining.

The second is the adults only dinner restaurant Mandy’s on the Moutain.  Menus are similar and simplistic, in a good way.  We enjoyed a lunch at Lakeview on a balmy weekend day, followed by an intimate dinner at Mandy’s, with a backdrop of wine, and nightcaps on the balcony overlooking the evertwinkling Brisbane & surounds lights.

This soft shell tempura crab lunch special, was incredibly soft, with the light tempura giving some crispness to the dish.  Presentation was superb.

Pairing well with the stuffed jalapeño dish and delightful platter, lunch was most enjoyable.

With lunch definitely not disappointing, we were left wondering what delights would be in store for this evenings meal at Mandy’s..  

We had a lovely conversation with new restaurant managerduring lunch.  Interesting  to see new staff learning the ropes.  Certainly no complaints from us regarding staff, everyone we came across was friendly and helpful.

Natural oysters displayed on a bed of salt with crisp lime slices,  provided that wonderful raw seafood flavour to the tastebuds.  They were also a perfect starter to our dinner at Mandy’s on the Mountain.Crispy duck was my dinner choice.  Never have I eaten such a delectably soft duck.  With a crunch on the outside, the inside meat simply fell apart and melted in the mouth.Hubby declared his bangers and mash to be superb.  Apparently a very enjoyable dish.Why not finish with a dessert?  This tiramisu with pistachio ice cream, finished off hubby’s meal with that taste of sweet, but not too sweet.  Again service here was superb.

There is no doubt we will be going back to either of these restaurants. To combine this wonderful food, with the atmosphere, views and service, why would we not return!  Look forward to our next visit.