Saturday, 25 January 2014

Otago Peninsula and the garden at Lanarch Castle

This is the final instalment of my visit to New Zealand in October. I flew into Dunedin in the South Island, and after catching up with my niece, I booked a wildlife cruise and tour around the nearby Otago Peninsula.

As with my Catlin's experience, I experienced two very different moods of the peninsula. The day of the cruise was very wet and cloudy but very atmospheric. However, the tour I was on didn't include Lanarch Castle, which I was keen to see, so I was determined to squeeze in a return visit before my departure.

Hidden in this clump on trees on a spit that extended into the harbour was the pilot's house. What a fabulous location.

Hooker's sea lion - you can see from the background how little visibility there was.

Taiaroa Head

A yellow-eyed penguin, one of the rarest in the world 

In my last post, I identified a photo of a shag on Stewart Island as a Stewart Island shag, but now that I know that New Zealand is home to a third of the world's shag species (and a lot look alike to me), I'm not so confident and shall give up any pretence of being more specific. These were very lovely though. If you are interested, I found this great website


New Zealand fur seal

Albatross - Taiaroa Head is the world's only mainland breeding colony of the Royal Albatross

A closer look at the pilot's house (under the tallest conifer) from our boat

Same snoozing sea lion on our return trip.

A curious, juvenile Black Backed Gull seemed to be giving me the once over

On our return trip we called into Quarantine Island to collect the good folk on the jetty below. They were volunteers who had spent the day collecting rubbish that had washed up on the island, and we gave them and some huge full garbage bags a lift home.

This three-dimensional map gives you an idea of the peninsula's terrain. 

I had fairly limited time on my second visit to the Peninsula, but this time I was blessed with good weather. My return flight was early afternoon, so I set out in the morning, essentially driving across the top of the peninsula from left to right. On my way out I took the high road (Highcliff Road) to enjoy the views denied to me by the weather on my earlier visit, and on my return trip, I followed the road along the water's edge.

Looking back on Dunedin

Cabbage tree, ti kouka (Cordyline australia)


My final destination was Lanarch Castle. Its original owner, William Lanarch, was an Australian-born banker. He selected the site for his mansion on a ridge of the peninsula in 1870 and took up residence in 1874. The following year he decided to enter politics. His was ultimately a sad fate. Many of his enterprises were unsuccessful. He lived at the castle with three successive wives until 1898 when, overcome by financial problems and rumours that his young wife was having an affair with his favourite son, he committed suicide in Parliament.

The castle changed hands a number of times and was abandoned twice before being purchased in 1967 by the Barker family who have restored the house and garden.

The Pergola and Green Room

South Seas Garden

Fritillaria meleagris


Flowering quince

Kowai (Sophora tetraptera)

I was very glad I was able to visit Lanarch Castle, but time was getting tight, so I set off for the airport and my return flight to Brisbane.


I scarcely had time to unpack my suitcase before a friend arrived from the UK, and I was off again to share some of my favourite spots in Australia with her.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Stewart Island

I can't remember where or when I first heard of Stewart Island - perhaps a travel program or nature documentary - but I can remember storing away the name and thinking 'maybe, one day...'  I have always had a soft spot for islands, the coast, and anything remotely maritime, perhaps a legacy of growing up in seaside towns.
When I set out on my three-day road trip from Dunedin in October, the possibility of getting to Stewart Island was one of the factors that helped me decide to head south. I wasn't sure of the road conditions or how far I would get, so I didn't pre-book accommodation on the island. Instead, I based myself in Invercargill for two nights and settled on a day trip.
The ferry left from the small town of Bluff, the southernmost town on New Zealand's South Island. Stewart Island is 30 km south of that, and although I was prepared for a rough trip, I was pleasantly surprised. The seas were quite calm. There was plenty of rain, but that was to be expected: the island has a reputation for it. More surprisingly given its southern latitude, the island is quite mild compared to the South Island. It would be a wonderful base to see the Southern Lights, the Aurora Australis, in the colder months.
The island was first settled by the Maori people from the early 13th century. From the early 1800s, missionaries, miners, sealers, and settlers from all over the world visited the island, some intermarrying with the local population. Nowadays, the permanent population of the island is around 400 and is centred around the town of Oban.
Approaching the island

Because I was only day tripping I decided to do a short bus tour of the island. There are few roads on the island, mainly just around Oban itself, but there were some good vantage points that gave more distant views and a feel for the island. Despite the weather, I was quite envious of the small groups of trekkers I saw heading off into the wild for several days.

Looking down on the jetty

The township of Oban on Halfmoon Bay

According to Maori legend, the South Island was the canoe of their god Maui. While he was out fishing he hauled up the North Island. The original Maori name for Stewart Island is Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui, which means the anchor stone of Maui's canoe. In the photo below I am standing under a sculpture representing the anchor chain, and there is a complementary sculpture on the bottom of the South Island where the anchor chain goes into the sea.

This mother duck looked like she was taking her babies on a very big adventure. I think I would prefer a pond for my maiden voyage rather than the rough sea.

The path into Rakiura National Park, which covers 1570 square km - about 85% of the island


After the two-hour tour I returned to Oban, enjoyed a delicious lunch at the South Sea Hotel overlooking Halfmoon Bay, and then set off on foot to see as much as I could before reboarding the ferry and heading back to my cosy motel room.

The fishing coop on the jetty

Sooty Oystercatchers

Pied Oystercatcher

Looking aback at Oban and the pretty church on the hill

Stewart Island Shag

Looking back on Stewart Island from the lookout at Bluff


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