Otago Peninsula – ‘finest example of ecotourism in the world’

Otago Peninsula was a volcano some 10 or 13 million years ago – give or take a week or three!

65-thousand years ago it became an island when sea levels rose and, more recently, it became a peninsula.  Captain Cook and the hardy self-sufficient pioneers fought battles with the elements along the notorious 2000 kilometres coastline which is now scattered with shipwrecks.

The area is not just a day trip from Dunedin but a destination in its own right and during my ten days in Dunedin – traveling in a  car from  NZ RentaCar – and I spent time in Ngaio Cottage in Broad Bay.

This cottage, built in the 1930s,  when my hosts, Julz Asher & Lutz Ritter, bought it I’m told ‘it looked very different’ to the charming, well-appointed accommodation it is today. ‘It was unlivable. In fact, everything is new – except a few boards,’ Lutz said.

The fittings and furniture were chosen with care, resulting in beautiful and tasteful atmosphere. I have no idea how many stars this place has, but I’d give it 4 or 5!

This is a fabulous place to stay and use as a base to explore the peninsula, and the Dunedin region – check out these photos.


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I’m not the only one who rates Otago Peninsula:

  • Neville Peat a local nature writer based in Broad Bay says the whole area is a ‘kind of supermarket for marine life, souped up by currents and adjacent deep-water canyons.
  • Botanist and environmentalist David Bellamy said the peninsula is ‘the finest example of ecotourism in the world’   while Mark Carwardine,  zoologist and outspoken conservationist, writer, TV and radio presenter, wildlife photographer, columnist,  best-selling author, a wildlife tour operator calls New Zealand a “wildlife hotspot”. He also says it’s one of the best places in the world to see great wildlife and recently he was on a whirlwind tour, searching for our equivalent to Africa’s ‘big five’, the New Zealand ‘small five’ – all endangered species: hector’s dolphinkeakiwituatarayellow-eyed penguin all  which are found on or around this amazing outcrop of land.

I have written some stories about the area, and more to come about –  albatross, penguins, castleboat trips, fur seals, settlers museum, bus stops, birds, gardens, heritage city walks, the Taieri Gorge train, Chinese gardens, butterfly house and the Orokonui eco-sanctuary and more.


View of the harbour from the couch
View of the harbour from the couch



Christchurch celebrates an upturn in visitor numbers

Christchurch and the Canterbury region are celebrating a year of tourism wins, along with an upturn in visitor numbers.

In recent months the region has been singled out by influential travel book publisher Lonely Planet as a top destination and several of the region’s tourism attractions and tourist operators have won industry accolades: in Christchurch earlier this month I can see why.

Every time I return to my home city I have a combination of sadness and hope: sad to see my history being erased from the streets along with hope as I see the new city rise phoenix  like.

Staying at the five star Classic Villa in the city centre  it was easy to walk around and see both – I also took the Red Bus tour of the red-z0ne area which is very small now – which got a me a little closer to places I could not always reach on foot.

“It’s been another challenging year for our tourism industry but despite that we’ve had some big successes,” says Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter.

“The proof of recovery is that all the major Asian markets, plus the United States are back in growth compared with 2011, and the Australian holiday market looks like it has turned the corner too,” Mr Hunter says.

As well as Lonely Planet’s inclusion of Christchurch in its list of Top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2013, Canterbury also has nine spots in the AA (Automobile Assn,) Travel’s 101 Must-Do list. with the popular alpine thermal resort of Hanmer Springs, (90 minutes from Christchurch) ranked No 1 on the list while a cruise around picturesque Akaroa Harbour with Black Cat Cruises was ranked at number 3. The popular TranzAlpine scenic rail trip from Christchurch to the West Coast came in at number 6.

Other notable achievements:
Otahuna Lodge has again been named by Tatler Magazine as one of its 101 Best Hotels in the World.
The George hotel in Christchurch was voted New Zealand’s Leading Boutique Hotel in the World Travel Awards.
Melton Estate, boutique winery in West Melton was judged Best Wine Tourism Restaurant in Christchurch / South Island for the Great Wine Capitals of the World 2012 Wine Tourism Awards.
Mark Gilbert, who together with wife Nikki runs Hassle-free Tours, won the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Young Tourism Entrepreneur Award.
 Pegasus Bay received the Cuisine Award for Best Winery Restaurant for the fifth year in a row.
Earth & Sky, star gazing tours in Tekapo won a South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa won Best Natural Bathing Spa in the Australasian Spa Association’s (ASPA) annual awards

“These awards are testimony to the talent of the people who work in our tourism industry and to the quality of the products we offer in Canterbury,’’ Mr Hunter says.

“The delivery of outstanding service to visitors has been a key influencer in driving our tourism recovery.

“The visitor decline that was triggered by the earthquakes of 2011 has now been arrested with stronger arrivals from most of our key markets already evident this summer.

Salute to heros in Christchurch – re-greening the city

Every time I return to Christchurch (which I left in November 2010, but not as a quake refugee – the moving decision had been made a few months before the Sept 4th, 7.2 quake) I’m in awe at the many ways people are supporting the re-growth of the South Islands largest city.

Just some of the heroes of Christchurch

In the south of the city, Sydenham, one of the oldest suburbs, I came across this area – where lovely old buildings once stood – a group of people are greening the area now that it’s been cleared of demolishing rubble  – see more here – regreening the rubble

It’s by  people like this (heroes to me) that the new Christchurch is being built: brick by brick, plant by plant – my hat comes off to you all! It’s people like this, people like all my forbears, who arrived here between 1860 – 1870 (from Cornwall, Ireland and Scotland) and helped build this city and county.

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Narnia locations in the South Island, New Zealand

Narnia locations in New Zealand (from NZ tourism)

Eager fans flock to New Zealand to discover the mythical landscapes of Narnia – immortalised in the film adaptations of CS Lewis famed 1950s ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series.

Loved by children of all ages, this world of fauns, satyrs and centaurs was brought to the big screen by New Zealand director Andrew Adamson with his 2005 adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which became the 41st highest-grossing film of all time.

Since then, there have been two more Narnia films – Prince Caspian (2008) and also directed by Adamson, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).

Andrew Adamson
Kiwi film director Andrew Adamson first read the ‘Chronicles’ as a child, and was captured by the excitement and adventure of the world that Lewis portrayed.

Released in December 2005, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – and its followup Prince Caspian – were almost entirely filmed in Adamson’s native New Zealand.

Although many scenes were filmed behind stage doors in Auckland, there are also some locations in New Zealand that have now become part of Narnia Aotearoa.

Flock Hill – The Great Battle
High in the Southern Alps of the South Island is an area of tortured rocks and dramatic valleys known as Flock Hill. It was here that director Adamson created the scenes for the great battle for Narnia.

Flock Hill is 90 minutes from Christchurch on the Arthur’s Pass Highway to Greymouth. Leaving Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city, the road crosses the flat expanse of the Canterbury Plains through the small towns of Darfield and Sheffield.

At Springfield, the mountain peaks tower over the village and the road climbs dramatically to Porters Pass (942m). One of the highest passes in New Zealand, the road can be affected by snow in winter.

Lake Lyndon, surrounded by brown tussock hills, is worth a stop before continuing past Castle Hill to Flock Hill. Stop at Cave Stream Scenic Reserve by Broken River. The topography of limestone rocks seen from here and across Cave Stream is typical of the landscape used to portray Narnia.

There are two walking tracks from the car park. One leads to the upstream entrance to Cave Stream before entering the 362m water-filled tunnel. The other track leads to a view of the outfall.

Accommodation is available at nearby Flock Hill Station. Other activities include abseiling, rock climbing, tramping and canyoning. In winter, skiing and snowboarding abounds at the nearby Broken River, Craigieburn, Mt Cheeseman, Porter Heights and Temple Basin ski fields.

Elephant Rocks – Aslan’s Camp
The ancient Elephant Rocks that sprout from the rolling hills in the Waitaki district of the South Island were transformed into Aslan’s Camp.

Elephant Rocks are situated near Duntroon, a 40-minute drive from Oamaru on State Highway 83.

Millions of years ago this whole area was under the sea. Whales and other marine life sank into the soft sand which then gradually rose to the surface. The result is an intriguing area of fossils and dramatic limestone outcrops. Vanished World visitor centre in Duntroon houses interpretive displays on the area’s geological past. Trail maps are available with directions to Elephant Rocks.

The historic town of Oamaru – where white limestone Victorian buildings stand as a reminder of times gone by – is the ideal base for exploring the area. Originally built as warehouses and storage areas for the nearby port, the Harbour / Tyne area is home to antique shops, gift stores, craftsmen and restaurant’s – including Kiwi chef Fleur Sullivan’s Loan & Merc Tavern.

Close by is the Oamaru blue penguin colony. The smallest of their kind in the world, the blue penguins nest beside Oamaru Harbour and can be viewed in their natural habitat.

Oamaru is also home to the award-winning Whitestone Cheese, the factory has an onsite café and shop allowing visitors to sample local produce and wine.

Purakaunui Bay – Cair Paravel
The great castle of Cair Paravel on the Eastern Sea of Narnia was created by computer-generated imagery on the cliff tops of Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins, an area of spectacular coastal scenery.

South of Dunedin, the Catlins coast road from Balclutha towards Invercargill is a journey through dense rain forest and dramatic seascapes. Although the entire trip only takes a few hours, spreading the journey over a few days allows for a leisurely exploration of an area abundant in native flora and fauna.

Paradise – fairytale country
The third South Island site chosen for filming was Paradise, a privately owned horse ranch about an hour’s drive from Queenstown.

“There were a couple of locations that were perfect for this movie that only New Zealand could offer,” producer Mark Johnson said. “In many ways, it is a fairytale country with the kind of locations that make your jaw drop.

A ferry and rail trip to Christchurch coming up! & The Kiwi Travel Writer


Coastal Pacific train journey and wonderful scenery