Discovering the beauty of the South Island... and learning to travel with an infant!


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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Otago » Queenstown
March 2nd 2016
Published: August 6th 2016
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Our first trip as a family... As much as I was looking forward to it, all sorts of doubts and worries were flying through my head as well... Wouldn’t it be too much for Millie? Would she actually enjoy any of it? Would she cope with the travelling well? After all she was only 4 months old... We have been doing little trips with her around Brisbane for quite a few weeks already and she always seemed to have ‘enjoyed’ it – I guess smiles and little mousy sounds might pass as signs of enjoyment. 😉

In the end if we were to go ahead with the plans for a bigger trip and going to Poland later on that year, a trip to New Zealand seemed like a perfect opportunity to test the ‘new way of travelling’ after all... New way of travelling for us that is... I quickly realised that it wasn’t going to be about how Millie was going to cope with the travelling after all, but how we were going to handle it of course! How we were going to squeeze in her feedings, naps, nappy changes, playing time and all million other little things that come along with a baby into our travel plans...But then as long as she was fed, clean, well rested and entertained, there was no doubt she was going to be happy. It was just up to us to make that happen and hopefully do some sightseeing in between... Once I finally sorted that in my head we were ready to go!

Who would’ve thought that such a tiny person needs so much stuff? Instead of our usual one piece of luggage, suddenly we had two... add to it a carrier, a pram and a car seat (at some point we were considering taking it with us as well but decided to just rent one instead)... now we were truly ready to go!

As we were waiting for our flight and walking around the airport with Millie we got quite a few smiles and even chatted to a few other travellers – who would’ve thought that babies can be such people magnets? 😉 As we were approaching the gates though the smiles slowly disappeared and different kind of emotions started showing on people’s faces – in some cases even slight terror perhaps? They must have been wondering how close to us they will be sitting on the plane and how much noise can come out from this little creature. 😉 It was no surprise that all the people with children were put next to each other at the back of the plane and yet I can’t deny it made me even more worried as to how we were going to cope during the flight. Once one baby starts screaming, won’t they all just join in together? As usual worried for nothing... The flight went really smooth and Millie behaved like an angel and so the other children as well actually (or could be that I was so concentrated on Millie that I simply blocked out all the other noise😉).

Christchurch & Akaroa

As we landed in Christchurch, I felt I could breathe normally once again – mostly because our first flight together was finally over, but also because of the cooler temperature outside. No humidity and fresh air again! Aaaaah... At this point Millie was knocked out (way past her bedtime). I thought she might stir a bit since we were constantly moving her between our arms – getting the luggage and jumping in and out of the shuttle, but she was far away in the dreamland already. The shuttle took us to the car rental place and even though the car we rented looked pretty decent, we both looked in slight horror at the baby capsule that came along with the car (extra charge of course). This capsule would never have passed any safety tests in Australia! I guess the rules were slightly less strict around here. We’d have to do something about it later on, but for now it was almost 2 in the morning! It was time to get at least a little bit of rest. We got to Grant’s cousin’s in and after a small chat and quick introduction of Millie to the family we were ready for bed. Woohoo! Now the holiday could really begin. 😊

It turned out that our hosts had a day off the following day so after breakfast we headed off to walk around Christchurch. And to take the bus tour! Just like in most big cities you can take these tours which will show you around the main attractions. In case of Christchurch it is rather a tour of what remained after the earthquakes... You can definitely see the work being done all around, however the scope of the destruction was so big that it will take years and years until Christchurch will look welcoming again. It was very interesting to see that some places were being restored and even more so to hear how much money was involved in that. Maybe I heard it wrong but it would appear that restoration of one building only cost 250mln NZD! It made me wonder whether it was really worth it to keep that particular building for that price, seeing that you could easily build quite a few new ones instead? I guess you can’t put a price tag on everything... There have been a few changes since the last time we’ve been here. The container mall has been moved to a different place. It was nice to see that because of its quirkiness and popularity it has become a permanent feature of Christchurch. Also lots of new buildings coming up in the centre – apparently to prevent developers from building skyscrapers and keeping a relatively low skyline in the centre of the town, buildings can go as high as the 7th floor only. We were told by the tour guide that this rule doesn’t really matter anyway as nobody wants to build higher than 4 floors in the fear of another earthquake. I can totally understand that as the thought of an earthquake makes me very uneasy and Grant’s idea of maybe moving back to Christchurch has been quite difficult to swallow at first. I have been told though that even though small earthquakes still happen in Christchurch quite regularly, another big one is very unlike to occur during our lifetime... Might be Grant’s way of influencing my decision of settling down in this city though? 😉 Despite the still sad looking centre, the city has a really good vibe. Nice cycling routes, a lovely seaside Sumner, gigantic park in the middle of town... and lots and lots of potential! I can certainly see a bright future for this city. Maybe it could become our home after all?

Another day we decided to go for a little trip to a nearby Akaroa. First stop Birdling’s Flat – a lovely little spot where Grant used to spend his holidays as a kid, playing at the beach and picking up coloured stones – plenty to choose from for sure! Next stop Hilltop Tavern, a little cafe with a gorgeous view, good coffee and tasty scones 😊 and soon after we were in Akaroa. If the town had turned out to be nothing special, it would have been worth it to come here if only to see the beautiful views on the way. The town didn’t disappoint either though. Lovely charming place with some older buildings, nice cafes, plenty of boats and plenty of people as well actually! Seems like a popular place, not only for tourists but for locals as well.

Queenstown, Glenorchy & Routeburn Track

After another day spent walking around Christchurch, it was time to see a bit more of the island. Direction: Queenstown! We knew that we wouldn’t be able to drive all the way to Queenstown in one go as Millie is not exactly a big fan of travelling in the car for too long. We needed to take into account a couple of stops in between and leave at the right time of course! Thankfully we got another car seat from Grant’s cousin – dodgy capsule problem solved! 😉 First part of the journey went better than expected as Millie slept almost all the way to Tekapo meaning I had a chance to enjoy the scenery along the way. Tekapo is a lovely spot for lunch for sure and for a small walk next to the chapel and the lake. It would actually be nice to spend here a night or two and do a few longer walks around – so much to do, so little time though... Noted as a definite stop for the next trip as we’ll be back! Sooner... or later... 😊

Since we wanted to make it all the way to Queenstown that day it was time to move on. Off we went then! Good timing on our side once again. After a small break and with a full belly, Millie was ready for another nap. Nice and quiet drive all the way to Lindis Pass. 😊 Another beautiful spot. I knew that from here I would probably need to test my entertaining skills as Millie had enough of the journey that day. We even thought for a moment of stopping somewhere closer, but in the end decided to push all the way to Queenstown. Quite a few songs, rhymes and time later we were finally getting close to Queenstown. Our optimism was slowly fading away as we started spotting more and more ‘No vacancy’ signs all around... Millie definitely wanted to get out as well and my singing didn’t seem to work its magic anymore... Yay! Vacancy sign finally! But 250NZD for a night? What? Wasn’t expecting prices like that! Naah, think we might still look around for a little bit longer. With one slightly cranky baby and two a bit more cranky adults – Grant might tell you that there was only one cranky adult in the car and it surely wasn’t him, haha! What can I say unhappy baby = unhappy mummy 😉 Needless to say, we had to find some accommodation fast! Driving around turned out to be hopeless, so we got out of town a bit and while standing on the side of the road, Grant was searching the web, while I was scouting around with my eyes. Was it a B&B that I was seeing? Yep and they had one room left, no breakfast but the room for 120NZD would have to do. Pffeeeew! It looked like that was the best price we could get around anyway. I was still surprised how expensive it was here but I guess I came a bit unprepared – seeing that Grant had been in these parts quite a few times already, I didn’t really do any research whatsoever. The idea of renting a caravan for 150NZD per day didn’t seem that bad after all! Next time then. 😊

Once we got the accommodation I was able to finally look around. What can I say? It’s hard not to fall in love with Queenstown. Mountains rising above the lake, steep streets, little cafes... Even on a rainy evening the place was still very welcoming. We were quite exhausted especially about the last part of the journey, so after a quick dinner went back to our B&B hoping for a good night’s sleep... Hoping as we were going to try out the new pop-up cot for Millie... I was used to waking up a few times during the night for a quick feed... Millie decided to put her mom on her toes that night though as she started testing her rolling-over skills! Since the cot wasn’t too big, she was basically rolling over with it! More or less sleepless night for me, checking up on my little acrobat every 10 minutes or so.... Survived though! 😉

Beautiful, sunny day the following morning and Queenstown looked even prettier than the evening before. After a hearty breakfast at Joe’s Garage (super funky and yum!), we took the Gondola to see Queenstown from up above – spectacular view once again! Then a small walk around the centre of Queenstown and off we went to Lake Moke. Quite a secret place it would seem as there were hardly any people around. You could camp there also, so another spot added to my list for the next trip! Really stunning place! We had lunch on the grass, not something that I would attempt in Australia – at least not without a constant watch-out for poisonous creepy crawlies. 😉

After having so many problems in finding accommodation in Queenstown we decided to spend the following two nights in Glenorchy instead. Another scenic drive! After a beautiful, sunny day it became quite gloomy in the evening. We were wondering if we’d be able to do any walking at all the following day, but after a chat with one of the locals, we were told we were quite lucky as the nice weather was supposed to last until the following afternoon. Fingers crossed!

We left Glenorchy quite early in the morning. Another lovely day – perfect for a little trip and a small trek as well. Driving through beautiful scenery we passed by quite a few cars parked on the side here and there, photo stops of course! It was hard not to stop every few metres! It was so beautiful all around. But when we drove through a little part of the forest and saw a group of people staring at some tree and making pictures of it, I thought that was a bit odd though... But then it came to me very quickly! We were in the Tolkien land! Or rather Peter Jackson’s land to be precise, as quite a few scenes from The Lord of The Rings were shot around here. No wonder he chose this location for his movies, a true paradise! And who would’ve thought? A real Paradise was just around the corner as well. Now I can say without a blink in my eye I have been to Paradise. 😊 If we were to do a little trek, we only needed to find the beginning of the track somewhere. Grant had done quite a few treks around here, so I didn’t doubt his navigation skills at all... that is until we came across a few creek crossings! If it was up to me with the first creek we would have turned around already as our little car clearly wasn’t made for it. Yet we kept on driving through the creeks (yes, there were several!), thankfully not floating! Still even Grant started having doubts whether it was the correct route as there were less and less cars on the way. After all we were supposed to walk one of the more popular tracks. We did have to get back in the end as we ended up on the opposite side of the big stream. Quite an interesting detour it was though. Soon after we were on the good road and were ready to stretch our legs a bit. Millie’s first trek! 😊 We weren’t sure how far we would make it – thinking of Millie of course, but she was doing really well, waving happily her feet at smiling trekkers so we kept on going until we made it to the first hut. Some breathtaking views were only supposed to start further up the trek so we only got the taste of it, still I was very happy we made it as far as we did with Millie. As we were resting by the hut, some clouds started approaching quite fast, it was time to head back. The last thing we wanted was to get wet and for Millie to get sick. It also became a few degrees colder, so with much quicker pace we headed back to the car. The sole inside my shoe got a bit twisted during walking and by the end of the walk I could feel a blister forming on my heel. Still even despite the plum size blister, it was totally worth it to do this trek. Hopefully one day we can do the whole trek altogether again.

Arrowtown & Wanaka

The following morning we found the roof of our car covered in little black pebbles... He? I was puzzled but Grant knew straight away that we must have parked right under possum’s house. Cleaning a car from possum’s poop is definitely a first one for me! 😉 We were going to spend the night in Wanaka, but first decided to visit an old gold mining town, Arrowtown. As we drove through the main street a group of kids were performing haka on a little stage – I loved this place already! Arrowtown is a really small town that you can walk about in no time at all, still definitely worth a visit – lovely old houses, some nice cafes and restaurants around, you can even try gold panning in the nearby river yourself! Not that we tried but we did see quite a few people doing it. I wondered if anyone ever finds anything there still?

After a short walk along the river, we jumped into the car and continued onto Wanaka. Again we had too little time to really get to know this place but just about enough to at least get the taste of its fantastic atmosphere. Nice lunch at one of the pubs, short walk around and time for a small picnic by the lake! We weren’t the only ones with a plan like that as all along the shore you could find people sitting on blankets having snacks and sipping beers. What else do you need? 😊

Hokitika­­

Next stop: Hokitika. Another incredible drive from Wanaka. A week is definitely not enough to see it all... and to appreciate it all! The idea of a campervan is certainly growing on me more and more – especially that I never travelled like this before. Tent? Sure! But a campervan not yet... Next New Zealand trip for sure! We had lunch in the middle of nowhere or so it seemed and yet there were quite a few people in the diner. I guess there wasn’t much else around... As we got to Hokitika we realised it might be quite difficult to find accommodation once again. It looked like the Food Festival was about to start here in two days... Oops! It didn’t sound too good... We kept driving around but no vacancies once again... Searching the web? No results either... Millie was getting impatient... Ok, one more round around the town... Suddenly somebody knocked on the window of our car... He? An older guy on the bike asked us if we were looking for accommodation. He added that he had a B&B which had been booked out for the festival since October (whaaaat?), but his daughter was about to open a B&B and had a free room (not advertised yet) and if we were interested we could have a look. Of course we were interested! After meeting the host and her lovely 1-year-old daughter we were sold. Also at least for a moment I had someone else but Grant to talk about baby stuff and to ask about what was still ahead of me – teething, walking... not yet, but soon enough! And to think that only a few nights ago I was freaking out about Millie rolling over. 😉 We went for a lovely stroll on the beach and walked a bit around town – it looked like people were slowly getting ready for the festival with a few stalls already set up in the centre of town. It would probably be nice to stay another night for the festival, especially that the Black Seeds were in town, but in the end we decided to stick to the original plan and after a good night’s sleep headed back to Christchurch.

Kaikoura

After spending a few more days with the family in Christchurch, we decided to go for a few nights to Kaikoura. This time we weren’t looking for any kind of attractions, just wanted to spend our last few days in New Zealand relaxing. Kaikoura is certainly a good spot for doing that. It was definitely cooler here but at least the long hours knitting outfits for Millie during pregnancy didn’t go to waste 😊 and we had two days (out of three) without rain! On the first two days we just enjoyed the sunny weather and walked around Kaikoura. It would’ve been nice to walk up Mount Fyffe once again, but it would’ve been slightly too much for Millie, so we decided to walk through a shorter and yet still very scenic track, the Peninsula Walkway. Walking from the South Bay, you continue through Limestone Bay and can go as far as Kaikoura’s centre, admiring beautiful coastal views from the clifftops all along. Lovely way to spend your day for sure! We also went for a short trip outside of town to the Oahu waterfall to see the seal pup colony. Grant said he went there some years back and had a chance to see tens of seal pups playing in the waterfall. This time there were only three pups and at the beginning of the creek rather than in the waterfall, still lovely to see any at all. It looks like the waterfall might be closed soon though as apparently a few pregnant female seals started coming up there to give birth and they were soon after followed by some horny male seals... And I don’t think any tourists would like to come across one of these horny beasts as they sure can be quite aggressive. Thankfully there were no big boys around when we were there. 😉

On our last day in Kaikoura it was raining. It didn’t destroy our moods at all though as we just decided to catch up on calories a bit instead. A coffee here, a cake there and some tasty food at Kaikoura’s one and only Irish pub – Donegal House... Food might be pretty good there but their selection of DVDs slightly odd... They put on some Irish folk from the 80s or 90s and while the music maybe wasn’t too bad, the whole production was very outdated... Weirdly entertaining though 😉

And our time in New Zealand came to an end. Once again the country didn’t disappoint and only make me hungry for more. Still so much to see and explore! Will definitely come back here soon... Who knows maybe we’ll actually move here? Time will tell... As for this trip we loved every part of it and what’s even more important, Millie did fantastic throughout the whole trip like a natural born traveller! 😊 Now only to get ready for the even bigger trip! Happy travels everyone!

Anna, Grant & Amelia


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7th August 2016

Smiles and mousy sounds
A world traveler is born. Hopefully for her it will come natural and she won't know another way.
10th August 2016

Smiles and mousy sounds
Hope so too... So much to see and explore! She's definitely a curious little girl. :) Thanks for reading!
9th August 2016

Oh my goodness -- it was lovely reading your blog. It is so intimidating traveling with a little one the first time around -- I remember fretting nonstop when I had to take my daughter on her first plane trip on my own. I'm so glad you did this and shared the story with us. It was very enjoyable following you on your journey -- especially when the cyclist knocked on your car window and you found accommodation! Millie is adorable and looking forward to more of her and your travels!
10th August 2016

Thanks Michelle :) Even though the first flight went very smooth I think I will be dreading the next ones with her anyway... She's changing so much with each day and showing more and more personality. So far so good though! Thanks for reading :)
11th August 2016
Yay! we love New Zealand :)

How wonderful! I think traveling with children is a difficult feat but very rewarding. My parents did it with me, and it created a lifelong passion for adventure and curiosity. Way to go!
17th August 2016
Yay! we love New Zealand :)

Thanks Andrea :) Same here, my parents went out of their ways to show me and my sister a few bits of this world, so it seems like a natural way to go... Just passing on the travel bug :)

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