New Zealand Road Trip: South of the South Island

The second week of our New Zealand adventure was spent exploring the South of the South Island.
Our first stop was Twizel where we couldn’t quite believe the beauty of the insanely blue Lake Pukaki. It is absolutely massive and is an incredible place to stop and gape at nature. Freshwater salmon is super fresh in this part of the world and when you see how clear the water is you can tell why it tastes so good.
We stayed at Matuka Lodge which has the most stunning mountain views and night skies covered in stars. It was such a special place for us since Signor Pot decided to pop a little question. Here’s a little reenactment of what went down.
A short drive to Mount Cook offers a range of wonderful hikes and incredible scenery. The Hooker Valley track is a busy one with lots of tourists enjoying the easy walk and spectacular scenery. The Glacier at the end is rather epic so don’t give up.
We left Twizel and made a few stops along the way to Oamaru. Near Duntroon we found an incredible old sheep shearing barn. The surrounding paddocks were filled with sheep, all with the most adorable little Spring lambs. I had to share this one for the little pink ears, too sweet. We also walked around the scenic Elephant Rocks.
Oamaru Botanic Gardens are beautifully kept and take a peek inside the Conservatory for a show of blooms.
We planned our road trip around Fleurs Place and were every bit as smitten with the place as we thought we would be. Moeraki is the cutest little seaside town with Fleurs Place at it’s heart. When we asked our fabulously fun waitress what she recommended she said we could have a fresh whole fish straight off the boat. The boat was just pulling in as we spoke so she had to go down and check what was caught. It doesn’t get fresher than that. The fish was absolutely beautiful. A meal at Fleurs is one to remember. There is atmosphere everywhere you turn and the food is so uncomplicated and perfect, it’s easy to see why so many people love it. We met the woman behind the magic and got into big conversations about the food. Fleur was in the process of smoking eels and insisted that we take one home with us to try the next day. We walked away like kids from a candy shop, tummies filled and giant smiles on our faces.
Our next stop was Portobello, along the Otago peninsula. We stayed at Portobello Settlers Cottage and it was perfectly cosy with old world charm and a beautiful garden filled with herbs.
With a smoked Eel in the fridge we knew we had to do something special for dinner that night so we created a sandwich fit for a king or queen.
Fleurs Smoked Eel sandwich
Serves 4
• 1 baguette
• 1 manuka smoked eel
• ¼ telegraph cucumber, super thinly sliced rounds
• 1 medium sized beetroot, peeled and finely grated
• 125g creme fraiche
• 50g grated horseradish (bottled) but of course fresh would be even better
• 1 cup loosely packed pea shoots
• 1 lemon, cut into wedges
• Salt and pepper
Peel the eel and pull the flesh away from the bone. Allow flakes to separate naturally.
Mix horseradish and creme fraiche in a mixing bowl. Season with salt to taste and set aside.
Cut baguette in 4 and then use a bread knife to cut through the middle.
Spread horseradish cream on either side of each piece of baguette.
Add cucumber slices, beetroot, flaked smoked eel and top with pea shoots.
Season with freshly cracked pepper and serve with a lemon wedge.
If you stay in Dunedin or Portobello your must go visit the Albatross & Penguins. The Royal Albatross centre is the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross. The birds are so giant and so beautiful, it’s a really special place to see them. You can also go on a nighttime tour to see the blue penguins come in to shore. They are so tiny and absolutely adorable to watch.
Our next day in Dunedin began with awesome breakfast at No.7 Balmac. Their green smoothie is the bomb, it’s sweet and refreshing with kiwi, mint, apple juice and leafy greens from their fabulous edible garden which spans two levels out the back. Really scrumptious food and super yummy treats to take with for afternoon tea.
After breakfast we visited Olveston Historic House and were super impressed by the immaculate condition of the home and all it’s incredible possessions. The house was built in the 1900s and was so modern for the time I would happily move in now, that kitchen, amazing. It is filled with original artworks, incredible antique furniture, beautiful textiles and countless objects that are probably worth more than most homes. They don’t allow pictures so you will just have to go see for yourself.
We explored the city centre a bit. There are some incredible street artists to see as you walk along. We then stopped for lunch in St Clair at Starfish Cafe, a great place to catch some ocean air and yummy food.
In the afternoon we visited Larnach Castle and enjoyed a walk around the gardens (which are fantastic), an eerie mist and cold weather made it extra moody.
Our host in Portobello let us in on a little local secret, telling us that we could collect clams at a nearby beach at low tide. Despite it being cold enough that the thought of walking shoeless along the beach made us want to cry, we put on multiple jackets, a beanie and ran screaming as we plunged our hands beneath the sand and grabbed handfuls of beautiful clams. The excitement was enough to keep us going till we reached our quota of 50 per person. We then quickly ran back to the car and set off on a 3 and a bit hour road trip to Te Anau, clams in a bucket in the front seat. Signor Pot cooked them up in a beautiful broth for dinner that night and it was a bit like being in a fairytale.
There were beautiful yellow fields of blooming rapeseed along the drive to Te Anau, adding to the already scenic drive.
The highlight of our South Island adventure was definitely staying in the paradise that is Dusky Ridges Farmstay. I was completely blown away by the beauty of this place and can’t even begin to show it in photos. There is something so incredible about looking out onto nature no matter where you turn. We achieved a sense of peace here that city slickers can only dream of. In fact one of the days we didn’t plan anything but just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery (quite unheard of for us, constantly seeking) but proof of the power of nature. We learnt so much from our incredible hosts Win and Henrik, or rather we learnt how little we know about farming and how valuable an education it is. We met and fed the sweetest little orphaned lambs and a colourful collection of farm pets, one of which was very keen on eating my jumper.
From Te Anau it’s a two hour drive into Milford Sound. It’s such a special experience to visit a place like Milford Sound. Since I am unable to do the boat trips we did a few walks instead and they were absolutely brilliant. We walked the Key Summit Track to spectacular views of Lake Marion and overwhelmingly huge mountainscapes. We then took a quick look at The Chasm which is an incredible visual display of the power of waterways, carving natural rock formations. My highlight was definitely the final stretch of the drive into Milford which really makes you feel like a spec in the ocean. It’s almost hard to take in the scale of these mountains. They have a beautiful purple blue hue in the afternoon light and coupled with some very cheeky Kea’s attacking your car while you wait to drive through the belly of a mountain, you will definitely feel it’s a rather surreal experience.
We finished off our trip in the historic and tiny town of Clyde. It is such a lovely little place. We stayed at Olivers which seems to have transformed this little town into a hub of activity, not only bringing in visitors to the lovely lodge and stables but also setting up a pub with locally brewed beers, a fine dining restaurant and a cafe/deli. Having collected a whole bunch of delicious cheeses on our trip through Central Otago, we had a final feast of New Zealand cheese and wine on our last night. A pretty perfect way to end such a spectacular trip.
I absolutely loved this sign in Clyde which summed up the New Zealand experience rather perfectly. There’s a sense of being so present and relishing every little detail in each new experience and being completely content. I think if you are on your own adventure you are much less caught up in what everyone else is doing and where you are in relation to things. It’s a good lesson to take home from our peaceful holiday and something that I think is a lot harder to achieve in the city.

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