Things to do in Oamaru – A20 cycle trail


The Alps to Ocean cycle way is New Zealand’s longest – 301 kilometres from Aoraki/Mt Cook to Oamaru harbour.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is New Zealand in all its colour and beauty – from our highest mountain, past great lakes and rivers, and down to the ocean. Suitable for all ages, the 8 section bike trail is an easy to intermediate grade, offering a pleasing mix of on and off-road terrain which links the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean.

Most people would need 4 -6 days to do the whole trail but you can do day trips or shorter rides.

Highlights include:

  • Aoraki/Mt Cook
  • Elephant Rocks
  • Snow-capped Mountains
  • Clay Cliffs
  • Golden Landscapes
  • Maori Rock Art
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Blue Penguins
  • Limestone Cliffs
  • Boutique Shops
  • Lakes: Tekapo, Pukaki, Ohau, Benmore, Aviemore
  • Vineyards
  • Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct
  • Hydro Canals

Neighbours have been running homestays in an historic home for years and their business is booming now the cycle trail has opened.

I’s still in its infancy but has already been numbered among four of the best cycle trails in New Zealand.


Dansey’s Pass Coach Inn


We drove through Dansey’s Pass  to the Coach Inn  to celebrate a 50th birthday yesterday.

The hotel was built in 1862. Renovation and refurbishment have added ensuites and other improvements without detracting from its historic character.

The service was relaxed and the food delicious:

Wotif works well


We were in Dunedin last night for a 21st birthday party and hadn’t got round to booking anywhere to stay until Friday so used wotif.

That found us a room at the four star Dunedin City Hotel for $129.

It’s the fourth time we’ve got a Wotif deal there and each time we’ve been impressed. The rooms are spacious and clean, beds comfortable, the shower has a rose on a flexible hose, they have Les Floralies Earths Organics toiletries and the windows open.

We tend to make most of our decisions to travel at the last minute so use Wotif often. The only time we’ve had a problem was due to the manner of the receptionist and not Wotif.

Every other time we’ve had the same service we’d expect if we booked directly with the hotel, but at a much lower price.

That includes a Wotif Secret Deal  which doesn’t reveal the name of the hotel until you’ve paid. We’ve done that three times and got five star accommodation in the centre of Auckland twice and four star in Wellington once, for a fraction of the normal rate.

You know the general area you’ll be in so if it doesn’t matter too much exactly where you stay it’s worth the gamble.

Sunday social


I’m still in Southland for the second day of our annual  girls’ trip.

Yesterday’s itinerary concentrated on food and flora – lunch at Le Potager, a cafe and gift shop near Wyndam; a wander round Maple Glen, the 25 acre garden, nursery, aviary, woodland and wetland created and lovingly tended by Bob and Muriel Davison and their son Rob; then back to Woodstock Loft at Dacre for a demonstration by floral designer Rachael Reed who showed us how to work magic with flowers, producing eight different but equally delightful creations whcih were both simple and stunning.

We finish our gathering this morning with an art workshop.

Girls on tour


Our first annual expedition three years ago took us to Prebbleton where we spent the day making garden sculptures.

When fine motor skills were distributed I was somewhere else so I’d approached the activity with some trepedation. However, by day’s end I was the proud owner of a pig which did indeed look like a pig and is now at home in my garden.

We headed north again last year and spent the day at Jo Seagar’s cooking school  at Oxford.

Jo welcomed us and explained the day’s agenda over coffee and loaf then we spent the next few hours gathered round her huge kitchen bench as she chatted and joked her way through the cooking demonstration.

When the cooking was done we were seated at the large dining table to enjoy the food, accompanied by wine and more conversation.

Jo mentioned the first year’s income for the business had been well ahead of budget and it was easy to see why because during her demonstration she’d mentioned how good this tool or that utensil was so of course we all purchased at least some of them before we left. Remembering this over diner last night, we agreeed Jo was right and we’d all found the things we bought were welcome additions to our kitchens.

This year’s expedition has taken us to Southland. We arrived in time for lunch at Woodstock Loft yesterday – tomato soup followed by parmeson loaf topped with lettuce and smoked salmon. One of our hostesses is a director of Venture Southland  and was keen to ensure we contributed to the local economy so the afternoon was devoted to retail therapy in Invercargill before dinner at El Tigre.

We enjoyed the dinner but diners at a neighbouring table didn’t enjoy our company – they told the waitress we were too noisy and walked out. We were a little discombobulated by this but the waitress reassured us that they had been difficult from the time they entered and it was them at fault not us.

Today’s itinerary includes a garden walk, floral art and no doubt we’ll have time for food, wine and conversation. We’ll do our best to keep the latter to a level which doesn’t upset any fellow diners.

Mt Iron


Last night’s starry sky brought the promised frosty morning and it was -2 when we started up Mt Iron at about 8am.

This hill on the outskirts of Wanaka is one of the town’s many assets. In summer hundreds of people walk up it each day, this morning we passed just four.

It’s very easy to laze around when we come over here so if we tackle Mt Iron every morning we can have a clear conscience if we do nothing more energetic for the rest of the day.

We take the longer and steeper route up the eastern side, because it’s better exercise and then we get the glorious views over the town and lake as we come down the other side.

I time myself from the carpark to the top and when we were here for a couple of weeks in summer I managed a personal best of 28 minutes & 2 seconds. But winter sloth has eroded my fitness and this morning I was back to 31:10. To put that in perspective, some people can run up and down the hill in less time than that.

Two of those days


Katherine Mansfield said it so much better than I could: It was one of those days, so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.

I’m not sure if I’ve got that word perfect, though I ought to have because it’s on a Marg Hamilton painting which hangs on our living room wall. But that’s at home while I’m in Wanaka and in awe of the scenery which brought the quote to mind.

We’ve had not one but two of those days. Yesterday we drove tup the Waitaki Valley and through the Lindis Pass, which no matter its mood is beautiful.

In Wanaka we called on friends whose living room window frames the view straight up the lake to the mountains, scenery so stunning it makes you wonder why you’d ever bother to go anywhere else.

Today we left Wanaka by starlight to go to Southland. Our route took us down via Alexandra to Ettrick then south through West Otago to Gore. The views there may not be as awe inspiring as the ones round Wanaka, but there is beauty in those gently rolling, bright green paddocks.

We did a whistle-stop tour of farms at Otahutit, Riverton and Dipton before turning north again up SH6 which follows Lake Wakatipu from Kingston to Frankton. We were treated to many more Mansfield moments as the late afternoon sun spot-lit snow clad hills and reflected them back on the water.

Tussocks poked cheeky heads through the snow as we climbed up the Crown Range then down through the Cardrona Valley and back to Wanaka to marvel again at the breathtaking combination of mountains, snow and lake in the sunset.

Two of those days, and the clear, starry sky is promising a third tomorrow.

Riverstone Kitchen


Lauraine Jacobs waxed lyrical about the delights of Riverstone Kitchen  duirng her guest chef slot on Nine to Noon this morning.

The praise is well deserved. Chef Bevan Smith serves delicious food in simple but elegant surroundings. Most of the fruit and vegetables served are grown on the property and he features as much local produce as possible.

If you’ve time, a wander round the adjourning gift shop run by Bevan’s mother, Dot, is a delightful way to finish your visit.

Thank You Air NZ


We had used airpoints to upgrade our economy fares to business class for our flight home from Australia yesterday.

When we got to the counter we got the good news-bad news story: we had been upgraded but the unexpected absence of a staff member meant we might not get the normal level of service. However, to compensate for this we’d get vouchers which we could redeem for air points or Air New Zealand services.

When we boarded, the flight attendent greeted us with more apologies and explanations and thanks to her efficient and friendly attention we were more than happy with the service. We also appreciate the vouchers ($60 worth each).

Air New Zealand exceeded our expectations and gets full marks for service, communciation and compensation.

Taieri Gorge Railway


The Grass Converters Social Club was formed nearly two years ago but for various reasons (drought, feeding out, shearing, calving, stock movements, irrigation…) has just had its inaugural outing.


We chose the Taieri Gorge Railway  for the event, met at the Dunedin Railway Station and by virtue of numbers (21) claimed a carriage for ourselves. Indifferent weather meant some of the views weren’t as spectacular as they would be when framed by the large blue skies for which Central Otago is famed; but the scenery was still stunning.


The intercom commentary, though occasionally drowned out by competing noise, gave an interesting mix of history and geography. It was supplemented by Joe (who said he wasn’t a conductor, but didn’t say what he was) who popped through the carriage at irregular intervals with jokes and updates on points of interest outside. 

As we stopped on the vertiginous Wingatui Viaduct, 197m long and 47m above Mullocky Stream, we could only marvel at the engineering and physical prowess of the men who laboured 12 years on the track which linked Dunedin with the Central Otago hinterland.


The train left Dunedin station at 12.30; took us to Pukerangi, where a carriage of Japanese tourists disembarked to continue their journey to Queenstown by bus. Had it been summer we’d have been able to go the extra 19 kilometres to Middlemarch, since it wasn’t we changed direction and chugged back to Dunedin reaching the station as promised at exactly 4.30.


I have no reservations about commending the journey – but advise you to eat before you leave or take your own picnic. The food for sale (with the exception of the scones) was at best ordinary. The menu featured white bread sandwiches heavy on fat and protein, light on fibre and vitamins ($4.50) and the oxymoronic microwavable pies (3.50). We were told the advertised quiche – ham and tomato or vegetable (wrapped) ($2.50) or fresh ($4.50) were off – which I think was referring to availability not condition.

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