Delicious Dining with a Dunedin View

One of my favorite places in New Zealand: Dunedin Peninsula

As I planned my day in Dunedin I read about a restaurant and garden Glenfollach. I went online and made a reservation without realizing that it was Father’s Day Sunday in New Zealand. I requested a booking before noon so I could enjoy my lunch and drive on to the end of the peninsula for the Royal Albatross Centre. When I first arrived there were only a few people already enjoying coffee and the view. By the time I left the restaurant and deck were full of families celebrating fathers.

Because of Fathers Day there was also a 3 course meal option. It sounded super so I ordered it, along with a ginger ale and tonic and enjoyed the attention to details in the venue decor and table setting.

To say my meal was delicious is inadequate. Every course was very interesting and combined flavors and textures beautifully. I was so thankful to enjoy another great New Zealand meal.

There is a beautiful garden to enjoy if you do have a long wait for a table. Booking ahead is advised. Glenfollach isn’t more than 15 minutes into the Peninsula, so accessible from downtown Dunedin.



The Giant’s House Finally!

I have visited Akaroa three times and finally I was able to see The Giant’s House. It seems it is more famous with foreign visitors than with Kiwis. None of my friends from New Zealand–even those who love Akaroa–had heard of it. This sculpture garden is an eccentric treasure.

I admire people with vision who develop the skills to execute it so masterfully. I am such a gadfly in my interests, I cannot imagine sticking with a project 17 years, let alone staying with it still. Josie Martin combines her love of horticulture with her artistic expression through painting and mosaic sculptures to create a truly original garden on the hill.

Someone in the village told us that she offered to create mosaic sculptures for the town of Akaroa, but the town council said no. She turned the no into a Yes! Yes! Yes! The hours are limited because she manages it herself. On the day we visited we paid the artist $20 each to visit her garden and gallery. We could stay until closing. We made sure to return and thank Jose for the experience.

One of several ceramic self-portraits of the artist in the gallery.

I am so glad I finally got to see the Giant’s House. Find out more at Trip Advisor. (#1 of 27 things to do in Akaroa.)

Larnach Castle is Worth the Effort

The mansion known as Larnach Castle and its extensive gardens are open to the public. There is an admission charge unless you are staying overnight in the lodging. It is about 20-30 minutes on a narrow, windy road from the Dunedin City Centre, South Island, New Zealand. It is worth the effort.

Larnach Castle, Dunedin, New Zealand
Larnach Castle, Dunedin, New Zealand

It was built by William Larnach,who was a bit of a scoundrel, in 1871. It took over 15 years to build, finish the interiors and furnish. Larnach was a merchant and politician who ended a bankrupt suicide. The house fell into dereliction for years and then in 1967 the Barker family bought and restored it. Margaret Barker searched high and low for the original furnishings or photos to return the home and its gardens to its former glory.

The home is impressive. I am always more interested in the gardens and they are lovely. Larnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New ZealandLarnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand

Larnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand

Larnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand
Incomparable views of Dunedin.

Larnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand

Castle annex with cafe, toilets and plants for sale.
Castle annex with cafe, toilets and plants for sale.

Best Penguin Adventure Yet

symbol of New ZealandrainforestI sat on a rock on beach nestled near the rainforest. The rain was dripping down my nose and onto a towel protecting my camera. We hiked down from the road through thick rainforest and across streams. It was near the end of the penguin nesting season, so my guide Dr. Gerry McSweeney did not guarantee we would see a penguin. I was the only guest on the guided hike and yet because of Gerry’s great enthusiasm to share these rare birds he did not hesitate to take me on my own. We waited patiently for our reward.

Fiordland Crested PenguinsThe Fiordland Crested Penguin nest in the rainforest and go to and fro all day to feed themselves and their chicks. At last we saw a shy fellow peek out of the foliage on a steep trail down to the beach. The trail looked like a slip and slide and it was hard to believe the ungainly penguin could navigate it. He/she saw us as I moved closer to get a better view I spooked her and he retreated. After more patient waiting we were rewarded with two penguins.  All together we saw 15 penguins throughout the morning, plus starfish and sea urchins, a gorgeous coastline and a rare orchid in the forest.

penguinsThey emerged from the forest moved down the bank and onto the rocky beach. They are ungainly on land and yet completely charming when hopping from rock to beach. They slipped into the water and displayed their true grace.  coastline

penguinI have enjoyed many adventures to view penguins in New Zealand, and this was the best yet. There are three types of penguins living in New Zealand. The little blue penguin can be found almost along every coastline on North and South Islands. The yellow-eyed penguin can only found along the southernmost coastline of South Island. And the rarest of the three, the Fiordland Crested penguin, lives along the west coast of South Island.

Dr. Gerry McSweeney, guide and host at Wilderness Lodge. Also keeper of the habitat along this stretch of coastline.
Dr. Gerry McSweeney, guide and host at Wilderness Lodge. Also keeper of the habitat along this stretch of coastline.

Penguin viewing is seasonal–beginning in December the penguins begin to go to sea for long months of swimming and eating. They return again in July and August to raise their chicks in a creche. I was able to arrange a guided penguin viewing on November 29 at the Wilderness Lodge at Lake Moeraki.

starfishTo get there I flew into Queenstown and rented a car, then drove 3.5 hard miles to 30 miles north of Haast on the coast. I arrived just in time for a wonderful dinner at the Lodge. Staying at the Lodge includes dinner and breakfast. The guided penguin experience is an additional NZ$160.00 and totally worth it! The Lodge provides adventurers boots and raincoats, and hot tea and biscuits.

It was so thrilling to watch them in their habitat being penguins. I just look at the pictures and it takes me back. As in the best adventures, I want to do it again.penguin

Bluff, NZ: End of the World?

IMG_5113Well, obviously no. Stewart Island is visible and the South Pole is 4,810 kilometers away. Once upon a time, if you were traveling on a ship from Scotland, Ireland or England, it felt like the end of the world.

One morning around 10 a.m. I enjoyed a coffee and piece of cake at Land’s End restaurant and inn at Stirling Point, at the southernmost tip of South Island, New Zealand. Cake and my own thoughts at Lands End

At the moment the sea is rough and a shower just passed through. Last night in nearby Invercargill it hailed–laying a temporary white carpet  on the parking lot. Now I am second guessing myself. Am I being sensible or a wuss for not getting on a small plane and spending the day on Stewart Island? (I do not even consider the ferry. Read Trip Advisor–it is all compliments for the crew putting up with passengers vomiting all round.) I tell myself, given I will be cycling 27 miles the next day, I cannot afford to get seasick or airsick. And the helicopter service relocated to Stewart Island and I could not reach them via the website.

So I sit by the window and enjoy a flat white and watch as a procession of people drive up to Stirling Point and take selfies with the sign. What pose shall I strike?

In the 2014 edition of The Best American Travel Writing, editor Paul Theroux sneers, “…in general what they call travel is in most cases a superior and safe holiday.” As I gaze at the sea and its white caps, the “open” sign flapping the in the wind, I am tormenting myself. Am I on a safe holiday or am I an adventurer?  The previous morning I was sitting on a drenched beach with the rain dripping off my nose onto my camera, patiently waiting for a Fiordland penguin to emerge from the rainforest. The following day I plan to set off from Clyde to mountain bike 150 kilometers to Middlemarch (over 4 days). Today I choose to conserve financial and physical resources and have a second flat white and slice of lemon cake.

The people who are posing at the end of the world: are they tourists or travelers? I prefer not to judge. Instead I smile at their choice of pose.

Bluff, the tip of South Island, New Zealand