South Island Adventures – Round 2

So first an apology – I wrote this blog post a week ago – and apparently didn’t hit submit.

After my lovely Australian Vacation, I headed back home for a few days, essentially just to pack, and get ready for my trip to the South Island to attend The Energise Conference – a conference completely focused on teaching and learning. I got to attend this conference thanks to a lovely grant from Fulbright for professional development while abroad. An added bonus of this conference is that I finally got to meet “face to face” with the Awesome MIEE Rachel. Rachel and her husband Alastair and their little guy Ollie were the best hosts, and I had a lovely evening with them in Dunedin before Rachel and I headed on out great South Island Road Trip. (I even got to play cars with Ollie and we had tons of fun making slow motion car videos!).

That afternoon, after attending a “football” (soccer to my American cohorts) match at Rachel’s school, Rachel and Ollie and I took a trip out to Aramoana, and took a walk along the pier – and got to see seals. It was a lovely walked, and I so enjoyed the commentary from Rachel as we drove along pointing out sights, landmarks and other things in Dunedin.

After Aramoana we found that little Ollie was asleep, so we headed back to the house before heading out for tea that evening, which also included an ice cream stop afterwards.

The next day, Rachel and I began our road trip to Queenstown – it was fantastic – complete with boulders, scenery, a filming location for The Lord of the Rings and a stop at a winery for lunch, as well as great conversation and company.

We started with our first detour after dropping off Ollie and heading to the Warehouse to pick up supplies, heading out to Moeraki Boulders. They are fascinating, and to learn more about how they were formed, I would encourage you to check out the linked page above – they truly are quite unique – one of them even looked like the death star! There is also a pretty fantastic video and some stunning photographs on the site. I loved looking at the long-term effects of erosion on them too – just cool.

at moeraki

We left Moeraki and continued the path to our next detour. This was some of the scenery on the way.

Our next stop was Poolburn Dam – which was the location of the Rohan Village in The Lord of The Rings – it was a quite dusty, unsealed road – and it really felt like we were journeying through middle earth, with the craggy rock formations and landscape. When we arrived at the reservoir we were greeting with lovely blues and greens – it was amazing and well off the beaten path – and was a journey I was thankful to get to take. (See if you can spot what I have named shark rock).


We continued on – stopping at an overlook, then headed to Mount Difficulty Winery’s lovely restaurant – with amazing views, a great tasting platter and some yummy wine. We also went to Peregrine Winery – and their very cool flight hangar inspired cellar door.

We also found the “giant fruit” – giant roadside statues are kind of a thing here!

We arrived in Queenstown, and Rachel dropped my at my hostel (which was LOVELY) so that I could get settled, then I was able to join the conference leadership for dinner and chatting that night (thanks again to Rachel) – before wandering back to the hostel to get ready for the conference the next day.

The conference was lovely – and I will do a later post about it for my teacher people, but this post is more touristy than educational.

After the conference on Thursday I found myself chilling back at the hostel, so I decided to take “chilling” to a whole new level and visit an ice bar. (which is exactly what you are thinking – a bar, where everything is sculpted out of ice, that is below freezing). They do provide massive coats and gloves so that you can hold onto your cup which is sculpted out of ice, but it is certainly not a place you would stay and hang out for hours – though there was a photobooth as well as an “ice hockey” table. The lights changed color regularly and it gave the bar a cool vibe.

Friday was another conference day, and Rachel graciously agreed to drive me out to my hotel in Glenorchy – which was a beautiful scenic drive.

Once settled in (which included changing my room from the hostel to the hotel side for convenience and access to coffee) (which I considered a public service on my part). I went for a little walk before dark to explore the tiny little village of Glenorchy – including passing by the school (closed for term break) and the lake. Check out the tiny church and the library. There was definite a chill in the air – it is clear that winter is on it’s way to the Southern Hemisphere.

Saturday morning I enjoyed sleeping in, then went for a walk around the lagoon as all helicopter flight tours were cancelled due to wind.

The walk was lovely, however, I was thankful for layers and a backpack that is ready for 4 seasons in a day, because in the 3 hours or so I was exploring I found that I needed at different points my down jacket, my raincoat, my sun hat and my gloves! (the rainbows were stunning too!)

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I came back to the hotel – and enjoyed a lovely NZ Lamb dinner and a concert in the bar before retiring to my room.


The night was cold, and the snow was falling all over the mountains, so on Sunday morning when I awoke it was to a different view than I had left the night before.

I caught my shuttle back to Queenstown – and wandered around before I could check in the hostel, then went on to the lake to catch a cruise with Million Dollar Cruises (and no – it wasn’t a million dollars) of Lake Wakatipu. Wayne and Betty (the owners) were lovely – and the views and commentary were just what I needed to enjoy Queenstown before heading home Monday morning. Look at the clarity of the water! (you could actually see the bottom of the lake!)

Monday it is back to Wellington for some school visits, laundry and repacking for my great South Island adventure and tour of schools on the 10th (with a fun science festival thrown in for good measure!). Stay tuned for more!


Author: Merry

I am a teacher, techie, avid traveler and explorer.

2 thoughts on “South Island Adventures – Round 2”

  1. Enjoyed all the post and the photos! Thanks to you I am seeing the world!!! ;)) FYI I am still wearing my winter coat in Oldenburg!
    BRRRR! Can’t wait until I travel to Pensacola to see family – they have to all travel to come visit me this time…Can’t wait to see the Woodstock crew! All the best! jk


  2. Awesome! The people and places seem wonderful though I would not have lingered in the ice bar for more than a minute!
    Thanks for sharing your journey!


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