From YHA Te Anau, we had to start making our way to Christchurch for our flight home. We decided to drive along the coast and take the Southern Scenic Route.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t see much during our first drive from Te Anau to Invercargill due to thick fog and drizzly weather. Even though our plans were slightly messed up due to the weather, it meant we arrived at Lovett Lodge with plenty of time to rest. We were greeted by Gilly, who runs the daily operations at Lovett Lodge, and she quickly made us feel like home. She was as friendly as could be, and was available should we have any questions.
The rooms were plenty spacious with quite comfortable beds. I think I had my best night of sleep at the Lovett Lodge!
Their facilities are basic but more than enough. We had to start dwindling down our groceries as our trip was coming to an end, so the fully-equipped kitchen was much appreciated and allowed us to cook both our lunch and dinner. As Lovett Lodge is a B&B, there was a modest breakfast served in the morning as well.
Luckily, the weather was kinder to us the following day, and we continued along the Southern Scenic Route.
First, we drove through the beautiful Catlins. With rolling green hills and windy roads, it makes for a stunning drive.
Unfortunately, the Cathedral Caves were closed due to unsafe conditions, but we got a nice look at the peaceful Lake Wilkie.
Continuing on, we walked to two waterfalls: Matai Falls and Purakaunnui Falls.
All unique, all beautiful. We met the most incredible couple (Check out Wanderborn, their awesome travel blog!) at Purakaunnui Falls and so we ended up spending quite a bit of time at those falls.
Up next was Nugget Point. The most notable image from the Southern Scenic Route seems to be the lighthouse at Nugget Point and the winding pathway that leads there. What they don’t tell you is that to access the lighthouse it is a 9km drive down dirt roads, and if you want that iconic photo, you have to trespass to the Lighthouse Keeper’s House. David, being the honorable person that he is, chose not to go into the prohibited area for the shot, and we found Nugget Point to be a bit of a letdown. It’s beautiful, sure, but a decent detour from the main road that we didn’t feel was necessarily worth it.
Two and a half hours later, we found ourselves at the beautiful Moeraki Boulders. Personally, I thought they looked like huge dinosaur eggs!
We continued onwards toward Oamaru, home to the Blue Penguin Colony. I absolutely adore penguins, so when we were given the opportunity to see the smallest penguins in the world in their natural habitat, I couldn’t pass it up despite being exhausted! Visit Oamaru offers daily tours to visit the Blue Penguin Colony — self-guided day tours, guided day tours, general evening tours, and premium evening tours. We joined the premium evening tour. As this is a natural colony, the penguins are free to come and go as they please. They tend to fish all day, typically a 25 km radius, before “coming home.” Visit Oamaru uses special lighting from the grandstands that the penguins cannot distinguish, or even notice; this allows us to see the penguins clearly, and for them to waddle home in the “dark.”
5FT Fun Facts:
- Breeding starts 2-3 years of age.
- Oldest penguin in the colony is 21 years old.
- When penguins shake off on land, they’re oiling their feathers and cooling down.
- Penguins breed for life.
- Chicks can fit in the palm of your hand, and doesn’t even weigh 1kg until it’s 5 weeks old!
If you’re passing through Oamaru, do see these adorable little penguins. I really recommend spending the extra $12 NSD for premium seating though — not only will you have a seat-back through the experience, but you’ll see the penguins from a much, much closer area. We personally saw about 65 blue In the premium seating, not only are you a few meters away from the penguins, but you are able to walk amongst their nesting burrows too. We had the opportunity to see that many more penguins when we exited the tour. It’s really worth the extra money, but be sure to pre-book those tickets if you can! 5FT Note: You cannot take photos while viewing the Blue Penguin Colony to ensure that the penguins are not disturbed.
While Oamaru is technically the end of New Zealand's Southern Scenic Route, we continued onto YHA Christchurch, our final destination in New Zealand. It was bittersweet driving into Christchurch, knowing that it was the end.
Since it's major earthquake, Christchurch is still a city in a rigorous recovery process. The city skyline sprouts old trees adjacent to towering cranes and gives the city a certain sci-fi feel. But don't be discouraged, it remains a kinetic city full of hidden gems.
YHA Christchurch was in a very large building, with two kitchens and a spacious, colorful common area.
Our twin room with ensuite bathroom looked and felt much like a hotel room. With nice bedding, complimentary tea, coffee, and hot chocolate, and toiletries provided, YHA went above and beyond hostel standards.
It’s within walking distance from all of the main sights, bars, and restaurants; it’s about a ten minute walk from Victoria Street, the main strip.
Unfortunately, we had very little time to spare in Christchurch since we had to re-organize all of our bags before our very early flights the following morning. When you know that you have to wake up at 3:00am the following morning, it makes it difficult to be productive the night before. We settled for Japanese food and bed. With sadness, David and I said goodnight to each other for the last time for another four and a half months, and passed out.
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**Special thanks to Lovett Lodge, Visit Oamaru, YHA Hostels, and Air New Zealand for sponsoring our journey. As always, all opinions are my own. Photographs taken by David M Gallo Photography.