A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand – South Coast Loop

semi-overcast 23 °C

Over an ambitious few days we planned to cover some serious kilometres to loop along the south coast and back up to Christchurch. This would take us through million year old forests, windswept cliffs, penguins, seals, dinosaur eggs and to a shaken city. That sounds more varied than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, so we were looking forward to it all.

We hit the south coast around Waihoaka and the wind was seriously blowing. The high sided camper van was getting a good working over by the winds and a quick stop at the cliffs to get some pictures nearly blew us off our feet.

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We drove a bit further to the southern most point of the South Island at Slope Point and then Waipapa point. The farmlands around this area had some great real estate to farm on, but the shape of the trees gave away the harshness of the wind down here

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Next stop was at the petrified forest at Curio Bay. So this basically is where a subtropical forest was continually flooded back a little while ago... 130 million years to be precise!!! The floods carried ash from the active volcano and that ash buried the tree stumps turning wood to stone! This was really interesting to see and apparently one of the most extensive fossilised forests in the world. We timed it perfectly at low tide and from the lookout, it was plain to see straight away.

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Notice the logs running from bottom right to top left

I was expecting not to be able to get close to the petrified forest, but you can walk all around on the rocks checking them out from close up. We found it fascinating with the long tree logs and tree stumps all over the place. These may just look like photos of rocks, but hopefully it’s easy to see the wood from the trees... or rocks.

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While we were walking around the rough seas and local penguins gave us more things to look at than just the rocks. After our penguin encounters in Antarctica, we figured we should add a few more species to our viewing list. These were the rather shy yellow headed penguins, although spending your existence on a human filled island being clubbed and hunted might make you that way inclined unlike the ones we found in Antarctica which didn’t give a toss about us being there.

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We made our way further around the Catlins Coast calling in at the Purakaunui Waterfalls and Jacks Blowhole. The blowhole was the most impressive of the two as we walked further than we were expecting past some great cliff edges and stumbled across it 200 meters inland from the cliffs. Measuring 55m deep, 144m long and 68m wide it was a sizable gash in the land.

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Don’t be a sheep, make your own path!!

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We stayed at little coastal town campsite and headed off first thing in the morning to Nugget Point for some more spectacular coastal scenery. Thankfully named after gold nuggets rather than what I was thinking, it was pretty impressive looking down from the lighthouse to a bunch of seals swimming off the nuggets and playing in little rock pools.

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This seal dived under water just as i got the camera out

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We put a few hours of driving in and reached the bigger city of Dunedin. We drove through the city stopping for some shopping and fuel and noticed the Victorian and Edwardian architecture that it’s known for. We headed back out of the city along the bay and the Otago Peninsula.

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Looking back at Dunedin

Heading a little bit further north we stopped at Shag Point, not for the obvious, but for a look at the seals that call this place home. There was lots of sleeping going on, a bit of fighting, but very little shagging! Take a good long hard look at yourself seals!!!

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We stopped in at probably our best camping location of the whole trip just a little bit further north than Shag Point. What didn’t look like much from the roadside was a long camping area right on the beach. We didn’t have any other campervans nearby and felt happy for our decision to go with a camper van in order to spend nights in locations like this!

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It was another interesting geological stop in the morning at Moeraki Boulders which looked like massive dinosaur eggs the way that some of them were cracked open. These developed from minerals forming around small pebbles on the sea floor millions of years ago. This whole country has been like one big geology field trip with all these things we have seen!

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We stopped at Oamaru where we were hoping to add the Blue Penguin to our list of penguins that we have seen. Unfortunately they spend the day out at sea, and only really get seen at dusk returning to their beach shelter. I did manage to snap this one photo of two which were remarkably still for a long time. Check, im ticking it off the penguin list!

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We did get some more close encounters with seals here in Oamaru so it wasn’t a complete loss!

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Christchurch beckoned and geez, it’s amazing what a massive earthquake does to a city. Driving through the suburbs we didn’t see anything to suggest that there had been 2 major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. But once you get to the city centre, it was like a ghost town. Hardly anyone around except the demolition workers and building repairers in the fenced off ‘No Go Zone’ that was once the city centre. We heard a lot of radio discussions on about the delays in the rebuilding process and a lot of people suggesting the city centre be built on more stable ground to the west. The people of Christchurch lost a lot on those days including 185 lives! Hopefully it can recover back to vibrant city.

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Then

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Now

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Daniel – Ancient tectonic movements have been responsible for a lot of the amazing things we have seen in this country but seeing Christchurch reminds you how terrifying and devastating it is to live through one of these movements!

Tanya – We were able to finally slow the pace a bit for this leg of the trip realising we had an extra day or two up our sleeves. It was nice just to meander along the roads and pull over to see anything that looked like it might be of some interest. I’m not sure if the sea container shops and cafes in Christchurch are temporary or not, they are a really clever idea – I think they should stay.

Posted by dbgomes 02:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world

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