Photo Roundup: South Island Side Trips

On our second road trip (see the first here) across New Zealand's South Island, we made a few big excursions to places like Franz Josef Glacier and Doubtful Sound. Those places and a few others have been given their own posts on this blog. But we also made many, many side trips that didn't fit into their own posts. Instead, I've decided to round them up here for a South Island side-trip photo reel of sorts.

The Swamp Walk at Ship Creek

Just south of Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers, before reaching the Haast Pass, Emmett and I got out to stretch our legs at a place along the coast called Ship Creek. Little did we know that we were about to enter a seemingly primordial swamp. New Zealand does seem to contain nearly every type of biome possible. (Even desert?)

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Big Fruit & Baked Goods in Cromwell

We spent three nights at a windy, lakeside free camping spot just outside of Cromwell. Our first day there, we ventured into the overcast town to look for WiFi but just found charming cafes like Fusee Rouge and Armando's Kitchen.

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 A super scrumptious cinnamon scroll from Armando's Kitchen.

A super scrumptious cinnamon scroll from Armando's Kitchen.

Frigid Winds & Stuffing Our Faces in Queenstown

Okay... I'm starting to realize that quite a few of these side trips include delicious food - but what's not to love about that, am I right? The Tourist Capital of NZ (also known as Queenstown) was absolutely freezing the day we were there. A friend of ours who had been a week earlier described it as "evil cold." We didn't end up doing any of the short hikes we'd planned in the area for that reason. We did, however, act like hibernating bears and stuff our faces full of food.

First, we waited in line for what many people consider to be a Queenstown must-try: Ferg Burgers. I know what you're thinking - and yes, I am a vegetarian. But Ferg Burger does offer vegetarian choices. Two, in fact. "Holier Than Thou," a tofu satay burger, and "Bun Laden," a falafel patty burger. I got the former (see below right), Emmett had the latter. Plus very delicious fries. The verdict on the burgers? Meh. I have had better veggie burger options from less expensive, less hyped places. In fact, there is a similar, smaller tofu satay burger available from the NZ Burger Fuel chain that is just as tasty. However I'd imagine that if you like actual meat burgers, this may be a great place to check out.

Next, we checked out the Cookie Muncher Cookie Bar. The colorful place was full of bass-booming karaoke, delicious cookies, free samples (!), and over-the-top shakes. The shakes were excellent and actually tasted like milkshakes do back home in the States - a rarity in NZ where every "milkshake" is essentially just icy flavored milk. After such a massive, calorie-laden lunch we were so full that we didn't eat anything else the rest of the day.

 Queenstown as seen from the Queen's Range outside of town.

Queenstown as seen from the Queen's Range outside of town.

Cheese Roll Pit Stop in Riverton

You may be wondering: what are cheese rolls? Are they just rolled up cheese? Nope, not quite. Cheese rolls are essentially grilled cheese sandwiches also called cheese toasties. But made with only one slice of bread and rolled up. And there's more than just cheese on the roll, there's also onion soup mix powder. They are a southern South Island delicacy and can be found in Otago and Southland. We used to get them a lot from the Southland Farmer's Market in Invercargill. Most vendors ask you if you want a white or brown (wheat) cheese roll. They nearly always come with slabs of butter melting on top of them. You can buy pre-rolled cheese rolls to take home and bake yourself from most prepared food sections of supermarkets in Southland and Otago.

We were excited to be back in cheese roll land, so we ordered them as soon as we saw them on the menu at The Postmaster Bakery in Riverton. This time, the butter was on the side. But they were just as good (if not better!) than we remembered. A simple, tasty comfort food.

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Sunrise on the Otago Peninsula

We camped in the outskirts of Dunedin one night and ended up wide awake around 3 AM. One of the places we wanted to check out that day was the albatross colony on the Otago Peninsula. (Apparently it is the only albatross colony in the world that is on inhabited mainland). We figured why not get there very early and see the sunrise. It did not disappoint. The scenery at Taiaroa Head was gorgeous and the sky was vivid pink. Oh yeah, and quite a few royal albatross flew by on their way out to sea for the day.

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Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin

After our morning at Taiaroa Head, we checked out the free Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin. It was chocker full of fascinating history about Otago's gold rush and the settlement boom that followed. Toitu is a really well-done museum with interactive exhibits. And a perfect place to spend a cold morning. I really enjoyed the exhibits that were like a step back in time - full of furniture and appliances from bygone eras.

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Steam Punk, Little Blues, and Maori Rock Art in Oamaru

Located just north of Dunedin, the town of Oamaru is the Steampunk capital of New Zealand. And the Little Blue Penguin Capital of New Zealand. We spent an afternoon and evening there looking at the unique steampunk sculptures in the Victorian-esque downtown, making a quick visit to some Maori rock drawings outside the city in Duntroon, and watching the little blue penguins come on shore at sunset. I learned two things that day: 1) Steampunk is not my cup of tea and 2) Little Blue Penguins are the cutest birds ever. Out of respect for the penguins, photography was unfortunately not allowed during their arrival to the Oamaru Penguin Colony. Despite the lack of photos, we did see fourteen of the little birds come in from the sea. They were so tiny! And then we saw one more crossing the road in front of our car as we left (see below).

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 Blurry picture of the little blue who crossed the road in front of us, then ran into bush. The red light is from our car's tail light.

Blurry picture of the little blue who crossed the road in front of us, then ran into bush. The red light is from our car's tail light.

A Romantic 24-Hour Getaway to Maruia Hot Springs

After spending so much time camping in our car which was not-so-comfortable, we decided to splurge and spend one day & night at Maruia Hot Springs resort deep in the mountains of the Lewis Pass. Honestly, it was so nice to sleep in a real bed again! We luxuriated in the hot thermal spring-fed pools indoors & outdoors as misty mountaintops loomed above us in the valley. It was a welcome change of pace from our busy roadtrip and the perfect place to bid the South Island (our home of 9 months) goodbye.

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