Our next destination was the town of Stanley, about 230km north-west of Launceston.
The road leading to the town was of good quality, with plenty of stopping places to view the ocean and scenery.
The town is located on the base of the ‘Nut’, an(other) extinct volcano, which the first peoples called Munatrik.
We continue on our drive around Tasmania by driving across the top of Northern Tasmania. We had a few stops in a few towns. Like Ulverstone, where there was some nice old architecture.
And we strolled on the beach, which faced the Bass Strait.
We then continued east to the town of Penguin, known for, well, you know what. There were plenty of penguin paraphernalia in the streets, and this wonderful giant Christmas penguin (we visited in early December).
We didn’t stay overnight in these towns, instead we headed to…
That’s all from Launceston, but it’s the beginning of our drive around Tassie.
The next morning we made our way north along the Tamar Valley and stopped at the little town of Beaconsfield. It was up until 2012 a gold mining town. A mine collapse in 2006 contributed to its end.
The town was founded in the mid 1800s and was quite a prosperious place. Now it houses the Mine & Heritage Centre.
So it’s downhill from the crest of Lewis Pass, but no time to get distracted as there’s the odd landslide to dodge.
And a few twists and turns.
Here, the road follows a series of rivers. First the Lewis, then the Nina, the Boyle, the Hope, and finally the Waiau Uwha, as it makes its way to the Pacific Ocean.
We travelled in early summer, so the rivers weren’t flowing full-pelt. It must be exhilarating to see it in full force in the spring time.
From Reefton, the road climbs through beautiful forests.
And eventually opens out at Marble Hill.
It’s a beautiful spot, with meadows surrounded by mountains. It is close to the highest point in Lewis Pass, some 907 metres above sea level.
From here it’s (mostly) downhill all the way!
We’ll continue driving from the west coast to the east coast of the South Island.
Our route took us through the small town of Reefton. It is another former gold-rush town (where they found an extensive gold-bearing quartz reef, hence the name).
If it looks and feels like the ‘wild west’ then you’re not far wrong.
Probably because the first gold was found in 1866, just after the Australian gold rushes started and not long after the Californian gold rush that opened up the American ‘wild west’. They all probably employed the same architects.
Because of the riches of the gold mines, and also the power of the nearby Inangahua River, the town was the first in the Southern Hemisphere to be connected to the electricity grid, courtesy of the Reefton Hydro Power Station.
The last big drive of our South Island trip was from the West Coast town of Westport to the East Coast city of Christchurch. We took the most direct route, through Lewis Pass.
Because I did most of the driving on the day, Hubby decided to document the day by taking lots of photos. It was a good thing he did because I was concentrating so much that I probably wouldn’t be able to recall much of the drive if it wasn’t for these photos. It also shows to you readers who haven’t been to New Zealand as yet what typical Kiwi road conditions look like. Now that the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand is up, some of you might be thinking about having a holiday across the ditch. I say, go ahead, but be aware first and don’t take on too much. It’s not like driving from Sydney to Melbourne down the motorway.
How different is it? Let’s start our journey.
The first section of the journey follows the very pretty Buller River.
The road is a typical Kiwi road, one lane each way. This gets even tighter in one section of the road, where it’s one lane full-stop, as the road has been hewn out of the cliff.
Now, with a single lane, you hope that there isn’t anything large passing the other way, like a double tanker.
Luckily that didn’t happen to us, however it didn’t mean that it wasn’t nerve-wrecking…
One day trip we did on the West Coast is to drive an hour south of Westport to the village of Punakaiki. The drive down required a lot of concentration as the west coast road was very windy (aren’t they all?) but despite the bleak weather, I think it was worth the drive to see Pancake Rocks.
The rocks were quite unique in that the do look like pancakes. There’s of course a scientific explanation to all of this, and like most things geological it’s not the work of an instant.
The reward for traversing Takaka Hill is being able to visit beautiful Golden Bay. This wasn’t my first visit to the area, but previous visit was 14 years before, so I was curious as to whether the area had changed much. That is, become a Byron Bay kind of place, or had it retained its feeling of seclusion.
We stayed in the town the furthest way along the bay. It’s called Collingwood, and has no links to the Melbourne suburb of the same name other than being named after the same guy. Actually, I’m stretching the truth when I call Collingwood a town – it’s really a village.
That’s most of downtown Collingwood! It did start out quite big – a centre for its own gold rush in the late 19th Century, but a series of fires razed the town, and when the gold rush receded, so did much of its population. But its location as the sunniest spot in New Zealand and close to a slew of national parks makes it an adventure playground to those willing to brave the drive out.
From Nelson, we drove further into the north-west of the island. Our destination, the mystical Golden Bay. But to get there, we had to traverse the notorious Takaka Hill, which separates Golden Bay from the rest of New Zealand (for those who think that NZ isn’t isolated enough from the rest of the world).
The pass is around 791m high, but seems higher since we can see down to sea level a lot of the time. There’s Nelson in the mist!
At the top of the hill is Hawkes Lookout. Time to stretch and photograph the views.
We also met some of the local birdlife. The weka is a common flightless bird in these parts. They’re not shy but not mischievous either.
Hubby, ever the geologist, was interested in the rocks protruding from the hillside. They’re limestone. These hills are the crunch point between the two tectonic plates that Australia and New Zealand are on.
Being a bit of a Lord of the Rings fan back in the day, I thought these types of rocks look familiar. A bit of research uncovered that they did film in the general area, although much higher up (with the aid of helicopters). And probably in winter (we visited in early summer).