On Tour: Wellington –> Blenheim –> Kaikoura –> Mt Lyford –> Christchurch
After our quick taste of Kiwi wine country, we loaded up the car and hit the road, cruising down State Highway 1 until we got to our next destination, Kaikoura. A coastal town, Kaikoura is where you’ll find some of the freshest seafood in New Zealand. Its name literally translates to “eat crayfish” (Kai = food, Koura = Crayfish).
That, along with the stunning scenery, made it the perfect lunch stop. Pete requested a shack on the beach, specifically one that was selling whitebait. If you’re like me and have never heard of whitebait before coming to New Zealand, it’s a type of fish about 1″-2″ long that Kiwis love to fry up.
Pro Tip: For being a tiny fish, these little morsels don’t come cheap and can cost up to $30 for 200gm. Try to find whitebait in-season (August to November) if you don’t want to break the bank.
Driving along the town’s main drag, we were mainly seeing touristy spots – not quite what we were after. Hoping to find something a little more off the beaten path and closer to the water, we kept driving along the peninsula until finally, we knew we’d come to the right place.
Despite its somewhat touristy sounding name, The Original World Famous Kaikoura Seafood BBQ was exactly what we were looking for. Less than 50 meters from the beach and away from the traffic and congestion of town, this “shack” was offering up whitebait along with other tasty treats like scallops, mussels, and crayfish. Even though it was pricey, I splurged for the crayfish. I mean, if you’re going to do it, why not splurge at a spot less than a kilometer from where the crayfish was caught that morning, right? All of the seating is outdoors and from our table we could see boats slicing through the mirrored water, bringing in more of the day’s catch.
After lunch, we walked out towards the water and embraced our inner 6-year-old selves, exploring around the rocks and looking for tiny sea life in the tide pools. If you know me, you know I’m about as graceful as a log, but despite a few slips, I managed to venture pretty far out without falling into a single puddle!
Then it was time to kick the sand off our shoes and take the inland road to Mt Lyford Lodge, where we’d be spending the night in the mountains.
Pro Tip: The road between Kaikoura and Mt Lyford offers beautiful views but little by way of gas stations or grocery stores. It’s a good idea to fill up your tank and do a quick shop in Kaikoura before heading inland for the night.
One of the things my mom had specifically requested to see on her trip was sheep. Being in New Zealand, this wasn’t a particularly hard thing to arrange, and our drive offered many opportunities to photograph the bleating animals in their natural habitat. I think my mom got a bit more than she bargained for when, about 5 minutes from our accommodation, we ended up stuck IN a herd of cows being moved from one paddock to another. Never before in my life have I had to ask myself if the rental car had coverage for bumper cows, but hey, I guess there’s a first time for everything.
It was amazing seeing the farmers working with the farm dogs to move the giant bovine mass. Those dogs were fearless, pushing the herd onward and barely batting an eyelash when a momma cow turned and snorted in agitation, pawing at the ground when she thought the dogs were getting too close to her calf. A few cows even tried to escape up the hill and had to be brought back down to join the others.
When we did finally make it to the lodge, we were not disappointed. Our Airbnb was the perfect combination of rustic and comfortable, with a wood fire heater to keep us warm and a wall of windows to look out at the vista.
That night we stayed in for dinner, drinking wine and making pizzas. Once the sun had set, Pete and I braved the cold to enjoy the wood-fired hot tub in the backyard where we could look up at stars shining brightly in the clear night sky.
It was the perfect way to end our tour. We unplugged and got to enjoy each other’s company and reflect on our trip. Over five days, we squeezed in Wellington, Blenheim, Kaikoura, and Mt Lyford, showing off the diversity of New Zealand’s landscapes, laughing, site seeing and eating good food along the way. I can’t wait for my mom and David to come back in January for the wedding and our next adventure.
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