Catlins, Day 14

We woke up at 7:00 to leave at 8:00. I was not looking forward to a long day of traveling–a flight to Queenstown and then a long drive to Owaka. The day was still cloudy and overcast and I was bummed that I hadn’t seen the glorious views of Kaikoura that I’d seen in so many pictures… We stopped at the Kaikoura bakery on the way out of town and had difficulty choosing… They had an ENTIRE HOT CASE full of pies…! They also had soooo many pastries and rolls and cookies and croissants and muffins and cupcakes… Oh boy. I ended up having a ham, cheese, tomato and egg “panini” and the bread had pumpkin seeds on top. It also had some sort of fruity, savory jam in it. It was $5.50 and was worth every penny. One of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had. Marc had a cinnamon roll ($4) with blueberries and we got a date scone ($3.50) to share for later.


A scone for the road. Note the speed limit, around a curve no less...

We seemed to be the only ones on the road that day… I never caught up to anyone on the way to CC, and had one semi-truck behind me, and each time I could see him in my rear-view I knew it was time to speed up and go the speed limit. The road was fairly easy and straight. I finally talked Marc into putting his seat back and napping. We stopped in Amberley for gas and another nasty gas station cappuccino. We made it to the CC airport plenty early, at 11:00.

We arrived at Apex and immediately were “accosted” at the door… Apparently, I had put that we would be dropping the car off at 8:00 am. I have no idea why I put this, knowing we would be leaving from Kaikoura and that there was no way we would make it at 8:00. The guy at Apex gave me a lecture in the nicest way possible, well, as polite as you can be when you’re lecturing someone, and said that luckily they had enough cars but if someone had had to wait because we were late he would have been yelled at and he’s been yelled at plenty before… Talk about passive aggression, Kiwi style! I apologized several times and that was that.

We caught the shuttle to the airport and got through security and were waiting at our gate at 11:45. We arrived in Queenstown at 1:45 and it was sunny and clear. We had been planning on grabbing sandwiches at a Wishbone, but didn’t see one. There was a huge cafe area next to some floor-to-ceiling windows, and it had a circular bar that looked nice… We got our luggage and then got the car. The guy at this Apex was very nice. We asked about upgrading to a Corolla, we were so sick of not having any music on the long drives, but it would have been $20 a day so we declined. Then it turned out our car was a Nissan Tida, which had a CD player and an outlet for MP3 players! He walked us out to our car and explained how to downshift to 1st and 2nd gears when going down hills… He also gave us a recommendation for a cafe close to the airport.


Lunch in Queenstown. We were hungry...

The cafe was in a shopping center almost directly behind the airport… I had a chicken/brie/tomato sandwich and Marc had a panini, a roasted vegetable salad, and a Chai latte. We ate at an outside table and the day was lovely. Lunch was $22. We ended up buying a cable for the MP3 player at Dick Smith’s when we couldn’t find ours ($17).

It was so absolutely lovely in QT, the sun was shining, it was fairly warm, and the mountains around us were so beautiful. We lingered over our lunch and discussed skipping the Catlins and staying in QT for a few days…Finally we got on the road and headed south along the scenic highway route. My goodness, we stopped so many times to take pictures. I hadn’t been expecting QT to be that beautiful. We passed a green field filled with sheep, with the blue blue water of the lake beyond that, and the mountains beyond that, and I had to turn the car around to get that picture.

One of my favorite pictures of the trip!
Amazing scenery on the drive out of Queenstown.
More Queenstown views.
Amazing scenery on the drive out of Queenstown.

A video of the drive out of Queenstown:


The entire drive was so beautiful, it was hard to keep my eyes on the road. We turned off the scenic highway and drove towards Baraclutha and it was still amazing. Also, the roads were very straight and I was able to maintain a speed of 100 for most of the journey.

Here’s a video of more scenery on the drive. Green rolling hills, lot of sheep, etc.


Sheep, sheep everywhere!
We got to Owaka at 7:00. We stayed at the Split Level Hostel in a double ensuite for $74. The hostel is right on the street, but our ensuite room was the only one in the back away from the main road. It had a small kitchen with mini-fridge and microwave, a queen bed, and a small bathroom with the type of shower where the water drains into a hole in the floor. There’s also a large main kitchen for cooking meals. Our first night there, we were the only ones staying in the entire hostel; the second night, there were several more people staying and the next day we didn’t have any hot water for showers. No hot water is a deal breaker for me… I wouldn’t recommend this place. We could also hear them walking around upstairs and we could hear our neighbors in the “suite” next to ours talking.


Split-level backpackers. Tiny room.


There were only a few restaurants in town, and one in the guidebook, the Lumberjack Cafe, was right across the street. We walked there and I expected to have a cheap meal, probably a sandwich or burger or something, considering how small the town was. Boy was I wrong… All the mains were in the $27-$33 price range! Goodness, were we ever going to find an inexpensive restaurant? Marc ordered the venison in a berry sauce, I had the lamb “rump” with mint sauce. Mine came with kumara mash, Marc had red potatoes and we both had veg with a sort of hollandaise-y sauce. It was actually rather good, the type of homey food that your Kiwi grandmother would make you for Sunday dinner. Marc had another dark beer and I had a yummy Shiraz. For dessert we had the citrus cheesecake, it had coconut and citrus fruit in it and chocolate pieces on top. It was good. The check came to $90, yikes! The cafe did have a homey ambiance, with a huge fireplace that was going and we sat right next to it and were quite toasty. It was good, but oh so expensive! We walked back to the hostel and went to bed, looking forward to sleeping in the next day.

Fireplace at the Lumberjack Restaurant, Owaka, Catlins.
Lamb rump. Lumberjack restaurant.

Yummy dessert! Lumberjack restaurant in Owaka.

Go on the next part of the journey!

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