Saturday 21 April 2012

Gold Coast 2.0

For a number of reasons we decided on a spontaneous trip (booked 8 days in advance) to the Gold Coast. We stayed at a hotel in Varsity Lakes. After my arrival (late Fri night) went to the nearest one for a walk (Martin was already there for work), and got to enjoy seeing some toads, and numerous fish jumping out of the water.

Our first day together, we headed off South into NSW, to see places we hadn't the previous time. Sadly the weather turned quite icky so we didn't get as far south as we wanted (aim was to get to Maclean to explore the Scottish tributes of this town).I was very happy to have seen "real" wild kangaroos jumping around in the fields near Broadwater. Definite highlight of the day. Went to see the Tea Tree stained lake (Lake Ainsworth) near Ballina. And then onto the final short stop of the day, driving up Mt Warning. Hadn't realised this earlier but the whole area we had been in is actually a massive old volcanic crater, with Mt Warning, being the upthrust in the middle of this massive rim! Had a very short bush walk here and then back up to the hotel to get ready for dinner with Martins Aussie boss in Surfers Paradise.

The next day was quite relaxing. Went back to Nobby's Beach (where we stayed the previous time) to enjoy the sun, sand, and very very warm water! Such a weird feeling being in such warm water without being on a tropical island or in the Mediterranean. Spent a good half a day just swimming and sunning, awesome times. After that headed up to Mt Tamborine to have a late lunch at the polish place! The views from here were amazing, as its on the far side of the northern part of the crater rim. Could see for miles. Also got to play with a lot of parakeets which would be flying around your head begging for food. The sound at times was deafening. Had a quick wine tasting (or Martin did) at Witches Falls, and did a short walk to Cedar Creek Falls.

The final day in Aus wasn't together. Martin had work, so I went off with 3 fellow female travellers to go hiking in Springbrook National Park before my flight. Did the twin falls circuit, which took us along the cliff top, down, through a variety of different tree types (the smell of eukalytus was overpowering at times), through some short caves, under waterfalls, and back up. Saw an Australian blue lobster under the last falls, and at the very end of the track something interesting slithered across our track. I was at the head of the group wondering why the birds were making such paniced noises. And 2m before stepping on it, noticed that there was a huge python calmly crossing the path. Would have been at least 7ft easy, maybe longer. I dont like snakes. After calming down and having lunch from the "best lookout" viewpoint which looks inwards onto the crater (you can see the other side of the crater from here), headed back to Surfers Paradise for a while, before getting my flight.

Monday 16 April 2012


Most people tend to frequent Soutland after moving on from Catlins. One of the first stops is usually Bluff, which is the 2nd most southery point in NZ that most people frequent (Slope point is the most southern on the south island and is a decent walk in the catlins to get to it). There is a good cafe nearby to enjoy the views from. You can also see Stewart Island from here on a good day.
Invercargill doesn’t have too much to offer but is the main hub in the Southland area. Its a good place to stop off and resupply.
After Invercargill, Riverton is the next biggest place you will find. It is a nice seaside town, and it has some very interesting volcanic remains; Riverton Rocks. These rocks are very odd in that they are blue/green/purple/brown in colour. And they look like balls of popcorn mashed together.

Colac Bay is a bit of an undiscovered jewel. A sheltered quiet cove that offers a nice retreat on your way to Te Anau. Would recommend hiring a holiday home here if you are passing by. The coastal area just before and after here, has many a beach with interesting differences from the rocks and shells that you find washed up. For example gemstone bay, just 15 mins drive away, actually has precious stones that wash up on the beach every so often.

The best part of Southland is actually the Fiordland National park area. This has its own separate write up.


The Catlins area is a bit confusing as technically be partly belongs to Southland (the forest area) and also belongs to Otago (coastal). So it has been given a section of its own to help explain

The first place that you will get to is Kaka Point, which has a very lovely beach and the waterfront cafe/bar has some excellent food choices, so is a good place to lunch. From here is the only access to the very pretty and geologically interesting (uplift events and massive sea erosion) Nugget Point. There is a lighthouse here that is quite pretty but it is the view onto the “nuggets” of rock that are interesting. The view here on a clear day is amazing and you see for miles. Also keep an eye out for seals and larger seagulls.

From Kaka Point and heading south, you will pass by many other interesting places (there are maps of the “to dos” everywhere) such as many different falls. In particular the MacLeans Fall is amazing. Two big drops, logs strewn about, with tannin coloured water is a must see and explore. You can actually explore the “landing” between the two drops but be very aware of your surroundings. A fall is possible if you are not being careful.

Something that personally would not advise seeing is Jacks Blowhole. Unless there is a storm brewing. Went here at exactly the right time only to be very disappointed to just see a hole in the ground onto the ocean. Can see that on the west coast and its much better.

From MacLeans Falls, is a short drive to a historical logging site that has remnants left to play with (such as an old logging tractor and metal items). There are boards around to help guide you around this area.

Cathedral Caves are pretty awesome but the timing of seeing these is very strict and there is a $3-5 entrance fee. It is worth the money and time if you have it to spare. Unlike Cathedral cOve in the Coromandel, there is a lovely seaweed smell as you enter and if you are lucky you may even see some interesting cave insects or crabs.  Just opposite the entrance almost is the whistling frog cafe, which is another yummy place to stop off at.

All throughout the area are awesome little villages/houses that make for great places to stay at and most have B&B type places available for quite cheap. Definitely try to enjoy these rather than the hostels that are focused on certain areas, as its not a “real” experience.

One of the most popular things in the Catlins is the Curio Bay. This place is rather special internationally as its one of the few places you can observe a fossiled prehistoric forest, and its right by the ocean. The downside is that it is slowly eroding away. In addition to that there is also a chance to see penguins if you time it right. Yellow eyed pengiuns are just one of the many species that you can see in many places throughout NZ.

There are other more "difficult" to get to places such as Slope Point (the south islands most southern point - not bluff as is commonly believed) or the Waipapa lighthouse. Excellent detours off the "main" route if you have the time.