Anyone visiting New Zealand who is interested in wildlife and conservation – as well as having amazing experiences – should most definitely make their way to the Akaroa peninsula, just 90 minutes drive from Christchurch. Not only is the peninsula very beautiful, with stunning bays and views, but Akaroa itself is set in a magnificent natural harbour, teaming with wildlife. It is also one of the few places where it is possible to go swimming with Hector’s dolphins.
I chose to go out with ecoseaker, the smaller of the two companies offering the opportunity to go swimming with the Hector’s dolphins – and was very pleased I did! The firm is locally run, and uses a powerful small boat that takes between four and twelve people on the swimming trip which departs at 10.30 in the morning and lasts for about three-and-a-half hours. Steve Hamilton, the skipper, is a 5th generation local and descendant of early French and Scottish settlers. He grew up on a sheep farm alongside Akaroa Harbour and throughout the trip he shared his detailed knowledge of its environment and the geology of the surrounding area, as well as the importance of conserving its wildlife. He and his assistant, Adam, made the trip humorous and very enjoyable, as well as being educational and informative. As well as the dolphins, we saw many New Zealand fur seals, pied cormorants and a couple of little blue penguins. It was far from easy photographing the dolphins, especially when in the water with them, but I hope that the following sequence captures something of the excitement of the trip:
One of the challenges in trying to buy wines in New Zealand is the dearth of good wine shops across most of the country. Yes, it is possible to buy many New Zealand wines in supermarkets, such as Countdown or New World, but they do not have the range of quality wines that are made in New Zealand. Indeed, many of the cheaper wines sold in such supermarkets are actually from Australia, or even France.
Imagine my surprise, then, as I visited the old mining town of Arrowtown, to discover the Arrowtown Wine Store. This has an amazing selection of New Zealand wines, especially from Central Otago, and particularly their Pinot Noirs.
There are so many impressive things about this shop: the range of wines that they stock, especially from Central Otago; the wonderful comments written by the staff about each of the wines, which perfectly capture their characteristics; the knowledge and hospitality of the store manager Tracy Grigor; and the fact that many of the wines are on sale at prices that are usually equivalent to the cellar door prices of the local wineries. Anyone interested in wine, and especially the wines of New Zealand, who is visiting central South Island should make their way straight to Arrowtown and look out this great little shop! The only rather bizarre thing, at least for visitors from the UK, is that currently it remains cheaper to buy these wines in the UK than it is in New Zealand, despite the collapse in the value of the pound post-Brexit!
It is difficult to make definitive choices about the best Pinot Noir wines made in Central Otago, but those from the following producers are definitely worth getting to know better:
Some of my pictures from these wineries are shown below: