Round the World in 40 Days: Stage 7 – Earthquakes and Vineyards in New Zealand

Maybe the title is a bit overdramatic? We didn’t actually experience any earthquakes during our eight days in New Zealand, but our journey, and some of the places we visited, were very much shaped by earthquakes.

New Zealand: Inland mountain road from Christchurch
Scenery along the Inland road from Christchurch

After flying to Christchurch following our adventures in Australia, our original plan was to take a leisurely drive up the coastal road from Christchurch to Marlborough, and then on to Picton and the ferry to the North Island.

However an earthquake on the 14th of November 2016, centred near the coastal town of Kaikoura, destroyed much of the coastal road.

At the time we travelled, it was possible to get from Christchurch to Kaikoura on the coastal road, but no further. Hence we had to take the much longer inland road through the mountains, with traffic much swelled as a result of the coastal railway line being closed by earthquake damage.

Earthquake memorial in Christchurch
Earthquake memorial in Christchurch

Our brief stay in Christchurch had its high and low. The high, quite literally, was taking the gondola ride up Mt Cavendish, with great views from the top, both over Christchurch and south over Lyttelton Harbour.

The low was observing the damage from the devastating earthquake in February 2011. There are many derelict sites and Christchurch Cathedral is still in ruins. Particularly poignant is the outdoor display of 185 empty white chairs, one for each person killed by the earthquake.

The 300 mile car journey north to Marlborough was slow because of the many road works attempting to alleviate the damage caused by the unusually heavy traffic. Nevertheless the scenery was very impressive, although looking very dry. The following day the road was completely closed because of bush fires!

Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay vineyard
Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay vineyard

The Marlborough wine area was as magnificent as ever and the Sauvignon Blanc wine was as fresh and tasty. This was the third visit for myself and my wife, but the first time for Photo Editor, John Esser and his wife. They enjoyed the wine tasting at the Villa Maria and Whitehaven vineyards, but for them the Cloudy Bay vineyard was the best – like a bit of heaven on earth.

The following day we headed up to Picton and the Interislander Ferry to Wellington on the North Island. Our car hire from Apex Rental Cars included the ferry crossing. It is cheaper by the way to hire a car in the South Island at Christchurch and drop it off in the North Island at Auckland, rather than the other way round, which is the more popular tourist direction.

Art Deco buildings in Napier
Art Deco buildings in Napier

No visit to Wellington is complete without taking the funicular up to the top of the Botanic Gardens – one of my Top Ten Gardens of the World – then wandering down the hillside through the landscaped gardens to the waterfront and Lambton Quay.

After staying overnight at Paraparaumu, with great sunset views towards Kapiti Island, we headed north-east to Napier, taking in along the way a wine-tasting at the Sileni Estate in the Hawke’s Bay wine district.

Steamy emissions in Whakarewarewa village

The coastal city of Napier is very much shaped by the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake, which destroyed many of the central buildings. The result is that much of the centre was rebuilt in an attractive 1930s Art Deco style.

We stayed at the excellent Shoreline Hotel in Napier, directly overlooking the beach and with double Jacuzzi baths in each room! This was booked through Expedia.

New Zealand is prone to earthquakes as it sits on a collision line between two tectonic plates. This also results in volcanoes and geothermal activity, both very apparent to us as we continued our journey north. From Lake Taupo, the snow-covered volcanic peak of Mt Ruapehu was clearly visible and, in Rotorua, our next overnight stay, steamy emissions and sulphurous smells were everywhere.

Italian Garden at Hamilton
Italianate Garden at Hamilton

We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Rotorua which overlooks the Pōhutu Geyser and the ‘living’  Maori village of Whakarewarewa, which we visited the following day. The fumes put us off sampling the ‘Geothermal Hangi Meal’ on offer in the village – it is cooked in the hot, bubbling waters.

Our journey to Auckland was broken by a couple of hours spent exploring the Hamilton Gardens. However we should have put aside much more time to explore the 21 different themed gardens including Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Italianate. Entry is free of charge.

Auckland Harbour view from the Sky Tower
Auckland Harbour view from the Sky Tower

Our final two days in New Zealand were spent in Auckland, where we stayed at the first-rate Airport Holiday Inn. We repeated  much of what we enjoyed doing on a previous visit, including viewing the city from across the bay in Devonport and from the top of the 220 metre high Sky Tower. We again visited the waterfront with its many bars and restaurants.

Finally on our last day, we toured the Auckland Botanic Garden, before heading off on the eleven hour transpacific flight to Chile and Stage 8 of our Round the World journey.

See also:
Round the World in 40 Days: Planning and Booking
Stage 1 – Golden Triangle of Agra, Jaipur and Delhi
Stage 2 – Singapore and the Gardens by the Bay
Stage 3 – Taipei and NE Taiwan
Stage 4 – Seoul and the DMZ
Stage 5 – Hong Kong Revisited
Stage 6 – Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef
Stage 8 – A Tour of Santiago, Chile
Stage 9 – Cusco and Machu Picchu
Stage 10 – Lima and Miraflores, Peru
Stage 11 – Miami and the Everglades