We had about a week and a half between our release from MIQ and before my husband should start working. We spent the first 4 nights in an AirBnB in Christchurch, Riccarton and one day trip to Kaikoura before we got the keys to our house in Sumner. Then we left for a skiing holiday in Queenstown. This post is a short summary of those days for our activities in Christchurch, Kaikoura and Queenstown.
After we got out of the managed isolation hotel in Auckland, we flew to Christchurch with all our 12 piece of luggage. We had booked an AirBnB house in Riccarton for four nights, as we could not get our house in Sumner before 1.8. Location was fine for us – a 3-4km walk through the Hagley park and we were in the city.
On our first day in town we had lunch in Craft Embassy. A very nice waitress gave us a To Do-list for things she loves to do with her kids in Christchurch. This was so lovely of her and we really appreciated the list – we still have it and will most certainly visit all the places.
We took the hop on hop off Christchurch tram and drove it one round. Unfortunately half of the route was closed due to construction work but it was a nice way to get the first feeling of the town. We also checked out the dinner option on the tram restaurant but that will have to wait until we have a babysitter (too expensive to take two 10yo with us).
We visited the Quake city exhibition and Turanga library in the city center. The twins mainly concentrated on building Lego buildings in both places but we adults found the Quake City exhibition very interesting (and frightening as well). We got our adrenalin kick at Laser Strike on Moorhouse Avenue – and will most certainly be back there. It was fun for us all – although I really sucked at it. We signed up to their birthday club and the twins will get a free round on their birthday.
We all loved the Riverside Market with all its colorful and delicious booths. I would love to try them all! The booths offer food and wine from around the world and has a nice atmosphere.
We spent quite some time to fix practical stuff, like buying a car (still not finished – we are driving temporary car until ours is ready), getting a bank account (I am still waiting for mine) and shopping some winter clothing we did not pack with us (or well, just for the fun of it really). So still a lot to see for us in Christchurch. I could see it will be a nice spring and summer city with loads of cafes and restaurants with tables outside – and the Avon river running through the city.
One day we drove to Kaikoura in order to take part on a whale watching tour. The 2,5-hour-drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura was pretty easy with nice views on the way. We did not stop on the way, although there were nice looking vineyard signs that were very tempting along the road.
The whale watching tour took around 2-3 hours in total and it was worth it. We saw 2 humpback whales and one of them breached (jumped out of the water) just in front of us. After that we were lucky enough to see two Southern Right Whales – a mother and her baby. During the cruise we also saw seals and albatrosses so the trip was worth the money and time. Although the weather was beautiful, we got cold on the cruise – good tip: put on some wind proof clothing and take an extra sweater with you. In case you get easily sea sick, there is a good chance you do it during this trip. On our way back the waves were rough and many people got unwell, me and one of the twins included. They do sell some medicine/pills in the shop – we got the milder ones but they did not help.
I wanted to concentrate 100% on the wild life at the sea, hence no images from the sea.
After the whale watching tour we had lunch and went to see the Kaikoura seal colony – a place where you can see seals lying on the shore in the sun. This time we did not have time to explore more in Kaikoura but we decided to visit the place later on, with more time.
Finally, we were able to get into our new home in Sumner, Christchurch. We arrived in the morning and spent the whole day unpacking and washing clothes – and trying to get the house a bit warmer so that we could go to bed. The house is lovely but it is not warm in our Scandinavian standards. Cannot wait to receive the first electricity bill, the heat pump has been blazing a lot here…
Sumner seems to be a fantastic little community with lots of small shops and even an independent cinema. We have not seen much yet – but visited the Beach Restaurant and Bar and it was definitely our kind of place to have dinner or lunch every now and then.
On our very first morning in our house we got to see a beautiful sunrise, directly from our own balcony. The view to the sea is magnificent and we are happy that we chose to live in Sumner. We only stayed in the house for one night, as we had planned to drive to the south for a skiing holiday before the Viking would start working.
Queenstown and the Remarkables
We drove to Queenstown via Lake Tekapo and Wanaka. Due to some issues with our loan car, we could not leave very early so we only planned to stop in these 2 places on our way to Queenstown.
The weather was not good and when we arrived in Lake Tekapo, it was foggy and cold and we could not see the mountains behind the lake. We decided to just eat a quick lunch and keep driving to the next stop, which was Lake Wanaka. It was raining when we arrived and we had problems with internet connection. We wanted at least see ThatWanakaTree. We walked along the lakeside in the rain and finally got glimpse of the tree and got our pictures. Then we hurried back as it was raining enough to get wet.
The journey from Wanaka to Queenstown was scary. We drove up the mountain and the road was narrow and the other cars (even trucks) seemed to drive way too fast. And it was both raining and getting dark. The Viking is usually drives like he was born to do a F1 career but now he was silent and concentrated. Eventually we got down again and found our hotel in Queenstown.
The first morning we got to the center where we could book the ski bus and rent the equipment in order to ski the following 3 days. We chose only one location, the Remarkables. The bus ride (also scary) took 45-50 minutes every day, one way. We got our rental equipment fast and the process was excellently planned. Within less than an hour after arrival we were on top of the slope already.
There were not that many green slopes for beginners in the Remarkables and our twin needed at least one day to get used to the snow again. We practiced 3 hours on the first day and rode the same slopes many times. There were not that many kids on the slopes – they were most certainly in the school – but there were too many adults, who were not that considered with the beginners.
Luckily the twins got friends with the snow in one day and the second day we could try the more difficult slopes (blue ones). Some of them were way too narrow and after one mistake, we learned, that if we were to try a complete new blue slope, one of the adults would check it out first. We did find some nice ones for us around the Ice Bar and it was great to get some new slopes for us all to try.
Here are some points that we noted during our 3 days in the Remarkables:
- Easy to take the bus and rent the equipment
- Rentals are quite expensive, at least compared to the prices we are used to in Finnish Lapland
- You can storage your rentals at the center which was great
- You can rent a locker at the center (we left our own helmets there)
- There is one restaurant / cafe and they serve warm and cold food – plenty of options for all. We ate at the restaurant every day.
- If you want to ski several days, it is a good idea to visit more than one location
- Beautiful views – the landscape is amazing
We have been spoiled with Levi in Finland where you can have the accommodation right next to the lifts so the daily ride to and from the mountain was a little minus for us. Our kids also joined the ski school in Levi and had some private lessons so they were maybe more comfortable with the place for that reason. So in case you are located in Europe, do check the offerings in Finnish Lapland – it is not only Norway or Sweden that have skiing options in the Nordics. Finland has something very unique to offer and at a good price. Flights via Helsinki and Stockholm should be easily found. Back to New Zealand: After one day with learning in the Remarkables and getting to know the place we were happily skiing and enjoyed our days on the snow in Queenstown.
The last day in Queenstown was reserved for the town, not skiing. We went up the Skyline and rode the luge rides with the twins. That was fun – but 5 rides were enough for us, the twins got tired in their arms pretty fast. We were there quite early and there were no queues – that was great. When we were done, there were more people and they had to wait in queue for their turn and the lanes were busier.
We also strolled in the Queenstown Gardens in Queenstown and enjoyed the flowers, trees and amazing mountain views. And for the contrast to the tranquility of the gardens, we tried a Jet Boat ride for 25 minutes. I was very sceptical but happy afterwards that I gave it a try. 25 minutes in the winter time was enough for me – you get a little wet and it is windy because of the speed so remember to take a warm (and waterproof) jacket and maybe a hat in case you are doing it in the winter! I needed mulled wine afterwards to get warm and dry my hair (what ever excuse you can have to enjoy mulled wine is good enough!)
In the evenings we ate for example in Finz Seafood and Grill and I had very delicious fish, whole baked southern sole. I was also delighted to see that the kids´ menu had sushi as an option – the other twin was happily eating that! The other restaurant worth mentioning was Ivy & Lola´s. I had massaman curry and it was very tasty. In both these restaurant the service was friendly, the twins got coloring sheets so the waiting time was easy. We will be back the next time we visit Queenstown.
We drove back to Christchurch along the coast a stopped at Roaring Meg lookout and Moeraki boulders beach. I tried to get to the boulders but the water was so high that I did not dare (with my hiking shoes, not wellies) to get closer than what you can see in the (zoomed) picture. After the boulders we drove a bit further and had nice lunch with a lovely view at Moeraki Tavern. After that we pretty much drove to Christchurch without stops.
You should really have time to do these road trips and stop and spend time in various locations. We did not have that luxury now but now we know that we have several places that we need to return to and explore with time.
In the next post I will be writing about how to enroll your kids into the local school in New Zealand, the first visit and the first day at school for our 10yo twins, who do not really speak English yet.