The Most Photographed Pub in New Zealand – Cardrona Hotel

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Dad had been telling us all about this awesome hotel & pub he had seen on the Internet when he’d been researching somewhere to stay between Te Anau or Queenstown and the Glaciers. The problem was he couldn’t remember the name or the town. Let’s hope we find it somewhere on the West Coast!

On our drive from Te Anau we got to the sign directing us to Wanaka either via Cromwell or via the Crown Ranges and Cardrona. Dad braked and shouted “Cardrona Pub! That’s the place!”

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The drive over the Crown Ranges is spectacular. Well, I thought it was. My brother thought they were just another set of mountains. Only thing worse than more mountains are more lakes in his opinion.

IMG_5488I can’t imagine what it must be like in Winter. There are about 6 chain bays, plenty of warning signs and a couple of sections where they can close the road. It is very steep and windy so don’t drive if you aren’t comfortable and I personally wouldn’t want to risk it in winter. But it’s definitely worth it for the views back into Queenstown.

Not long after you come down the mountain, you get to Cardrona. Cardrona was a gold rush town in 1860 but very little remains except this legendary pub and hotel.

Inside is very quaint. There’s a giant log fireplace and couches which would be so cosy in winter after a good ski. There’s a piano. There are shelves with custom made Cardrona ceramics. There are bras hung above the bar. Classy.

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IMG_5499Outside is a large grassy area, plenty of tables and chairs, a little stage, a playground (with a tyre swing that looks like a horse – can you want anything more in life) and an open fire place. If I had a dollar for every time I said “I’d love to come back in winter, I would have enough to book a flight tonight!”

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The food was even better. I stared for ages at the main menu. Then even longer on the snack menu. It was difficult. I eventually decided on my three options (if a menu doesn’t have a gluten free option, I choose three potentials and then cross my fingers). To my delight they could do the fush and chups gluten free! Everyone needs to have fish and chips at a pub.

IMG_5501They were delicious! So were Dad’s bangers and mash. Mum and my brother loved their burgers too!

IMG_5500The bar staff told us that the pub is quite famous across if not all of New Zealand, at least the South Island for quite a few reasons. Firstly it was involved in advertising for Speight’s beer. Secondly the old owner James Patterson had an unusual way of monitoring drink driving. If you were driving over those windy Crown Ranges, only one drink. If heading towards Wanaka on the easier road, you got two. Legendary! Thirdly, part of the pub got shipped to England and a competition was held for some people to go along with it and you guessed it drink in the pub the whole way.

IMG_5492Finally, it’s the most photographed pub in New Zealand. I can see why! It’s gorgeous, quaint, quirky and the food and drink adds the finishing touches. It was one of my highlights of New Zealand and that’s saying something!!!

Arrowtown – A Little Treasure of a Town

Or maybe I should have titled it a town full of treasure, as it’s an old gold mining village! We didn’t find any gold but we found plenty of other treasures in this historic and picturesque place.

It is so beautiful and so close to Queenstown and yet surprisingly when we went it wasn’t overrun with tourists. I feel bad blogging about it – I don’t want this hidden gem to become bustling like Queenstown but I’m sure my little blog won’t do much damage, so fear not readers, I will continue.

Being only an easy and scenic 20 minutes from Queenstown, it’s the perfect place for lunch, dinner, a full day trip and a respite after all the activities the area provides.

We’d been on the Shotover Jet (that’s a post for another time but until then all I can say is go do it!) and to Coronet’s Peak (again a post on that will come soon – in the meantime pictures on my Instagram, same name as here – passportandpaperplanes) and after our walk up to the peak we were famished. A friend had recommended I visit and I am so glad I took their advice.

Driving down the Main Street will leave you ohhing and ahhing and sighing over its cuteness. Modernity has not touched it yet and if someone walked down the street in period costume I wouldn’t be surprised – it feels like you’ve time travelled to the Gold Rush. There are old telephone booths, old lampposts, buildings with lettering such as ‘The Gold Nugget’ still looking good and the option to go down to the river and try your luck at panning for gold.

There’s heaps of cute little boutiques and plenty of pretty restaurants with yummy menus. I happily could have gotten fudge from ‘The Remarkable Sweet Shop,’ (also in Queenstown – if you are not lured by their huge variety of flavours, my personal favourite being the best selling creme brûlée or peppermint, you will be by their free tastings!), or icecream from Patagonia (again also in Queenstown and also heavenly) but I did the good girl thing and got a proper meal.

We went to the Postmasters, because it was adorable and its menu was divine. It’s an old house converted into a restaurant and has a cute picket fence and garden. All four of us got the fish of the day (maybe because we wanted to hear the waiter say fish n chips in a Kiwi accent) and wow was it good. They were generous portions too!! We were going to pass on dessert until our waiter told us they had gluten free choc-hazelnut brownie. I’m sorry but that brownie and its vanilla bean icecream and chocolate sauce was calling my name and it didn’t disappoint.

If you can’t tell I loved Arrowtown. I loved the history, the serenity, the break from tourists and the gorgeous buildings. We didn’t explore much at all but I’m hoping to stop in again tomorrow on the way to Wanaka.

I’m struggling to format on my phone and have dodgy wifi so please forgive me for not posting pictures. They will come soon I promise!

Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Enchanting and magical. That’s the only way I can describe what it felt like to be inside the caves.

We booked a tour with Real Journeys when we got to Te Anau, but I’d recommend booking in advance as for safety reasons only a certain amount of people can be taken into the caves at one time. In saying this, there are multiple departures per day, so chances are you won’t be disappointed.

One pleasant surprise was that we had to take a scenic 20-30 cruise across Lake Te Anau, complete with running commentary on the area, to get to the caves. Although it was windy, standing on the deck getting blown about was worth it to see the towering mountains and lush greenery surrounding us. I feel like such a snob when I say the lake did not impress me. After seeing the vibrant blue lakes and rivers like Tekapo and Shotover, this was just another lake. I fear so many lakes will never live up to the high expectations I have after seeing the others.

We choose to be the last group to go into the caves so we could listen and watch the presentation before we went into the caves. I’d definitely recommend doing this so you know what you are seeing in the caves. On second thought, if I went into the caves first I would have remained blissfully ignorant to the fact those shining lights are actually part of a maggot . Seeing photos and videos of these … maggots … with the lights on revealed them in all their slimy, wormy, mucusy, hungry, territorial and cannibalistic glory, and to be honest, it was gross.

The worms glow to attract moths and other food sources to their light. These creatures become dinner after they get caught in the worms paralysing silk fishing line with little drops of mucus which look like tiny glass raindrops. These little works then suck the intestines out of poor little moth like a milkshake, letting the moth carcass fall to the floor. I was terrified a dead moth was going to fall on my face.

But all these thoughts drifted away as soon as I entered the cave. Or crawled. The entrance is very low & the guides advised us to adopt the most fantastic phrase “hand before head.”

It’s dark almost immediately. You can feel the dampness in the air. The water gushes and crashes and echoes against the walls. It is a young cave and there are no stalactites or stalagmites, save for a tiny one about the length of a matchstick named Percy, but this doesn’t make it any less impressive. If anything, it’s even more fascinating being inside a cave that is still being formed with each liter of water that rushes through.

But the most spectacular of all? The stars of the show – the glowworms.

We get to a tiny boat and fill in. It’s pitch black. Our guide puts a finger to her lips, points to the roof and turns of her torch. Suddenly it feels like I’m outside in a field looking up at the stars. There are hundreds and hundreds of little blue lights, no bigger than a pinprick. Some glow brightly whilst others barely create a light. Some are gathered in huge clusters whilst others are alone. Dad described it as looking at large cities compared to tiny country towns at night. It’s magical. Water drips and some drops fall on my head. I can hear the nearby waterfall thundering. It’s deafening and terrifying as I have no idea where it is. It sounds like it is surrounding me. I also have no idea how our boat is moving but despite my curiosity I just let it go and go back to watching the galaxies above.

The peace and the magic ends far too quickly. I could have sat there for hours and hours. We’re off the boat and walking out of the cave and then back on the boat to Te Anau, but I’m still with those lights. I couldn’t wait to go to bed, close my eyes and pretend I am still in that cave.

Magical and enchanting. Far too short, I could have spent all 2 1/4 hours of the tour inside the cave, but spectacular and worth a visit nonetheless.

For the benefit of other visitors and the glowworms there are no photos allowed, so you’ll just have to go and visit yourself!!!

Delicious Gluten Free Lunch in Twizel

I wanted to go to Twizel simply for the name.

Twizel is in the Mackenzie district in the Cantebury region of New Zealand’s South Island. There’s not much here, but there are a few nice cafes and a petrol station and it’s the closest town to Mt Cook.

After having walked to Hooker Valley and admired the beauty of Mt Cook, we, well when I say we I really mean my brother, were absolutely famished.

Eating should be an entertaining part of traveling, but as a coeliac, I often find it a burden. I had low expectations for this tiny town.

We went to a lovely cafe called Shawty’s. There were no gluten free options on the menu they had on display outside, so I’d resigned myself to some water & crackers. You can imagine my delight when I opened up the menu and they had gluten free pizza bases!!!

Each of us got a pizza & when the waiter bought them out he put one down in front of us until I asked, “Is this one definitely gluten free?” He hesitated and luckily said he’d go and check. Sure enough one was and all of us could tell he wasn’t lying as my base was evidently smaller, thinner and dryer. It’s always reassuring when gluten free food comes out looking like gluten free food!

It was amazing! The base was flavoursome & crunchy. The cheese was oozing, there were real tomatoes, not just paste, and the pesto was bright green and full of flavour. Without a doubt, one of the best gluten free pizzas I’ve ever had! They are difficult to find! It even came out on a wooden tray, one of my favourite things!

Shawty’s – thanks for providing a cheap and delicious gluten free option. You made my day!

If you’re in Mt Cook, Twizel is a great lunch alternative then the expensive hotel and cafe there. If you’re coeliac, get the pizza!!!

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I won a $1000 Jetstar Voucher – Hello New Zealand

Earlier this year when I should have been working on an essay, I stumbled upon a Jetstar competition. Jetstar, an Australian budget airline, were celebrating their 10th birthday and were asking people to recreate a holiday snap.

I found this at 11.30 & the competition closed at 12. I threw my essay aside, raced to my room, put my bikini top on, pulled my stuffed dolphin from under my bed, hoped in the bathtub & took a quick selfie.

A few weeks later, I got an email saying out of thousands of entries, I was one of the 10 winners and a $1000 voucher was all mine! I couldn’t believe it and burst out laughing in the middle of the cafe I was in which attracted some strange looks. I still didn’t believe it even when the voucher got sent to me!

Oh the places I could go! Hawaii, Japan, around Australia, New Zealand?!?!

Being the kind daughter I am, I thought of mum & dad who work so hard & have not had a holiday in years. My younger brother finished his final year of school last in November and realistically it is probably unlikely we will ever holiday together again. The last holiday we went on was over 10 years ago and we have never been overseas. It took a fair bit of convincing & persuasion from dad and I, but finally mum agreed and we booked return flights, or rather redeemed our voucher, to go Melbourne – Christchurch.

Alas, here we are in New Zealand!

Thank you so much Jetstar. I will be forever grateful for you allowing me to spend this precious time with my family.