Monday 22 May 2017

The Lady of the Lake- TSS Earnslaw


The family decided a trip on Lake Wakatipu was in order to show our visitors from Australia some of the beautiful scenery surrounding us. It was a pity the weather wasn't a little more conducive to standing on the decks admiring the view instead of being tucked up inside cocooned by the warmth generated from the boilers of the steamship TSS Earnslaw.

This actually didn't worry me too much. I found it far too warm to stay inside for long anyway and had most of the various decks to myself as I moved about taking photos and watching the world go by. 

We waited patiently at the wharf for the Earnslaw to arrive back from her previous tour...

...which gave me a ample opportunity to shoot her as she did a big loop in close to the Queenstown lakefront.  

...before filling my lens up as she swept in beside us.

Click on the photo to enlarge if you'd like to read about the history of the 'Lady of the Lake', a 1912 Edwardian vintage twin screw steamer.

We board and find ourselves a family table inside where we can leave our gear and at least a couple of people each time we go walkabout. All available seats are soon taken, everyday's a busy one in Queenstown. Do you think this lady actually understands what's written on her cap?

A couple of jet boats were heading off for a rip-roaring ride down the Kawarau River and a smaller cruise boat was also leaving the wharf as we pulled out...

...along with this speedy little guy from Hydro Attack. Queenstown is the only place in the world where you experience a thrilling, adrenaline filled ride inside a 6 metre long semi-submersible shark (tin can) travelling at 80kph, twisting and turning across the lake before diving and then exploding out of the water in a great burst of spray. It'll only set you back $149 for this once in lifetime experience (and a sore back)!

We leave Queenstown behind...

...heading for Walter Peak Station across the lake where we'll collect people who have been exploring the station earlier in the day. Some on board will also be disembarking to do one of the several farm or bike tours around the farm and/or stay on for a BBQ dinner. We'll stay onboard, we're just doing the round trip.

Cecil Peak is the prominent peak on the left, Walter Peak is further back along the range.
 As you can see I have the rest of the ship nearly to myself; there's a museum room in the bow and a gangplank walkway through the engine room where you can also watch the crew stoke the fires. Coal is hand shovelled at the rate of one tonne per hour at full speed!

Here's the stats on the engine room (remember to click to enlarge)...

 Approaching the historic Walter Peak Station. Walter Peak became a high country sheep station in 1879. Scottish immigrant Hugh Mackenzie and his wife Anastasia had six sons and two daughters and lived in Scholan house (still behind the current homestead).

The original Colonel’s Homestead was built in 1908 for one of the sons who became a Colonel in World War 1 and was the last McKenzie to remain at Walter Peak; finally selling out in 1960 when his only son showed no interest in farming. The homestead was first used to host visitors for morning and afternoon tea in 1969 when a launch arrived twice daily from Queenstown. 

In 1977 the homestead was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt with a similar exterior but the interior was designed on a much larger scale, with a variety of rooms suitable for entertaining. 

In the late 1960’s 'Real Journeys' tour company bought the TSS Earnslaw and in 1999 the company took over Walter Peak High Country Station. 

Walter Peak Station is now an iconic destination for visitors from all over the world, and going by the length of the queue to re-board the ship when we arrived, it's a very popular attraction at that.

And, we have just joined another couple of travel dots by cruising across the lake. David and I are very familiar with this scene of people queuing to get back on board. We visited Walter Peak Station by road from Mavora Lakes, back in 2014- a very long road with some breath-taking scenery. The Earnslaw was preparing to leave just after we arrived. Once the queue of people had been checked back on, one of the crew called out to us quite sternly and told us to hurry up and board as it was the last sailing of the day and we'd be left behind. He didn't quite believe us when we called back that we'd driven here. You can read that blog here.

The ship ties up at the wharf and while we wait for everyone to board I take a photo of the ship's pilot house and funnel with Walter Peak high up behind. Who should be surveying the scene below from one of the best advantage points? Ruby our granddaughter, there are no flies on her.

It doesn't take long for passengers to disembark and board and we're off again, heading back to Queenstown.

We pass close to the Queenstown-Glenorchy Road and the exclusive settlements that overlook the lake south of Queenstown. This is Ben Lomond Range with Bob's Peak on the left (which is actually that pointy point and not the hill in town with the cable car that everyone refers to as Bob's Peak). Moke Lake, where we've stayed at the DOC camp, is just behind Bob's Peak.

Ahead of us are the hotels and city centre with many properties layered up the steep side of Queenstown Hill behind...

...and looking every bit like the alpine resort town it is.

We offload as the next lot of visitors queue to board the Earnslaw....

...and next door, the river jet boats.

The kids do their comedy duo act as I try to take photos...

...and we wander back along the waterfront...

...and buy an early dinner at Erick's Fish & Chips, which we take back down to the waterfront to eat (and freeze). 

Poor Ruby loses half of her's to some cheeky duck!  


  1. Poor Ruby! Erick's is worth a visit? I don't seem to be able to get past Ferburgers.
    Thank you for the blog, I haven't been on the Earnslaw and now will next visit.

    1. Yes she wasn't very happy at all! In all our visits to Queenstown we have yet to try a Fergburger, the size of queue (and the burger itself) put me off. One day I'll give it a go. Yes Eriks was worth it, they've also got a caravan set up just north of the Frankton turnoff on the main road.


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