Friday 29 December 2017

The Best of 2017


I haven't done a 'Best of' for a couple of years, which is a shame because we have had fabulous experiences every year and every year is so different. I also know I'd have had numerous contenders for each title as I have had this year too; it's very hard to choose but here goes, click the links to read the relative blog post...

Best Nature Encounter -

That would have to be our little monster from the sea, a just-weaned female sealion pup who was angry at the world. Seen at Hinahina in the Catlins.

A close second (and on the same blog post as above) would have been this huge lump of lard, an Elephant Seal who we visited in nearby Pounawea Estuary.

Best Road Trip

This one was a hard one, we do so many road trips, it's how we explore this amazing country. We set up camp and then over the next few days or weeks we fan out exploring all the backroads and places of interest. Over five years the Ford Ranger has done 40,000 kilometres more than the 5th-wheeler; that's a lot of exploring. I decided the winner this year was our road trip into the interior, visiting the Ashburton Lakes and Erewhon Station; a bucket list place I'd wanted to visit since we've been on the road. Seeing Mt Sunday (LOTR's Edoras) was an added bonus.

Being able to visit the lakes again a few days later after more snow had fallen was also a highlight.

Best Paid Attraction

Bill Richardson Transport World wins this one hands down; an absolutely amazing display, reputedly the largest private collection of it's type in the world. Give yourself all day and then some to explore though.

Best Day Walk

The spectacular 8.4km return walk to Mt Arthur Hut, located in the Kahurangi National Park. If you're feeling able and fit, return via the steeper Flora Hut track.

The most taxing, but still spectacular, walk we did was the Waikaia River loop at Piano Flat.

I need to add another Day Walk in here too, this one wins the best shared walk because we did it with a special bunch of people, walking (and entertaining each other) all the way to Harwoods Hole.

Best Natural Phenomenon

There are no doubts with this one, after chasing the Southern Lights on several occasions and managing to shoot varying strengths, I finally struck gold with a magnificent aurora in May. Absolutely mindblowing and the highlight of the whole year.

Best 'Shiny' Trip

We love exploring 4WD tracks and the South Island has more than its fair share. This year we added quite a few more to our 'Done!' list, including the challenging Carricktown & Young Australian Waterwheel track. It didn't help that we probably should have travelled the track in the opposite direction.

Best DOC Camp

Once again we've stayed at many DOC camps through the year and we have enjoyed them all but this year I'm choosing Piano Flat in Southland as the winner; there are a number of reasons it ticks the boxes; it's an isolated very well maintained camp, it's beside a beautiful river, the bird life is phenomenal and best of all, we had the camp to ourselves for most of our stay.

Best Weather Experience

This would have to be waking up to a icy winter wonderland and a minus 12c frost in the remote Ahuriri Valley. Thank goodness for diesel heaters.

A close second would be the early evening snowfall we experienced at the Methven campground where we were staying.

And at the other end of the scale, the worst weather we experienced (other than more than our fair share of rain) was nearly three days of fog at Lake Benmore!

Best Bird Encounter

It was a toss up between these gorgeous penguins in the Catlins and their Dance of the Hoiho...

...and one very confiding juvenile NZ Falcon/Karearea at Poolburn Dam.

Best Commercial Campground

Pakawau Beach Camp, Golden Bay- by no means the flashest campground, Pakawau is one of the old school Kiwi camping grounds we remember from our childhood.

Pakawau Beach Camp is in a fabulous position right on the beach and has two of the friendliest camp managers we have had the pleasure of meeting on our travels.

Best Photo Oportunity

So, so many. Where do I start and how do I choose? In the end I've gone with the fabulous reflections on Wairepo Arm in the MacKenzie Country. Right place, right time.

Best NZMCA POP (park over property)

This would have to be NZMCA POP #8872, a POP that is very well hosted by our lovely friends Prue & Harry on their farm at Ettrick, a small settlement just east of Roxburgh.

Best Family Adventure

Too many to make just one of them #1. From Crank Up...

Celebrating New Year and camping at Pounawea... having some fun on the Earnslaw with our Southland and Aussie families.

Best Dramatic Coastline

Ward Beach of course, and the unbelievable seabed uplift that happened after the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake.

Best Freedom Camping

Once again this was a difficult one as we have stayed at so many interesting freedom camping sites throughout the South Island, but I think Cattle Flat is one that stands out for me, not least because the Mataura was in flood and flowing very fast past just a few steps from our door but there were also some awesome cribs (baches, fishing huts) nearby, which made great photo subjects. Permission from the farm manager is required to stay here.

Best View

Nothing more than a Remarkable View...

Best Lake

This year Lake Onslow was the winner. We finally managed to revisit the lake and take 'Out There' with us this time so we were able to stay longer, enjoy the solitude and launch the dinghy for some serious fishing!

A close second was Poolburn Dam, a favourite lake of ours and on this visit we also managed to take 'Out There' in for a 12 day stay.

Best Special Event

We thoroughly enjoyed attending the 25th Goldfields Cavalcade in Omakau, Central Otago- well I did more so than David who is not really a horse person. 

Best Historic Visit

Well it is an historic high country station and I did want to include the Molesworth Road in my wrap-up for the year. This trip has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and after a few false starts we finally managed to spend six days exploring this isolated area. It didn't come without its hardships either; dust, a 1080 drop and a busted bridge all added to the challenge. Another top highlight for me.

Best Trip  *tongue in cheek*

Was it in the carpark outside the 4Square in Lumsden when I landed sprawled out across the footpath- gasping for breath and in great pain- with my groceries scattered in the gutter and across the road (I managed to have the store paint yellow danger lines on the offending kerb for my troubles). 

Or perhaps it was the tumble down the 5th-wheeler's steps which were coated in black ice (I'm sure I cracked by elbow on that one) or maybe the (thankfully) soft landing in the mounds of tussock after stepping into a hole at the end of the Lake Daniels walk. 

Nope, I think this one goes to my latest trip just because I did have to visit the hospital! Let's hope I learn to pick up my feet next year.

We've had a another wonderful year down South and we still have much to do down there. We will return eventually. But for the time being we have a busy year ahead of us up North. I'll look forward to sharing more blogs with you on the North Island and also sharing a few more exciting things that are in the pipeline including a visit to our newest grandson Otis, who was born on Boxing Day and lives in Melbourne with his parents, Lizzie & Jake.

Happy New Year to you all and all the very best for 2018, safe and happy travels.


  1. Thanks for the time and trouble/effort that you spend putting all of these together :-) Your trips and visits are real inspirations for what we want to do - thanks again!!!!

    1. And many thanks for taking the time out to comment, it makes all the hard work worth it when I know people are enjoying the blog.

  2. I have been reading your blogs for sometime and just want to say how much I love them! We spend quite a lot of time away in our camper exploring, hiking and biking, so it is wonderful to read about places we've been and just as wonderful to add new places to our 'must do' list! I love your photos, your detailed descriptions, and I love the way you venture well off the beaten track a lot. The fact that you take your fifth wheeler to some pretty awesome and isolated places reassures me when we think of taking our much smaller camper down some less used roads. I can't wait to see where you venture in the North Island next year. Thank you so much.

    1. Thanks so much Denise, it's lovely to know that I'm giving you a few new ideas and refreshing your memories on places you've already been too. We sometimes think we would love a bigger 5th-wheeler but then we dismiss the idea because we know we'd not be able to visit many of the places out the back of beyond, and that's half the fun of our travels.

  3. Thanks for all your blogs, love reading them and getting ideas from you. Also have to agree with you on some of the places you have stayed. We also love getting of the beaten track and Piano flat was a great spot also had to ourselves.We are so lucky in NZ to be able to do this lifestyle.

    1. Many thanks Joan for your comments, I enjoy getting feedback- at least I know I'm not talking to myself! ;) We certainly do have a lovely country to explore. Safe travels.

  4. Thank you once again for another year of fascinating and interesting blogs Shellie. We are about to head away for 3 mths in Otago/Southland and your blogs are proving invaluable with such a wealth of information about the various locations. All the best for a wonderful 2018 with plenty more interesting trips (of the road kind).

    1. Thanks Christine, much appreciated. I'm thrilled you enjoy the blogs and have been able to use them to gather information for your own travels. I look forward to hearing all about them in due course. Safe travels.


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