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Picture-perfect drive: Christchurch to Dunedin

09:00 AEST Thu Feb 17 2011
Sure, you can fly between Christchurch and Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island in an hour or so, but if you have time to spare, think about doing what Kelly Landry did and hit the road. There's so much to see on the 400km journey: the towering Southern Alps, grazing sheep in the patchwork fields of the Canterbury Plains along a straight flat road with not much traffic.

The picture-perfect town of Geraldine was the first stop. It is home to artists and artisans and there are shops, galleries and studios selling their works. Some creations are edible. The town's cheesemaker, chocolatier and Barker's fruit products are great examples of local delicacies. Take time to see a half-scale replica of the Bayeux Tapestry and the world's largest woolly jumper, which made it in to Guinness World Records.

Chillawhile Backpackers Art Gallery in Oamaru is a good place to spend a night or two. It's around halfway between Christchurch and Dunedin and is a colonial town reflecting the Victorian era. Impressive Oamaru whitestone buildings and people in 18th century costume take you back British Empire times.

Chillawhile is a thriving and exciting backpackers where visitors experience local history, art and music. There are four-, six- and eight-bed dormitories, and double and family rooms.

Moeraki, a little seaside town, is well worth a visit. Huge spherical stones strewn along Koekohe Beach, known as the Moeraki Boulders, were formed around 60 million years ago. It's quite a sight to watch them pop out of the ocean as the tide ebbs.

Another reason to stop is to have a bite at Fleur's Place, a very popular restaurant. There's water on three sides and fishing boats in the harbour deliver much of their catch straight to Fleur. Most vegetables are from small organic growers in the area and Fleur is building up a Moeraki Maori potato for use in the restaurant.

Celebrity chef Rick Stein and actress Gwyneth Paltrow have both visited and left very complimentary comments.

The road hugs the coast for the rest of the way and when you hit Dunedin you will see the famous Larnach Castle.

A neo-Gothic style building with colonial verandah, it is New Zealand's only castle. It was built by an eccentric Australian who was involved in banking during the gold rush and has an exciting, scandalous and tragic history.

William Larnach married three times and fathered six children. He took his own life in the New Zealand Parliament buildings in 1898, but left behind a magnificent legacy: stunning antiques, incredible views and 14 hectares of nine gardens and grounds.

The castle was purchased by the Barker family in 1967 when it was in shocking condition. The ballroom had been used to pen sheep, it leaked, was devoid of furniture and the grounds were overgrown. It has been restored over the years and opens for tours. The ballroom is very special as are beautifully carved ceilings.

The castle is the Barkers' home, but just 500m away is Camp Estate, a glamorous country house on castle land for accommodation. Each of the five rooms has a fireplace and views and is beautifully furnished.

Your hosts cook an English-style breakfast, which is served in the historic stables. House guests are invited to dine at the castle, and entry to the castle and garden is complimentary for them. The table d'hôte menu reflects traditional New Zealand-style cuisine and the cellar has a large selection of domestic wines.

Location

From Christchurch to Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island.

Cost

Chillawhile Backpackers Art Gallery dormitory rooms range between $23 and $30 and double rooms range between $46 and $66. They have fully equipped kitchens and barbecue area and internet.

Fleur's Place is open between Wednesday and Sunday for lunch and dinner.

Larnach Castle entry is $25 for adults and $10 for children. Garden only entry is $10 and $3. It's open every day between 9am and 5pm. Accommodation starts at $260.

Air New Zealand has flights to Christchurch from:

  • Melbourne $294
  • Sydney and Brisbane $299
  • Adelaide $454
  • Perth $933

Sale and validity dates and other conditions apply.

Hertz has a wide range of vehicles and rates. Visit www.hertz.com.au for all the details.

Prices correct at February 17, 2011.

For further information

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476
www.airnewzealand.com.au

Talbot Forest Cheese
76 Talbot Street
Geraldine
Timaru
New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 693 1111

Barkers of Geraldine
76B Talbot Street
Geraldine
Timaru
New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 693 8969
Fax: +64 3 693 8610
www.barkers.co.nz
fruit@barkers.co.nz

Chillawhile Backpackers
1 Frome Street
Oamaru
New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 437 0168
www.chillawhile.co.nz
stay@chillawhile.co.nz

Fleur's Place
At the Old Jetty
Moeraki
Otago
New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 439 4480
Fax: +64 3 439 5981
www.fleursplace.com
mail@fleursplace.com

Larnach Castle
145 Camp Road
Otago Peninsular
Dunedin 9077
New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 476 1616
Fax: +64 3 476 1574
www.larnachcastle.co.nz
larnach@larnachcastle.co.nz

Hertz
Ph: 133 039
www.hertz.com.au

Visas: Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter New Zealand.

Electricity: 230V at 50Hz using the same plugs as in Australia.

Time zone: GMT +1.

Currency: The New Zealand dollar.

International dialling code: +64.

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