Seals, surprise planes & vineyards for kids

Our planned route north of Christchurch was somewhat disrupted by the earthquake in Kaikoura in Nov 2016. Our original plan was from Christchurch to Blenheim via Kaikoura. We toyed with the idea of getting the train – were just looking at the logistics when the earthquake hit and the train track was sadly no more!!

In December I looked in to how our route needed to change – I had heard mention of a detour… what I hadn’t realised was that it was an 8 hour detour. I’d planned so carefully for the children – to travel just 2 or 3 hours in a day – and only every other day as a maximum…. suddenly I needed to fit what for us was a week of travelling in to 2 days… plus we’d have to miss Kaikoura…. which I a) really wanted to go to b) felt they could probably do without tourists cancelling on them in these tough times! So a new plan was born – I found flights from Christchurch to Blenheim… not too pricey and including all our luggage. The car hire place (Apex) were great and just split our booking in two & didn’t charge any extra…. and so we got to visit Kaikoura – then drive back to Christchurch (again!) and fly over the effected area – missing out the detour!
We stayed at a Top 10 holiday park in Kaikoura – figured G would like an onsite playground & she might get the chance to play with other kids…. she LOVED the jumping pillow & swimming pool (Adam had to stand in for other kids to play with). She didn’t give a damn about the stunning mountains that made the setting so beautiful! 😂


As usual – we looked at TripAdvisor for things to do…. and Ohau Waterfall was top of our list…. an easy walk with seal pups frolicking in the river as you pass… perfect… We asked for directions at reception – and then at the i-site travel info place – only to find out that there is no access since the quake… bugger!!! The lady in the i-site place said the shore walk should be doable with sproglets in tow… and we would likely see seal pups (yay!) I think Adam & I both got the impression of a beach walk with a few areas of rocks to hop over… afterwards we were not convinced she’d done the ‘new’ walk (the seabed has risen 2 metres creating new land) as we spent several hours scrambling over razor sharp shards of spiky rocks with small humans strapped to us. Totally worth it – we had fun & saw loads of seals – but it was TOUGH going!!

We climbed up the cliff steps and walked back along the peninsula… G was pretty fed up by the end and was whinging because she wanted to walk and she was tired (one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t times!)

We got back to the car… and on the way home stopped at one of the ‘world famous’ roadside stalls for crayfish. I believe it was and will always be the most expensive street food I will ever eat!!

We had eaten fish and chips for our first night’s meal…. and had pizza for our second… Kaikoura won’t go down as our top culinary adventure!

On the morning we were travelling back to Christchurch we visited a little Farm Park that we’d seen advertised in the Kaikoura guide. It was fun – but almost as if they’d not had anyone turn up before – totally ramshackle but fun. (Asked me what TripAdvisor was when I said we couldn’t find them on there…. I really struggled to explain something so ubiquitous) We timed our journey to ensure we could have lunch at this little place we’d found – Mainline Station…. (We’d stopped there for coffee on our way to Kaikoura and ended up with the most delicious brunch… they had great outdoor space and toys…. and a little gift shop…. so was pretty much perfect!). Lunch was great… F had a picnic blanket to roll around on so he was happy & I had 2 hands for eating – hallelujah!

After a rock’n’roll night in Christchurch (yes folks beans on toast and 2 loads of laundry!) we were up at 7am & out by 8am to return our rental car & catch our flight to Blenheim. The plane was not quite what I expected!!! Single prop, 8 seats and the pilot did the safety briefing AND offloaded the luggage!!!!
We’d just booked a motel apartment in Blenheim as I was uninspired by the Airbnb choices. They didn’t have a two bedroom apartment available for all 4 nights… so 1 night we had 1 bedroom for G and Adam & I were on a sofa bed in the living room with F’s cot next to us. We spent the evening outside playing cards… and then as it grew dark… we went in for our usual bedtime cuppa… and drank it in the bathroom 😂😂😂
Blenheim turned out to be one of our favourite places (wine country – what a shocker!) Having found a blog with ‘child-friendly vineyards’ off we trotted to Forrest Winery… yes we were a little jealous of the carefree, tanned couples rocking up on bikes & tasting the wine… but we got to experience the vineyard for longer. After our 3 small wines (free tasting) we took a picnic blanket and a box of toys… and their incredibly friendly dog… and sat in the shade of a big tree. We got a picnic lunch (cheese, crackers, crisps, olives & pate) along with a tasting tray of 6 wines. It was such a relaxed & lovely way to spend half a day!

Another day we were recommended The Vines Village… the first thing we saw when we arrived was this sign…. and we knew we were in the right place. 2 gin tastings & a salted caramel liquor later, we wandered off to the arty shops – then for a coffee in the cafe…. with a playground and an awesome view! As it happened – they have a BBQ on Sunday – so Adam was in heaven! The 11 year old girl on the bench next to us took G off to play… so G was in heaven too… what a lovely break 😆🎉.

After a quick gelato & another wine tasting . . .

. . . (apparently it would be rude not to!) we headed home for a short nap. Later we did G’s favourite thing & fed the ducks in Pollard Park… not like our local ducks… these ducks were seriously enthusiastic about being fed . . . to the point of climbing on each other to get the bread!

We had tickets for the ferry to the North Island booked for 2pm on the Monday…. and had to checkout for 10am…. whatever will we do???!! Yup – we had time to squeeze in another vineyard & visited Wither Hills Vineyard for a swift tasting and lunch! Another fabulous few hours! 
In other news… for pretty much the whole of this week, F has been waking every 2 hours through the night. I thought maybe we’d broken him by dragging him around the world… but then a tooth appeared… the second is on its way…. so hopefully it was that & I won’t spend the rest of the trip as a mombie!

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