Kaikoura launched itself at visitors for its wildlife –whales, seals and dolphins, then throw in the paua shell and it shake it together to get a touristy flavour. To its advantage there are lots of cafes and restaurants – some of which seemed pretty good. Started the morning in the Kaikoura Food Company, which is out of the town centre on Beach Road – it was a lovely cafe and the menu was interesting with plenty of options, and the food was delicious but the other selling point to this place was that it makes fudge – and they have lots of varieties and flavours- it was difficult to tear myself away. I ordered breakfast but the sweet cakes and things were too tempting and so I had to round everything off with one and a coffee. While the location is less than ideal, inside is pleasant but the food trumps.
Then came a wander around the town – there are plenty of souvenir shops, including a few that specialise in paua shell, and have every possible use for the shells for sale. The Paua shells are a by-product of harvesting by diving for the ‘meat’ within. However the shells themselves may look grey and encrusted on the exterior but their interior is the key with its striking blue, green, and purple iridescence. The bright colours are lovely and make a perfect material to make tourist souvenirs of! Having wandered around the shops, I decided not to buy but more about that later.
I had a walk on the beach at Kaikoura, which is really stony, but has beautiful scenery to enjoy, with mountains and hills providing the backdrop. Having enjoyed my morning I went hunting for a late lunch – and saw a great offer for lunch in a Thai restaurant in the middle of the town, and since I rarely get to enjoy Thai food at home I’d give it ago. But it was slightly disappointing – the food was average and nothing to write home about – but for a cheap lunch it was cheerful enough – but I think you can probably do better having just experienced a lovely brunch earlier on in Kaikoura Food Company.
Then it was back on the road to head south back to Christchurch...but the first stretch of the road from Kaikoura threw up some surprises as it winds beside the sea with steep cliffs on the other side. First came seals, right beside a convenient stopping point – which made up for my decision not to go hunting elsewhere – because I got really close to them, and there was only another couple stopped – and I was able to watch them in peace. Further along I stopped at a beach, and found a few paua shells – which was even better than buying one in a souvenir shop – so okay it wasn’t as shiny and polished, but it felt more authentic. The road left the beautiful sea views as it wound its way inland and southward, and the scenery changed to hills with the mountains in the distance.
My next stop was a small town, Cheviot – and an unplanned stop - as I was driving into this town there were a few ladies sitting at the roadside with stalls, the signs mentioned a local crafts market – and as I needed a present or two I thought I would pull in and have a look. The three ladies were very friendly and chatty but not overbearingly so, and were busy knitting and other crafty things as they kept watch over their stalls. Of course there were some paua shells, but not the tourist production style of souvenirs, but also lots of other items including knitted items and other wool items ( the area around Cheviot has many sheep farms). I bought my mum a very cute little sheep made out of wool. Apparently the market occurs on Sundays but that it is also supplemented with some Fridays as well, which I luckily hit.
I carried on, with the plan I’d find somewhere in Amberley to stop for afternoon tea – and right on the main road in the town was the Nor’wester cafe which looked really lovely from the outside, with parking and an patio area, but I ended up less than impressed with the place. It was the only place on my travels of NZ that I felt negative vibes towards me was eating on my own, which was unfortunate as I due to leave the next day – but as I had met so many other warm and welcoming business people, I knew it was a blip. The Service was below par, nor was the coffee great and wasn’t all that hot when it arrived, and it felt that they didn’t really want a customer who wasn’t ordering a full meal. But there are other places to eat in town.
Having time I decided to take a detour off the main road and head down to the coast, and my detour was well worth it as the sun came out, as I came across a desert beach. After stretching my legs, I relaxed in the car reading a book sitting overlooking the beach (it was a little too chill to sit out).
Unfortunately I had to head onto Christchurch, and so I had to leave my lovely secluded beach and head into the city. While I enjoyed Christchurch during the three weeks I spent there with work, it did seem a shame to be back again. I had truly loved the freedom driving around the South Island, and seeing so many wonderful places, and I was dismayed that my month in New Zealand was drawing to a close, and Christchurch that had marked the beginning also marked the end of this adventure and I knew all that lay ahead was a tiring and cramped flight back to normal life lay the following day.
To be honest the trip from Kaikoura to Christchurch was more tame than the wild west coast – no wild twisty and narrow road instead a main highway, a greater population, and while lovely scenery, it was diminished by the other coast and crossing the mountains. The one thing I wished I had done a boat trip to see the whales in Kaikoura, but it was so cold I wimped out of even considering it. However, it was a nice relaxed final day in New Zealand.