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  • Writer's pictureClaire

20/03/24 Dunedin to Owaka

Todays road trip saw us leaving Leith campsite and go inland for a bit. We drive as far as Milton and turned off heading for the hills. Driving along Highway 8, the Manukau Highway, we spotted a fence full of old trainers random but there is also a fence full of bras not far from Queenstown in the South Island. I don’t know why, there just are. 


Our first stop off was Gore, and we were greeted with a statue of a massive Brown trout as their welcome to Gore display. The town declares itself New Zealand’s ‘home of country music’, and ‘brown trout capital of the world’. If that wasn’t enough to boast about, it also has a proud history of illegal distilleries. In the early 20th century, Gore’s Scottish immigrants responded to 50 years of prohibition by distilling their own moonshine. The towns museum shines a tongue-in-cheek light on some colourful characters and whisky-drenched escapades of the era. It all felt so familiar … On display is the homemade distilling apparatus hidden for decades in the back of local sheds.


We parked up and right behind us was a bright pink beetle with the best number plate,” Ms pink”.I want I want I want! The Main Street has mainly boutique shops and eateries, with a heavy Asian influence.  We rumbled around in the sunshine and took in the sights, not that there were many.  As it was lunch time we went into a place called the Howl at the moon. A big pub and restaurant on the corner of the Main Street. It proved to be a good choice, as it was pretty busy which is always a good sign. We were told to sit where we liked and one of the girls would be with us. They were rushed off their feet, only two of them covering an establishment that would probably have benefited from an extra 5 servers. In fairness to them, we were bought the menu really quickly and they served us not long after taking our order. Si had a rack of lamb with gravy and oregano potatoes and … Greek salad… on the same plate. Not sure about that myself, but he said it tasted amazing. I stuck with salmon and glass noodles and Reet nice it were too! Once we’d finished stuffing our faces, we rumbled back to the car and hit the supermarket for some supplies because we were running a bit low in the snacks department with that all done and put away into the fridge ready for supper we got back on the road. On the route there was a lookout photography point for a rock that was supposed to look like a frog (it didn’t) highly disappointing, keep going Si!


Clinton was our next stop a little town surrounded by gentle rolling hills, Clinton is a small rural town in South Otago that has a sculpture of five Clydesdale Horses representing the area’s rich agricultural history. We obviously stopped for a photo op with Bob and Kev, but it seems that horses aren’t their thing, They’re both still harping on about it. Clinton is known for some of New Zealand’s finest fly fishing. (There’s an excellent book on the subject by some bloke called J.R. Hartley) Its local economy began on the land and today it still revolves around cattle, sheep, and deer farming. 


After Clinton we wound our way through the rolling hillsides that are being heavily deforested, although replanting is occurring alongside it to replenish the supplies. They had shut the road off both ways as they were felling a particularly large tree which, if it had gone pear shaped would have been across the road. Happy to wait thanks guys!! Didn’t make a sound when it fell to the floor, perhaps the noisy branches had been lopped off beforehand? Interesting. Once we were allowed through we continued on towards Balclutha, passing through it wanting to get to our final destination of Owaka. 


Owaka town is tiny but it has a few eating options, pharmacy, a supermarket and petrol station (no vain boast in these parts). It has a large metal statue of a canoe as one of its main features, Owaka means ‘place of the canoe’. Teapotland is weird, wonderful and wacky and is home to a vast collection of teapots and statuettes arranged in Graham Renwick’s garden. We stopped for photos of it, and plonked Bob and Kev down amongst them for a quick pic. And that was Owaka town done. Our campsite was an eco park off the beaten track with some questionable roads to it, Newhaven Holiday park. Located right on the beach, the pitch we had was perfect, secluded and away from other people.  The campground is quirky, made up of vibrant coloured huts/chalets, equally colourful amenities block and some creative artwork adorning the walls. The feather in its cap, and our whole purpose for booking it, was the fact that New Zealand sea lions can be seen on the beach, and occasionally penguins if you’re lucky.  As we’d arrived in good time we trundled along the beach, the compacted sand easy going. There is an inlet, which is crystal clear and a favourite place for seabirds and as it was low tide we were able to walk along its edge and on around the corner. As we rumbled along, we saw our first sun basking seal, lying there without a care in the world, sunning herself as she rested her weary head on a big pile of sea kelp.  After a few pics we moved on and began to think we would only see the one seal, we were in luck and a few yards up the beach, there were two huge fluffy sea lions fast asleep in the sand. Occasionally they turned and waved a flipper before flopping back onto their tummies, and dislodging sand with their flippers to make the hole they were lying in more comfortable. A bit like digging boob holes I suppose.  As time wasters go, they are right up there with watching sleeping babies! As we were observing, another couple bought our attention to what was happening behind us. A pair of sea lions were flip flopping their way up the beach from the ocean, they’d go a few yards, then hit the deck, just far too exhausted to carry on. After a little rest they were off again, having a little scrap on the way, before another Power Nap. 40winks obviously refreshed them because they were up and off again. By now more people had gathered, and must have got closer than the sea lions liked because one of them turned around and ran towards the new arrivals, mouth open, making a whole lot of noise. The one woman turned and ran, which seemed to mollify the sea lion somewhat, as it turned around, puffed out its chest and practically swaggered back to its buddy. They put on a bit of a display, fighting, and playing. Simply awesome, bloody huge, but amazing, and I was surprised at how fast they could move given their ungainly gait.  They’re no Usain Bolt, but they’re faster than you would imagine.  


With a happy smile on my chops we continued back towards the campsite, out of luck with penguins again. It hey, seals and sea lions up close is pretty damn cool in my opinion. Having had food at lunch time we were still stuffed so didn’t need anything else except a drink.  Showered and ready for bed before dark, I tell you what, we know how to live, we really do!!  


Much love

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