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New Zealand is iconic. It claims to be the earth’s youngest country (last inhabited) and appeals to travellers by offering a density of destinations and diversity within a compact area. Spectacular scenery has made it the dramatic setting for Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, King Kong (2005), The Chronicles of Narnia and Xena: Warrior Princess. With a wealth of lakes, rivers and coasts, it was a pleasant but challenging task to narrow the choice for our inaugural New Zealand rowing tour. There are so many beautiful possibilities in this country known for beautiful landscapes, outdoor lifestyle, Maori culture, friendly people and wonderful wines. For a comparatively small place, distances can seem substantial, so we have decided to offer a concentrated dose of rowing and touring in the Southern Alps and Otago regions of the South Island. Over a wonderful week, we will explore some of the best that New Zealand has to offer, rowing and otherwise.
We love the sampler style of this trip, since it shows off highlights of New Zealand and includes a diversity of rows. The format of the trip will be to travel by vehicle and row on different bodies of water, in one case trailering our boats to where there are no clubs. We will visit and stay in fascinating communities that exude a vibe which mingles outdoor adventure with sophisticated food and even 19th century gold-rush history. Mountains form the backdrop for rowing on Lake Wanaka and Lake Wakatipu. We will also enjoy lovely rowing near the vineyards of the Otago region. The Clutha River at Clyde, dammed to form Dunstan Lake, will offer further diversity on this New Zealand rowing tour. They say Cromwell is where the world’s best pinot noir is made.
Let’s be clear: New Zealand is a windy country. November is a time of season change and could be subjected to stronger winds. Or not. We might encounter glass water every day. Safety is important. If the conditions or forecast are not satisfactory, we will not row. But we have a wonderful alternative for each day. New Zealand is famous for its walking and hiking, called tramping if you are going longer distances. So, pack your hiking boots. If we don’t row, we hike. The choice of trails in each of our locations is excellent, all in the same spectacular scenery we were planning to row in. Yes, we love to row. But when you can’t row, the hiking is amazing.
Consider a longer trip in New Zealand! Spend a long weekend after this trip rowing Dunedin in Otago and see a different part of the beautiful South Island. There is a day in between these two trips – perfect chance to go to Milford Sound! Read our blog post on 5 Fave Thing to Do on the South Island New Zealand for inspiration.
Non-rowing companions welcomed. Contact us for details. Accommodation is expensive, which means a high single supplement. If you would like us to find you a roommate, we will do our best.
|Daily Distances||Boats||Max Group Size|
|15-35 km/day||Coxed quads and doubles||15 rowers|
Note that this is the first time this trip will be run, so it is somewhat experimental in nature. Plans could change. Wind conditions will be an important consideration – safety is a priority. Hikes will be substituted if rowing is not possible at any given location.
Welcome to New Zealand! The trip starts in Wanaka. The closest airport is Queenstown – we will assist you in arrangements to travel between the two. Settle into your lakeside apartment and relax by the pool or stretch your legs with a stroll along the shoreline path. We will discuss the plans for the next week over a wonderful welcome dinner, as we enjoy our first taste of the excellent food and beverages of New Zealand.
A morning row is the best way to begin the day. Launching from Roy’s Bay, we will row past the Wanaka tree, probably New Zealand’s most photographed tree, and possibly the only one with a Facebook page. Today’s destination is Glendhu Bay, at the southeast corner of Lake Wanaka. Our route takes us past Ruby Island, a popular picnic spot and home to native mountain ghekos and giant ground wetas (huge flightless cricket). The mountain and lake views are magnificent from this unspoilt part of the lake. After lunch we have many choices of activities, from dozens of possible hikes or perhaps a visit to a lavender farm, the famous Rippon vineyard or a chance to see the largest toy and transport collection in the southern hemisphere. Dinner on your own tonight – there are so many great choices.
For our second row on Lake Wanaka, we have options. If conditions permit, we may trailer the boats towards the northern end of the lake. Mount Aspiring National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site form an impressive backdrop to a row, heading southwards along the western edge of the lake. Alternately we could launch again from the club at Roys Bay, sculling past Beacon Point into Dublin Bay and the narrow inlet and bay formed by The Peninsula. Or we might be tempted to trailer the boats to Lake Hāwea, another stunning lake and part of the route that the Maori followed between the west coast and the centre of the island. We travel to Cromwell at the end of the day to check into our hotel at the edge of both the vineyards and the historic town. All the exercise and sightseeing will have worked up an excellent appetite for another great dinner.
The Otago region is known for its wines, but also it’s gold mining history. The landscape is strikingly different from that of the Alps around Wanaka – also beautiful in a stark, desert-like way. The construction of the Clyde Dam in 1992 flooded the historic town centre. However, many historic buildings were disassembled before the flooding, and reconstructed in the Cromwell Heritage Precinct, a pedestrian zone combining culture and commerce. The flooding created beautiful Lake Dunstan, where our rowing club is located and from where we will enjoy our morning row. Lunch will be at a local winery, where we can relax and enjoy the stunning views. We might work off the lunch with a walk on the 45th Parallel. This is the line marking the half-way point between the Equator and the South Pole – a rare chance, since much of the southern 45th Parallel is over open ocean. Dinner on your own tonight.
Between Cromwell and Clyde, the lake narrows, providing the feel of a river, and is called Dunstan Arm. This stretch of water is the location for an annual long distance rowing race – we will enjoy the water at a more leisurely pace. Clyde is described by Lonely Planet as a “more like a19th century gold rush film set than a real town”. An excellent walking tour showcases an impressive grouping of intact buildings dating from the 1860’s. In the afternoon we will drive through the gorges of the Kawarau River to arrive in Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu. We are back into mountain views, initially of the toothy Remarkables. Queenstown also used to be a goldrush town, but you would not know that today, with its buzzing bars and focus on adrenal and adventure activities. This is where bungy jumping took off. The advantage of a tourist town is an excellent selection of restaurants. We will give you recommendations for dinner on your own tonight.
In the morning we will drive the shore of Lake Wakatipu to its northern end and the charming town of Glenorchy. The scenery with the Alps in the background is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Many long-distance tramps begin here, and you can see why people want to immerse themselves in this landscape. Our rowing shells will follow us here, and conditions permitting, we will enjoy a final row, before a local lunch with spectacular views of the Southern Alps. A stop at Mrs. Woolly’s General Store is mandatory. Back in Queenstown we might opt to stroll the Queenstown Gardens on the peninsula that forms the Frankton Arm, or go for a vigorous hike to top of Queenstown Hill with its Basket of Dreams sculpture and terrific views. Tonight is our final, farewell dinner, a chance to review all the wonderful places that we have experienced.
It is time to leave, but with lots of wonderful memories of rowing and touring New Zealand. For those connecting to our weekend extension, we will advise you on travel plans and provide recommendations for the next day or so until we meet again for more New Zealand rowing!