Cruise day 29 – Feb 2
We pulled into the bay of this mountainous seaside city around 7:30am and set anchor. This is the New Zealand we remembered from our honeymoon cruise in 2006 – gorgeous mountains surrounding small towns spread around a massive crater that created the terrain millions of years ago. Last time we had stopped at bustling Christchurch up the coast about an hour and a half by road, and coming to a quiet and charming new place this time was fine with us.
With a busy day ahead, we first took the optional “Harbor Cruise” excursion followed by the included “Dramatic Coastlines Along the Banks Peninsula” bus tour. It was an unseasonably hot day in the ’90s, but we enjoyed both tours and spending some time in this beautiful place.
Harbor Cruise Excursion –
We tendered ashore for our first adventure, a catamaran cruise out of the harbor and along a mountainous shoreline, ending at some caves where we explored rock formations that created the area. At the caves we were told that we’d likely see some Hector’s dolphins, but so far we were dolphin-less. There was also a chance of seeing Blue Penguins, the smallest of the species that have been sighted here on occasion. We’d never seen a penguin in the wild before!
We departed the caves and began crossing the bay toward cliffs on the other side of the entrance to the Pacific Ocean. In a few minutes we saw several cute little dolphins jumping out of the water and heading right toward us. Everyone was super-excited as they circled the boat several times. Very cool!
We continued across the bay, and I could swear I saw a Blue Penguin in the water. We went by too quickly for a picture, but when I compared it to a stuffed one they had on the boat it was a match. Oh well, no picture, no proof! I’ll always wonder though…
While I was busy searching for the seals that looked like rocks until they moved, Mona Liza captured gulls fighting over a fish, which ended up getting away:
Our final stop on this fun tour was at the base of a large rock face protruding from the water, another part of the volcano’s gigantic rim. There we saw many fur seals along the coast, doing what seals do – swimming, sunning, just taking it easy. I decided right then that I want to be a fur seal in my next life.
Dramatic Coastlines Along the Banks Peninsula –
This excursion was a winner as well. The bus ride over the incredibly steep and beautiful mountains to the tiny town of Little River was full of expansive views of the entire area, again showing the outline of the massive volcanic rim that formed this place. We spent 40 minutes walking around the tiny town.
We really enjoyed our quick stop at this charming little town, and realized we’re now in the heart of New Zealand’s natural wilderness area.