Thursday 23 November 2017

South Island Vegan Road Trip - Part 2

This is part two of my South Island vegan road trip. if you haven't read part one yet you can catch up here.

After eating out quite a bit in Wanaka Nick and I cooked for ourselves most of the time in Queenstown. Accommodation was expensive and the hostel had a huge kitchen so it was a good way to even out our day to day costs. We made and ate veggie burgers, spaghetti with marinara sauce, tofu scrambles, and a lot of peanut butter toast. Simple easy meals that are perfect for busy hostel kitchens. We contemplated taking a trip to Doubtful Sound, most people use Queenstown as a jumping off point for that trip, but we'd heard so many stories about the mist making it impossible to see and it's not a cheap day trip so we decided to skip it. We'll head to Iceland one day to check out fjords when we're not travelling on a backpacking budget!

The one time we did eat out in Queenstown was when I spotted some pictures of Bespoke Kitchen's vegan breakfasts on Instagram. They looked amazing and I knew that we couldn't skip it so we went out for brunch on our last morning. We both ordered the pancakes and got a matcha latte and a green juice to share. We also couldn't resist grabbing a chocolate muffin topped with chia jam.

We'd read rave reviews of the pancakes online and they certainly didn't disappoint. These were some high end pancakes, thick and fluffy and topped with all sorts of deliciousness including poached spiced apples, coconut whipped cream, raspberry chia jam, seeds, and freeze dried berries with a mini jug of maple syrup on the side. I could have done without the seeds (I hate seeds!) but once I moved them to one side these tasted just as good as they looked. 

The matcha latte was also excellent, world class, and I'm pretty fussy about my matcha lattes. The chocolate muffin was delicious too, it was super chocolatey and soft on the inside but with a crunchy top. It was topped with their raspberry chia jam which I really loved, I hate chia in every other application (seeds. ugh.)but it was damed good here, I guess I just really like jam!

Dunedin was our next road trip destination and this was one of the longer drives we did on the south island. We set off super early and had Let Them Eat Vegan in our sights for lunch. Let Them Eat Vegan is a fantastic 100% vegan cafe run by two lovely vegan women who were super chatty and friendly. We ordered grilled cheese sandwiches and a couple of desserts and talked about food and travel and how rad Isa Chandra Moskowitz is and how brilliant all of her cookbooks are. It was fun!

The sandwiches were enormous! They each had a gigantic slab of melty cheese inside as well as thinly sliced ham and the bread was cut really thickly. They were delicious and so filling that we couldn't even make a dent in our desserts. This ridiculous PB&J Brownie Stack was fantastic much later in the day and the cookies were delicious the next morning.

Let Them Eat Vegan should definitely be on your must visit list because as well as sandwiches, pies, and desserts they sell their homemade cheeses and meats as well as a few other deli items. We bought a tub of tofu egg salad, a block of smoked gouda, and a package of deli ham slices which kept us in fun sandwich fillings until we got to Christchurch.

Modaks Espresso is a quirky cafe right on the high street and it's another must visit spot. Modaks isn't a vegan business but they have a lot of vegan options, far more than you'd expect from a non-veggie spot. Their huge range of cakes and treats kind of blew my mind, there were seriously about 10 cake flavours to choose from. In the end I went with the marble cake and a ginger nut latte. A solid breakfast!

The ginger latte was one of the best hot drinks I've ever tried, I loved it. I had a fantastic mug of steamed ginger soy milk at Vegan Heaven in Taipei and this brought those memories flooding right back. It even came with a vegan meringue kiss on the side. So fun! I'll be adding ginger lattes to the list of things I need to learn to make at home.

We also grabbed some food from a new vegan spot called Watson's Eatery which is located opposite a Lush store in a mall. The chocolate berry scroll we took away was fantastic but their avocado toast left a lot to be desired. The avocados were so raw that smooshed avo toast really shouldn't have been on the menu and I ended up leaving most of it and just eating the toast and tomatoes.

Next we drove up the coast to Omaru for the main thing we came over to this coast to see, penguins! Nick has always loved penguins and whilst we've been in Australia and NZ we've been taking any opportunity to see them that doesn't involve keeping them in captivity or harming other wildlife to keep them protected. We heard that a great place to spot a penguin was Bushy Beach so we drove there and then walked quietly down the path towards the beach.

As we turned a corner we saw a small group of people standing by a roped off area. Now you have to be really quiet and still if you don't want to freak out the penguins so we crept down to the fence and ducked down so that they wouldn't be able to see us. We were able to watch these two penguins just doing their thing for about 20 minutes and it was so amazing to see them from up close.

The next morning we explored Omaru which is famous for steampunk. That seemed super weird before we arrived but once we were there we realised that the whole steampunk vibe just totally fits with the surroundings in this town. The buildings downtown are victorian which I read was because back in the 60's or 70's the town didn't have much money so they couldn't afford to tear down the old buildings to build new ones so they stayed. We found a cafe with soya milk for hot drinks and then checked out Steampunk HQ.

This whole place is kind of a weird cool art installation but my favourite part was probably the least steampunk thing ever - A mirrored room filled with twinkly lights.

I loved it so much! The room got dark and played music and the lights changed colour, it lasted around three minutes and you can bet that I went round more than once. Do you think that I could build one of these in my house? Just the mirrors and the lights... It'd be so fun!

We'd actually contemplated skipping this whole leg of the journey but it turned out to be one of our favourite sections of our whole New Zealand road trip. Cute quirky towns, delicious food, gorgeous coastline, penguins, nice cafes, weird art. I'm so glad that we decided to make the drive.

The next place that we zipped off to in our Budget Hitch was Lake Tekapo because we had a star gazing adventure booked at Tekapo Springs.

I love looking up at the night sky and since being in New Zealand I'd developed a serious passion for hot pools so combining the two seemed like an amazing idea. The whole experience at Tekapo Stargazing was so relaxing and wonderful, we were able to walk there from our lakefront hostel and we were ushered up the driveway and into the warmth of the cosy dark sky reserve. The stargazing tour takes place outside on clear days and inside on cloudy days and we got lucky that the night we were there was clear to start with before the clouds blew in. We were given cosy blankets and gloves and then we headed outside where our guide introduced us to the night sky.

We learnt so much about the original Maori names and interpretations of the constellations as well as about how old the stars we see are. I'll be honest with you, I mostly wasn't paying attention at school, so a lot of it was new to me and I found it fascinating. I'll never look at the sky in quite the same way again. After this section of the tour you get changed and hop into the pool to stargaze some more. The fantastic guides are there to answer questions and to tell you more about the night sky which is such a lovely way to spend time. Sadly the clouds had well and truly covered the stars by this point in the evening but we still loved this part of the tour, they have these amazing floating hammocks so we just lay on those in the warm water chatting and learning more about the sky. It was such an amazing and relaxing adventure and I'd recommend it to anyone. You can book your ticket online here.

The next morning we were off on our way to the next adventure but I was definitely sad to be leaving Tekapo and the amazing hot pool behind. Luckily we were on our way up to Hanmer Springs for more hot pool fun. Our time at Hanmer Springs couldn't have been more different than our time relaxing at Tekapo Springs. Hanmer Springs is a huge complex and it has so many different pools to choose from that it's almost overwhelming. It's a very family friendly spot with slides and a big pool for kids to splash around in. My favourite pools were the hexagonal hot pools, the sulphur pools and the adult only hydrotherapy pools. It was a great place to get some relaxation in before bed but I probably wouldn't recommend a visit during the day because it's quite hot and busy - there isn't much shade and there are children running around everywhere which isn't the most relaxing thing. That said we were there during school holidays so maybe it's a little more chilled during a normal week.

Our final road trip stop before Christchurch was Kaikoura where we were on a mission to see seals in the wild. We weren't sure whether it would be difficult to see them or not but we knew that there was a great coastal walk there so we figured that we'd have something to do even if we didn't spot any seals. As soon as I saw this sign I knew that seeing seals was pretty likely!

The peninsula walkway is seriously gorgeous, it winds up the coastal path and then along near the edge of the rock face so that you get amazing views the whole way. It's a stunning walk but don't forget your suncream, there's no shade up there at all!

Seals, just like penguins, will get frightened if they're scared so you need to keep 5 - 10 metres away from them at all times. They will also get aggressive if they get freaked out so it's best to stick to this advice rather than get chased by an angry seal. There's a seal warden in the carpark keeping an eye on people which seemed totally necessary as people are terrible at following rules. There were plenty of tourists getting too close as well as parents just letting their kids walk off towards the seals on their own. The seals were so cute when they were just chilling and these sleepy seals made my day!

We absolutely loved visiting Kaikoura and would definitely recommend adding it to your South Island itinerary. It's not the easiest place to get at the moment to as the main road leading there from the north of the island is still closed because of earthquake damage so you have to take quite a long route to get there or take a trip up from Christchurch. If you combine Kaikoura with a trip to Hanmer for some hot pool action it's a really fun trip and the road should be fixed in early 2018.

This post was sponsored by Hitch Car Rentals, Tekapo Stargazing and Hanmer Springs. As always all words and opinions are my own. Posts like these help me to keep bringing you travel content from around the globe.


  1. You're bringing back some very fond memories - I loved Wanaka, and I loved Kaikoura, and I'm still very keen on anything hot springs. And all that good food! I'm not surprised it was a favourite bit of your trip.

  2. There is so much goodness in this post. Seals, penguins, star gazing hot pools, Let Them Eat Vegan... Making me want to go!

  3. LOVED seeing these photos! Especially the seal and penguins! Food options look great! And those lights!!!! WOW!!!

  4. I loved seeing the pictures and learning about Omaru. I love the piece outside of the steampunk HQ!
    It looks and sounds like you guys are enjoying both simple and tasty food which is awesome for you, and for showing that traveling while vegan is definitely possible!
    I love penguins so much! How amazing to see them up close like that! Heaven! And the seals sleeping I can't!!I'm so glad that they have a warden though because you are so right, people are the worst at following rules!

  5. What a sight- Those penguins are unreal! I can't even imagine encountering them in real life. I mean, that marble cake is also stunning, but those fellas really steal the show. Such an amazing trip.

  6. How exciting that must have been to see the penguins and seals! The pancake breakfast looks amazing, and the stargazing experience sounds super fun, too!


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