Devils Punchbowl Waterfall Walk – Arthur’s Pass Village

Don’t you just wonder sometimes where these lovely names come from or who thinks them up – Devils Punchbowl – a little bit bizzare.  The name is where the bizzare stops though, this is one hell of a waterfall – hey, there it is maybe – devil, hell – maybe…..

devils punchbowl waterfall and beech foresst

Anyway the Devils Punchbowl waterfall is on the edge of the Arthur’s Pass village in the Arthur’s Pass National Park.  As you enter the village from the West you can see her tumbling down the mountain.

devils punchbowl waterfall

We were lucky enough to be here on a gorgeous day but after some rain so there was certainly a good fall of water to be seen.

view of devils punchbowl waterfall from picnic lookout

It is a lovely walk across the valley, crossing two creeks via bridges to get a great ground level vantage point of the waterfall.  For some this is as far as they go and it can be enough when short of time as you at least can see the scope of the waterfall from down here and it actually gives you a really nice perspective.  There is a gorgeous little sitting area so you can relax and take it all in.

tree top walkway devils punchbowl waterfall walk

If you have more time available though, it is definitely worth continuing on up through the bush to the base of the waterfall.  The bush walk alone is worth it – like a tree top walk with wooden stairs leading you up through the forest and high into the canopy of the trees.

climbing the stairs devils punchbowl walk

The smell is gorgeous – something about the smell of a beech forest.  Don’t worry, you will be stopping to catch your breath – oh I mean to enjoy your surroundings and take it all in……. lots and lots and lots of stairs!

spray from devils punchbowl waterfall

You are soon well rewarded for the effort though as all of a sudden there she is in all her glory – the Devils Punchbowl waterfall.  Now even though  it was a beautiful day, being at the base of the waterfall was like standing in a rain shower, so very hard to photograph without trashing your camera gear.  I’d definitely recommend wearing your rain jacket – we got soaked.  Thank goodness for hiking clothing, quickly dried out.  We tried hard to get some photos – each time there was a lull in the wind but just when you thought you were safe, another spray would hit you – it was actually kinda fun.

views of creek and waterfall devils punchbowl

Meandering our way back down – lovely having time on our side and not having to be anywhere – we took a little detour to the side where you could sit practically in the water fully emmersed amongst nature.  Very serene and peaceful. Just in case you are wondering re the beanie – no it wasn’t a cold day, I just got wet at the waterfall so was keeping my head warm!

Devils punchbowl waterfall bush walk

Back down through the bushline – back down all those stairs.  You’d think it would be easy but Stephen and I passed comment to each other on the rather large gap between each step.  I figured it was to ensure you went slow and took in your surroundings – sounded plausible anyway and seemed to be working for us.

bridge to start of climb devils punchbowl waterfall

One last stop back on the bridge to admire the view.  Something about waterfalls and native bush – just can’t get enough of it.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Rated #1 on Tripadvisor for the area, they enjoy getting out and about exploring the many wonders that make up this beautiful region – named one of the top ten regions to visit in the world by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel. 



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A Ride in the High Country – Hogs Back Track

It is always nice to get out and explore new terrain and this is one of those adventures. With a weekend away to Arthur’s Pass and childless (no dogs) we used the opportunity to discover some new mountain bike trails and hikes. Hikes to follow later….

High country views Craigieburn Forest Park

Our latest ride is in the high country, on the drive across Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch in an area called Craigieburn Forest Park. This is pretty much ski field country but in the warmer months there is a great back country track up in the mountains of the Craigieburn and Broken River ski fields.

Thanks to a very dedicated group of volunteers predominately from the Canterbury mountain bike club and Castle Hill community and with the generous help of Ground Effect Clothing Company a new network of trails have been built to link the Park tracks with the small village of Castle Hill.

views to castle hill rocks Hogs back track

After seeing postings on Facebook showing the progress of the trail and reading of their efforts we thought we’d use this opportunity of checking the new trail out. Hogs Back – here we come.

Parking up in the Castle Hill village – basically at the end of the road our day’s adventure began. We didn’t really know what to expect, both of us for some reason under the impression that this was a bit of a flat valley ride – a ride for the family.

climbing the high country hogs back mtb track

hogs back mtb track castle hill

Oh dear how wrong we were. Heading into the beach forest, the trail immediately started climbing – that was pretty much us now for the next two hours. I’m the first to admit, this hurt. I biked where I could but found myself walking more of the first section than I was biking. I could see if this continued it was going to be long day for me out “with” my bike.  The trail sign said intermediate – technical wise yes, fitness wise – rather large question mark.

tussock land hogs back mtb track

Soon we came out of the bush-line and onto tussock land. Stephen made the comment “this should be pretty much flat riding from now on” …….. mmmm famous last words.  We met three lovely ladies hiking in the hills who I only just found out after the fact, made the comment “oh you guys are keen”.  Stephen thought they meant the climb we had just done – turned out they meant the continual climbing we were about to do.

high country mtb ride hogs back track

high country riding hogs back track

The trail gently continued to climb at a slight gradient up, up and up – with orange marker posts our calling points which in some respects was actually more demoralising as you could see them off in the distance – or more like up in the distance. 

hogs back mtb track to the river bed

Eventually we came to some downhill as the track dropped off the ridgeline and down across a river bed flat and into the bush again.  Again climbing ever so gently – enough to know you were working.

in the forest hogs back mtb track

The sections in the bush were good fun, ducking and weaving between the beach trees.  I often think the NZ Rimu is my favourite of our native trees until I’m in a beech forest and then I think no it is the beech tree. This is predominately mountain beech covered in a black lichen.  I think it is beautiful and the smell is gorgeous too.

views down Craigieburn Forest Park Castle Hill

Out of the forest and along another river bed, out again and up again and along again…. you get my drift.  I have to say though the countryside sure is beautiful and since we were going so darn slow we had plenty of time to take in the views and appreciate our surroundings.  Often we could see the Cheeseman ski field access road down below, meandering its way up the valley to the mountain.

views back towards castle hill and the track we just rode hogs back

After a stop at the Picnic Rock lookout – where we could see most of the trail we had just ridden, including the hill climb we would have to do to get back out, we had a final couple of knobs to go up and down before it seemed we started the decent to the ski field access road.  We could see some other bikers climbing up and thought it really wasn’t necessary for us to stand at the sign at the end saying we’d made it, when we could see it from here and would only have to climb back up again – we’d both had enough climbing by now.

hogs back track craigieburn forest park

I say enough climbing, there was still the knobs to be done again this time in reverse but they actually seemed easier riding in reverse.  Perhaps it was just the mental knowledge of knowing the real climbing was finally over.

picnic rock lookout hogs back mtb track

Back at the Picnic Rock lookout we decided to wait for the other riders and let them go past us.  They soon rounded the corner so we were able to have a quick chat.  We thought they must have come over from the Craigieburn Forest Park and been on a mission but no – they were doing the same trail as us but just one way – downhill.  Turns out they biked from the village, along the main highway, up the access road with the little climb we saw them on to now have some extreme downhill fun.  Thanks for telling us guys – we know for next time!

climbing hogs back track castle hill

high country scenes hogs back mtb track

So down we went – and it was fun.  What took us around 2 hours to ride up – and that did of course include lots of stops for photos….. it did…….. took us, ready for it – 20 minutes to bike back out.  Yes 20 minutes and that included the climb from the river bed back up to the tussock!  The final section down through the bush from where we met the ladies way back at the start of our day was steep – fun but steep.  No wonder I couldn’t bike up it or most of it anyway.  I didn’t feel so bad after going down it.

weird tree hogs back mtb track

Mission complete and all in all a good day out in the saddle.  Note for self though – if want a challenge do the ride in and out, if just want some fun, ride the access road and out.  Moaned as I did at times, and as hard as it was to breathe sometimes, it was a great ride in some amazing back country, in this land we call GodZone.  We sure are lucky to have it and I’m glad we did it as an in and out.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring and sharing their discoveries and adventures.

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Greymouth – 150 years in the town with a Heart of Gold

The celebrations continue in Greymouth, celebrating 150 years.  The latest celebration was also in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness – the inaugural Mackay Street Mile.

mackay street mile men in heels entrants greymouth

Held in the main street of “downtown” (big word for a little town) Greymouth in conjunction with a buskers festival and stalls to help draw the crowd.

greymouth mackay street mile kids race

kids race mackay street mile greymouth

First up the children’s race.  Lot of heart in this race and some of our future marathon runners in the making I think.

warm up men in heels mackay street mile greymouth

Next up the “men in heels” race.  Not the mile race like the others, a shortened version – we didn’t want anyone breaking their necks!  Some dodgy looking characters turned up for this event…….. but heaps of fun and hilarity.

men in heels mackay street mile greymouth

The warm up was almost funnier than the actual race.

men in heels race mackay street mile greymouth

mackay street mile men in heels race greymouth

mackay street mile race men in heels greymouth

Soon they were off though – without too much argie-bargie – but they sure were taking it serious.  Quite the honor to be crowned the inaugural men in heels winner!

mackay street mile 150 year celebration greymouth

mackay street mile greymouth

Finally the main event – the actual Mackay Street Mile and again some serious competitors in this race.

main race mackay street mile greymouth 150 year celebrations

They were off – racing past the spectators and by the second lap it looked to be a race between three main contenders.

mackay street mile race greymouth

The eventual winner came up from behind though with a last dash for the line – well more like last 50 metre dash and won easily.  Well done to all the competitors and organisers for this fantastic event.  Hoping it will become an annual event as it can only get bigger and better.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about, supporting local events and sharing this lovely region they get to call home.  Named by Lonely Planets Best in Travel as one of the best regions in the world to visit – come see why.

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Pancake Rocks and Blowholes – a Rock n Roll Day in Punakaiki

With a full moon of late and wonderfully huge swells and tides we headed up to Punakaiki to check out the blowhole action at the Pancake Rock walk.

pancake rocks punakaiki

It was a drizzly start to the morning but not particularly cold so armed with our rain jackets and just a little bit of camera equipment (!!??) we headed off on the walk around the rocks.

We were pretty sure we were going to be slightly too late for any real blowhole action as we couldn’t get away from home until right on high tide and the best time for blowhole action is usually about 1 hour before high tide as you need the pressure of the surf to be pushing the swell in.

surging waters pancake rock walk punakaiki

Well as it turns out, it didn’t matter.  The swell was good enough and big enough that even on full tide and outgoing tide there was still plenty of rock n roll action happening.

chimney pot pancake rocks walk punakaiki

chimney pot blowhole pancake rock walk

Chimney pot blowhole was working the best I’ve ever seen it perform.  Luckily the wind was blowing back out to the sea otherwise those coming across the bridge would have got soaked – bit of a shame really  ha-ha.

surge pool pancake rock walk punakaikki

surge pool punakaiki pancake rocks

Then there is the surge pool – talk about mesmerizing, felt like could stand and watch this for hours.  It was awesome – the power of the surf is a wonderful thing and I’m just glad to be watching from above.  It seems like you’re watching the inside of a washing machine – our poor clothes, they do take quite the tumble! Not to name names at all but someone with a camera was very taken with it……

blowholes pancake rock walk punakaiki

punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes

Then it was round to the main event.  It was a matter of just biding our time to get the right swell come through to push the water out for this blowhole action.  Definitely worth waiting for.  I was hooting and hollering at the spectacle but others seemed more content with just watching – boring!

monsters lookout pancake rock walk

surging water monsters lookout pancake rock walk

The pancake rock walk is a lovely walk in its own right out around the rocks and cliffs taking you on a nice loop.  The blowholes are to the south and then around to the north you have what I call the Monster lookout.  A rocky outcrop with shapes in the rocks resembling monsters and other creatures – if you look hard enough and use your imagination.  Mine can be quite warped so I really enjoy this spot.  Great for capturing the pounding surf as it breaks against the rocks too.

punakaiki coastline pancake rock walk

It may have been a bit of a grey old day but I always advise our guests that for the blowholes to be working in all their glory it can be a weather trade-off.  If you have bright sunny skies chances are you’ll also have calmer seas and not much of a swell.  There is always a positive spin to stormy or rainy weather – it is just weather at the end of the day, you don’t melt and as one of our guests once said to me “no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing” so don’t let the weather stop you getting out and enjoying the sights – you never know what you might be missing otherwise.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  The Great Coast Road has been named one of the top ten coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet with the West Coast named as a top 10 region to visit in the world by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel.

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Greymouth Sunset and Night Lights

Climb every mountain, swim every sea…..

walking substation walk greymouth

ok so maybe not but sounds good.  As good as our sunsets are here at Breakers, we decided to head into town to capture the sunset over Greymouth.  That did mean a little hill climb to get up behind Greymouth where we could get uninterrupted views of the town.

southern alps views from sub station greymouth

Not just the town actually, we could see all the way down to the south following the curve of the land meeting the Tasman Sea with fantastic views of the Southern Alps including Mt Cook.

views of Greymouth

We headed up the hill – a gravel 4WD road behind the Greymouth substation and then a grassy dirt track that lead to a nice grassy knoll for our views.

watching sunset over Greymouth

It was very peaceful sitting up here – feeling like we were on top of the world and could let all our worries drift out to sea.  Bit philosophical – maybe, it was very serene though.

sunset over greymouth

sunset over greymouth from sub station walk

Unfortunately the sunset turned into a bit of a fizzer – well actually everyone seemed to light their fires creating a haze over the township so we made our way back down before it got too dark, although we were well prepared for a change with flashlights and headlamps but they weren’t needed.

night view of Greymouth

With the change in daylight saving it did mean it was later than anticipated and with tummy bugs rumbling we decided to get take out for dinner.  Stephen dropped me off to order and while I waited for our dinner he drove around Greymouth to see if he could capture the night lights.  Turns out that was the right thing to do and he got the best photos of our entire outing.

Geymouth at night

Greymouth by the street lights – very pretty.

oh and dinner was delicious too – just in case you were wondering tee-hee (if you follow us you’ll know eating is a very important part of my day…….).

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the region and sharing their adventures.  West Coast of the Southern Alps - easy to see why it was named by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel as one of the top 10 regions to visit in the world.

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Cape Foulwind Walkway – a Cliff-top Coastal Beauty

carpark and cliff tops cape foulwind walkway

To break up the drive home from our recent trip away to Karamea we had a night at Cape Foulwind just outside of Westport.  This is a gorgeous seaside community perched on the cliff-top high above the Tasman Sea complete with local pub and super friendly locals.

star tavern cape foulwind

We headed down to the Star Tavern for dinner and were met by publican Derek – literally “hi I’m Derek”, shakes our hand and then asks what he can get us.  Then he introduces us to anyone that happens to be standing at the bar and we are embraced as part of the community. Talk about welcoming and knowing the meaning of hospitality!  Our meal was just as good as the hospitality and set us up well for the night after our long day.

cape foulwind walkway

Next morning we awaken to clear sunny skies. The Cape Foulwind walkway is just along the road and it is something we’ve always wanted to do but with usually having the dogs with us we haven’t had the opportunity.  This trip we are “childless” so head out for a morning stroll.  I say stroll given that there is a photographer amongst us and I know there will be lots of stopping……..

cape foulwind walkway towards headland

The Cape Foulwind walkway is a cliff-top coastal walk approximately 2.9kms long, winding its way around the headland to Tauranga Bay and a seal colony. It is a well-formed undulating trail passing the edge of rolling farmland on one side and steep granite bluffs with sandy beaches on the other side.

It is a rugged coastline with fabulous rock stacks and steeples out at sea and lots of bird life and crashing waves.

lighthouse cape foulwind

The Cape Foulwind end of the trail starts at the lighthouse and that is where our journey begins. While it is called the lighthouse walk you don’t actually go up to the lighthouse for the views – more right past it.  The lighthouse sits up on a grassy knoll and the track is slightly below.  The trail is beautiful, winding its way along the cliff edge.  We see some horses off in the distance and the trail leads us directly to them.  Not a bad view while you munch grass and loll about in the sunshine!

cape foulwind walkway and farmland

horses enjoying views cape foulwind walkway

The views are magnificent – out to the rock formations and the headlands of the point. We slowly meander our way along towards the Tauranga Bay end.  Such a gorgeous day for a walk – blue skies and sunshine and given that is it the start of September it is surprisingly warm almost to the point of hot.

cape foulwind walkway towards tauranga bay

We pretty much have the track to ourselves for the first half hour and then a couple of runners pass us by.

tauranga bay end cape foulwind walkway

Tauranga Bay seal colony viewing platform

rocks and seals tauranga bay

Eventually we reach the Tauranga Bay end and the viewing platforms for the seal colony.  There is a gorgeous couple here trying to take a photo of themselves without success so I offer to help them out.  Then we all just watch in wonderment at the waves crashing in on the rocks and the seals basking  in the sunshine oblivious to the show going on around them and the pups playing in the surf.

cape foulwind walkway towards lighthouse

Time to head back as we still have the drive home to see our “pups” who will be waiting patiently at home for us.  We meet some more walkers and another runner on our return journey.  It is nice to see people out enjoying the sunshine.

headland cape foulwind walkway

Cape Foulwind lighthouse and Tauranga Bay Seal Colony are two places I recommend to our guests for stopping when traveling along the Great Coast Road, as you can do both ends without doing the whole walk.  If you have time though I would definitely recommend doing the whole walkway.

For us though it is a quick drive into Westport for a grocery shop and perhaps a stop at the bakery and then time to hit the road. I can almost hear our puppies from here……..

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders that help make up the West Coast of the Southern Alps named one of the top ten regions to visit in the world by Lonely Planet.

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Magic in the Mountains – Mt George for the Sunset and Stars

sunset Great Coast Road Greymouth

Yie yie yie.

There are times in one’s life when you just can’t describe the experience it is so magical.  This is one of those life experiences.

sunsetting Mt George Greymouth

Stephen and I headed off on a trip of a lifetime.  No not an overseas holiday somewhere.  I’ve been told by friends there is no need when you already live in paradise and I’m starting to believe them.

sun down Great Coast Road Mt George Greymouth

Best thing about this trip of a lifetime – it’s in our own backyard and we can do it whenever we like.

climbing mt george

In a recent blog I mentioned “watch this space” for a sunset walk up Mt George.  Well we did it.  Backpacks loaded with warm clothing, food, lights for the hike back down and plenty of camera gear. Off we headed.

Mt George on sun down Great Coast Road Greymouth

Even though we’ve done this hike before and quite recently at that,  it was like a whole new hike.  Normally we’re heading up the mountain with the sun in our eyes but doing the walk late afternoon we had the sun at our back and it really highlighted the trail.  The colours were amazing with golden hues streaming through.

Mt George for sunset Greymouth

We’ve always known when hiking up Mt George that we were climbing a ridgeline with steep drop-offs but with the sun in your eyes you don’t really notice it.  Well it is a whole new ball game with the sun at your back….. ridgeline yes indeed, steep drop-offs yikes!  Don’t get your footing wrong – this is unforgiving terrain.

Mt George sunset Great Coast Road

sunset skies Great Coast Road from Mt George Greymouth

All good though the views more than make up for it. We reach the top and settle down to watch the sun set.  Let the lighting show begin.  Wow – the horizon was just a layer of colours – blue from the sea, going into orange, pink, yellow, green and shades of blue high  into the sky.  It was amazing and a sight to behold. Talk about feeling blessed.

starry skies Mt George Greymouth

It is surprising how once the sun sets how light it still is as your eyes adjust and the stars start to make their appearance.

star lit skies Mt George Greymouth

Carefully we make our way down to the next ledge to set up camp for our star-gazing. Set up camp…. yeah right, I just lay on the ground with my nice warm puffer jacket and Stephen’s puffer jacket over my legs – snug and cosy.  Stephen had another puffer jacket on but he was keeping himself warm with his photography. Then we just sat and watched and soaked up the views for a bit.

star lit skies

I’d made some sushi for the trip since we knew we were going to be up here for a while. So we enjoyed our dinner with the most magic of views and star lit skies. Almost sounds romantic doesn’t it.

starlit skies Great Coast Road Greymouth

Time to sit back and watch the show. More and more stars popped out. Satellites zoomed above us and there were even a couple of late night flights – no doubt filled with people heading off for their great adventure while ours was happening right here in front of us.  We both saw a couple of shooting stars one of which Stephen managed to capture with the camera.

starry skies Great Coast Road Greymouth

Time is marching on and as much as we’d like to stay up here we do have to make our way down in the dark with just the aid of our mountain bike night lights and knowing how steep the trail is with those lovely drop-offs we’re guessing it is going to be a slow and careful trip down so have to get going.

Actually there was no need for apprehension for the hike down, turned out to be one of the easiest trips down the mountain with our lights highlighting the trail brilliantly and we were back down safe and sound before we knew it.

To say our sunset/star lit trip was mind-blowing well I’m so not exaggerating here.  This really was a lifetime experience and the best thing is I got to experience it with my best friend – my hubby.

With a full moon due soon I’m thinking of a new challenge…… Mt George in the moonlight…… mmmmmm

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring this lovely region and showing the many wonders that help make it one of the reasons Lonely Planet named the West Coast one of the top ten regions in the World to visit.

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