Waiharakeke is the name for Blenheim and we have decided to do an overnight mid winter trip on the Coastal Pacific Train and take our ebikes.
Loading our bikes on the train in Christchurch at 6.30am in the middle of winter was a stretch for this normally late riser. (You can leave your car at the station for free) But it was worth it.
I dozed a little until the sun came up, but then it was a mesmerizing trip closely following the east coast. As we approach Kaikoura the snow covered mountains reach down to the sea – we scan the ocean for signs of the resident dolphins and we start to spot NZ fur seals basking on the rocks.
Just after midnight on 14 November 2016 we were in Christchurch staying at at sea level, when we were woken by a sizeable earthquake. We are pretty used to them, but it went on and on. Aware of the danger of Tsunami we packed some things and drove up the hill out of harm’s way. The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake was indeed a biggee – closing the road and rail link to Picton entirely for months.
From the train as we scan the rocks at sea level, we can see where some rock platforms were entirely lifted out of the sea, and are now dry land. The Paua shellfish industry was devastated and a huge rescue operation evolved with people travelling to the area to return Paua, which were previously underwater, to their ocean habitat.
The Coastal Pacific is one of New Zealand’s 4 Great Journeys travelling between Christchurch and Picton where it joins the InterIslander Ferry to Wellington, another of the Great Journeys. On the journey we see untouched South Island eastern coastlines, some native bush, charming coastal towns and dramatic seascapes, not to mention the snow covered Kaikoura ranges.
Cycling in Blenheim/Waiharakeke Taylor River Trail
It is raining a bit, but I decide it is now or never and head for the Taylor River trail up to the Dam – about 5kms mostly easy riding (apart from the rain!) The Dam was built primarily to provide a flood control for the town of Blenheim which was previously pretty much a swamp. It’s Maori name Waiharakeke says it all.
A good wide concrete trail goes half the distance, before becoming a bit rougher and eventually becoming a farm track through vineyards.
This would be beautiful in another season. Today the vines stand naked, awaiting their winter prune before they quietly wait for spring.
This ride is part of a few multi day cycle trails – the Molesworth Muster Trail and The Rainbow Trail
Highlights of our Blenheim trip
We stay at The Chateau in Blenheim where we are upgraded to a smarter room, and given a $20 voucher towards dinner if we eat there. Some great kiwi discounts at present with overseas visitors still locked out of visiting over COVID. Dinner was great btw!
We loved our bunch at Herb and Olive in High St – recommended by trip advisor and I can see why. This is the sort of place that would be my ‘local’ if I lived here. Friendly, fabulous Super French toast, great coffee, fresh local ingredients.
We cycled out of town the Saint Clair Family Estate Winery – book in if you do not want to be disappointed, this is popular. Great for a special treatl.
Saint Claire Family Estate Herb and Olive – great brunch stop
On the Coastal Pacific Train
- No wifi, but good coffee and great wishbone food
- Great views
- Can only take 2 bikes (maybe more next year!)
- Beautiful seal spotting along the Kaikoura coast
- head inland to wine country – the Awatere and Wairau valleys
- Through the middle of Lake Grassmere we get a unique view of the salt pans where NZ salt is extracted.