© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Discovering Southland’s Tuatapere

© NZPocketGuide.com

153 Days on the Road

Tuatapere is a town you can rely on when things don’t quite go to plan. Although we want to do part of the famous Humpridge Track today, the forecast for “The Hump” on the very southern end of the Fiordland National Park is meant to be NASTY AS. As you might be able to tell, we don’t end up doing the Humpridge Track today… Here’s why…

We are on the road in our massive campervan following signs to the “Hump Track”. When we get closer to our destination, the words: “6km on gravel road” are signposted. Ok, we don’t usually mind gravel roads too much, but when we are faced with one steep half mud half gravel road after another, we decide to do a 60-point-turn in the road. We do not want to tackle these roads once it starts raining…

Humpridge fail

Well, Humpridge was a fail. But all is not lost! Little do we know that Tuatapere offers many awesome alternatives other than the Humpridge Track, starting with Blue Cliff Beach.

Blue Cliff Beach just happens to be at the beginning of where the Humpridge gravel road gets gnarly. So we park up and head toward the sound of rolling waves. A short walk down the remains of a dirt road damaged by a storm, we emerge on the most pebble-filled beach we have ever laid eyes on! An array of smooth and colourful rocks lay before us with driftwood in the mix. Our first instinct is to hunt for greenstone thanks to the tips we picked up in Hokitika, but then we get more enamored with actually trying to walk straight. Walking on pebbles is really hard, guys!

Buzzing about Blue Cliff Beach

With waves pulling out stones on one side, the forest of the Fiordland National Park on the other side, and the view of a long piece of mountainous land stretching out to sea known as “The Hump” slowly getting engulfed in rain clouds, we have to be honest, we are pretty happy with our short walk today.

After our Blue Cliff Beach wonder, we head back into the town of Tuatapere. When driving around, we have noticed a few quirky buildings knocking around that we are intrigued by, so we park the camper back up at the Tuatapere Backpackers and go out to discover the town.

Bushman Museum

First up, we notice the Bushman’s Museum, which Robin is totally drawn to. His dream is to be a New Zealand bushman. (That might take him a while considering he is just a bushy Frenchman). The museum, with entry upon a gold coin donation, is full of bushman relics: saws, axes, logging trains… All the tools used for working and surviving in the New Zealand wilderness.

The unnamed gardens of Tuatapere

From the Bushman Museum, we cross a bridge over a small stream and start walking in what shall be known as the “unnamed gardens”. Next thing we know, we are wandering among native flax bushes and the odd colourful exotic flowers attracting humans and bees alike.

The cool and quirky Yesteryears Cafe!

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Yesteryears Museum and Cafe

A small loop track brings us back across the bridge with the Yesteryears Museum and Cafe in plain sight. Two vintage strollers, some cartwheels, barrels, and a “Real Food” sign stands outside the cafe. How can we refuse “real food”?

We walk into this room full of vintage goodness! Music plays from a record player. All the old-fashioned home-wear you could ever imagine fills shelves, cabinets and hangs from the ceiling. In the middle of the room is an old oven decorated with teapots, cups and pipes. It reminds us of a grandmother’s house – and a clean grandmother at that. With all these old goodies you’d expect to find a bit of dust, but no! You can really tell this is a cafe and museum made with love!

And that’s not all that’s made with love… The cafe sells all homemade food! Pies, sandwiches, and most importantly, cake!

“Best pavlova in New Zealand”

“Oh my God, you have pavlova!” Robin tactfully shouts at Helen, the cafe owner who can barely understand his French drawl. Despite pavlova being a classic New Zealand, it’s actually so hard to find a cafe that serves pavlova! We also opt for a “Wicked Chocolate Brownie” with coffee and hot chocolate.

Wow, these cakes kick butt! We have to admit that this is the best pavlova and brownie we have tried in New Zealand. We don’t want this stuffing-our-face experience to end!

Laura even admits under her breath: “I feel like I am betraying myself by saying this but I am so happy to be eating a cake right now rather than going for a hike.” *Gasp* how could you, Laura?! You have been shunned from the backpacker’s guild!

Getting the recipe

After Helen and her co-worker Carole joins us for cake, Helen opens up her recipe book, which itself is homemade! She flicks through the cardboard pages tied together with a shoestring to share the brownie recipe with us. Guess what we are going to be baking every week when this trip is over?

Drinking with locals

From one local digs to the next, our Tuatapere crawl is now taking us over to Highway 99 Bar for a cider with the landlord, Murray, an awesome Dutch girl called Natalie, and a few more locals. Well, one cider leads to another cider then another and then one more… and one last one before having some bar food.

Amongst the banterful conversations, we learn about Tuatapere’s deer mating calling competitions, eating Tuatapere sausages in the “Sausage Capital of New Zealand“, the locals make fun of Murray, and Murray makes fun of Robin… We feel like we fit in already!

Rounding up an awesome day in Tuatapere

Like we said, Tuatapere is a town you can rely on when things don’t quite go to plan… And that’s because the locals are extremely welcoming and there’s exceptional cake to be eaten.

What’s more, Murray and Natalie are joining us on a jet boating experience from Lake Hauroko tomorrow. As we are going to be car pooling with them, we spend about an hour settling on a time to set off from the Tuatapere Backpackers. (Robin thinks it takes 1h20min to drive there, whereas Murray insists he will be able to get us there in 30 minutes). So join us tomorrow to see if we make it on time!

Blue Cliffs Beach from New Heights!

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See you tomorrow!