Geraldine to Queenstown in autumn

This week has been frustrating, particularly the last few days.

It’s been one of those weeks when you start making dinner, reach into the cupboard for potatoes, and find that the potatoes you bought only a week ago have gone from looking fine and fresh to being rotten potato soup which has seeped throughout your entire cupboard and gotten all over everything.

I just sighed, took a deep breath, and remembered last week.

Last Saturday I drove from Geraldine to Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand.  For once I had the luxury of a car to myself, and enough time to stop whenever I felt like it to photograph the scenery.

Geraldine to Queenstown

The South Island is often said to have the best scenery in New Zealand, a country noted for its remarkably beautiful scenery, and autumn is a particularly fine time in the South Island.  Wellington doesn’t have enough deciduous trees to make autumn anything but damp and unpleasant, but down south the poplars were turning golden yellow in long rows, sycamores were beginning to fade from green to dun, willows drooped pale ochre, and the occasional maple was a splash of red.

Roadside fields near Geraldine, Canturbury, New Zealand

Around Geraldine, the land is bucolic, pastoral, farmland, and flat.  Plowed fields stretch to the horizon, broken only by stands of trees trimmed into rectangular windbreaks.  Huge circular irrigators turn slowly in the fields, trying to keep the crops alive in the nationwide drought we have had this summer.

Shed and fields near Geraldine, Canterbury, New Zealand

As I head inland past Fairlie, into the MacKenzie district the landscape changes.  Flat gives way to gently rolling foothills, flat pastureland to sheep and cows and the occasional pine forest.

The foothills of the Southern Alps

Deeper into MacKenzie, the green fades to overall dun, the lush pastures give way to sparse hills, too rough for cows, but perfect for the merino sheep that give New Zealand such beautiful wool.

Lupines, Mackenzie District, New Zealand

In the Burkes Pass end of summer lupines fringe the road in shades of lavender and pink and the sky stretches in purest azure to the distant Southern Alps, the backbone of the South Island.

Road stretching away, Mackenzie District, South Island, New Zealand

The gold hills cradle lakes of impossible blue with exclamation points of craggy mountains at their far end and names like Tekapo and Pukaki.  Further on, mirror-like ponds reflect brilliant vermillion rose hips, and families of swans and ducks.

Ponds and rose-hips near Twizel, South Island New Zealand

Every piece of ground reveals an autumn surprise: one last flower, bell-like grass sheaves, or a fall puffball.

Puffball mushroom, Twizel, South Island, New Zealand

Past Twizel you leave Mackenzie District and the Canterbury, and head into West Otago, the land of craggy mountains, icy rivers, and frigid lakes.

Pond near Twizel, South Island, New Zealand

The land is wild, the road deserted, the air crisp and full of the promise of mountains and approaching winter.

Skies and road, Omarama, South Island, New Zealand

I drive through Omarama, ‘Place of Light’, a commentary on the crystal blue dome of sky that stretches above it, and climb high into the Lindis Pass, stopping to look back at the hills, green and gold and dun and indigo, and the winding road I’ve driven.

Lindis Pass, South Island, New Zealand

Then the road plunges onward, through narrow ravines edged with sheer rock cliffs.  The road is spotted with signs that warn of falling rock, and fines for stopping.  There is relative civilization and tranquility at Cromwell, where orchards grow stone fruit and pip fruit, and the town commemorates these orchards with enormous fruit sculptures.

After Cromwell the drive becomes trickier, and the narrow winding road skirts sheer gullies that rise steeply on one side and drop away on the other.  Far below brilliant turquoise rivers plunge in froths of whitewater over sharp rocks, hurrying to join the lake a Queenstown.

Turquoise rivers, South Island, New Zealand

I am in no hurry, and stop to enjoy the turning leaves, and the hardy adventurers who flock to Queenstown to test their nerves on bungy jumps and whitewater rafting, and paddleboarding in ice cold rivers.

River boarding near Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

Finally, like the river, I move on, to Queenstown and the blue lake there, in the shadow of the truly remarkable Remarkables.

The Remarkables, Queenstown, New Zealand

I hope you enjoyed the drive.


  1. Yes, I enjoyed the drive very much. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the beautiful weather.
    We’re still having temperatures just enough above zero for the weather to be completely dull and frustrating and TOTALLY NOT A SPRING, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. And I’ve had one of those weeks, too, starting with being violently sick on Saturday, going through not going to church on Easter Sunday and not being able to do half of what I’d wanted to do and sewing much less than I’d wanted to sew (aaargh!), and culminating in my computer finally dying on me today. (Thankfully, father’s had a new one in the works for me for a long time, so now I’m posting from my new, so much faster computer.)
    Hopefully, it’ll get better now, and I think I will finally have something for the Historical Sew Fortnightly, too, which is the main point of my rant. 😀

    So it’s great to see some natural beauty. Oh, so great, oh, glorious rosehips. Thank you for the ride.

    • You’re welcome!

      Sorry to hear you have also had a hard week (much worse than mine, actually, from the sound of it). Hope you feel better soon and that you are able to do something for the HSF.

      The rosehips made me particularly happy too 🙂

      • I do feel better already. I got kind of carried away, mostly because the weather is really frustrating, and because the way I missed out on several HSF challenges without noticing is also frustrating. 😀 But for the accessories, I am a bit ahead of myself, so hoorray! just some finishing touches.

      • I keep forgetting to write what I want to – if The Remarkables really run fron North to South, they truly are remarkable, even if that’s not why they got the name! I’ve been wondering about mountain ranges not running North to South ever since I got a look at the map of Middle Earth. 😀 And while I’m not one to call New Zealand Middle Earth… well…

  2. Del Soden says

    I really enjoyed the drive with you . Thank you for the wonderful pictures and memories.
    Last time I drove that route was with my husband in a campervan back in 2008 when we did a three week tour of the South Island. I took my Aussie husband to see what real mountains looked like.
    We often talk about doing it again.

    • You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed it! It’s such a stunning drive.

      Your comment about showing your husband real mountains made me giggle. When we were in Australia (Sunshine Coast Hinterlands) I kept seeing signs for ‘Steep Incline’ and driving and driving and not going uphill at all. Then I finally figured out that a steep incline in Australia is anything more than a 10 degree angle!

      • Same here! 😀 12 degree angles at the Sázava, so exciting! It’s mostly exciting because of the narrow road and the sharp turns… But I know that when I saw the road signs as a child, I was wondering what was so steep about 12 degrees. What’s your usual steep incline?

  3. This has made me very happy. I grew up in Mackenzie Country (Hakataramea Valley) and in Omarama.

    Those skies! The pleated hills! The golden spaces! Cold, baby blue streams!

    • I’m glad you approve! I feel the photos don’t begin to capture how stunning it was as I drove through it. And I’ve only driven the route once before, so I was taking notes and hoping like mad I’d get it all right when I went to write it down.

  4. Yes, that was a lovely drive, thank you!
    It’s early spring here and the snow isn’t even gone yet, it was really nice to see scenery with vegetation in it.

    I have never experienced rotten potato soup, but the surplus of tomatoes from our garden does that almost every year. Apparently, rotten tomato juice bleaches wooden furniture. The dark brown bench in our front hall has a permanent tan coloured mesh pattern on it from a crate of tomatoes that sat there about 3 years ago.

    Much sympathy to anyone who has rotten vegetable troubles.

  5. I did, I did, I very much did enjoy the drive. What a wondrous land you live in. What a treat for us, to see it through the lens and perspective of one who loves it well, and is exploring it herself.

    How I hope you might do another of these someday. Like your series on Kalaupapa in Hawaii, this was really special.

    Very best,


  6. I love lupines so much. They line the edges of the highways in Maine and some parts of RI. My dad will be visiting, from Maine, soon, but the lupines won’t be in bloom yet. I did plant some at the entrance gate to Colt Drive where Coggeshall Farm Museum is, so the lack of garden space where I live is not bothering me as much as it might otherwise. Thank you for the beautiful pictures, I’m so looking forward to real spring and summer weather, even as you are going into fall and winter.

  7. Gorgeous! I was curious to where you live, being an American that once lived in NZ and am hoping to move back next year. But now I know! How did you end up in a tiny town on the South Island? I’m going to be doing doctoral work at Vic.

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