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Food Queenstown Travel

BBQ Lunch at Colonel’s Homestead, Walter Peak, Queenstown, New Zealand

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Real Journeys, a tourism company in New Zealand, offers a variety of tours and activities throughout New Zealand. They offer a 20% discount on the cheapest activity (called the 20$ Multi Saver) if you book more than 1 activity at the same time. We booked the Milford Sound Cruise and the BBQ lunch at Colonel’s Homestead on Walter’s Peak Farm.

Walter’s Peak
Walter’s Peak Farm is located in Walter’s Peak. Both Cecil’s Peak and Walter’s Peak were named by William Gilbert Rees, the first European settler in of Queenstown, after his son, Cecil Walter Rees. Walter’s Peak is the smaller peak of the 2 geographical landmarks. The homestead and the garden was built later by the Mackenzie family, who also introduced innovative-for-the-time farming methods. The gardens were made in the 1870’s and Colonel’s Homestead was built in the 1908 for the then-owner’s son’s wedding and reconstructed after a fire damaged it in 1977. Walter’s Peak Farm covers 155 hectares. and in 2014, Real Journeys bought the land and started a conservation project to clear invasive, non-native vegetation and turning it into a tourism attraction by creating a restaurant out of the old homestead, and having sheep shearing demonstrations.

Location:
Walter’s Peak is 11km across Lake Wakatipu, from Queenstown. in the 1800’s this was a five to seven hour trip by row boat. Now, this location is only accessible by chartered transport (in their words: “This delightful venue is easily accessed from Queenstown the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw, a charter vessel, helicopter or fixed-wing scenic flight“) and unfortunately, Real Journeys seems to have a monopoly on the transport of visitors and over the entire homestead on Walter’s Peak. This means if you want to try out the restaurant, you have to go through Real Journeys. We went on the steamboat, TSS Earnslaw.IMG_2049

TSS Earnslaw Steamship:
Smaller than a ship but bigger than a boat, the TSS Earnlsaw steam-water-vessel’s only true marketable point is that it still runs on steam, ie coal. Originally commissioned by the government in 1912, this boat was used as a cargo ship to transport all sorts of necessities between properties in the south island. During it’s working life, it carried 1,500 sheep and 30 cattle. Many farmlands were set up in ‘vacant’ land, scattered among the islands of the south island, and the only way to access them was by boat. As road transport improved, the use for the cargo ship declined. in 1969 Real Journeys took the boat and turned it into a tourism program.

The engine room is in the center of the boat and is accessible to passengers if you want to go see. It is loud and hot, as expected.

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The rest of the ship has seating indoors and outside.

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There are toilets on the ship with baby change facilities.

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There is also a mini museum at the back of the boat that describes the history of the boat, which you can just see the entrance of in the photo below.IMG_1931

There are free pamphlets for those who are interested in the history of the place, and a mini model of the engine.IMG_1938

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Views of the lake during the boat ride:IMG_1957

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!Tourist tip!

While you can buy snacks onboard, it is really not worth your money to buy them onboard because the whole reason you are on the ship in the first place is to eat the BBQ Lunch/Dinner, and you paid for that, remember?IMG_1916

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Getting here:
Departures are from Steamer Wharf in Queenstown. You must arrive earler to go to the Real Journey’s office to pick up tickets then take the tickets to the wharf. They are a few hundred metres apart. The ride is not very long, the 11km trip takes about about 20 minutes or so one way. Departing from Queenstown you will be able to see the property on the ship’s left in the direction it is heading.

The Queenstown wharf:IMG_1913

The boat:IMG_1912

Note: As you get onto the boat, the staff take photos of you with the boat in the background, which you can later buy on board. I always feel things like this are forced and I don’t like it. You can always take photos yourself while you wait on the wharf.


What’s on offer at Walter’s Peak:
View of Lake Wakatipu and the wharf from the gravelly shore at Walter’s Peak:IMG_1985

The homestead consists of a house that has been converted to a restaurant and the interior restored to it’s period style. It is located on a ‘rural’ property that has a sheep shearing shed and a garden.

Wharf at the homestead:IMG_1965

The restored interior of the dining hall:IMG_1974

There is also outdoor dining but I did not see anyone use it at the lunch.IMG_1972

The food and dining experience:
When you arrive at Walter’s Peak; after leaving the boat, you are divided into groups depending on the package you bought (some start with a farm tour first, other dine first). The accessible area is small, diners head to the restaurant a few metres away on the left and the tour-first people head to the right. I was in the dine first group. I booked a table for 7 so there was a table reserved for us, otherwise you can sit where you like.IMG_1977

Guests are called a few tables at a time to get food from the buffets. There are a variety of meats, smoked chicken, beef, sausages, hot barbecued meats, cold meats, salads, corn, bread, dips, fruit and desserts, and water, wine is not included. The buffet sections are located throughout the accessible building (some places are off limits). The ‘see the chef cook live’ and the barbecue component is where there is a section at the front of the building where the chefs roast/cook the meat on a barbecue plate for you and you can collect it from them. Otherwise this was not the a barbecue lunch I imagined, and definitely not the live cooking demonstrations I imagined from the description on their website, but overall the experience wasn’t exactly bad.

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Review:
This location is touted to have “timeless ambience”, a “magical” and “unforgettable experience” with “fine dining at its best” that “gives you a glimpse of life in the high country”. While I agree with the last one, as the restaurant/house itself has been restored, I cannot think it would be worthwhile to book the entire venue exclusively for a private event, unless it was for filming, at least from my lunch experience (perhaps the dinner, especially a private dinner, would be different but I do not exactly want to go back to see it, when there are so many other easily accessible fine dining restaurants in New Zealand).

When we finished our meal, the rest of the time was spent wandering around the small garden, as the sheep shearing demonstration was hot, crowded and of no interest to me.

Your ticket price includes a cruise, a bbq, and a tour of the farm.

In actual fact:
-Unless you are a big fan of steam boats, the cruise is really a ride on the TSS Earnslaw steamboat (ie your transport to and from Queenstown Steamer Wharf)
-the food is probably what you came for and is a buffet of prepared food while the BBQ is just some meats grilled and cooked in a glass window island kitchen
-And the farm tour consists of the sheep shearing demonstration and free time to spend in the garden if you do not want to see the sheep shearing demonstration.

The ship is not wheelchair accessible although a pram can get on and fit. Colonel Homestead is not too hard to manage with a pram, the area is sloped but flat, but there are some shallow stairs to the restaurant.

Details:
The actual property is large (155 ha), but you don’t get to see much of it. Coming from Sydney and having seen many sheep shearing and wood chopping demonstrations, the sheep shearing was of no interest to me, so I wandered around the garden instead.

Also, and I feel this is important, even though the description says the trip is 3 and a half hours, the meal time is only about 1.5 hours, so the groups can swap and the other group can come dine. I can certainly see some of the points made by reviewers on tripadvisor saying that they feel herded into a dining hall and rushed through their meal. There is a good variety of food, true, but there is very little time if you wanted to browse through the food selections, line up for your specially cooked hot-off-the barbecue meats, go for desserts AND still go for seconds. To be honest I felt a little rushed, I didn’t have time for seconds, and many things were not replenished as they need to reset for the next group. I can also understand the disappointment of some visitor’s as the ‘farm tour’ was really just a trip to the next-door sheep shearing shed. There is also a small gift shop on site, however there was nothing of interest to me. This means, for some, at the most boring level, this is essentially an expensive, low-to-medium excitement, rushed buffet meal at a restored, commercialized farm house on a slightly remote location accessed by a commercialized re-purposed cargo boat, without the honest hospitality you would get from a real farmer on a true working farm in the real countryside.

The garden is small and while it is definitely not a botanical garden, it is still pretty, and thankfully it was accessible/enjoyable because it was sunny. This activity runs all year round, so I’d hate to think what would happen if you came on a rainy day and didn’t want to go to the sheep shearing shed. Although it is a ‘farm’, the places that visitors are allowed to access are not on the actual farm pastures, since the front of the property is the old residential area of the owners. This means it is paved with gravel grounds. There is also a rope swing hung in the tree on the gravel shore that has a great view of the lake. The garden is carefully maintained with grass and is a comfortable and beautiful little place to spend a sunny afternoon/kill some time waiting for the boat to return to pick up the visitors and send them back to Queenstown.

Verdict:
Cost: We went on January 23, 2016. At that time the cost per adult was $99 NZD and $22 per child. Currently (July 2017) it is now $105 per adult and $45 per child (4 to 14 years old). Personally I think the price was a little on the expensive side when we went, but now the more-than-doubled child price and the increase in the adult price in only 18 months is quite steep.

Overall the experience was not bad as such, but probably a little over-touted and expensive for what it was, especially compared to the dinner at Stratosfare in Queenstown with the gondola/cable care ride to the top included (which I will write about soon) which was $82 per adult (and currently only raised $85 NZD). It was not something I’d pay to do again (probably not even something I’d do if I was being paid), despite the interesting history of the place. I would only have liked more opportunities to photograph the lake, and with some proper photographic equipment.

If you stay here longer, you might be able to go strolling along the lake which would be good if the weather is good. A photo provided by management on Tripadvisor depicts people biking around the area which looks enticing but I have not found such an activity on offer.

Read my review on TripAdvisor here.

Next stop: Dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant in Queenstown. Subscribe so you get notified!

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Categories
Travel

Milford Sound, New Zealand

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Milford Sound is a fiord, which is an inlet surrounded by cliffs of a mountain. It is located in the Fiordland National Park and can be reached from the major towns of either Queenstown or Te Anau. We went from Te Anau to Milford Sound then to Queenstown. You can also camp there overnight in the cabins.IMG_1643

Climate
Milford Sound is one of the wettest inhabited places in the world, with around 7 metres of rain per year in this area alone. We visited in January, which is actually one of 2 of the rainiest months in Milford Sound, the other being December, and both summer time for New Zealand. Being high up in the mountains and surrounded by mountain sides with melting glaciers, this area was wet and misty if not rainy. According to the official website, it is rainy for on average 182 days of the year. Even in the summer it was quite cold, in the low to mid teens.

When I visited: January 22nd 2016.

What I did: I joined the 1 hour 40 minute Milford Scenic Cruise with Real Journeys.

Getting here
Milford Sound is reached by driving very slowly up the mountain. You can rent a car and drive there yourself (free parking is available) or you can join a tour group. It can be reached from the major towns of either Queenstown or Te Anau. We went from Te Anau to Milford Sound then to Queenstown. Cruise Milford’s website has some excellent information about getting here and essential info about Milford Sound in general.

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Along the way you can see water running down the mountain from melting snow or glaciers.IMG_1639

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This is the bus bay for the coaches that bring in tour groups. This is right outside the cruise departure hall. Everyone else has to park in the public car park where the cabins are (close to the entry after you at the top of the mountain). This area is a 15 minute walk away from the departure hall.IMG_1647

Some more scenery at Milford Sound, seen from the carparkIMG_1644

!!Important to know:
Mobile Reception:
There is no mobile reception at Milford Sound. Telephone service are at:

-Knobs Flat and Milford Sound Visitor terminal (both are landline phones I believe*) and -a satellite phone at Homer Tunnel for emergencies only.

There are no places to refuel during the drive once you leave Te Anau. Make sure you leave with a full tank. You don’t want to be stuck with no fuel and no phone reception! Fuel (petrol for cars and diesel for coaches) is available at Milford Sound but only certain cards and pin number access are accepted. Fuel is also available at Gunn’s Camp in the Hollyford Valley, but this location is a detour from Milford Sound.

*This information is taken from the “Milford Sound Drive Guide” pamphlet provided by the Cruise Milford NZ company’s obtained in January 2016. The pamphlet says “card phone” however I believe they mean landline phones accessed with calling cards as I saw one such phone (blue one) at the visitor’s terminal but did not see one at Knobs Flats, and there was no cell reception at the visitor’s terminal. Visit their website here: www.cruisemilfordnz.com.

Activities here
There are a number of activities one can do here. The most obvious ones are to join a tour and/or cruise group. The cruise takes you onto the water and around to see the waterfalls and cliffs and scenery. If you are lucky like we were, you may be able to spot sea lions. You can also do kayaking here, hiking, and if one day is not enough for you, you can stay overnight in their weatherproof cabins at the permanent campsite. IMG_1741

My Experience and *Tips for photographers*
I joined Real Journeys and it was a largish boat with probably 100 or so people.IMG_1661As a keen photographer myself, although I did not use them, from the sound of their services, I’d probably recommend and am inclined to join Cruise Milford because their boats and groups are smaller so can get closer to waterfalls and things and you would have a better time taking photos.

Facilities:
All cruises depart from their departure hall and each company has their own reception desk.

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There was paid wifi available in the departure hall, but it was quite expensive, I feel. Although I suppose it is reasonable that they charge higher prices because there is no mobile reception there. This service might be aimed at campers seeing the data lasts 1 month. It should be enough for you to check your emails but no media browsing.IMG_1753.jpg

On the boat, there were free coffee, tea and biscuits provided on the cruise however they also have a paid food and souvenirs bar where you can buy postcards and photos, sandwiches, drinks, chips, chocolate, fruit and instant noodles (hot water is free). I suggest you bring your own food and have them with the hot tea. However I must say the boat swayed a lot and spilt tea was not an uncommon sight especially if you sat far from the coffee area.IMG_1739

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The cruise boats have both indoor and outdoor areas.

There are not a lot of people in this photo because most people were outside taking photos. It was about half full on my trip.IMG_1663

*Tips for photographers*
You will almost certainly get wet (even if it is just a spray), if you go outside when the boat gets close to the waterfalls. Therefore make sure you have waterproof gear if you have expensive gear. I just used my phone which was easy to shelter from the water so it was fine for me. When we went, it didn’t rain but due to the area, the air was misty and the waterfall made some people wet. You should definitely bring raincoats instead of umbrellas. A change of clothes wasn’t necessary for us as we stayed on the boat (although our entire luggage was in our car so if we did need a change of clothes, we could change when we got back). Layered clothes might be advisable. There is no real reason why you would become soaking wet. Most people also used point and shoot cameras and it was fine, but just a heads up.IMG_1744

Also, Milford Sound’s official website does not name a best time to visit,  nor does it give a very good guideline on what the weather is like for each season but it does say that the best time to visit will depend on what you want to see. (Sea lions and penguins can be seen in the cooler months of spring according to their website but we saw them in January.) Which brings me to this piece of advice especially for photographers/people who want to go to photograph the area:

*Tips for photographers* those pretty photos you see on the internet of Milford Sound, they are taken on sunny days, and you will definitely not be getting any of those types of photos if you go with a large cruise/tour group (unless you are VERY lucky) as everyone will be around the edge of the boat trying to get a picture, and the boat won’t be staying long in any one place. So you will have to join a smaller group or hire your own boat.

Best time to go:
If you want waterfalls, then the best time to go is during the rainier months, but if you want sunny photos, you can go when it is less rainy. The rain isn’t exactly heavy, just continuous. Like I previously mentioned, Cruise Milford’s website has some excellent information.

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Cost:
At the time (January 2016), Cruise Milford’s cruises started at $80 NZD per adult on a smaller group boat, while Real Journeys, the company we went with, charged $67.20 NZD per adult on a much larger boat and children were free. Both included complimentary tea/coffee and biscuits. As of July 2017, Cruise Milford’s prices have risen to $90 per adult, and Real Journey’s current price is $76.

Visit their official websites here:

www.realjourneys.co.nz
www.milford-sound.co.nz

Next stop: BBQ lunch at Walter’s Peak. Subscribe so you get notified!

Ready to go to New Zealand?

Accommodation options:
For the reviews of the accommodation I stayed in in New Zealand, click here. To book please use:
Hotels Combined
Booking.com

To see what else I did in New Zealand, click here.


Whether it is a flight or a hotel, international or domestic, if you travel a lot, or like my blog, or both, please bookmark this page and support my blog by using my affiliate links to make your next booking!

©All rights reserved for all content and photographs, usage on 3rd party sites are forbidden without permission. Photos are taken by author unless otherwise stated.