They say the best cure for post holiday blues is to plan another holiday! Just as well ANZAC weekend closely followed our Easter Adventures in Australia. It was a last minute booking, which left us struggling to find some accommodation. However the perfect place turned up at just the right time, and we were confirmed.
Let the adventure begin!
Lake Coleridge is about an hours drive from Christchurch. Near the Rakaia River and in the shadow of Mount Hutt, this area is so close to town, but somewhere I had never had the opportunity to explore much before.
After doing some research on the brilliant Lake Coleridge website, we decided there would be enough to entertain us for a long weekend. So we packed up the cars and headed towards the mountains. We had booked in to the shearers cottage at Quartz Hill Station. This cottage caters for large groups like ours, sleeping a maximum of 19 people in four bunk rooms, and three single sleepouts. There is a huge bathroom and living/kitchen/dining area, and at just $20.00 per person per night, it was perfect for what we were looking for.
The spectacular sunset lit up the sky as we drove West. We stopped briefly in Hororata at the cafe for dinner on the way up and the fire was already roaring in the cottage when we arrived. We gathered around the fire, cracked open a bottle of red wine and had philosophical debates while the flames licked on the window of the log burner.
The following morning we headed off to explore the area. First stop was the Washpen Falls. This idyllic spot sounded perfect on the Lake Coleridge walking tracks list. Located on a private farm, there is a $10.00 fee for adults and $5.00 per child to walk the track.
These funds are well spent on maintaining this lovely track. You also get a pamphlet which notes all the items of interest along the track which are numbered with markers along the way. We picked up one of the walking sticks and headed up the hill. The track climbs steadily up through the volcanic gorge and deep in to the native bush thick with bellbirds singing their hearts out. This area was once frequented by Maori to trap the Moa – New Zealand’s extinct giant flightless bird. We walked past caves in the rocks where the Maori would have sheltered while on their hunting trips.
Climbing further on, we eventually came to the Bluff lookout and we admired the spectacular view out over the Canterbury Plains back towards Christchurch
We then started back down the hill and on towards the beautiful Washpen Falls. The early European farmers used to wash their sheep in these falls to clean the wool before shearing the sheep!
The guide pamphlet was really interesting, and we stopped at each number on the track learning new things about the native bush and our surroundings. We eventually came across Stone Lake. This was built in the 1920’s as a water storage pond for them farm’s hydroelectric power station. There was a dinghy beside the little lake, so we launched it and the kids went for a row.
The track took us two hours to complete. We were super impressed with the stunning scenery, birdsong, beautiful bush and all the other interesting things along the way. We bought a couple of jars of their Honeydew Honey, made by the bees from the farm – delicious!
It was just before lunch, and we decided to drive to Lake Coleridge Village and have a look around. The village is a collection of holiday houses located beside the hydro power station – below the Lake and just above the Rakaia River. There are no shops or cafe’s. But there is an interesting story board about the history of the area and how the power station was constructed. We drove up a shingle road to the Lake above for a view out over the denim blue water. The cold wind and drizzle drove us back to the cars, and our roaring fire at the cottage on Quartz Hill Station.
We spent the afternoon reading books, drinking wine and the kids playing poker… Colin the farm owner came over to see us and took us for a ride around the farm and pointed out some places of interest and some good walks. The farm is 3000 hectares and they run sheep, cattle and deer. He has farmed here for 40 years, we also met his wife Hilary, and daughter Georgie who was training her sheep-dogs in the paddock out the front.
The following morning we set off to explore the other lakes in the area. There are numerous little lakes up here in the high country. These crystal clear pools of water surrounded by beautifully coloured grasses and reeds, and trees showing all their autumn colours. We followed the shingle road past Lake Georgia, Lake Evelyn and Lake Selfe, and eventually made it to the head of Lake Coleridge. Some rivers are diverted here to keep the lake topped up for its important job of creating renewable energy from its hydro power station.
We had missed the turnoff to our walk, so we re-traced the road and found a little stile inscribed ‘Ida’ with some orange marked posts heading off in to the distance. We set off sidling around the side of the mountain, following the narrow track through the scrub and up in to a valley and eventually on to Lake Ida. This lake often freezes in winter and is a popular spot for ice skating. There is a road that comes in here, but is apparently now closed to public access. So if you want to skate you will have to walk the track to get here.
We crossed the rock dam across the lake and continued on towards Lake Catherine.
We climbed again and sidled around another mountainside. Through large boggy areas and jumping over a small stream. Seth’s little legs were sore and we stopped to eat a sandwich looking out over the valley below and towering mountains beyond. Not a single other person in sight for miles and miles. I eventually cajoled him along and we caught up with the others at beautiful Lake Catherine.
The walk back didn’t seem to take as long. We had been on the go for five hours and were all pretty knackered. We went back to the cottage and made another huge meal and solved all the problems of the world around the fire.
The sun was shining brightly through the window the following morning. Andrew, James & Elisa were keen to explore the farm on their bikes, and the rest of us planned to circumnavigate Quartz Hill itself. As we were packing up to head away the yard filled up with sheep being herded in to the pens. We did our best to stay out of the way, and it looked like the sheep weren’t cooperating. Once the sheep had passed through we set off through the farm and along to the spot that Colin had shown us the day before.
Leaving the car at the bottom of the hill, we set off up the track and were quickly caught up and overtaken by the bikers. We climbed up the valley and then through to the saddle where we looked out over more rolling hills and in to the distance. Quartz Hill Station is a stunning place.
Two hours later we were back at the cottage, eating the remaining leftovers from the fridge, cleaning the house and practising skipping…
Lake Coleridge is a stunning place, with lots of opportunities for exploring. There are no shops in the valley, but Hororata has a cafe and fuel, and the town of Methven isn’t far away. The lakes have good fishing as well, and we didn’t even get the opportunity to get our paddle boards out of the car. It is a great place to spend a long weekend.