The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 7 (December 1, 1932)
Holiday Scenes — Summer Travel Ways in New Zealand
The essence of a holiday is complete change of scene, air and occupation.
The last word is accurate enough, when you come to think of it, for holiday-making to be a success is quite an occupation in itself. It can be spoiled by over-exertion, on the one hand, and by an ennui-producing “loaf” on the other. The happy medium can be obtained by a judicious choice of place and circumstance, by taking sufficient trouble to select a suitable locality where the interest of the scenery and life more than compensates for the cost and pains of travel.
A change as complete as possible is above all necessary for the people of the city and the town, and in New Zealand's thousand miles of length and vast variety of landscape there is infinite choice of places which give the breakaway, the different atmosphere and life, that bring true refreshment to the body and spirit, give a toning and tuning-up to work-jangled nerves.
Fortunately in such a country as New Zealand it is quite amazingly easy to find that change of scene, and cheap withal. This is no vast continental land, where you have to travel day after day through an unvarying country that soon becomes monotonous. The quick succession of different landscapes, of new phases of natural beauty, is the feature of our islands which has most impressed many of our visitors from abroad. The islandstrewn gulfs, the rocky coasts, the shining breadths of harbour and estuary, the quiet scenes of pastoral and agricultural industry, the cities and towns, quickly give place to the mountains, the bush, the tranquil blue lakes, the volcanic and hydro-thermal wonderlands, the countless forms which water-play takes in this land of streams and waterfalls; the icy Alps and the glaciers, the gorges and fiords; the wonders, too, of engineering ingenuity in railroading a once intractable interior, with its canyons and lofty ridges. Every kind of soft and pastoral scenery has its contrast and counterpoise in the indomitable high places, the dramatic surprises of the geyser and smoking-mountain country, the immensely deep lakes, the jungly forests, dripping and fragrant and twilight-dim; the great rivers, rolling, rapid-whitened, through forestland.
Through the Northland.
Railway travel is the easiest and most comfortable and economical way of entering into one's chosen holiday-land, whether far or near. Here may be indicated the principal pleasure routes which either give direct access to scenes strange or beautiful, or both, or from which the traveller can branch off by road to places of interest.
First comes the North Auckland railway, the great commercial artery of that sub-province which stretches northward for considerably more than two hundred miles from Auckland isthmus. The railway taps the Kaipara, Whangarei, Bay of Islands, and Hokianga districts, and serves a huge area of productive country, and a country full of interest for the pleasurer. You may travel in comfort through the heart of the North, which was practically cut off from Auckland City for several months in the year in its early days because of the poor roads. The coming of the rail changed all that. The route is through a land which once was mostly clothed with forest, and which has been transformed by the bushman's toil and the farmer's enterprise. Even the desolate kauri gumfields, where the digger plied spear and spade, the hills and flats that a New Zealand novelist once described as “the land of the lost,” have been transformed into farms and orchards.
The rail gives direct access to the Bay of Islands, with its famous fishing grounds, its inlets of beauty, its valleys of peace and fruitfulness, its sanctuaries of history and romance. Land of colour and legend and antique charm; our birthplace as a British colony in the great South Sea. His Excellency Lord Bledisloe's great gift to New Zealand people of the old Busby home and esate at Waitangi has brought that storied spot into the public eye, and the scene of the Treaty-signing in 1840 is likely to be visited this summer by a great many who have hitherto not troubled to search out any of the places where our nation's story began. Waitangi is quite easily reached—half-an-hour's run in a motor-launch from the rail-head at Opua wharf. It is exactly opposite old Kororareka, the Russell of to-day, where, for one thing, there is the oldest church in New Zealand, very little short of a century in years.
Still older is placid Kerikeri, as quiet as a forest pool, at the head of its saltwater river, fourteen miles from Russell. More than a century of pakeha civilisation is enshrined in this pretty backwater of the North, where the burden of life seems to rest lightly on the little village.
Then, inland, there is Kaikohe, the heart of the good lands of this volcanic country; and from there it is but a step to Hokianga, region of delicious climate, the land of valleys of the sun, where pakeha and Maori farm side by side. Life in the open should be a perpetual pleasure in such a lovely land as this. There are not many things you cannot raise there, and you can do without many clothes. One hears of people going to Norfolk Island to settle. They cannot ever have seen Hokianga.
The Gate of Geyserland.
Some scenes pall by familiarity, but the sight of Rotorua, spread out below, as the train emerges from the bush on the Mamaku hills, always comes as a dramatic picture with a quality of surprise, no matter how often one has visited the lakes and the hot springs. Many years of close acquaintance with the Geyser Country have not dulled to me, at any rate, the keen enjoyment of the descent into the charmed region of the Wai-ariki. There are great changes in the environs of Rotorua lake since first one saw it, in the year the railway was completed, very nearly forty years ago. The manuka that clothed with grey the flats and slopes has been swept away; farms and orchards and gardens and groves of trees have taken the place of the uniform blanket of scrub. Rotorua town has grown into the proportions of a small city, this metropolis of Hot Springland. There is a wonderful growth of trees; the handsome plantation bordering the railway station is an example. The page 27 Spa and its furnishings are quite down-to-date, and the healing properties of the hot mineral waters are as great as ever. Nature's medicine never fails. As to accommodation, there are, besides the four large hotels, some thirty boardinghouses, and hard to please indeed would be the traveller who could make complaint on that score.
For the more energetic there is a vast territory of strange sights spread out for exploration, and there are some of the most beautiful lakes in New Zealand in the great chain of watersheets, lakes of all contours and colours, most of them in a sylvan setting; lakes of story and legend and song; lakes hot and cold, lakes overpeered by wooded heights of every shade of green, lakes dominated ominously by scarred old volcanoes. Close at hand is the famous geyser valley of Whakarewarewa, where Pohutu and Waikite and Waikorohihi throw into the air their rainbow-lit fountains of boiling water and sparkling spray.
Further afield there is the marvellous day's round of Tarawera, Rotomahana and Waimangu, a land-and-water cruise taking one through the hotly-throbbing heart of Geyserland.
Southward again lies the great lake of Taupo; south-eastward the Kaingaroa Plains with its quickly-growing new forest of exotic pines, and beyond again the blue sierras of the Urewera Country.
The East Coast Route.
The Bay of Plenty line, branching off from the Thames railway, is well worth a trial as a holiday run, and one can combine this tour with a look-in at Te Aroha, that pretty riverside Spa at the foot of its noble mountain. Tauranga, with its plenitude of trees and flowers, its pleasant sea-tempered climate, its atmosphere of history and adventure, is a convenient page 28 stop-over place; and on again there is the run along the coast and over the great reclaimed swamp of the Rangitaiki—now a wonderfully productive dairy farming land—to the rail terminus at Taneatua, close to the northern border of the Urewera Country.
The Cave Country, and the Stratford Line.
Taking the Main Trunk line for it again, there is the King Country for a holiday land, and specifically the limestone cave area, with Waitomo's glowworm cave of mystic loveliness as the culminating point of this subterranean fairyland. Further south there is a new route of travel this summer, the just-finished railway from Okahukura to Stratford, giving at last the long-needed connection between Auckland and Taranaki. A route of great possibilities, and of present special interest because it penetrates a bush country and a newly-broken area where all the pioneer stages of settlement are still to be witnessed at close quarters by the rail traveller. A vast amount could be written about this land of natural beauty and human endeavour; present space only allows of a suggestion that a run through the heart of North Taranaki by this route might very pleasurably vary the usual Auckland-Wellington trip by the Main Trunk.
The volcano region of the Tongariro National Park will attract many besides the confirmed mountain-scaler. There is much that is wonderful to see without undertaking any high climbs; and there is the December-January glory of wild flowers carpeting the sub-alpine slopes for miles.
The Alps, the Forests, the Lakes.
Crossing to the South Island, one finds something quite different again in such a railway tour as the run across the Canterbury Plains and along the curving coast of North Otago, the greatest area of agricultural land in the Dominion, as distinguished from the dairying pastures of the North. Here is the perfection of serene country scenery, with many a sightly village and town.
Most holiday-makers will make for the three main pleasurelands—the West Coast with its lakes and glaciers, the Mt. Cook alpine region, and Wakatipu and other lakes of the Otago-Southland country.
First in the interest that bold and unusual scenery makes is the trans-alpine train journey by Arthur's Pass and the Otira tunnel, a line of great engineering works and of a sometimes startling quality of beauty. Forest, lake and torrent page 29 are the predominating features of a West Coast rail tour, and from the train terminus there is the motor run to the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, within easy reach of Hokitika now that the wild rivers have been bridged. There is nothing like those two wondrously beautiful glaciers on the eastern face of the Alps, nothing like the forests of rata and ferntrees which frame the glittering down-plunging tongues of ice thrust from the open jaws of the mountains.
The lakes, too, are a glory of that farstretching Coast. For two hundred miles from the Grey River southward the rich Westland forests are blue-spangled with lakes, calm mirrors of the Alpine snows and the trees. Kanieri, close to Hokitika, is typical of these lakes of the woods. Its shores are forested to the water's edge. The air is full of the bush fragrance and the voices of the bush birds. From the waterline the hill spurs, in overlapping folds of tender foliage, sweep back to the snowy mountains, all on a clear quiet day reversed with unbroken imagery on the glassy lake floor. Every here and there the rocky coast is broken by little white sandy beaches, at any of which one may land by the simple process of running the motor-launch nose on to the shore. For days the water lies spread out like a polished silver plate, the only motion an almost imperceptible heave of its calm bosom.
Different again are the great lakes of Otago and Southland interior. Wakatipu, set in mountains of grim wild contour, is the most accessible; you reach it by rail from either Dunedin or Invercargill. It is a place of sharp contrasts, a place to stir the imagination. The south arm, along which one steams from the train terminus at Kingston to Queenstown, is very narrow, immensely deep, and profoundly blue-black; on each side it is walled in by craggy precipices, weathered into shapes strange and awful, and deeply-riven by race-tracks of the avalanches. Then on the right shoots up the amazingly broken range of the Remarkables. By contrast there is the prettiest and whitest of little towns, lying among its parks and orchards, old-settled Queenstown, founded in the great gold-rush days of the Sixties. The magic call of gold is giving interest anew to this ancient haunt of the world's digger brotherhood, for the Kawarau and its neighbourhood are the scene of an eager and—for some—profitable search for the treasure in the alluvial drifts.page 30