- Take 5, relax and enjoy a read...
Flexible dates

Monthly Archives: May 2022

Check-in on our New Zealand travel blog for latest news, events and updates - along with a splash of personality from the whole team at Bella Vista!  


Six epic Franz Josef walks

Posted by on

Glacier country serves up far more treats than just the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk and heli-hiking. Look beyond the alpine vistas and you’ll discover mirror-like lakes, ocean views, cascading waterfalls, daisy-laden meadows and hidden forest trails well off the beaten track. Here’s a guide to the best Franz Josef walking tracks, whatever your interests.  


Best glacier views without a helicopter:  Alex Knob Track (8-hour return) 

Accessed from the Glacier Access Road, just south of the Waiho River Bridge, this full-day 17-kilometre hike is quite the gut buster and one of the best all-day things to do in Franz Josef. The upside however is the killer Franz Josef Glacier views you’ll be rewarded with on reaching the Alex Knob summit. Leave the more pedestrian sightseeing trails behind and take the zigzag track past rimu, r?t? and k?mahi forest and through alpine meadows to the Rata Lookout.  From there, follow the trail markers to the summit enjoying wider views of glaciers and the Tasman Sea. Climb past the turn-off to Lake Wombat, and the magnificent Franz Josef will come into frame. Push onto the Christmas Lookout and the mighty Alex Knob summit for the best views without flying! It's only 8 minutes drive to the entrance from our Franz Josef motel accommodation.


Best West Coast views and wildlife: Okarito Trig walk (1.5 hours) 

For unbeatable views of the West Coast and Southern Alps, drive 25 minutes seaward to the tiny settlement of Okarito. Jump on the Wetland trail before taking the well-graded Okarito Trig track up to a viewpoint overlooking Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Enjoy views on a clear day of Aoraki Mount Cook, Mount Tasman, the Southern Alps, serene lagoons and the West Coast. Combine your hike with a guided kayak tour across the serene Lake Mapourika, through a hidden estuary to the Jurassic-like Okarito State Forest and the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary. Your knowledgeable local guide will point out the unique wetland birds like the graceful kotoku or white heron. The lagoon’s habitat hosts more than 76 species of birds including the endangered royal spoonbill, so pack your binoculars.  


Best underground walk: Tartare Tunnels walk (1 hr 20 min return

Discover the picturesque Tartare Gorge, glow worms and abandoned moss-covered water tunnels on the 4-kilometre Tartare Tunnels Walk. The trailhead at the end of Cowan Street, only 3 minutes from the Franz Josef motel follows an old road that once led to a hydroelectric power station. Walk past the Callery Walk junction and continue climbing until you drop down into the Tartare Gorge.  

A steep and narrow forest climb from the gorge lookout, reveals the disused tunnels dripping with ankle-deep water and your very own echo-chamber. Top tip: Wear sturdy footwear and a head torch to enter the tunnels then turn off the light to discover your very own reception committee; hundreds of luminous glow worms!  


Most instagrammable track: Lake Matheson (1h 30 min return) 

Famous for its mirror-perfect reflections of New Zealand's highest mountains, Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Tasman, the Lake Matheson track attracts coach loads of visitors. But with international tourists in short supply, New Zealanders’ currently have this serene spot all to themselves. Lake Matheson is the perfect all-weather walk serving up picture-perfect views, just a 30-minute drive from the Bella Vista motel. Add this short yet picturesque hike to your ‘Franz Josef things to do’ list. 


Best chance of Kiwi spotting: The West Coast Wildlife Centre 

This Franz Josef conservation centre excels at breeding Rowi Kiwi, a rare species of New Zealand’s national bird, and the endangered Tuatara. Take a walk through this attraction on a rainy-day as their guided tours are run indoors.  There’s a dark house to view kiwi’s, a small cinema which screens West Coast documentaries and an indoor glacier experience, making this one of the best Franz Josef things to do with kids and only two minutes walk from our Franz Josef motel


Pakihi walk (30 minutes return) 

You’ll rarely spot kiwi on any Franz Josef walking tracks, but this area is home to the rarest species of them all, the little Okarito Brown 

At the trailhead, check out the informative panels before the route takes you across the Pakihi wetland and gently ascends through kamahi and rimu forest to a lookout. Here you’ll enjoy panoramic coastal, rainforest and Okarito Lagoon views, framed by the Southern Alps and Aoraki Mount Cook. 

Whatever your timeframe or fitness level, there’s walks in Franz Josef to suit you. Just ask the Bella Vista team for hiking suggestions and they’ll steer you in the right direction. 

Destination Franz Josef: What to eat, see and do

Posted by on

If you’re planning a road trip down the West Coast, Franz Josef is the perfect base to experience the stunning attractions of Glacier Country. From navigating ice tunnels, to kayaking through a serene lagoon and soaking in natural hot springs, we’ve rounded up the best things in to do whilst staying at our Franz Josef motel.   


Easiest glacier views in Franz Josef

One of the best walks in Franz Josef is the unique 2-hour Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk. Less than 300 metres above sea level, there’s only two other glaciers in the world so close to the coastline. This hike is one of the best free things to do in Franz Josef, serving up not only views but lush rainforest, babbling brooks, the mighty Waiho River and thunderous waterfalls!  Enjoy scenic views up the valley from the safety barriers, towards the gigantic Franz Josef Glacier, with its creaking crevasses and icy-blue hue. Don’t walk past the barrier as this is alpine country and the conditions can change quickly but look out for kea and the soaring New Zealand falcon, both of which call the valley home.  


Best kayaking experience  

Glide across a pristine rainforest lake with New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mt Cook as your backdrop. Kayaking across tranquil Lake Mapourika’s dark tannin-filled waters is like travelling back in time. It will take you only 8 minutes from the Franz Josef motel. The remote serenity is only punctured by native bird song and the rhythmic splash of your paddles. (And yet you’re only 25 minutes from Franz Josef village). Book an expert guide at Glacier Country Kayaks or Okarito Kayaks to learn about the Okarito Lagoon ecosystem and the wildlife it nurtures. 


A heart pumping heli-hike  

If you want to experience a majestic glacier up close, then book a heli-hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides and The Helicopter Line. You’ll enjoy over two hours on the ice with your expert guide and all equipment is provided. Experience the adrenalin of a soaring helicopter ride up the valley to an icy ridge. Your guide will escort you across the icescape pointing out glacier features, past and present. Imagine sliding through a tight icy alleyway or crawling through blue tinged tunnels into a shallow ice cave. The guides often remark that no two ice-capades are ever quite the same as the glacier shifts, creaks and moves daily. Advance bookings are recommended, and full refunds guaranteed, if the weather conditions prevent the tour.  


A rainy day plan 

Add the Lake Matheson track on your Franz Josef things to do list if your heli-hike’s postponed and the rain’s settled in. This all-weather trail provides stunning reflective views of the Southern Alps and a stylish cosy café for brunch or a quick bite. Then drop into the West Coast Wildlife Centre to learn about endangered kiwi and tuatara. Only a hop skip and a jump from our motel in Franz Josef. 

Head for a soothing soak under a peaceful forest canopy at the rustic wood fired Waiho Hot Tubs or the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools.  For the ultimate indulgence book a treatment at the amazing Amaia Luxury Spa, surely one of Franz Josef’s best kept secrets. What a blissful way to spend your day. 

Mix with the locals over dinner at the charming Alice May gastropub and enjoy hearty West Coast fare in a character setting. The venison sausage with mash and salmon risotto are highly rated but leave room for the decadent chocolate fudge cake. You will want this dessert all to yourself! 

With so many things to do in Franz Josef, ask the Bella Vista Motel team for suggestions. They can provide information on the best walks in Franz Josef, places to eat and tours to book, for a fun and enjoyable stay. 

Epic Franz Josef Heli-Hike

Posted by on

Travel writer, Liz Lyons shares her glacier heli-hike experience, regarding it as one of the best things to do in Franz Josef, hands down. 

While touring New Zealand’s West Coast, we spent two nights in Franz Josef. A mid-morning booking with operator Franz Josef Glacier Guides meant an early departure from Greymouth, 2-hours north on the day of our tour. Rousing two teenage sons before midday is a tortuous ask. Luckily the prospect of ice-caves, a high-speed helicopter ride and a steak’n’cheese pie, perked them up enough to tumble into the car.   

The day had dawned misty, with low cloud and a tour cancellation risk if conditions deteriorated. Luckily the weather brightened, and we were greeted with the constant buzz of silver helicopters as we arrived at the village. A good sign given heli-hiking was number one, on our Franz Josef things to do list!  A quick check in saw us competently fitted out with everything we needed; a warm hat, gloves, waterproof jacket and pants, shoe crampons for ice walking, and a small waterproof bag for phones. We’d dressed warmly, heeding the pre tour advice.  

Besides us, our group of ten consisted mainly of young international visitors. We were the only Kiwis, which the reservation agent remarked on when booking the tour. She kindly provided a ‘locals only’ discount for our family of four. 

The short helicopter ride was exhilarating, especially as they put the elderly (me) in the front seat, alongside the pilot. The glassed cockpit provided a bird’s eye view under my feet of the valley’s sheer cliff faces, boulder-strewn riverbed and changing terrain. The constant radio chatter through the earphones failed to distract me from the stunning Alps and glacier views as we swooped higher. A snow landing, a sudden rush of icy air and a crouching exit below the spinning rotor blades added to the James Bond thrill of the experience.  

The next two hours were spent in the company of our expert guides. Our group was split in half, and after attaching crampons, we scooted our way along the ice. What followed was an informative commentary on one of the most active glaciers you can climb in the world and the damaging impact of climate change. The flow rate on Franz Josef is about ten times that of your typical glacier, and because of this, no one hike is ever the same. Each day the guides undertake an early inspection of the route, cut in step-lines and evaluate the glacier face for hazards, before the first tour group lands. 

On our tour, we squeezed through blue-hued frozen ‘alleys’, hiked up ice walls and crawled through igloo-style tunnels. The kids jumped on a short, steep icy slide to emerge at the end of a cave. At the highest point of the hike, we enjoyed views of the 12-kilometre-long Franz Josef glacier silently creeping down through the valley to almost sea level. We saw chasms, glacial rivers, and rock falls; a visual reminder of the changeable alpine territory we were privileged to visit. 

While the free and accessible Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk provides a great taster, it’s no match for flying up into the Southern Alps, landing on a high-altitude glacier and walking through bejewelled ice forms. Heli hiking Franz Josef Glacier is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for New Zealanders. We are blessed with beautiful glaciers, natural wonders in our own backyard. Just do it Kiwis, before they melt into oblivion! 

Heli-hiking top tips:  

  • Book a 2-3 night stay at our Franz Josef motel as the heli-hike tours are often cancelled due to weather conditions. Give yourself a day’s wiggle room as there’s plenty of other beautiful walks in Franz Josef to enjoy. 
  • Take a zip lock bag to keep your phone and car keys dry in the supplied bum bag.   
  • Pack a lip balm due to the wind chill.  
  • Conserve your energy while glacier hiking. You may feel tired due to the higher altitude and thinner air.  
  • Enjoy a rejuvenating thermal soak after the heli-hike. (The 'Franz Josef Glacier Guides' tour includes admission to the Franz Josef hot springs, right next door.) 

Ask the Bella Vista team for ideas on things to do in Franz Josef, rain or shine. They can not only advise the best local experiences, but also book tours directly to save you the hassle.  

Dine out Dunedin: best places to eat and drink 

Posted by on

Yes, Dunedin is home to the humble cheese roll, a lip-smacking delicacy that oozes melted pleasure. But look beyond this city’s Scottish heritage and university town façade and you’ll discover stylish cafes, wine bars and hole-in-the-wall eateries, curated by expert chefs and beer brewers. Check out our ‘best restaurants in Dunedin’ guide for creative cuisine and cool surrounds, all served up with genuine Southern hospitality.  


Best Dunedin Italian restaurant  

For ambience, an aperol spritz and Italian comfort food, you can’t go past the Esplanade at St Clair. Enjoy waterfront dining or a hearty brunch, as the waves crash on the shore and sea spray whips the sky. Inside this bright and cosy space, you’ll enjoy wood-fired pizzas and speciality dishes like braised lamb pappardelle or pork and fennel sausage conchiglie. It’s pasta but not as you know it! After eating your fill, roll out into the bracing fresh air and take a stroll along beautiful St Clair Beach, one of the best sea-side walks in Dunedin. This is just a 14-minute drive from our motel in Dunedin. 


Best Dunedin craft beer and food  

While the legendary Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival takes place each December, you can enjoy a beer tasting with bites at Emerson’s Brewery Restaurant, all year round. While some might question whether a brewer could excel at both food and beer, Emerson’s have nailed it. With four different takes on fries including poutine, you’ll be hard pressed to choose from the delicious tapas-style menu. Imagine tender lamb loin chops dipped in baba ghanoush or pork belly bites served with lentil dahl, poppadom, and lemon raita. The cosy dining hall also showcases founder Richard Emerson’s impressive collection of railway memorabilia and provides ‘behind the scenes’ views of this working brewery. Making this one of the more character-filled places to eat in Dunedin. 


Best Dunedin student café? 

As a university town, the Good Earth faces stiff competition for the student dollar. But this café’s convenient location to campus, combined with its impressive selection of?organic breads, baked goods and daily specials made from scratch, reels the students in. The light-filled historic building and shady courtyard provide the perfect spot for a relaxing catch up over coffee, beside cafe windowsills laden with homemade chutneys and jams. You’ll feel right at home in this airy setting,  munching on one of their brown butter chocolate cookies. 


Best Dunedin fine dining 

Overlooking St Clair beach, is upstart bistro Titi which is receiving rave reviews for its excellent food, friendly service and carefully curated list of local wines. With a ‘Trust the Chef’ three or five course dégustation menu, choose a main then let their award-winning Chef choose the next two options. This is an opportunity to challenge yourself, but rest assured the food is superb and beautifully presented. What could emerge from the kitchen is the freshest tempura or a duck croquette or a dessert of yuzu cheesecake with white chocolate. Part of the fun is trying to guess what will come next, making this one of the best restaurants in Dunedin to experience nouveau cuisine! 


Mingle with the locals  

Discover the local growers, cheese makers and food purveyors at the Saturday Otago Farmer’s Market. Taste your way around the stalls and food trucks, while enjoying the stunning renaissance-style architecture of the nearby Dunedin Railway Station. It's only five minutes drive from our motel accommodation in Dunedin


Best Dunedin lunch on the go  

Two suggestions here. Pop into Beam Me Up for handcrafted, New York style bagels ranging from jalapeno cheese to blueberry and the standard sesame seed. Stuffed bagels include the Boba Feta, whipped feta, oregano, chives, lemon, garlic and cream cheese or the Vulcan, hot smoked Stewart Island salmon cream cheese with lemon and dill. All lip smacking flavours sure to excite the tastebuds. Pair with any of their barista coffees to complete the experience. This is only 6 minutes from the Dunedin motel

Another popular lunch spot is the Side On bakery on Moray Place. This fully operational bakery produces exquisite sourdough loaves and a range of sweet treats from cardamom buns and almond croissants to cheesecake. If eating in, the halloumi with fried cauliflower, cream cheese, pumpkin seeds, pickles and curry vinaigrette on toast, is one of their enduring bestsellers.  

Ask the Bella Vista team for restaurant recommendations to suit your tastes, because as locals, they know the best food spots, cheap eats and things to do in Dunedin.

Wild about Dunedin: 6 must-do experiences

Posted by on

As the New Zealand city closest to Antarctica, Dunedin combines natural beauty with cosmopolitan chic. With its volcanic origins, rugged coastline and abundant wildlife, the Otago Peninsular is New Zealand’s answer to the Galapagos Islands, but with great Dunedin food and coffee! There’s plenty of epic things to do in Dunedin so here’s a nature lover’s guide to the area’s best attractions. 


Best wildlife spotting 

Dunedin is a habitat for rare wildlife. On the Otago Peninsula, you can spot little blue or yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals, sea lions and The Royal Albatross Centre, home to the only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross in the world. Take a guided tour and explore hidden underground tunnels underneath the albatross colony, to view these magnificent birds up close. A separate observatory provides a nursery for parents raising their young albatross chicks. On a breezy day, watch the adult albatross take to the skies with their huge 3-metre wingspan. This is only 45 45-minute drive from the Dunedin motel accommodation. 

A visit to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, 20 kilometres north of our Dunedin motel, will reveal more native wildlife within its huge predator-free enclosure. Tuatara lizards, Otago Skinks and seventeen species of native birds, including the rarest Haast tokoeka kiwi, thrive at Orokonui. The Ecosanctuary has created a crèche where up to fourteen baby kiwi are nurtured, until they can defend themselves in South Westland from their stoat predators.  


For garden lovers 

One of the best walks in Dunedin is through the delightful Dunedin Botanic Gardens, with its Edwardian Winter Garden and glorious Rhododendron Dell. Stroll the hillside paths and breathe in the scents of camellia and the striking Cedars of Lebanon. This is only 7-minutes walk from our Dunedin motel accommodation.


Best natural history experience 

A 9-minute walk from our Dunedin motels is a fantastic rainy-day activity is The Otago Museum, Dunedin which showcases nature, culture, and science from New Zealand and around the world. For the kids, there’s a three-story slide, a bike-riding skeleton, a Moa diorama and an indoor Tropical Forest where you can walk amongst a thousand rain forest butterflies, which flit around and often land on your hand. Because the Museum is a magnet for local schools, the exhibits are interesting and interactive. There’s even an animal attic, a Victorian-inspired zoological gallery, with nearly 3,000 historical specimens, including lions which escaped from a traveling circus!  


Most dramatic landscape  

If you love rugged coastline, sealions, unusual rock forms and sliding down golden sand dunes, then head to Sandfly Bay, one of the Dunedin beaches you don’t want to miss. Don’t fret about sandflies, as the name Sandfly Bay refers to the sand which scoots across the beach in strong winds.  

Grab a delicious lunch from Marbecks Foodstore at the Wall Street Mall, before the 20-minute drive to the track head. A grazing platter of cheeses, condiments, premium salami and a baguette, will provide the perfect picnic to refuel after a short hike to the bay. 

On arrival, follow the track to Sandfly Bay over farmland, while pausing at the optimally located viewing platforms, which frame stunning coastal views, including the aptly named Lion Rock, a small knoll beyond the breakers. 


Best secret beach and creepy castle 

Once the private domain of the influential Cargill family, discover mysterious Tunnel Beach, Dunedin on the spectacular Otago coastline with its wind-battered arches, sandstone cliffs and headlands. Follow the steep path from the carpark before it disappears into an arched tunnel, hand forged by the 1870’s owner of Cargill Castle. As you descend the steps to this secluded beach, where the Cargill daughters once sunbathed, swam and searched for fossils, you’ll understand why the Tunnel Beach Track is regarded as one of the best things to do in Dunedin. Tunnel Beach is a short car ride from our Dunedin motels.

While Cargill’s Castle is now in ruins, it’s still visible from the street, where it continues to command outstanding views of the ocean and Dunedin’s southern coastline. 

Whatever your interests, whether it’s bird watching or hiking, the Bella Vista team can provide suggestions on the best walks in Dunedin and the Otago region’s bountiful natural attractions.  

Essential guide to Dunedin

Posted by on

From surf beaches, to hip cafes, hidden street art and charming wildlife, the southern city of Dunedin, boasts plenty of beautiful attractions for its compact size. Even so, you could miss the top spots, so here’s an essential guide to the best things to do in Dunedin, whether you’re staying a night or a week at our Dunedin motels.


Best street art  

Wander down hidden city lanes and around street corners and discover a 30-strong collection of stunning painted walls by New Zealand and international artists. Pick up an Art Trail map from the local Dunedin i-Site Visitor Centre and take this self-guided 90-minute walk. Along the way, explore the city’s interesting southern fringe with its character architecture, boutiques and the historic Dunedin Railway Station, once New Zealand’s grandest and busiest station. This is now the departure point for the spectacular Taieri Gorge Railway journey, regarded as the world’s best slow train trip. This is only 5 minutes drive from our Dunedin motels


Best Dunedin beaches  

Ask any local this question, and they’ll point you in the direction of St Clair Beach, a perfect spot to visit on a sunny day and one of the best sea-side walks in Dunedin. Stroll along the dunes bordering the beach, watch surfers catch a wave or hang out at one of the cafes or bars on the popular Esplanade. Continue walking to the less populated St Kilda Beach, where you might spot playful sea lions frolicking in the sand. If keen on swimming, Brighton Beach is your best bet, just 20 minutes from our Dunedin motel accommodation.  


Most epic Dunedin views 

Take a 14 minute drive up from our motel accommodation in Dunedin to Mount Cargill, one of the highest lookout points over the city. You’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the city, harbour and Otago Peninsula. There’s a couple of short walking tracks including the Organ Pipes from the summit, surely one of the most unusual walks in Dunedin. The 30-minute track steps up fallen columns of rock towards a level platform, providing views of the Organ Pipes or basalt columns caused by the volcanic formation of the Otago Peninsula millions of years ago. Drive through charming Port Chalmers and pop into the Union Co Café for a locally roasted espresso and fresh baked goods from smoked fish pies to chocolate chunk cookies. There might be no better beef rendang pie in all of Aotearoa, New Zealand! 


Steepest street treat 

Close to our motel in Dunedin and nearby the Dunedin Botanic Garden sits Baldwin Street, officially the steepest street in the world, unless you believe the Welsh who vigorously dispute the claim. Once upon a time, Baldwin Street hosted the annual Jaffa and trolley races. Where one chocolate-centred sweet or crazy trolley driver took out line honours as the fastest down hiller in the land. Plodding your way up suburban Baldwin Street is one of the essential things to do in Dunedin, alongside plenty of puffing visitors determined to make it to the top.  


Best brunch, burgers or brews  

A stroll through the city’s Warehouse District will reveal plenty of great cafes like Heritage Coffee or the Vogel Street Kitchen and the mouth-watering Mama’s Donuts. The burgers at Good Good attract locals from all over Dunedin. Drop into the Duke of Wellington if you relish imported British beers or treat yourself to a tour and craft beer tasting at either Emerson's, a local Dunedin institution or the legendary Speights Brewery. One of the best restaurants in Dunedin in terms of bang for bucks is Plato. Classic New Zealand dining in a waterfront character building with sea views of the Otago Harbour. Savour freshly caught salmon or their signature fish pie, and experience genuine southern hospitality.  


Best time travel  

For an interesting history lesson, check out the Toit? Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin to learn about New Zealand’s oldest city. This immersive experience showcases the first people history of founding M?ori and the arrival of Otago settlers from Scotland. Best of all this is a free Dunedin activity with a focus on student learning, so perfectly pitched for families. A visit to the one and only Larnach Castle Dunedin on the Otago Peninsular, will take you back in time to when landed gentry, like politician William Larnach ruled New Zealand. Now privately owned, this Victorian-era castle took sixteen years to build, bankrupting William and costing him his life. Some fear it’s haunted! Today the castle boasts a 3,000 square foot ballroom, which hosts regular high teas, and a pretty tower, providing stunning views of the Peninsula. 

Whatever your interests, there’s plenty of fun things to do in Dunedin. Contact the Bella Vista Motel team for maps, tour bookings or information on any Dunedin attractions. We’re only too happy to help. 

Best Walks in Christchurch

Posted by on

With a Garden City reputation to uphold, beautiful walks in Christchurch are plentiful and varied. From the well-groomed paths in Hagley Park to the windswept tracks traversing the Port Hills, these free Christchurch activities are suitable for all fitness levels.  We’ve done the hard yards by rounding up the city’s five best walking tracks, including a few with delicious food along the way. 


The Bridle Path to Lyttleton (1 hour 30 minutes one-way) 

For the full Port Hills monty, leave your car at the Christchurch Gondola carpark and walk up the steep Bridle Path - a favourite amongst fit Christchurch locals - towards the Gondola station. Here you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the city, the golden Canterbury Plains and pristine Southern Alps. Grab a refreshment at the summit’s Red Rock Café before descending towards Lyttleton on the Bridle Path. Imagine walking in the footsteps of the early settlers, who would ride a horse or donkey over the Port Hills to Christchurch. Rather than endure an arduous boat ride around the coast. 

Once in Lyttleton, check out the quirky Spookie Boogie for the best coffee, sweet treats and hidden garden setting, in this historic hillside village.  A short ride on the number 28 bus back through the Port Hills tunnel, will return you to the Gondola carpark.  


The Stan Helms Track to Lyttleton - from the Gondola station (30 minutes one-way) 

Your express option is to take the Christchurch Gondola up to the summit, then walk downhill towards picturesque Lyttleton on the Stan Helms Track, a short walk from the Gondola’s summit station. Head west along the Crater Rim Walkway and take the track after the Bridle Path. The one-kilometre track zigzags down to the end of Harman’s Road, where 15 minutes later you’ll reach Lyttleton. This easier option will keep the family happy (and preserve the legs) before hopping on the 28 bus back to the Gondola carpark. The start of the walk is 20 mins by car from our motel accommodation in Christchurch


Harry Ell Track (2 hours return) 

Another popular walk in the Port Hills, this 2-hour loop from the Victoria Park Visitor Centre is one of those tracks which provides big rewards for very little effort. Despite its gentle incline, you’ll get surprising views of the city and Alps, discover the Memorial site of the 19th Infantry Battalion and possibly spot beautiful Kereru (wood pigeon) in Victoria Park. One of the best hill-top places to eat in Christchurch is the Sign of the Kiwi café. Locals give five-star reviews for its stunning views, great coffee and delicious food. 


The City Promenade along the Avon River (1 hour return – without stops) 

This awesome 4-kilometre walk is designed to showcase the must-see activities in Christchurch. Highlights along the way include the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, the Bridge of Remembrance, the Christchurch Arts Centre plus vibrant bars and cafes. You may even chance upon lovers dreamily punting up the Avon River past draping leafy trees. This track is the perfect way to discover local life at the heart of Christchurch, including the delightful Margaret Mahy playground.  The Promenade is about 20 minutes drive from our motel in Christchurch.


Godley Head to Taylors Mistake (2 hours return) 

We had to include a superb coastal walk on our ‘best walks of Christchurch’ list.  About 40 minutes away from our Christchurch motel

The Godley Head Coastal Walk follows Taylors Mistake Beach before climbing to the Head, once a wartime defence battery. Take in the surfing action of Taylors Mistake, panoramic views of Pegasus Bay, the Kaikoura mountains and the North Canterbury hills. Sometimes even dolphins and white flippered penguins make an appearance. From Godley Head, you’ll see Lyttleton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, and the Pacific Ocean. Given its high ratio of insta-worthy views, this well-formed track is one of the most scenic walks in Christchurch.  

So pack your walking shoes and drink bottle because Christchurch is a great place for trailblazers and nature-lovers. Ask the Bella Vista Motels Christchurch team for information on free activities, places to eat and wonderous walks. We’ll happily provide the latest weather report and point you in the right direction.  

Taste Christchurch: The Foodies Guide

Posted by on

Christchurch is enjoying a culinary revival with fantastic new eateries, bars and cafés complementing a vibrant food scene. No one wants to eat a dud meal while traveling places, right? So, we've compiled a gastro guide to the best restaurants in Christchurch for your eating pleasure. 


Brunch or lunch best cafes in Christchurch 

At Unknown Chapter Coffee Roasters, you might just discover the best French toast and coffee in town! With a menu consisting of breakfast burritos, eggs any style and fresh healthy salads, this café is one of the best places to eat in Christchurch. The peppermint slice and cheddar muffins are great cabinet fare if you’re after lunch on-the-run.  

An all-day option close to the Christchurch motel, is Strawberry Fare. While popular with the locals for its stunning chocolate-themed dessert platters and gateaux, this eatery serves up light savoury dishes too like hot smoked salmon with tasty apple slaw or slow roasted duck confit. So it’s the great food combined with views over Hagley Park which makes this longstanding café one of the tastiest things to do in Christchurch 


For the best steak restaurant in Christchurch 

Where New York-sized steaks meet Canterbury prime-rib, is where you’ll find Bloody Mary’s. Choose your cut of Angus, Wakanui, or Angus Hereford at this all-day upmarket diner.  Guests drool over the 7-day aged steak, especially the 300g Mary's cut with a side of hash brown and truffle mash. This place serves up hearty brunch options too. It's a great 21 minute stroll from our Christchurch motel


For Christchurch best fine-dining restaurants  

Head to Inati for a special lunch or dinner. Book the 6 or 8-course ‘Trust Us’ menu as chef Simon Levy, once head Gordon Ramsay's head chef, has also sharpened his knives at London’s Claridge’s and The Ivy. This team have earnt their cooking stripes! Trust us in that you’ll sample dishes you’d ordinarily never choose but enjoy immensely. Artichokes with cottage cheese, duck trumpets with rhubarb jam, or smoked venison tartare may be laid before you. But be warned, this Chef’s menu changes often! 

Could Story, in historic Little Regents Street, be the city’s best kept dining secret? Locals are keen to keep this place on the down-low given the popularity of the Chef’s mystery 3-courses for $75. The story lies in the ever-changing nightly menu. One night it could be Mushroom Ravioli followed by chocolate mousse, the next night, lightly grilled Venison in an oyster sauce. All you need to know is incredible food and flawless, friendly service combine to make Story one of the best restaurants in Christchurch.   


For the best cheap eats in Christchurch 

Let’s take things down a notch or two to the Thai Container. Close to the motel accommodation in Christchurch, is this cheap and cheerful, no fuss pop-up, which serves up tasty fresh Thai food like spicy fried chicken, trusty Pad Thai and fragrant green curry.  Or for a quick healthy fix, head for top-rated Kinji for Japanese-style tapas like Cajun-spiced garlic tuna, wagyu beef sushi or salmon sashimi. You can’t go wrong with either option. 


For the best burgers in Christchurch 

If you’re craving a big, juicy, delicious burger then Bacon Brothers has you covered. With a mission to create the best burgers around and over 18 delicious options, there’s a choice for everyone. They’ve even ‘burgered’ coconut bacon and deep-fried cauliflower to cater for vegans too.  And their hand-cut fries are a must-have side. With most burgers under $18, this is another of Christchurch’s best cheap eats. If all you can think of is burgers its only 6 minutes by car from the Christchurch accommodation.


Best bistro style fare 

Our pick is 5th Street for their vibrant buzz, stylish decor, and innovative flavour-packed menu. Imagine a slow roasted Lamb Shoulder with side couscous salad, triple cooked potatoes, and a burnt Basque cheesecake to finish. Or Himalayan salt block cured fish served with broccoli doughnuts and seaweed butter. Sounds great right?  

The menu changes often at 5th Street, inspired by seasonal produce and the need to keep their regular diners coming back for more.    

There’s plenty of great places to eat in Christchurch, so whatever your tastes, please ask the Bella Vista Motel Christchurch team for up-to-date information and local dining recommendations. 

Your Getaway Guide to Christchurch

Posted by on

Planning a short break or a few days with the family in Christchurch? Rediscover a city once famed for its well-groomed gardens, now going places with a vibrant rebuild, great eateries and fun attractions.  The city is still green and beautiful, but this gateway to the South has blossomed into an exciting creative destination, since the transformative 2011 earthquake. Here’s our guide on the top ten things to do in Christchurch.  

Number one is to head for the Christchurch Gondola, an 862-metre cable car ride up the side of Mt Cavendish, for spectacular 360-degree views of the city, the plains, the Southern Alps, Lake Ellesmere and the Pacific Ocean. If you’re keen on stretching your legs, take the scenic track down the Bridle Path Walk, back to the gondola carpark.    

Tick off number two and three on your list by heading into town.  Stroll through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens to discover the finest collection of exotic and native plants in the country before dropping into the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch locals are so justifiably proud of. With free entry, kids will love climbing through the moa cave, digging for fossils, visiting the paua house and walking ‘back in time’ down an old Christchurch street (complete with horse and penny farthing cycle!) This is a lovely 30 minute stroll from the Christchurch motel accommodation to get you slap bang in the middle of a beautify park. 

By now you’re probably feeling peckish. So, amble down to pedestrian mall New Regents Street (our number four destination) to sample some of the best restaurants in Christchurch and the street’s 1930’s style Spanish Mission architecture. Pick up a quick bite, like the whitebait fritters at Café Stir or dine at the top-rated Twenty-Seven Steps (visitors rave about their aged beef fillet with hasselback potatoes). If it’s coffee you’re hankering after, drop into The Caffeine Laboratory or indulge yourself with a late-afternoon cocktail at The Last Word or The Institution. 

Activities five, six and seven on our list will delight both young and old. The excellent Margaret Mahy playground, named after the famous children’s author, is tucked alongside the Avon River and one of the fun stops on the Christchurch Tram’s route. The playground features a double flying fox, large slides, colourful climbing frames, even a splash pad (and for the big kids, great food and coffee trucks on the weekend). Its only a life saving 4 minutes away by car from our Christchurch motel

Want to cool off? Then head to the thrilling International Antarctic Centre Christchurch near the airport, to play in the snow at replica Scott Base, hang out with little Blue Penguins and hop on a rugged Hagglund ride. You’ll feel like an intrepid explorer! 

No trip to Christchurch would be complete without reflecting on local life before and after the February 2011 earthquake. In one afternoon, it changed the city forever. The Quake City exhibition, the 185 White Chairs Memorial and the Cardboard Cathedral are all excellent yet sobering reminders of the resilience and strength of the local Cantabrians and their determination to rebuild a world-class city.  Lest we forget. Which is why the Quake-themed experiences need to make your ‘things to do Christchurch’ top ten list.  

For advice, a city map or tour recommendations, please ask your Bella Vista Motel Christchurch team for help. We’re here to make your visit a treasured memory. 

Best walks in Blenheim and Marlborough

Posted by on

Enjoy the best walks whilst staying at our Blenheim motel

You’re spoilt for choice for local walks in Blenheim and the Marlborough Region so pack your trainers or hiking boots.  We often get asked about free things to do in Blenheim, so love to recommend the easy hidden trails on our doorstep or scenic hikes through the hills in the surrounding countryside whilst you're staying with us in our Blenheim motel

Pollard Park is a short stroll from the hotel and a must for rose lovers.  A large, wooded park, it features a lovely stream, criss-crossed by bridges, well-tended gardens and best of all for the kids, a playground, including a fenced-in space for the little ones!  An ideal picnic spot and a picturesque place to spend a few hours, this is one of the most family-friendly walks in Blenheim. Take some bread as the ducks are plentiful and hungry. 

A short drive from our motel in Blenheim, The Wither Hills Farm Park traverses a 1,100ha working sheep and cattle farm. One of the best walks around Blenheim, the Wither Hills walking tracks provide many lookout spots across the Wairau Valley, affording panoramic views of Cloudy Bay. Or you can choose to stick to the foothills for a gentler stroll. 

The Taylor River Reserve meanders from central Blenheim along the scenic Taylor River, right up to the Taylor Dam Reserve (near the Wither Hills Mountain Bike Park). As one of the more popular walks in Blenheim, this concrete 5km return track provides an easy gradient with plenty of shady trees and lots of river spots to paddle in. This is a shared trail with bikers and a popular exercise area for dogs.  

Take a bite of the stunning 72km Queen Charlotte Track, one of the more popular day walks around Blenheim, this hike can be enjoyed in stages by taking a water-taxi ride from Picton, an easy half hour drive from the Blenheim motel. Grab a coffee and lunch supplies from Gusto café prior to boarding then sit back and enjoy up close views of the stunning Marlborough Sounds – seals, bobbing penguins or dolphins often make an appearance to surprise and delight passengers.  

Disembark an hour later at Ship Cove, the start of the Queen Charlotte Track, to start a 17km undulating trek through native forest and sparkling coves, back towards Endeavour Inlet. Billed as a five hour walk, a moderate level of fitness is required and good sturdy hiking shoes as the track can be steep and slippery in places. Take plenty of water too. 

Fortify yourself with a refreshing dip and Gusto’s mega sandwiches and ginger crunch topped by large pieces of crystalised ginger. You’ve earnt it before your return water taxi ride back to Picton. 

Get your walking shoes on and ask for trail maps or information from the Bella Vista Motel team. We’ll happily point you in the right direction of the best walks in Blenheim.