What a gorgeous day out! The island boasts remarkable views, especially from the viewing point that magically appears in the middle of the island. I say "magically appears" because there is no sign leading you to it or indicating that you are at the highest point in the island where you can enjoy the most amazing 360 degree panoramic view of pacific blue encircling the island.
The BEST place to begin your two hour trek around the island is from the FRONT of the Heritage Centre (Visitors' Centre). We didn't know that and we took the path behind the Heritage Centre (where the bathrooms are) and got completely lost. We trudged for hours trying to find the eight shipwrecks. We finally found them after we retraced our steps to the Heritage Centre and took the trail from the front of the house. The biggest PLUS about getting lost was that we stumbled upon the highest point in the island and marveled at the spectacular view! The biggest PLUS about following the trail from the Heritage Centre starting point is that we saw the shipwrecks!
The place is poorly signposted so it is ever so easy to get lost and wander off even if you have a map!!! (And all three of us had maps!!!) It was very tiring because it was a hot day, and not having any signposts tell you where you were heading or what you were en route to finding/discovering was terribly frustrating! You just carry on not knowing if you are on the right track to wherever and wondering if the other set of tracks at the crossroads was the one you should have taken.
Having said that, getting lost has its benefits. We found a bench facing King Billy Island and the forested island beyond it and we sat and drank it all in. It was heaven. What a view!
Most of the sights around the island are replicas of the originals (like the leper house and the dog kennels). Otherwise, there are just empty spaces with signs like "The Ward's Homestead was here." So the MOST interesting sight was obviously the eight shipwrecks. Plus stumbling upon a couple of quails, totally unexpectedly! We walked stealthily (and delightedly) behind them so as not to spook them, until they disappeared into the bushes. :-)
There are no shops, so you have to bring your own food and water. But only bring what you feel comfortable carrying because it is wearisome to lug around a heavy backpack and climb hills in the heat of the sun. Wear sturdy hiking boots and bring togs if you wish to swim. A windbreaker will also come in handy. Although it was warm in Christchurch, the wind on the ferry going to Quail Island as well as the fierce wind on the island itself made it necessary to have a windbreaker. While waiting on the jetty for the ferry to come and collect us for the return to Christchurch, the wind was relentless. If you don't like the wind, wait near the viewing deck by the jetty. The rocks offer some protection. Out on the jetty, your hat will be snatched by the wind and your teeth will chatter! :-) Two vessels come to collect passengers if there are too many to go on one of the Black Cat Cruise boats.
It was amazing to see that many people waiting to board! Tramping around the island, you often feel alone. It can be a lovely meditative experience. So, realizing that all those people were there, too, was something of a surprise!
On a hot day, lather up generously with sunscreen. Hubby failed to use any and came away looking like a lobster! The only part of me that I forgot to apply sunscreen on turned beet red.
We had a great time on the island, despite getting lost. Enjoyed a great game of frisbee and a nice picnic. Then, we stopped in at Lyttelton for ice creams (they serve very generous ones at the London Street Dairy) and then enjoyed the music at Port Hole, the shipping container bar at Lyttelton, where Doc Sanchez was playing Latin guitar.
What a great day!! :-)
N.B. I discovered this website after our visit and it is worth reading the info. I wish we'd known about it prior to visiting the island: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/canterbury/christchurch-and-banks-peninsula/otamahua-quail-island-tracks/
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