On the precipice of the Winter Solstice, Holden invited us to a sunrise to sunset, coast to coast event that spanned the width of New Zealand’s spectacular South Island, making the most of the daylight hours.
The Holden Equinox experience began with an early evening, winding road climb past Cattlestop Crag to City View lookout to watch the lights start to sparkle as darkness fell over Christchurch. The expansive vista was quite amazing but, as we found out later, just a mere taste of what lay ahead and I’m not talking about the dinner at Beach Bar in Sumner (although their Pizza was rather good).
A quick nap at Sumner Bay Motel had us up way before Sunrise, it was going to be a long day of driving, but a short day of sunlight and Holden were keen to ensure we enjoyed every last drop of it. We took the Equinox SUV on a quick but rather perilous (thanks to the cliffside road and the dark) trek towards Battery Point, it’s times like these I’m pleased we had the LTZ-V’s LED headlights to show us the way.
We strategically placed the Equinox near the edge of an East facing drop and waited for the sun to rise, it didn’t disappoint. At 8.01am (two minutes early than forecasted), the bright orange circle began to appear, the day had begun and so had the drive – game on. But not before a bacon butty at Joe’s Garage Cafe and a dip of a toe in the South Pacific.
The first stretch for the day had us heading north on a 110km, 1hr 30m drive to Culverden. To be honest, it’s a bit of a non-descript road along SH1 and just quietly I was pleased not to be driving. Instead I took advantage of the SUV’s big comfortable leather-appointed seats by adjusting the lumbar support and switching on its heat, set my individual A/C to 23 degrees, turned up the volume a bit on the Bose stereo and tucked into the Holden supplied jelly treats – not a bad way to start the day.
We stopped at the Culverden bakery close to 11am. Still full from breakfast and the sweets I couldn’t eat another thing. So a flat white was ordered, oh and a fresh cream doughnut – I have no self-control. Having liked my fingers clean of sugar, it was my turn to drive.
The 96km and 1hr 17m to Maruia Hot Springs introduced us to some of the South Island’s famed roads and views. The mountains began to appear, the temperature began to drop and the roads began to wind – we entered Lewis Pass territory. It’s a fun route made even funner with the Equinox’s confident handling. Even staying in 2WD the medium-sized SUV stayed firmly adhered to the road as its Mcpherson and multi-link suspension kept the 19-inch alloys on the tarmac. The 2L turbo/9-speed Auto combination lapped up the hills and dales giving 188kW and 353Nm whenever required. Snow appeared on the verges through the side view glass as we arrived at Maruia Hot Springs – lunch.
The Hot springs are set in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. Steam rises up towards the sky from pools that are located beside the Maruia river. It’s a beautiful setting made more beautifulller thanks to the dusting of cold white frosty snow. We parked ourselves inside by the open log fire and although still full – forced down more Pizza to keep our strength up.
Maruia to Kilkenny (you B******) Lookout was a 112km, 1hr 25m run that I if it wasn’t for the amazing views I would have slept along. A belly full of food, a warm cabin and a comfortable ride, simply lush. The lookout itself offers views along the Buller river and where the road cuts into the overhanging mountain – it’s well worth seeing.
For the final run of the day, a 71km, 1hr 5m drive, I again took the reins. Heated steering wheel engaged we headed West to Punakaiki Resort. Again, more twisty roads but this time along the rugged West Coast. The Sun was beginning to turn in for the day, best we got our skates on.
As expected, Holden had timed the drive to a tea and we pulled up at the resort with ample time to dip a toe in the Tasman and watch the sun drop away towards Australia – sigh. It had been a long day of glorious views and even gloriouser drives. A feast of fine Pasta for the night followed by a well-deserved sleep, there was still more fun to be had the next day.
Pancakes was the theme for the morning, a brisk walk around Pancake rocks (Paparoa National Park) followed by Pancake stacks at the Pancake Rock Cafe – yummy. Then a 279km, 3hr 35m drive back to Christchurch airport. A drive that included the most excellent Arthurs pass (a must do for everyone), a drive up Death corner, a look over the Viaduct and a pie at Arthurs pass village.
What an experience and what a way to truly fill the shortest day. Happy Winter Solstice Holden NZ and thanks for the ride Equinox.
Cheers for the great pics – Simon Watts