Visiting the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is always a unique experience filled with many wonders. On this occasion we stayed in the small community of Charleston. Charleston was founded during a major gold rush in 1867 and the remains of around 99 hotels have recently been discovered.

It is now a tourist destination with noted limestone caves. For the adventurous there is Underwater Rafting and Adventure caving or there is the more sedate Gloworm Cave Tour or Rainforest Train Ride which includes a short walk to the Nile River suspension bridge. The stunning scenery in the region can be viewed via the many.

Our accommodation was off the beaten track in a new cottage overlooking the tenacious Tasman Sea. Our hosts were very gracious and welcoming yet maintained their distance. The cottage was delightful with stunning views as it was just a short walk from the beach.

The beautiful beach is host to a Blue Penguin Colony. While we were not fortunate enough to find the penguins on the beach, we did have a close encounter when one crossed in front of us on the road. Hence the signs warning vehicles to take care which need to be heeded. These are the world’s smallest penguins and although quite common, their small size and unusual habits make them rarely seen. The blue penguin stands just 25 cm tall and weighs a little over 1 kilogram. They only come ashore under the cover of darkness and live underground in burrows.

During our stay we were also lucky enough to be visited by a National icon, the Tui. These birds are often heard in our native bush and forests but it is always a thrill to sight them. They are attractive birds easily recognized by their distinctive white tuft under their beak.

On our exploration we stumbled upon a rock outcrop which provided exciting photographic opportunities with the frothing sea providing a spectacular backdrop.