Day 8 – Walter Peak Farm Tour via TSS Earnslaw

After out jet boating adventure and pizza lunch, we started to wander around, trying to figure out what to do during our remaining few hours in Queenstown. As we walked towards the wharf, we came across stalls set up by local folks selling all kinds of stuff, from home-made soap (which looked like a colourful wedding cake) to colourful hand painted mugs, kids socks, etc. etc. It was like a Sunday flea market, and the atmosphere was quite vibrant. There were street musicians and other people performing various acts. We bought a couple of the handmade sheep-oil soaps before heading towards the wharf area. At the wharf, we noticed a magnificent steam engine boat, called the TSS Earnslaw. This boat is a pretty cool 19th century vintage Edwardian steamer restored to a pristine condition. Upon further inquiry at the Real Journeys office nearby, we learned that we could go on a farm trip via the Earnslaw. We wanted to see some animal life (especially sheep) and so we decided to do the 3.5 hour tour.

The boat was starting to leave by the time we got done buying our tickets. In fact, when we reached the boarding area at around 1:55 pm, the ramp to go on board was being taken off! It was a 2 pm tour, but for some reason they were leaving a little bit early. We boarded the boat from the bottom floor, which still had the door open, and just about made it! A helpful tip for you – if you plan on taking the farm tour, be at the boarding area about 5-10 mins before the official time.

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                       (street musician by Lake Wakatipu)

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                (19th century engineering on the TSS Earnslaw)

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                                         (leaving Queenstown)

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          (steam outlet with a sitting area on the deck)

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                                           (on the deck of TSS)

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                       (vintage Edwardian history of the TSS)

Once on board, we started sailing away from Queenstown and towards the western side of Lake Wakatipu. The weather was beautiful and Lake Wakatipu, in all its glory, was royal blue in colour. There was an interesting mix of people on board with us, some with kids. It was about a 15-20 minute journey to Walter Peak farm. During this time, we explored the boat by walking around. We saw a very hot engine room, where pistons were jumping up and down, and one very strong looking person was constantly shoveling coal in a fire-filled chamber. There was also a ‘Saloon’, which had a bar/food area. Entering the Saloon felt like stepping back in time. A lovely lady played a piano in the Saloon, and you could even buy a CD of all the songs she was playing.

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                                             (Queenstown area)

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         (the engine room where one man shovels coal continuously)

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                       (various gauges in the engine room)

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                    (The Remarkables seen from Lake Wakatipu)

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                              (walking around the Earnslaw)

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                     (yes they had a ‘Saloon’, just like the old times)

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                                             (inside the Saloon)

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                     (lady playing the piano in the Saloon)

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                            (approaching Walter Peak farm)

After a few minutes, we reached Walter Peak farm. We got off the boat and headed straight towards the area where all the animals were roaming. We saw sheep, deer, an Alpaca and some huge Scottish Highland Cattle. The fun part was that we could feed every one of these animals with our own hands. Sure, it got a little messy, but the farm had a special area with water taps and anti bacterial soap for you to wash your hands after you were done with the feeding. We also noted that the entire farm area was just beautiful, with colourful flowers and lovely green grass everywhere. The atmosphere was just amazing.

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                                     (Walter farm property)

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                                         (docking at the farm)

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               (lovely greens and flowers all around the farm)

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      (we would go in there for some scones, cake and refreshments)

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                                          (colourful flowers)

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                                                      (deer)

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                                                      (Alpaca)

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                                (a sheep dog named ‘King’)

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                                                  (Merino sheep)

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                                   (Scottish Highland cattle)

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                                  (a hybrid breed of sheep)

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                            (looking towards Lake Wakatipu)

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                           (lovely peaceful area on the farm)

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                             (we could feed all the animals)

After the feeding session, we were invited to a house, where there were snacks and refreshments. We had some scones (past visitors rated them highly), some carrot cake and a glass of orange juice. They had tea, biscuits and cheese too. There was an outdoor sitting area, where we relaxed and ate our snacks.

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                             (sitting by Lake Wakatipu)

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                                     (this looked very inviting)

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                        (we had refreshments in this house)

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                          (bird chirping along under the sun)

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                          (it was a beautiful summer day)

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                           (a bunch of ducks doing their thing)

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             (I could look at this view for days and not get tired)

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                                 (interesting type of flower)

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                       (beautiful colour of the leaves)

Next, we were given a demonstration by the head of the farm. This head was not a human, but rather a dog named King. He was a sheep dog trained to herd sheep in and out of their designated area. The sheep almost seemed scared of King, as his stare alone was enough to make the sheep panic and stick close to one another.

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                       (the dog ‘King’ rounding up the sheep)

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                       (sheep are almost scared of King)

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                                      (King and his partner)

After watching King do his routine, we came to the last part of the tour, which was a sheep shearing session. Our guide had to first put on the appropriate clothing and shoes before he even touched any sheep. While doing this, he gave out all sorts of interesting information about the sheep, how much wool they produce, and how much it would cost to buy a sheep. Then he proceeded to actually shearing the wool of a couple of sheep. It looked like hard work to me, as it was not so easy to shear a fully wool-covered sheep. At that time, he mentioned that the world record for shearing a sheep is some 45 seconds. This seemed quite incredible to me, given the amount of work that goes into shearing one sheep (it took our guide something like 15 mins to finish shearing one).

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                    (our guide getting ready for sheep shearing)

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      (the farmers used to wear special type of shoes in the old days)

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                                     (and the shearing begins)

After watching the shearing session, it was time to say goodbye to our wonderful guide. We boarded the boat and headed back to Queenstown. We knew we were back to the ‘adventure capital’ as soon as we started seeing paragliders and jet boat riders.

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                                (almost back to Queenstown)

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                          (a paraglider near Lake Wakatipu)

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                                  (the famous K-Jet boat)

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                              (a super shot of the TSS Earnslaw)

Overall, the Walter Peak farm tour was a great way to spend an easy leisurely afternoon near Queenstown. I can definitely understand why this tour would be great for families and especially kids, because of all the live animals that one gets to see. The vintage steamer TSS Earnslaw is also a big attraction with visitors coming to Queenstown.

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